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Jazz education has made long strides in the past twenty-five years. Today, schools such as the University of Kentucky can take great pride in what they've accomplished through the efforts of a few. As the Director of Jazz Studies for UK's School of Music, Miles Osland has seen to it that his university's jazz ensembles remain top-notch year after year. Founded in 1989, UK's Mega-Sax Quartet has won awards and represented the school quite well, consistently. This, their latest album, features tracks by both Mega-Sax Quartet 1 and Mega-Sax Quartet 2, as well as the school's Profound Gumbo jazz combo. Osland and Professor of Jazz Studies in Jazz Piano, Raleigh Dailey, perform four more songs as duets.
Mega-Sax Quartet 1 recorded Bobby Watson's "Conservation" and a highly aggressive "Full English Breakfast" before a live audience at the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival, just outside Chicago. David Balfour (alto & soprano), Rudy Brannon (alto), Lindon Kanakanui (tenor) and Joe Carucci (baritone) make a distinct impression with their free spirit and swinging attitude. Musicianship rates an A+ and ensemble cohesiveness earns them another shot at the honor roll. Students who play like professionals deserve more than computer-generated report card notations.
The remainder of the program was recorded in a studio environment, and captures the same amount of spirit. Mega-Sax Quartet 1 interprets five tracks altogether, while Mega-Sax Quartet 2 steps forward for two lovely impressions. Their interpretation of Paquito D'Rivera's "Wapango" places particular emphasis on the light movements of delicate avian wildlife. "The Frequent Flyer" takes the listener on a tour of distant lands. Profound Gumbo presents six numbers, ending the session with Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Serenade to a Cuckoo." Their mainstream jazz participation shows a genuine love of the tradition.
Professors Osland and Dailey romp casually through "Ablution," "First Step," "Lisa's da Bossa" and "Title Goes Here" with a flair for driving tempos and crisp execution. Leadership by example must surely be a part of their success. As long as our schools continue to support this kind of quality in the jazz curriculum, things are going to turn out all right.
Track Listing: Conservation; The Easter Islander; Building; Svea Rike; Wapango; The Frequent Flyer; Full English Breakfast; Ablution; Title Goes Here; First Step; Lisa's da Bossa; Union County Line; Cecilism; The Kwisatz Haderach; Grey Swans; Blame It
Personnel: Miles Osland- director, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; David Balfour, Chris Barbee- soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Rudy Brannon, Jana White- alto saxophone; Lindon Kanakanui, Joshua Branham- tenor saxophone; Joe Carucci, Tom Wallis- baritone saxophone; Raleigh Dailey- piano, keyboards; Danny Cecil- bass; Matt Skaggs- drums; Kelly Pratt- trumpet, flugelhorn; Brad Kerns- trombone.