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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.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.