All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


The Foxborough High School Jazz Ensembles 1997-99: Rockin' in Rhythm: The Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Another picturesque homage to Duke Ellington (high–school division) performed by the conspicuously talented Foxborough High School Jazz Ensembles (1997–99) under Stephen Massey’s baton. Massey must be doing something right, as his students’ grasp of the subtlety, dynamics and color of Ellington’s music is truly remarkable, especially for musicians who haven’t yet earned their high–school diplomas. Section work is uniformly precise and fluent while the various soloists succeed admirably in emulating the mood and character of the Duke’s renowned sidemen. To Massey’s credit, the program isn’t all “Sophisticated Lady” and “Solitude.” He has unearthed a number of seldom–heard gems including “Oclupaca” (from the Latin American Suite ), “Rockabye River,” “Main Stem,” “Old King Dooji” and a couple from the Shakespearean suite Such Sweet Thunder, “Half the Fun” and the better–known “Star–Crossed Lovers.” Finding the proper tempo is another important element in any Ellington composition or arrangement, and the FHS ensemble never misses the mark, from ballad (“Sophisticated Lady,” “Blood Count,” “Solitude,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Passion Flower”) to blazer (“Cottontail,” “Main Stem,” “King Dooji,” “Rockin’ in Rhythm”) or anything in between. Kudos to those members of the ensemble who do such a marvelous job of shadowing Ellington’s sidemen, especially Kurt Bacher as Johnny Hodges, Aaron Bell or Kevin Powers as Ben Webster/Paul Gonsalves, Bryan Murphy as Cootie Williams, Zack Howard or Nick Aldo as Jimmy Blanton, Erik Dahlgren as Harry Carney, Nick Foster or Karen Zuck as the Duke, and the five drummers who sit in for Sam Woodyard or Sonny Greer. If Ellington’s music is to survive and flourish (as it surely will), this is the place to start, and our hat is off to Stephen Massey and the FHS Jazz Ensemble not only for producing a marvelous tribute album but for embracing the enduring compositions of Ellington/Strayhorn and making them an integral part of the school’s Jazz Studies program.

Track listing: In a Mellotone; Harlem Airshaft; The Star–Crossed Lovers; Oclupaca; Rockabye River (Hop, Skip, Jump); Sophisticated Lady; Cottontail; Never No Lament (Don’t Get Around Much Anymore); Blood Count; Main Stem; Solitude; Half the Fun; Passion Flower; Old King Dooji; Prelude to a Kiss; Kinda’ Dukish / Rockin’ in Rhythm (57:14).

Collective personnel (1997–98–99): Stephen C. Massey, director; Justin Carney, Julie Flood, Gabe Foster, Mike Fraher, Chris Huyler, Bryan Murphy, Dave Piper, Mark Piper, Jason Rubeck, Aaron Schmidt, trumpets; Lauren Brown, Mark Champagne, Abby Cohen, Henry Foster, Jim Horvath, Ken McEnaney, John Maclaine, Matt Sylvia, trombones; Kurt Bacher, Aaron Bell, Erik Dahlgren, Jackie Flaherty, Matt Howard, Paul Mullin, Christina Muratore, Lizzy Nielson, Kevin Powers, Steve Repoff, Andrea Shea, Jarrod Weaver, woodwinds; Nick Foster, Karen Zuck, piano; Nick Aldo, Zack Howard, bass; Ryan Quinn, guitar; Jessie Flaherty, Rob Flaherty, Barry Marino, Jared Seabrook, drums; Kerrianne Kelly, percussion.

Contact: Stephen Massey, 508–543–1624.

Title: Rockin' in Rhythm: The Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: FHS


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To CD/LP/Track Review
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 24, 2018
Read We Out Here CD/LP/Track Review
We Out Here
by Chris May
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Best of the Bootlegs 2017 CD/LP/Track Review
Best of the Bootlegs 2017
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read The Asylum Years CD/LP/Track Review
The Asylum Years
by Doug Collette
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Solo Contra CD/LP/Track Review
Solo Contra
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: February 24, 2018
Read Ellipse CD/LP/Track Review
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 23, 2018
Read "Najwa" CD/LP/Track Review Najwa
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 30, 2017
Read "Triple Double" CD/LP/Track Review Triple Double
by John Sharpe
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Free Sessions Vol. 1: Planets Of Kei" CD/LP/Track Review Free Sessions Vol. 1: Planets Of Kei
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 27, 2017
Read "Lavaman" CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Greatest Hits Live" CD/LP/Track Review Greatest Hits Live
by Doug Collette
Published: September 2, 2017
Read "Faces" CD/LP/Track Review Faces
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2017