Northern Arizona University has long had a respected jazz program. Now under the leadership of jazz bassist, Joel Di Bartolo their latest release for Sea Breeze incorporates modern jazz figures into the band's arrangements that grab the attention and imagination of these young jazz students. You can tell that they are captivated with this music by their ensemble playing but especially by the solo work. There's the extended solo by Jeff Giroux on an in depth exploration of Horace Silver's classic "Nica's Dream". Also hear the excellent a capella opening for a solemn rendition of Charles Mingus' musical eulogy to Lester Young, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat". A modern "Mind the Gap", composed by student John Dworkin, is the vehicle for some technically wondrous fingering on the baritone sax by Paul Brewer laid against the J. J. Johnson like trombone of Sarah Gaghagen with the full orchestra interceding from time to time. All of this is underpinned by the querulous drums of Francisco Rosaly. Dominic Lalli's Sonny Rollins' influenced tenor and the chilling electric guitar of Dworkin dominate on the title tune. There are many more exciting minutes on this release.
Di Bartolo is known for his many years as a member of the Tonight Show Band. But he has also worked with Louis Bellson, Maynard Ferguson and Bob Florence. It is the time with Florence that clearly comes through on the charts he picked for this album. Now if these young artists can only make a living in jazz after they graduate, there should be little worry about the future of America's music.
Track Listing: Sphinx; What Is This Called Love; Goodbye, Porkpie Hat; Mind the Gap; Mingus Three Hats; Nica's Dream; Mitch; Wyrgly
Personnel: Justin Smith, John Kivler, Josh Thomas, Amanda Hurtado - Trumpet; Jay Hatler, Sarah Gaghagen, Pete Vivona, Jessica Coz - Trombone; Ryan Wolff - Bass Trombone; Jeff Giroux, Chris Shipp - Alto Sax; Dominic Lalli, Adrian Roberts - Tenor Sax; Paul Brewer - Baritone Sax/Bass Clarinet; Ryan Nemec - Baritone Sax; Travis Mandrell - Piano; John Dworkin - Guitar; Blase Scarnati - Tuba; Jeff Naylor - Bass; Francisco Rosaly - Drums