As many big–band enthusists know by now, the University of North Texas names its various Jazz ensembles according to their regular rehearsal times. The first to appear on records was the widely acclaimed One O’Clock Lab Band, followed a few years ago by the Two O’Clock Band and at last by the Three O’Clock Band, which (as far as we can determine) makes its recording debut with Spring ’99. If these are UNT’s third–stringers, all I can say is, if I were a coach in any team sport I’d dearly love to have a bench as deep and able–bodied as this one. With so many talented players in so many schools and so few chances these days to make a decent living as a Jazz musician, one wonders how many of these students will assume the risk and pursue a career in music once they’ve earned their degrees. The choice, of course, is up to them; meanwhile, they’re obviously in good hands at UNT and learning their big–band lessons well under director Steve Haines. Two of the compositions on Spring ’99 are by members of the Three O’Clock Band — Wil Swindler’s “As We Know It” and Chris Mello’s “Portuguese Mafia Hitmen” — and they are as captivating as anything on the album (including even the marvelous standards, Bronislau Kaper / Ned Washington’s “On Green Dolphin Street” and Johnny Burke / Jimmy van Heusen’s “It Could Happen to You”). Completing the program are Akira Sato’s “Royal Pine,” Clifford Brown’s “Brownie Speaks” and Paul Tynan’s “Cheddarella Dumpling,” none of which is less than persuasive. The trumpet section deserves special plaudits for its razor–like unison work on the chops–busting “Brownie Speaks,” as do high–note specialist Mark Hereth on “Portuguese Mafia Hitmen” and the intrepid rhythm sections for tireless work throughout. The other soloists are pianist Scott Archangel and tenor Steve Fieldhouse (“Green Dolphin Street”); Archangel and tenor John Jeanneret (“As We Know It”); bassist Marc Rogers, trombonist Jeff Valentine and alto Neil Johnson (“It Could Happen to You”); Fieldhouse (“Royal Pine”); pianist Aeron Riordon, trumpeter Jim Pickard and drummer Brian Palmer (“Brownie Speaks”); Pickard, Jeanneret and Palmer (“Cheddarella Dumpling”) and Hereth, guitarist Mello and baritone Joren Cain (“Portuguese Mafia Hitmen”). The Three O’Clock Lab Band is on a par with most other college–level ensembles we’ve heard, and the only conspicuous flaw in Spring ’99 lies in its somewhat meager 40:30 playing time.
Track listing: Green Dolphin Street; As We Know It; It Could Happen to You; Royal Pine; Brownie Speaks; Cheddarella Dumpling; Portuguese Mafia Hitmen (40:30).
Steve Haines, director; Wil Swindler, John Jeanneret, Neil Johnson, Steve Fieldhouse, Joren Cain, saxophones; Mark Hereth, Jim Pickard, Kevin Clark, Matt Hitti, Steve Butts, trumpets; Robert Claiborne, Jeff Valentine, Grant Dawson, trombones; Jonathan Adamo, Jon Yeager, bass trombones; Aeron Riordon, Scott Archangel, piano; Davy Mooney, Chris Mello, guitar; Marc Rogers, Jonathan Fisher, bass; Brian Palmer, Sean McDaniel, drums; Jose Aponte, cajones, congas.
Contact: North Texas Jazz, P. O. Box 305040, Denton, TX 76203