Super Blue is a superb big band recording from a community college with a major jazz education program. Based in Oregon, the Mt. Hood Community College jazz band has a history of excellence which includes winning top honors at numerous jazz festivals throughout the country. The school's alumni have shared the stage with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and many other jazz legends. This 2005 edition is an eighteen-piece big band of first and second-year college students playing under the direction of Susie Jones.
This ten-track album features many jazz standards, such as Tom Kubis's "Rhythm Method," Quincy Jones and Sammy Nestico's "Quintessence," and the late Frank Mantooth's "Take Only For Pain." Also included as part of the repertoire are musical classics like Henry Mancini's "Moonriver" and the timeless Raskin/Mercer treasure "Laura." The program starts off with "Big Al Meets the Barnyard Gals," a lively piece that opens up with an excellent piano intro by Andrew Washburn, followed by a woodwind chorus and then a stylish brassy finish by the entire band.
"Tricotism," a rhythm-based cut co-written by New York trombonist/bandleader John Fedchock, naturally features the trombone section and a solo by trombonist Derek Bondy, as well as a long bass solo by Speranza. I can't say enough about the truly warm and wonderful "Quintessence," a lovely slow ballad showcasing a gem of a solo by Michael Rodriguez on alto sax. Gordon Goodwin's "Mueva Los Huesos," a Stan Kenton favorite, doesn't quite reach the intensity or fire that I believe the piece was written for. Nevertheless, the music does manage to "shake those bones." "Moonriver" is a splendid track and a favorite of mine. I love the Mantooth arrangement, which the band captures in great style. "Rhythm Method" is, of course, another rhythm-based number with a slew of solos. I've always been fond of "Laura," and she doesn't dissapoint me here. Trumpeter Adam Buell plays a beautiful love melody from the heart, accompanied by an emotional solo by Coyle on tenor.
Mantooth's "Take Only For Pain" turns out to be a swinging piece that highlights a guitar riff by Chazz Hamilton. The jazz standard "Work Song" is another fine big band number with scores of solos. The title cut, "Super Blue," has a funk/jazz beat with a heavy blend of the blues, demonstrating this ensemble's exceptional range. For a group of young college kids, these players produce a professional quality sound. Susie Jones has done a great job of harnessing the energy and talents of these budding musicians to produce an excellent big band recording. Super Blue is a truly super ensemble album that's enjoyable all the way through.
Track Listing: Big Al Meets The Barnyard Gals; Tricotism; Quintessence; Mueva Los Huesos; Moonriver;
Rhythm Method; Laura; Take Only For Pain; Work Song; Super Blue; Time N/A.
Personnel: Susie Jones: director; Michael Rodriguez, Gideon L. Hawkins: alto saxophone; Dave Coyle,
Billy Gaechter: tenor saxophone; Ali Farmer: baritone saxophone; Adam Buell, Karl Scott
Blackwood, Wes Lutrell, Mario Carboni: trumpet; Derek M. Bondy, Heather Sessler, Matt
Hutson, Scott Evensen: trombone; Andrew Washburn: piano; Chazz Hamilton:guitar; Dave
Speranza: bass; Julian Emanuel, Even Guilford: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.