If you’re gonna be swingin’ night and day (or either of the above), you’d better have a pretty good drummer to lead the way. Fortunately, Millikin University’s Jazz Band 1 has a trustworthy timekeeper in Greg Fundis, and its second CD in the last half–dozen years scurries smartly along behind his admirable stick and brushwork and the range–finding volleys of bassist Chad Sanders. Director Randall Reyman had the ensemble well–prepared for this recording session, and there’s only one conspicuous pothole in the road — the ill–advised vocal duet by trumpeter Heather Mooberry and vibraphonist / percussionist Terence Mayhue (who should have stayed in their respective sections) on “Body and Soul.” Otherwise, the band acquits itself quite well as a unit, and its soloists are no less than respectable. The most persuasive improvisers, however — as one would expect — are the faculty members who sit in: Reyman (flugel) on Tom Harrell’s “Sail Away,” alto saxophonist Perry Rask on “Body and Soul,” pianist Steve Widenhofer on “Night and Day” (even though the piano itself could use a sweeping overhaul). The ensemble makes an agreeable start with Thad Jones’ “Big Dipper” (solos by vibraphonist Mayhue and guitarist Ryan Trommer), and tenor Jeff Thompson is warm and limber on “Moonlight in Vermont.” That troublesome piano thwarts Jason Butterick on Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” but the ensemble, driven hard by Fundis, snaps back with a spirited reading of “The Way You Look Tonight.” After Reyman’s engaging turn on “Sail Away,” alto Tim Stasica and tenor Joe Taylor take charge on “In a Mellow Tone” and “Dear Old Stockholm,” respectively (with Josh Jern adding a nice muted trumpet solo on the former). Following the imprudent Mooberry / Mayhue vocal, Rask charges to the rescue with an ardent solo on “Body and Soul” and Widenhofer closes the show with some agile keyboard work on “Night and Day.” We should note that playing time is only 41:52, which is still better than the ensemble’s earlier album, Easy to Love, which clocked in at 39:15.
Contact:Randall Reyman, School of Music, Millikin University, 1184 W. Main, Decatur, IL 62522 (phone 217–424–6300 or 800–373–7733) or Stephen Widenhofer, Chair, Music Industry Studies, 217–424–6305; e–mail email@example.com (web site, www.millikin.edu)
Track Listing: Big Dipper; Moonlight in Vermont; Freedom Jazz Dance; The Way You Look Tonight; Sail Away; In a Mellow Tone; Dear Old Stockholm; Body and Soul; Night and Day (41:52).