This is a representative cross–sample of Eastman’s Jazz Studies/Contemporary Media program circa 1995–96 with an opening number by the Jazz Ensemble and others by groups of various shapes, sizes and points of view with every selection composed, arranged and performed by students at the Rochester, New York, school. The ensemble is center stage for about eight minutes with David Cutler’s boppish “Bucking for the Buck,” and it is time well spent. The rest of the program could accurately be described as uneven. Following the ensemble is a sort of semi–free improvisation by alto saxophonist Neveu and pianist Cutler, recorded in concert, that includes references to Warne Marsh/Lennie Tristano/Lee Konitz and is well–played if not especially diverting. The electro–acoustic “Blendervision 2.0,” with all manner of synthesized rumbling, is next, and if one can make it past that, there’s Cutler’s “Concerto for Studio Orchestra,” a more interesting band music–style piece that includes strings, horns and timpani but excludes Jazz. “Siete,” by uni3, is another experimental work with Middle Eastern overtones, nicely performed by Jeffrey Paul (composer/woodwinds), pianist Adam Benjamin and percussionist Jason Treuting. Brad Wheeler’s jaunty “Chanson Pour Nous” (Song for Us), performed by Saxology (five saxophones and rhythm), has its moments, and is followed by Neveu’s “Old Friends” (winner in the ’96 Downbeat student awards for best original composition), performed by the New Jazz Ensemble with solos by pianist John Nyerges, trumpeter Martin Hodel, tenor saxophonist Lawrence Miller and guitarist Chris Jentsch. Completing the program are “Transitions,” written by saxophonist Michael McGinnis and performed by his octet; Pat Donaher’s “Kibbeyisms,” a second cutting–edge duet with Donaher on alto and Ben Kibbey on piano; and the sometimes chaotic “Method 2 Madness,” composed by saxophonist Matthew Belzer and played in concert by his septet. While not everything served is to our taste, the young musicians at Eastman are well–grounde
Track listing: Bucking the Buck; Take the Next Step; Blendervision 2.0; Concerto for Studio Orchestra; Siete; Chanson Pour Nous; Old Friends (73:24).
Eastman Jazz Ensemble, the Neveu/Cutler Duo (Alan Neveu, alto sax; David Cutler, piano), Eastman Studio Orchestra, uni3 (Jeffrey Paul II, oboe, English horn, alto sax; Adam Benjamin, piano; Jason Treuting, drums, percussion), Saxology (Matthew Belzer, Alan Neveu, alto sax; Brad Wheeler, David Pope, tenor sax; Damon Zick, baritone sax; David Cutler, piano; Drew Waters, electric bass; Matt Aiken, drums), Eastman New Jazz Ensemble.