Special guest Bob Montgomery gives this student big band a mellow flavor with an emphasis on clear harmony. It's not the piercing electronics and pulsating rhythms that many college and university big bands espouse. Instead, trumpeter Montgomery and Jazz Studies director Scott Prebys have chosen to bring out the mellow kind of big band sound taught by Duke Ellington and other respected jazz leaders. By interpreting the music of Clifford Brown, Benny Golson and Billy Strayhorn, this group of future leaders seems headed in the right direction. Montgomery is from Denver, Colorado. The University of Mary is in Bismarck, North Dakota. Together, they've formed a team that favors both good taste in modern jazz and flawless musicianship.
Three pieces are performed by the university's jazz faculty combo, NU-VOYCE. "La Samba" splashes mild, Brazilian daydreams over electronics and wordless vocals, while Victor Feldman's "Delicate Touch" and Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" offer traditional scenes with these same contemporary timbres.
The big band provides a superior sound to that of the combo. Pat Metheny's "Always and Forever" forges straight ahead with a featured guitar solo by Nick Schneider. His lyrical interpretation of the melody, balanced just right by each section, leaves an indelible impression of the university. From a geographical area, after all, where open spaces are respected and admired, the band offers a reminder that music can hold the same majesty. Montgomery interprets "Joy Spring" and "I Remember Clifford" with picture-perfect models of what should comprise tone. His round, overtone-rich formula guarantees the album's success. Recommended for the tasteful manner in which Montgomery and Prebys have elected to interpret a century of jazz, the University of Mary Jazz Ensemble's debut album will appeal to all.