149

The University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One: Transformation

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Another impressive album (the twelfth in about as many years) by the always well-schooled University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One, the first under new director Chris Merz who replaced long-time mentor Bob Washut last year. The disc marks that “transformation” while reassuring those who appreciate the ensemble’s work that the tradition of excellence established by Washut is destined to continue under Merz’s baton.

Like Washut, Merz has an adventurous nature, and the charts his students are called upon to master aren’t by any means child’s play, including as they do strenuous reading exams by Jim McNeely, Wayne Shorter, Bob Brookmeyer, Ray Anderson and Michael Mossman. Completing the program are insouciant swingers by Mary Lou Williams (“Scratchin’ in the Gravel”) and Sammy Nestico (“Front Burner”), Duke Ellington’s pre-swing-era “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” the standards “Lullaby of the Leaves” (recorded in concert) and “Get Happy,” and UNI alum Chris Schmitz’s elaborate opening essay, “Transformation.”

Mossman’s rhythmic “Cubauza” is an homage to the great Cuban trumpeter/composer, Mario Bauza, Shorter’s “Deluge” (arranged by Merz) a torrential outburst of well-shaped big band Jazz. The students definitely earn “Extra Credit” on McNeely’s essay of that name, as they do on Anderson’s capricious “Tapajack” and Brookmeyer’s self-descriptive “Boom Boom.” What strikes one most clearly is the relative ease with which these young musicians come to grips with such daunting material. Merz says the team lost a number of starters this year, but those who replaced them have stepped up to the plate and delivered some resounding blows.

The rhythm section, anchored by drummer Phil Martin and including pianist Jon Kvam and bassist Dan Oline, is especially responsive, while the brass and reeds display admirable coordination and exemplary firepower. Soloists, as is true of most top-level college ensembles these days, are capable if not unique, with Kvam, tenor Jeff Church and trumpeter Caleb Shreves nailing the mark on Francy Boland‘s smart arrangement of “Lullaby,” Shreves and tenor Jeff Guntren doing likewise on “Get Happy.” Shreves, trombonist Nathan Dishman and clarinetist Kyle Novak recreate the original solos on “East St. Louis Toodle-oo.”

Even with a new conductor at the helm, the UNI Jazz Band One continues to strengthen its well-earned reputation for topnotch music-making, and Transformation is easily recommended to those who have already heard the band and those who have not.


Track Listing: Transformation; Cubauza; Scratchin

Personnel: Chris Merz, director; Brandon Lewis, Caleb Shreves, Christian Anderson, Chris Nitzschke, Chris Arnold (5, 6, 11), trumpet, flugelhorn; Nathaniel Gao, alto, soprano sax; Dave Oline, alto, baritone sax, flute; Jeff Church, Jeff Guntren, tenor sax; Kyle Novak, baritone sax, flute; Bill Scheidecker, Nate Dishman, Paul Hovey, Luke Pingel, trombone; Matt Boucher (10), tuba; Bob Dunn (10), banjo; Jon Kvam, piano; Dan Oline, bass; Phil Martin, drums, clav

Title: Transformation | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Sea Breeze Jazz


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Signal 9 CD/LP/Track Review Signal 9
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 22, 2017
Read For the Love of You CD/LP/Track Review For the Love of You
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Recent Developments CD/LP/Track Review Recent Developments
by John Sharpe
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "Jorg Schippa's Kiosk" CD/LP/Track Review Jorg Schippa's Kiosk
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Compassion: The Music Of John Coltrane" CD/LP/Track Review Compassion: The Music Of John Coltrane
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 3, 2017
Read "Bright Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Bright Moments
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: April 19, 2017
Read "Tomeka Reid Quartet" CD/LP/Track Review Tomeka Reid Quartet
by Patrick Burnette
Published: September 28, 2017
Read "The Singles" CD/LP/Track Review The Singles
by Doug Collette
Published: October 1, 2017
Read "Echoes Of Europe" CD/LP/Track Review Echoes Of Europe
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 26, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.