As has been pointed out a number of times before, there's no audible difference between the University of North Texas' One O'Clock and Two O'Clock Lab Bands, which are customarily named for rehearsal times but based on performance alone could well be designated One O'Clock and One-Fifteen. This is not meant to devalue the One O'Clock Band, which is about as proficient as a college-level ensemble can be; the intention is simply to note that UNT is home to a large number of talented young musicians, and there is only room for so many in the One O'Clock (or Any O'Clock) bands. True, the students must work their way up to the prize starting time, but again, reckoning solely on the basis of results, the inescapable conclusion is that most (if not all) members of the Two O'Clock Band would be perfectly at home and at ease showing up an hour earlier.
Having said that, the Two O'Clock Lab Band has an explicit leg up on Two Music: It Don't Mean a Thing, If It...,
as this is a two-CD package, thus inviting the listener to double his (or her) pleasure. Director Jay Saunders
, who was considering retirement and thought this might be his last recording with the band, asked some friends and colleagues to send charts and was soon overwhelmed, with too much great music to include on even two CDs. Tough choices were made, and the upshot is what is heard here: seventeen numbers, each one a winner in its own way.
Taking it from the top, the ensemble opens with Paul McKee
's "Bitter Jug," a fast-moving swinger based on Fats Waller
's "Jitterbug Waltz." Trombonist Matt Corrigan, guitarist Brad Chan Kang and drummer Lupe Barrera deliver the first of what is soon to become a torrent of resourceful solos. Even though there are no lapses on Disc 1, Saunders saves the best for last, Jeremy Levy's bravura arrangement of J.J. Johnson
's "Lament," which opens softly before shifting into a bright Latin tempo that underscores the album's name. The heated solos are courtesy of baritone Seth Ely and trumpeter John Hallman. Between these bookends are half a dozen standout charts including Bret Zvacek's "The Madland," John Clayton
's "Terell's Song," Drew Zaremba's "Vaguely Reminiscent" and Dave Zoller
's "Five'll Getcha Ten." The Two O'Clock is so splendid it even has vocalists to match: Marion Powers ("I Didn't Know What Time It Was") and Emily Davis ("Detour Ahead"). Trumpeter Daniel Matthews is impressive on "Terell's Song," pianist Damian Garcia and tenor Ted Davis likewise on "Madland." Garcia and Matthews reappear on "Vaguely Reminiscent," while Matthews and alto Julian Sutherland are out front on "Five'll Getcha Ten."
Disc 2 makes an auspicious start with Miles Davis
' powerful "Nardis," followed by Vern Sielert
's dancing arrangement of Michel Legrand
's "You Must Believe in Spring" (showcasing Matthews and Sutherland) and Bob Curnow
's perceptive treatment of Oliver Nelson
's bluesy "J & B," on which the band's admirable trumpet section proves its mettle. Joe Henderson
's incisive "Inner Urge," arranged by UNT alumnus Mark Taylor
, arrives next, prefacing Rich DeRosa's rhythmically lavish "Rat Race." The band then steps aside briefly to welcome its 2009 counterpart, which recorded Phil Kelly
's charming "Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles" that year and can now herald its long-overdue release. Tenor Ian Henderson is showcased on Taylor's ballad, "Love Matters the Most," Sutherland and Garcia on Sam Jones
' enchanting "Del Sasser" (arranged by trumpeter Ray Brown) before the Two O'Clock wraps things up with Chuck Owen
's elaborate "E-Ticket," a chart that has been in the band's library for some time. Saunders' choice of material is impeccable, the band's performance sublime. If you're a big-band enthusiast, you can't go wrong with this outstanding double-CD set.
Jay Saunders: director; Andrew Bezik: trumpet; Joshua Kauffman: trumpet; Rick Moose: trumpet; John Hallman: trumpet; Daniel Matthews: trumpet; Julian Sutherland, Jonathan Mones, Ted Davis, Ian Henderson, Seth Ely: saxophones; Jessica Young: horn; Kennedy Powers: trombone; Matt Carrigan: trombone; Jake Macary: trombone; Freddy Ouellette: trombone; Kenny Davis: trombone; Damian Garcia: piano; Brad Young Chan Kang: guitar; Jake Greenberg: bass; Lupe Barrera: drums, percussion; Nick Rothouse: percussion; Emily Davis: vocals; Marion Powers: vocals. Disc 2, Track 6 only (2009 Lab Band) —Thomas Davis: trumpet; Micah Bell: trumpet; Preston Haining: trumpet; Peter Brewer: trumpet; Dan Cron: trumpet; Brett McDonald, Adam Robertson, Dustin Mallick, Ben Bohorquez, Chris Reza: saxophones; Sean Nelson: trombone; Hiroshi Wada: trombone; Austin Short: trombone; Jon Gauer: trombone; Sean Casey: trombone; Sean Giddings: piano; Scott Kruser: guitar; Jacob Smith: bass; Duran Ritz: drums.