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West Coasting is, happily, another top–of–the–line album by the University of Northern Iowa’s superb Jazz Band One (its eleventh in the past eleven years), but, unhappily, its last under long–time director Bob Washut who is stepping aside after twenty–two years at the helm. UNI has risen under Washut’s guidance to a position as one of the country’s most respected Jazz Studies programs. His leadership will be greatly missed (and his successor, whoever that is, may feel somewhat like the coach who had to replace Vince Lombardi in Green Bay). As an educator, Washut wasn’t known for giving his students easy assignments, and West Coasting is no exception, with Chick Corea’s “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” Carla Bley’s “Utviklingssang” (do not try pronouncing this at home), Kenny Wheeler’s “Hotel le Lot,” Mark Levine’s “Serengeti,” UNI alum Eric Schmitz’s elaborate set–piece, ”Swing,” and Washut’s “Basso Urnessto” among the more challenging exercises. After hearing their responses, I’m sure Prof. Washut had no choice but to pencil in grades of A–plus for each of them. The band does receive “outside” help on “Serengeti” and Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” from one of its staunchest supporters, trumpeter Bobby Shew, whose eloquent solos are, as usual, tailor–made for the highlight reel. The album opens with Dennis Mackrel’s strapping “Blues in the 2%” (solos by baritone Brian Moore, trumpeter Brandon Lewis, trombonist Nate Dishman, pianist Jason Danielson). Danielson and alto Greg Aker are featured on the rhythmically demanding “Basso Urnessto,” tenor Nick Thompson on the somber “Utviklingssang,” Danielson on the colorful “Now He Sings” (smartly arranged by UNI alumnus Troy Thompson). Shew is the headliner on “Smoke” and shares the spotlight with tenor Rick Stone and drummer Phil Martin on “Serengeti.” Aker, Martin and guitarist Tom Wherrett solo on “Hotel le Hot,” Wherrett and tenor Ryan Jeter on “Swing,” trombonists Dishman and Bill Sheidecker on Astor Piazzolla’s playful “Milonga Loca” (the only track recorded with an audience), Danielson, Stone and trumpeters Phil Hamilton and Caleb Shreves on the mellow finale, Kenny Werner’s “Compensation.” Washut’s charges are typically well–prepared for the exam, and one would be hard–pressed to uncover any lapses. Ensemble passages are sharp and clean, soloists bright and aggressive. If one must leave, as Washut has chosen to do, he may as well go out on top, and West Coasting appends a marvelous capstone to an already impressive legacy.
Contact: Sea Breeze Records, P.O. Box 1910, Pismo Beach, CA 93448–1910. Phone 818–489–2055. Web site: www.seabreezejazz.com .
Track Listing: Blues in the 2%; Basso Urnessto; Utviklingssang; Now He Sings, Now
He Sobs; Hotel le Hot; Smoke Gets in Your Eyes; Serengeti; Swing;
Milonga Loca; Compensation (69:31).
Personnel: Robert Washut, director; Greg Aker, Dave Oline, alto, soprano sax, flute,
clarinet; Rick Stone, tenor, soprano sax, clarinet (except 3); Nick
Thompson, tenor sax, clarinet (except 3, 4, 7); Ryan Jeter, tenor sax
(except 2); Brian Moore, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet; Brandon
Lewis, Caleb Shreves, Phil Hamilton, Patrick Parker, Meghan Guss,
trumpet; Bill Scheidecker, Nate Dishman, Chris Schmitz (3
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.