Those who are tasked with monitoring the pulse of intercollegiate jazz, if indeed there are such overseers, will find it beating strongly at the University of Toronto whose well-schooled 12tet, comprised of students in the school's bachelor's, master's and doctoral music programs, has recorded its third admirable CD, When Day Slips Into Night. As before, the album focuses on music written and / or arranged by the students with two more charts contributed by director Terry Promane.
Although it is a few horns short of big-band status, the 12tet has ample power for the task at hand, relying heavily on those resourceful arrangements and a sturdy rhythm section anchored by drummer Keagan Eskritt. Promane scored the buoyant opener, Mike Murley's "Extra Time," and the seductive finale, Klaus Gesing's "Tanz Ohne Antwort" (Dance Without Answers, from whose lyric the album's title is derived). Three jazz standards were smartly arranged by students: Cedar Walton's edgy "Bolivia" (Ben Edgecombe), Tom Harrell's lovely "Sail Away" (Nathaniel Jenkins) and Juan Tizol's zestful "Perdido" (Eskritt). The ensemble's sure-handed pianist, Noah Franche-Nolan, is showcased on Bill Laurance's propulsive "Ready Wednesday."
Having pointed out the album's more agreeable aspects, it is entirely proper to home in on those that are rather less so, namely the vocal tracks: "Isaya" (arranged by Franche-Nolan), "(Ocean) Bloom" (Michael Henley) and, to some extent, "Tanz Ohne Antwort." The group's vocalist, Brooklyn Bohache, sings on key but is for the most part undermined by excessive reverb and her tendency to engorge the microphone on "Isaya" and "Bloom," which renders the lyrics largely incomprehensible. It doesn't help that neither "Isaya" nor "Bloom" is among the album's more engaging themes. In fact, it must be noted that in spite of some respectable writing by the students, the melodies that endure in at least one listener's memory are the more familiar ones: "Bolivia," "Sail Away" and even the oft-ridden warhorse, "Perdido."
The ensemble's consonance is impressive, its soloists earnest and reliable. In short, the album's ample strengths readily outweigh its occasional flaws.
Extra Time; Eventide; Bolivia; Sail Away; Isaya; Perdido; (Ocean) Bloom; Ready Wednesday; Tanz Ohne Antwort (Dance Without Answer).
Terry Promane: leader; Michael Henley: trumpet; Kaelin Murphy: trumpet; Brandon Tse: alto sax; John Nicholson: tenor sax; Kieran Murphy: tenor sax; Russell Matthews: baritone sax; Karl Silveira: trombone; Noah Franche-Nolan: piano; Julius Clegg: electric guitar; Evan Gratham: acoustic, electric bass; Keagan Eskritt: drums; Brooklyn Bohach: voice.
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