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Texas Christian University Jazz Ensemble: When You're Smiling

Jack Bowers By

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This is the second recording I've heard by TCU's Jazz Ensemble. The first, while generally impressive, had one prominent and, in the end, unbearable flaw: the engineer, who must have been in a hurry to go home, insisted on clipping the final note of every number before the last overtones had faded, which is exceedingly frustrating to one who would like to hear and appreciate ALL the music. Happily, the engineer on this more recent disc doesn't throw the switch quite so quickly, even though several tracks (most notably Nos. 2, 8, 9, 12) are choked off a millisecond before breathing their last. But on the whole it's far more endurable than the first go-round. The undergrads are abetted on a number of selections by some well-chosen "ringers" including saxophonists Ken Richardson and Gary Whitman, both of whom are TCU faculty members; guitarist Tom Burchill, director of Jazz Studies at Weatherford Junior College; and TCU Jazz Studies director Curt Wilson who arranged and plays clarinet on the gospel staple, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" (one of the disc's highlights). Among the others: two exemplary charts by Bill Holman ("Lightnin'," "After You've Gone" - and perhaps a third, "Moten Swing"), two more by Matt Catingub ("Mission to Monterrey," "Queen City Shuffle"), Shelly Berg's down-homey "Takin' It to Church," Rick Stitzel's "Blues at Drury," Tom Kubis' singular arrangement of the title selection, Hank Levy's lush treatment of "A Time for Love" (with pianist Cory Gavito soloing), and back-to-back readings of "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" by the vocal and instrumental ensembles (the latter featuring bass trombonist Marcus Brunt and flugel Sycil Mathai). A smaller group performs on saxophonist Trey Gunter's "12 Till 9," and the vocal ensemble opens the disc with the school's Alma Mater, arranged by Wilson. The recording is bright and sharp (perhaps a bit too much so) with ample reverb to lend it a "live" feeling. In that respect, it emulates recordings by Kubis who also favors an echo-chamber effect. While we wouldn't place this among the most memorable college-level recordings we've heard, it's a generally well-played session that embodies more than a few engaging and pleasurable moments.

Track Listing: TCU Alma Mater; When You're Smiling; Mission to Monterrey; Just a Closer Walk with Thee; Recuerdos; After You've Gone; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; A Nightingale Sang (Once Again) in Berkely Square; Takin' It to Church; Not Really the Blues; 12 Till 9; A Time for Love; Lightnin'; Blues at Drury; Moten Swing; Queen City Shuffle (71:59).

Personnel: Chris Staine, James Oxley, Sycil Mathai, J. Scott McClean, Jared Parker, Barney Ramirez, trumpets; Kevin Chapman, Louise Wilson, Ellis Kilgore, Tommy Lilley, Bryan Cooke, James Reimer, trombones; Marcus Brunt, bass trombone; Terry Gunter, Garrett Arthur, Sean Foushee, Dr. Ken Richardson, alto sax; Rene Ozuna, Robert Miller, Prof. Gary Whitman, tenor sax; Phillip Padgett, baritone sax; Cory Gavito, Michael Riggs, piano; Reggie Cook, Byron Gordon, Wayne Atchley, bass; Tom Burchill, guitar; Jeff Dalton, Aaron Puckett, drums; Alex Hoff, Jeremy Faust, Jennifer Boltz, French Horn; Jeff Strickland, tuba. Vocal ensemble: Kelly Bauman, Aimee Beliveau, Nicole Dabbert, Stephanie Lewis, Clifton Massey, Todd Maxwell, Michael Nicholas, Amy Pummill, Patrick Pummill, Chad Turner.

Title: When You're Smiling | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: TCU


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