Thursday, April 5, 2007

The MHCC Jazz Band & Combo: My Foolish Heart

Sea Breeze Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.5.07
Buy CD: My Foolish Heart

MHCC stands for Mount Hood Community College, near Portland, Ore. It's a renown institution, and young musicians flock to it, to expand their jazz education. MHCC releases a CD each year, and this one showcases the Class of '06. 

This is a really big band, with 20 members (although not everyone is involved in every track). The band has five musicians in the reed section; five trumpets/flugelhorns; four trombones; and a rhythm section consisting of piano, bass, guitar and drums. The musicians also perform as a "Winter Green" sextet, comprising members of the basic orchestra. 

As in the past, the band is beautifully rehearsed, the arrangements are excellent, and the ensemble work is outstanding. Because of the musicians' limited experience, however, the solos aren't quite up to the standards of the group as a whole. 

More to my taste, the band doesn't really swing ... as does the Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra, for example. 

Be that as it may, this CD certainly is worth your time and money. 

Only one of the tunes is a standard: the title song, "My Foolish Heart." This arrangement by Chuck Owens is done at a "close dancing" tempo, with an excellent tenor sax solo by Sam Solano. It's the album's most moving track. 

A couple of tunes are written by name musicians who often contribute arrangements to MHCC, and they're very good. Sammy Nestico's "88 Basie Street," featuring Andrew Washington on piano, really grooves; Matt Harris' "MAS Production" highlights an excellent rhythm section. 

It's wonderful to know that another generation of youngsters is carrying on the jazz tradition. Sea Breeze is to be congratulated for its continuing interest and involvement with the MHCC groups. 

And you should hop on their band wagon, as well.

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