Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kutztown University Jazz Ensemble: Dance You Monster

Sea Breeze Jazz
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.3.08
Buy CD: Dance You Monster

Although this is the Kutztown University Jazz Ensemble's fourth CD, it's my first exposure to the group. I not only hadn't heard of them, I wasn't familiar with Kutztown — found between Allentown and Reading, Pa. — or its university. 

All that matters, though, is that we can add another school to the list of colleges and universities exposing their students to jazz. 

The contributing musicians on this album include seven woodwinds, seven trumpets/flugelhorns, five trombones, four pianists, two bassists, one guitarist, three drummers/percussionists and a female vocalist. The musicians also trade places to achieve the five reed/10 brass/four rhythm sections that are big band standards. 

The compositions include popular songs by the likes of Hammerstein and Porter, along with jazz standards by Basie, Mingus, Sammy Nestico and Billy Strayhorn. Some arrangements were done by the composers, the rest by the students. 

This orchestra is smooth and swings quietly, like countless "territory" and second-tier popular bands that toured during the 1940s, most of which were great dance orchestras. Every track on this CD is danceable. The ensemble work is excellent, the solos are good but not intrusive, and the female vocalist completes the big band-era feel. 

If you're old enough to remember those years, you'll probably enjoy this release.

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