Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mount Hood Community College Jazz Ensemble: Doin' the Best Deeds

Sea Breeze Vista
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 8.6.09
Buy CD: Doin' the Best Deed

For years, Oregon's Mount Hood Community College has provided an excellent musical education for students interested in jazz.

This album, the college jazz ensemble's fifth, demonstrates clearly the quality of the 2008 roster. Although the albums focuses on the big band, two smaller groups — combos A and B — make their debut, and two of the 12 tracks feature student vocalists.

As has been the case with previous releases, the selections here include a mixture of wonderful old standards (“Where or When,” “Cherokee,” “My Foolish Heart,” “Georgia”) and more modern tunes by artists such as Thad Jones, Roy Hargrove and Duke Pearson. All the arrangements are well rehearsed and, as is the case with all MHCC albums I've heard, the ensemble work is excellent.

All three of these units are “looser” and more relaxed than those I've heard previously; as a result, they swing more. Some of the tracks are on a par with those from much more experienced professional groups.

The biggest surprise in this release, however, is the high quality of some of the solo work. Shout-outs are warranted for guitarist Solomon Thelin and bassist Ross Davis: two young men who drive the rhythm section beautifully and swing like crazy.

Susie Jones directs these groups, and she deserves much of the credit for this excellent album. She clearly knew how to help the musicians achieve the high performance level demonstrated on this release.

Keep it up, Susie!

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