Thursday, October 1, 2009

University of Louisville: Jazz Connection

Sea Breeze Vista
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.1.09
Buy CD: Jazz Connection

The University of Louisville School of Music has hosted the Open World Leadership Cultural Program for the last four years. This two-CD album features the performance output of 40 jazz artists who attended these conferences during that period: 22 from Russia, a dozen University of Louisville students, four faculty members and two area professionals.

The groups range in size from duet to septet, with standard instrumentation (i.e. no electronic keyboards). Straight-ahead jazz is the common denominator. The 26 tracks include both old and new jazz standards, a number of originals and even a couple of old American pop tunes (“Moon River” and “Honeydripper,” for example).

In a way, listening to this album is akin to taking a time-capsule trip from the 1940s through the '90s, visiting the jazz clubs that existed in each era, and listening to radio broadcasts from each period.

The Russian artists are excellent, but their styles are almost exclusively based on those of American musicians from earlier eras. That works out nicely, because the “learning stage” of many students — and some faculty members — reflect the styles of famous artists from that same time period.

It's interesting to note the relative capabilities of the various groups: The Russians are better than the faculty members, who in turn are better than the students. No doubt about it, though: These Russians can swing!

Programs like Open World, which expose artists from various countries to each other's customs, talents and citizens, are tremendously worthwhile. This double-album is a clear indication that jazz can promote friendships and understanding on a worldwide basis.

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