Thursday, November 5, 2009

Texas Christian University Jazz Ensemble: Just Friends

Sea Breeze Vista
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 11.05.09
Buy CD: Just Friends

I always smile when obtaining an album from a university that offers students a jazz program.

Texas Christian University is one of the best of these schools; this is its 17th album during the past 32 years, and it's a two-CD treasure.

This endeavor involved a total of almost 30 student musicians, plus seven alums and teachers. Three units are featured: a big band ensemble and two different quintets. Not everyone plays at once, but they all get a chance to participate in these 27 tunes.

TCU is world-renowned for its school of music in general, and its jazz program in particular. Its big band has been featured in concerts with literally dozens of jazz greats, both “at home” and in venues across the United States and Canada. The unit also has toured Europe several times.

The current ensemble director, Curt Wilson, has taught there since 1976; the bands, and their members, have received numerous awards over the years.

As usually is the case with college bands, much of the “book” used here has been contributed by name composers and arrangers, but a significant number of student and faculty originals also are included. Every one of them swings. The ensemble and section work is excellent throughout, and the solos aren't far behind ... which isn't often the case for young students.

One individual deserves special mention: Trombonist Andy Martin is outstanding in the ensemble's cover of “Caravan.” He's on par with some of the great artists I've heard over the years.

This is a wonderful album: Everyone is having a ball, and it shows.

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