Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Riverside City College Jazz Ensemble: A Minor Case of the Blues

Sea Breeze Jazz
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 6.30.10
Buy CD: A Minor Case of the Blues

Riverside City College is large, boasting campuses in four locations with a semester enrollment of 19,000. This album, the college jazz ensemble's second, covers classes from 2006 to '09. All the personnel were full-time students: no faculty members, alumnae or guest artists.

The college student instrumentalists included 17 reeds, 15 trumpets, 13 trombones, four guitarists, four pianists, four bassists, 10 drummers, three additional percussionists and a violinist.

As often is the case with college groups, this album's nine tracks are covers of compositions by professional musicians and arrangers: Michael Brecker, Stanley Turrentine, Bob Florence, Pat Metheny, Bill Russo and others.

The ensemble work is consistently excellent, and the soloists are much better than those usually heard in student bands. The arrangements are far from rudimentary: They're quite complex, and everything swings beautifully. For the most part, the tempos are fast ... but whatever the meter, it's straight-ahead, big band jazz at a near-professional level.

There is, however, one caveat: As often is the case with school units, this CD's audio quality is needful. You'll detect a “bottom of a well” sound at times, and the solo work doesn't stand out as it should.

Three different set-ups were utilized: Six tracks were done at a professional studio, and two at a River City College studio. The final one was recorded live at a college auditorium. All are somewhat lacking.

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