UNLV Jazz Studies receives fourth straight outstanding review from "Jazz Times" - Performs Oct. 15

Oct. 10, 2013

The UNLV Jazz Studies Program received its fourth straight outstanding review from the respected international magazine, "Jazz Times", for its CD "The Four of Us", on TNC Recordings. In addition, UNLV Jazz Ensemble I, conducted by Dave Loeb and Nathan Tanouye, and the UNLV  Latin Jazz Ensemble, directed by Uli Geissendoerfer perform at 7:30pm on Tues., Oct. 15 in the Judy Bayley Theatre. Tickets are $10 and available through the UNLV PAC Box Office at 895-ARTS (2787). UNLV students are free with ID.

NOTE: The CD was reviewed by Ken Franckling and is reprinted below with permission.


This two-CD release marks the 40th anniversary of UNLV’s jazz studies program. Four of its 2012-13 student bands display the school’s considerable jazz talent here: the 18-piece Jazz Ensemble I and smaller groups that draw all or most of their personnel from the big band.

Disc one features Jazz Ensemble I on big-band arrangements of standards, plus two originals by band personnel. Highlights: guest artist Carl Saunders’ extensive trumpet soloing on the Bob Brookmeyer tune “Fireflies”; reed player Julian Tanaka’s shimmering beauty “Kaleidoscope,” featuring the composer on clarinet; and alto player John Summers' arrangement of Michael Brecker’s “African Skies.” The big band is joined on the latter track by a six-member UNLV string section. 

Tanaka, who has been the UNLV ironman on saxophones year after year, is marvelously inventive on “African Skies” and many other tunes here. The Sammy Nestico-penned title track is a swinging showcase for the trombone section. Pianist Alec Bart, a UNLV grad student, wrote the hard-driving “ A Lexus In Texas” which features Bart and trumpeter Jorge Machain. The band’s understated take on “Here’s That Rainy Day,” arranged by Chris Walden, spotlights trombonist Max Acree’s tasteful soloing. An eight-man series of solos on Thad Jones’ “Fingers” is rich through every segment. Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia” makes two appearances- as a big-band track (a chart from former Airmen of Note arranger Mike Crotty) and as one of three features for the Latin Jazz Ensemble that begin disc two.

The 10-member Latin band opens its program with grad student and vibraphonist Daniel Alameda’s arrangement of Tears For Fear’s 1985 hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” featuring Carlos Mata-Alvarez on soprano sax. Mata-Alvarez penned “Para Sonhar” with Halsey Harkins on wordless vocals and piano. Bassist RJ Reyes arranged the second version of “Bolivia,” which features Acree on trombone, Harkins on piano and Tanaka on tenor, and the addition of vibes and congas give the tune an entirely different, subtler feel. UNLV’s Joe William Every Day Foundation Sextet tackles two student originals- the Mata-Alvarez creation “Why She Didn’t Stay” and pianist Jason Corpuz’s intricate ballad “Dreamcatchers,” featuring Machain on flugelhorn- as well as drummer Austin Pooley’s clever new arrangement of the Ellington-Strayhorn standard “Satin Doll.” The 10-member Contemporary Jazz Ensemble adds a straight ahead take on “Darn That Dream” and two pieces by UNLV jazz composition majors: Shawn Whitmer’s beautiful ballad “Yume-e” and Andrew Silva’s uptempo “Late Rush.”

This recording concludes with two bonus tracks from UNLV’s Honors Jazz Quartet, which includes Tanaka on tenor sax, pianist Otto Ehling (a graduate student now pursuing a doctorate in classical piano after earning his master’s in jazz studies in 2012), drummer Larry Aberman and bassist Nick Schmitt. They dig deep into Chick Corea’s early classic “Tones For Joan’s Bones” and Lee Konitz’s “Subconscious-Lee.”

Kudos all around on this project. Jazz studies program director Dave Loeb and his faculty can take great pride in the heights their budding musicians continue to reach.