Jazz music in colleges and universities around the country is alive, well, and exhilarating. The state of Kentucky has at least two programs which perform live in concert and issue their work on CD. The first of these is the fine jazz studies program at the University of Kentucky and a second is at the lesser-known but active, smaller Morehead State University. Two professors from the Morehead Jazz Program are presented on this album: pianist Jay Flippen and sax player Gordon Towell. The result is jazz that sounds anything but academic. These guys swing and take challenges commensurate with their considerable talent. The kickoff tune, Dexter Gordon's "Fried Bananas," features an interesting approach to the melody line coupled with muscular harmonic invention. In somewhat of a contrast, it approaches a stream-of-consciousness version of "Like Someone in Love" with Towell speculating in, up, down, and around the melody line before Flippen gently enters the fray, expressing his ideas about this classic standard with Towell stating the melody for the last chorus. They also confirm that the music of Thelonious Monk has reached a point that there no longer is any trepidation in playing his tunes somewhat differently than the genius composer might have played them or, for that matter, McCoy Tyner or Anthony Braxton. Here Flippen and Towell explore this piece for almost seven minutes, giving it a film noir sensation brought on mostly by Towell's subdued, mellifluous tenor. This is one of the finest tracks on an album that has no bad tracks. Towell's "A Sunday Lakeside" simply flows from one musical idea to another. This CD is modern mainstream jazz at its best by two performers who just happen to teach at a university. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan