Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra

Blue Miles

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This edition of the W.M.U.B.B. is quite different than the one that recorded "Disposable Income." The student improvisors are stronger, and the material has a looser, more contemporary element than the arrangment laden previous CD. There ARE wonderful charts, Mike Abene returning for a double dip, Chick Corea gets a single hit, Kenny Werner as arranger rather than composer, and another Matt Catingub be-bop burner opens the CD. There's also a fusion funk number, an Afro-Cuban cooker, and two selections featuring a small ensemble rather than the full big band. Groups are alternately led by directors Trent Kynaston and Tom Knific.

"Indian Riffs" is the Catingub bopper, a marvelous "Cherokee"-like (even paraphrased) vehicle to again showcase the world class alto of Shawn "Thunder" Wallace. When he solos, he goes it alone, with the band laying out. It's also a chance for the formidable drummer Quincy Davis to show his chops as he does throughout this recording. James Danderfer is the real discovery, displaying a lilting clarinet during Abene's up tempo, shrieking, bird-like arrangement of "Soft Lights & Sweet Music." Abene's interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" has some twists that would make the author raise his eyebrows. Chris Sargent plays piano on the jumpy, twisty, nervous chart, Wallace on soprano sax, then Sargent switches to trombone for "Soft Lights." He's doubling uniquely. Other pianist Duncan McMillan plays some beautifully executed intro leads, into Danderfer's plaintive tenor solo on Werner's arrangement of "Portrait Of Jenny," and the prelude of a cool groove for the Corea penned two note-same note based title cut, with Danderfer and Eric Koppa dueling away on tenors. The small groups are showcased on the Wallace (soprano)-Danderfer (tenor) led composition of Wallace "Confusion," ranging from unison bop head to abrupt solo piano and ensemble easing back in. "Gnome" is the choppy fusion funk anomaly with rock guitar from Michael Drost.

Comparable to previous W.M.U. efforts, perhaps a slight cut above, this edition has a diversity most professional bands can only see in their bluer dreams. Recommended.

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