The Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra has consistently drawn critical praise as a top collegiate band. Conducted by either Scott Cowan or Trent Kynaston, both professors at the university, the students play polished ensembles and creative solos, suggesting a professional band. What also makes this CD noteworthy is the diversity of the program, including Slide Hampton's "Antonie," Jim McNeely's explosive "Hope Rising," Frank Foster's "Blues in Hoss' Flat" (a neglected gem from the early '60s), and Gordon Goodwin's "Sing, Sang, Sung" (a playful takeoff of "Sing, Sing, Sing!"). Bandmember Fred Flesnes' scoring of the well-known "Caravan" incorporates additional Cuban-flavored spice and a fine tenor sax solo by the arranger. They negotiate Hampton's challenging arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie" with ease. Cowan also contributed a pair of tasty originals, the hypnotic "Turkish Delight" and the cool "Boogaloo Land," the latter showcasing Doug Pierce's expressive trumpet. The group even has a bit of fun with unlikely choices like "South of the Border" (a hit for Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass) and "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" (made famous by Glenn Miller), both of which add vocals. Without labels such as Sea Breeze Vista, outstanding student bands like the Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra might not get the exposure they merit in jazz media.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden