This is the third CD Bob Lark and the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble have produced in tandem with either legendary alto saxophonist Phil Woods, pianist Jim McNeely, or both, in this case. Fronting a 20-piece student big band, Woods takes the lion's share of the solos, while his working quartet (McNeely, bassist Steve Gilmore, and drummer Bill Goodwin) are featured in total for three of the ten tracks. A few of the students do arrangements and get solos here and there, but it is more the collaborative process rather than showcasing individuals (excepting Woods) that makes these recordings come alive. The music is also made much in the spirit of Woods working with the Quincy Jones or Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestras, in all instances with Woods as composer, many times as lead player, and as a fully integrated member of the large ensemble reading charts. The most familiar track is the swing/blues "Ol' Dude" that Woods did with tenor saxophone icon Budd Johnson, and in fact does feature several different student soloists, while the out-and-out bopper "Before I Left" via Scott Dickinson's arrangement is full of exciting unison playing and counterpoint lines, and has the solo vibraphonist Justin Thomas. The trickiest part of these types of projects is to create a sound that does not seem rote or stiff, and the participants for the most part are successful, especially considering it was documented in three separate recording sessions over an eight-month period. The selections featuring the small ensemble of Woods are more professional, as McNeely's innocent, modal waltz "A Child's Blues" and the full-blown "Mother Time" have a bite and grit only the vets can offer. As most of these types of recordings only appeal to the family and friends of the participants, this one should pan out to a broader audience, and should please the big fan base of Phil Woods, as well.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos