The New York University Jazz Ensembles: Dancing in Frames (2003)
This is an interesting overview of the more than twenty smaller Jazz ensembles that are a part of the Jazz/Contemporary Studies program at New York University. The group sizes range from quartet (So-Hum) to octet (Tony Moreno Ensemble) with two sextets (Ralph Lalama, Bob Albanese ensembles) and a septet (the NYU Composers Ensemble). The school also has an excellent large Jazz ensemble (not represented here) whose most recent recording featured the compositions and arrangements of former Basie star Frank Foster who also played tenor sax.
But interesting isn't the same as agreeable. It can be that too, but only sometimes. Some of the music is mainstream or straight-ahead, some of it cutting-edge, and the young musicians seem to be quite competent in every framework (four of them play in more than one ensemble). Seven of the nine selections (and half of the eighth) were written by students or graduate students, all but one of whom (Hiromi Kasuga) plays in at least one of the ensembles.
Lalama's ensemble, which employs two tenor saxophones (Cale Bradley & Jason Scott), gets the session under way with Sun Ra's spry "Saturn," which, in spite of its authorship, is a forthright swinger with effective solos by both tenors, pianist Sam Kassirer, and drummer Chris Bear. Pianist Adam Fernandez is a standout on the So-Hum Quartet's two numbers, bassist Justin Marx's "Clarity" and tenor Geoff Countryman's "Guru," with solid backing from Marx and drummer / percussionist L.Emre Kartari and crisp solos by Joshua Smith (soprano on "Clarity," tenor on "Guru").
Saxophonist Jonathan Rossman blends his composition "Bethune Street" with Joe Zawinul's "In a Silent Way" for the more adventurous Tony Moreno Ensemble, after which the NYU Composers Ensemble trods essentially the same path with bass trombonist Tim Newman's sinuous "Dancing in Frames," pianist Johannes Wallman's pensive "Your Silence Will Not Protect You" and trumpeter Tim Byrnes' dark-hued "Protocolary," accented by Rossman's lush clarinet. Albanese's sextet is bright and boppish on Kasuga's "Way Out West," cool and reflective on bassist Paul Defiglia's "El Greco."
A well-framed album that clearly reinforces one's faith that Jazz education lies in capable hands.
Track Listing: Saturn; Clarity; Guru; Bethune Street; Dancing in Frames; Your Silence Will Not Protect You; Way Up West; El Greco; Protocalary (57:31).
Personnel: 1 -- Ralph Lalama Ensemble (Chris Bear, drums; Richard Bennett, guitar; Cale Brandley, tenor sax; Sam Kassirer, piano; Jason Scott, tenor sax; Dylan Spielvogel, bass) ; 2, 3 -- So-Hum Quartet (L.Emre Kartari, drums, percussion; Adam Fernandez, piano; Justin Marx, bass; Joshua Smith, tenor, soprano sax); 4 -- Tony Moreno Ensemble (L.Emre Kartari, drums; Matt Douglas, alto sax; Alex Epton, drums; Justin Marx, bass; Todd Neufeld, guitar, percussion; Jonathan Rossman, bass clarinet, alto sax; Scott Spivak, Fender Rhodes; Andrew Zimmerman, tenor sax); 5, 6, 9 -- NYU Composers Ensemble (L.Emre Kartari, drums, percussion; Tim Byrnes, trumpet; Paul Defiglia, bass; Tim Newman, bass trombone; Jonathan Rossman, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto sax; Johannes Wallmann, piano; Patrick Wolff, tenor, soprano sax); 7, 8 -- Bob Albanese Ensemble (Jonathan Anderson, piano; Geoff Countryman, tenor sax; Paul Defiglia, bass; Oliver Edsforth, alto sax; Max Goldman, drums; Ben Shanley, trombone).