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Leap Frog by Texas Christian University Jazz Ensembles

Colleges and universities are the last cultural bastions for the transference of knowledge from one generation to another. Where else can one go to hear and learn about Medieval motets, Gregorian Chant and music of the Renaissance? These institutions are also the only place for hearing avant-garde electronic and string quartet music. If not for universities these art forms would have been lost to the ages. They not only teach the music to their students, but also provide a place for excelled practitioners of these arts to find a home in which to spread their craft.

More and more we need to add big band jazz to the list of quickly forgotten arts higher education is able to keep alive. Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz At Lincoln Center not withstanding, it’s just not economically feasible for big bands to tour during these times. As a proponent of this music comes this fine recording from Texas Christian University (TCU).

Produced to honor Curt Wilson’s 30 years as Director of Jazz Studies at TCU, this two-CD set includes selected performances from their 2004-2006 jazz bands along with pieces by a few student combos. Among noted pedagogue, composer and woodwind performer Wilson’s past accomplishments include Director of Bands at Ashland College (1972-1976), music faculty member at Valley City State College (1968-1972), and performer with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, and the Glenn Miller and Tex Beneke Orchestras.

The music on these discs is as one would expect of a university group: inclusive of many eras and styles. The ensemble plays to an exceptional level of sophistication and taste, with solos by a number of exciting young soloists. Among the highlights are Marty Paich’s arrangement of "Body and Soul," featuring an exceptionally gifted and sonorous trombone section, a swinging version of "You and the Night and the Music," a truly hip George Stone composition entitled "’D’ Bop," and jazz arranger/composer legend Sammy Nestico’s "How Sweet It Is."

As with any college group there will be times when the youth of the members brings itself to the fore. The famous Bill Holman arrangement of "Malaguena" is a case in point with some problems in the trumpet section and the singing on Jeff Jarvis’ arrangement of "Ain’t Misbehavin’" are two examples. These are easily forgiven however because the purpose of collegiate jazz groups is in the training of tomorrow’s musical leaders and teachers; nobody rose to excellence without falling a little bit along the way.

Joined by guest soloists Wayne Bergeron on trumpet, Tony Campise on saxophone and vocals and Rene Ozuna on tenor sax, it’s easy to see that Wilson combines his excellent pedagogical skills with the introduction of proven leaders in the field to provide the best possible education for his students. That Sea Breeze Records has created a subdivision, Sea Breeze Vista, in order to record the best of the United State’s collegiate jazz ensembles, speaks to their vision and the importance they place on the youth of today - and if lovers and consumers of the art are aided in the process, then everybody wins.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Texas Christian University Jazz Ensembles
  • CD Title: Leap Frog
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Sea Breeze Records
  • Tracks: You and the Night and the Music, Malaguena, Joy Spring, How Sweet It Is, Free Beer, Aint Misbehavin''
  • Musicians: Texas Christian University Jazz Studies Students
  • Rating: Three Stars
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