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University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble: On the Road (Mark)/University of Kentucky Mega-Sax Ensembles: Stinkin’ 3.0 (Mark)

Review of two albums by some of Lexington's finest young jazz players

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Cover of University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble album On the Road
Cover of University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble album On the Road

The University of Kentucky’s various jazz bands have a distinctive musical swagger, offering explosive energy from their many horns and surprises at every turn, along with a zest for tongue-in-cheek material. These projects only reinforce that fact.

On the Road opens with eight tracks that the 2017 ensemble recorded in preparation for its appearance at the 50th annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival. The other five were recorded just before the 2011 band went to Europe for Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festival appearances. The opener, “When Ya Gotta Go, Ya Gotta Go!,” is a tenor battle for saxophonists Jonathan Barrett and Angela Ortega, while Bill Holman’s “Film at Eleven” and Rick Hirsch’s “Metroliner” feature high energy and well-crafted delicacy. Matt Catingub’s “Blues and the Abcessed Tooth” provides more of the same, as well as a whimsical title. Subtleties abound on “Caravan,” featuring Ortega on vocals and graduate assistant Ian Cruz on clarinet. The session’s most intriguing moments come during Barrett’s extended bassoon solo on “The Peacocks” and Cruz’s EWI feature on his arrangement of Russell Ferrante’s vintage Yellowjackets tune “Goin’ Home.”

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