This wide-ranging UNLV disc spotlights four different groups. Jazz Ensemble 1 opens with a spirited cover of Thad Jones’ “Fingers” that features solos from trombonist Zach Guzman-Mejia, alto saxophonist Jeymar Perez-Mendoza, and pianist Patrick Hogan. The latter musician is the iron man for this overall session, making an impact as a composer and arranger, pianist and singer. Masters-level composition student Jorge Machain wrote and is featured on “Bella,” which he named for his dog. Its lush ensemble texture makes the perfect backdrop for his elegant, extended flugelhorn solo. Machain also crafted the arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues,” which gradually builds in intensity. Hogan wrote “San Carlos,” which is a genteel swinger in this big-band format; you can tap your feet to its infectious feel, albeit slowly. JE1 closes its segment with a romp through John Clayton’s chart of his intricate classic “Soupbone,” which first appeared on the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra’s 1991 recording Heart and Soul.
The 14-member Latin Jazz Ensemble is featured on “Brazilian Dorian Dream,” an exotic Manfredo Fest samba enhanced by Kailyn Richards’ wordless vocals and a guitar solo from Andrew Garcia. The solid percussion team keeps it flowing. Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat classic “Water No Get Enemy” throbs with energy and catchy call-and-response melodicism. It features Ed Sarabia on baritone sax, arranger Daniel Egwurube on flute, and Ganiyu Dauda on soprano sax.
The UNLV Honors Trio, teaming Hogan, bassist Ruben Van-Gundy and drummer Michael Hoffman, is featured on two more of the pianist’s originals. “Ahmad’s Blues,” an inventive Ahmad Jamal tribute, builds on Hogan’s teasing melody, while the ballad “Softly I Say Goodbye” is a delicate change of pace featuring the composer on both piano and heartfelt vocals. Hogan, an undergrad at the time of this recording, is moving up to the school’s graduate program.
The graduate-level Contemporary Jazz Ensemble closes things out with two tracks. Pianist Nick Bentz’s original “Like the Wind in the Leaves” is a propulsive showcase for this unit, driven by Amanda Ketterer’s vocals, Bentz on piano, and Peter Goomroyan on violin. Austin, Texas-based guitarist Matthew Muehling’s “Oba Bow” is a colorful tone poem that intensifies as it rides over arranger Marshall Peterson’s funky bassline.