This edition of the University of North Texas’ premier jazz outfit blends the mainstream big-band tradition with more contemporary adventures. Student originals and arrangements dominate, while band director Alan Baylock and veteran composition/arranging faculty member Rich DeRosa contribute one original apiece.
The session opens with DeRosa’s “Al-Go-Rhythm,” which he based on the Gershwin brothers’ standard “I Got Rhythm.” Trumpeter Gregory Newman, trombonist Nathan Davis, and tenor saxophonist Will Nathman’s diverse solos ride over the band’s crisp ensemble work. Trombonist DJ Rice wrote “Leverage” and “Aggro,” two very different uptempo pieces. The swinging groove on “Leverage” supports intense solos from saxophonists Kyle Myers on alto and Andrew Duncan on baritone. “Aggro” borrows chord changes from “Cherokee” and “Giant Steps,” but Rice throws the players a curve by using different keys. Drummer Luke Berger sets the blistering pace, with Rice and trumpeter Gregory Newman soaring over the ensemble.
Lead saxophonist Kyle Myers wrote three tunes: the Mingus-inspired “Third Time’s the Charm,” featuring a high-energy solo from trumpeter Kazunori Tanaka; “Red Herring,” a funky showcase for Ethan Ditthardt’s searing guitar; and the poignant closer “I’ll Miss You,” which is highlighted by a beautiful flugelhorn segment from Chris Van Leeuwen.
Composer and drummer John Sturino, a former One O’Clock Lab Band member and UNT teaching fellow, wrote the through-composed “Frauenfeld.” This lush beauty features an extended tenor solo by Nathman, with Marion Powers’ wordless vocals enhancing the ensemble horns. Sturino arranged the band’s cover of “The Things We Did Last Summer,” a vocal feature for Powers that’s complemented by Duncan’s baritone sax counterpoint. Davis arranged the standard “I Can’t Get Started” for the band; his gentle version, with reharmonized chord progressions, spotlights pianist Michael Clement and trombonist Rice.
Director Baylock’s “Confluence” brings a different musical edge to the project. Teasing and dense, it features ear-catching guitar effects from Ditthardt, with tenor sax and trumpet solo fireworks from Addison Jordan and Van Leeuwen, respectively.
The One O’Clock Lab Band made its first annual recording in 1967. This 2019 edition shows the mighty band still rides strong more than five decades later.