There’s an abundance of riches on this two-CD set from the UNLV jazz program. It includes six distinct groups, plus one solo piano track featuring Patrick Hogan, who frequently appears elsewhere on the project as a player, arranger, composer, and/or singer.
The first eight tracks spotlight the talented Jazz Ensemble I. Trumpeter Jorge Machain wrote the Latin gem “Por Ahora” (For Now), a feature for guest horn man Gilbert Castellanos. Machain also arranged the band’s teasing take on the Gershwin brothers’ “Fascinating Rhythm” and turned in beautiful solos on “Tadd’s Delight” and UNLV tenor saxophonist Michael Spicer’s vibrant original “Fake Blues.” The band’s exploration of Rob McConnell’s take on “Bye Bye Blues” showcases Hogan’s piano work amid a relaxed swing feel reminiscent of the Basie band; other soloists spotlighted in this segment include guitarist Nick Lee, saxophonists Jake Yansen and Ganiyu Danda, and trombonist Nick Veslany. The first disc winds down with the 11-member UNLV Contemporary Jazz Ensemble’s performance of Spicer’s extended panoramic composition “Patchwork,” a crystalline beauty featuring flutist Daniel Egwurube, and three tracks from the Honors Jazz Quartet. The latter are originals: bassist Dave Ostrem’s funky “Blue Brew,” saxophonist Rick Keller’s ballad “For Pat,” and pianist Hogan’s hard-driving “Mythos.” Drummer Angelo Stokes rounds out the group.