This two-CD set from UNLV’s jazz program features five distinct performance groups that explore a wide variety of music. Disc One includes eight tracks by Jazz Ensemble I and closes with three from the Honors Quartet. Bill Cunliffe’s arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” medley is a robust showcase for the ensemble. It’s also the first of many spotlights for pianist, composer and arranger Patrick Hogan, whose solo blends moments of delicacy and authority. Later in the big band program, Hogan shares his vocal talent on his own arrangement of “Tenderly.”
JEI’s co-director Nathan Tanouye arranged two Russ Freeman compositions for the big band. The salsa-flavored “Maid in Mexico” features Jorge Machain on trumpet and Bennett Mason on piano, while the rollicking “Russ Job” spotlights Jeymar Perez on alto saxophone and Amy Crosley on drums. Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me a Bedtime Story,” arranged by Mason, is a beautiful change of pace, featuring Machain on flugelhorn and Filip Rodriguez on tenor sax. The title track, “Passersby,” is a buoyant Hogan original that sounds like a Pink Panther-ish natural for an uptempo TV soundtrack. It features Perez, trombonist Giovanni Locala, and Machain’s blistering trumpet.
UNLV’s Honors Quartet teams Hogan with Machain, bassist Molly Redfield, and drummer Angelo Stokes. These players have great chemistry as they dig into Redfield’s swinging arrangement of a Ray Brown tribute, “Ray’s Kicks,” the pianist’s own “Life and Times,” and Machain’s arrangement of the standard “I Hear a Rhapsody,” a subtler trumpet showcase.
UNLV’s Latin Jazz Ensemble puts an Afro-Cuban twist on six jazz, Latin, pop, and rock tunes to open Disc Two. There’s a supercharged 5/8 arrangement of John Coltrane’s “Naima” by percussionist Zach Meja-Guzman that features violinist Peter Goomroyan and pianist Mason. Carlos Henriquez’s “2/3’s Adventure” blends clave, montuno, and swing, highlighted by Daniel Egwurube’s flute artistry. Joe Henderson’s “Caribbean Firedance” was arranged by LJE director Julian Tanaka as an intricate showcase for the group’s horn section and percussionists. The Latin group’s three pop and rock covers are quite diverse. Jesus Muñoz arranged The Mars Volta’s “L’Via L’Viaquez”—and plays the Cuban trés, a three double-stringed guitar, on this one. There’s also a spirited take on Ariana Grande’s “NASA”, a double-time samba arranged by drummer Michael Hoffman. Bass trombonist Alan Cates arranged the band’s cover of Joe Jackson’s 1984 pop hit “Cha Cha Loco” that features flutist Egwurube and guitarist Samuel Ramirez.
UNLV’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble performs two very different tunes: Bud Powell’s “Elogie” from his Strictly Powell Blue Note session and an extended exploration of Bill Chase’s “Weird Song #1.” Both feature violinist Goomroyan. With her wordless vocals, Angelica Hachiya becomes another member of the horn section.
Hogan arranged the three tracks from the Honors Trio, in which he teams with bassist Ruben Van-Gundy and drummer Michael Hoffman. Richard Rodgers’ “Blue Room” gets an edgy treatment, Lerner and Lowe’s “On the Street Where You Live” is an extended feature for piano and bass, and there’s a hornless take on the Randy Hall-Vincent Wilburn III ballad “The Man With the Horn,” written for Miles Davis. This version, featuring Horan on piano, is a gem.
Are you a musician or jazz enthusiast? Sign up for our weekly newsletter, full of reviews, profiles and more!