Hawk-Richard Jazz Orchestra: Reunion

Some of the best jazz produced recently can be heard on the two 2004 sessions by the Steve Hawk-Charlie Richard Jazz Orchestra that make up Reunion. The 23-piece ensemble, including conductor Kevin Mayse, is comprised of former University of Texas music students plus pals from Los Angeles. The group excels in postbop, standards, ballads, hard-edged sectional work and extended forms like the 18-minute “Suite for Jazz Orchestra and Alto Saxophone,” which is the CD’s apex.

All the soloists display similar, computerlike control of their horns, capable of cleanly executing whatever they read or extemporize. More astonishing is the discipline of the sections, which play soli that sound like tutorials for top collegiate jazz-band departments. Honors go to lead trumpeter Hawk, lead altoist Richard, pianist Jeff Hellmer, bassist John Fremgen, drummer Roger Schupp and arranger Sandy Megas. Two French horns add considerable breadth to an already impressive bottom. Buy this album.