Art I Facts – Great Performances From 40 Years of Jazz at NEC- New England Conservatory

by | Aug 24, 2011 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Art  I  Facts – Great Performances From 40 Years of Jazz at NEC- New England Conservatory NEC 2009JZ40, 83:17 ****:

The New England Conservatory has been a bastion of European classical music education since 1867 and from 1969 has offered a jazz degree program. There are many contemporary jazz alumni of the NEC including Bruce Barth, Regina Carter, Fred Hersch and Roger Kellaway. Current staff members are well recognized jazz names such as Ran Blake, Jerry Bergonzi and Cecil McBee. This disc is meant to honor both students and staff whose performances exemplified the contribution of NEC to jazz education over the years.

The challenge in bringing together any compilation disc is often, not what to include, but what has to be left out. And, of course, the selections are very subjective. This may have been the problem here although the disc is full of goodies. While Thelonious Monk was never directly associated with NEC, he is well represented with two renditions of  "‘Round Midnight" and another of his compositions "Thelonious". In the case of the former, pianist Jaki Byard offers a compellingly version that is accessible, even as the Ran Blake solo piano offering of the tune is more introspective and oblique. Steve Lacy’s solo soprano sax rendition of Monk’s self-titled composition, though impressive, is uneven. In the 1950s when Jaki Byard was a tenor sax player with the under-appreciated Boston based Herb Pommeroy band, he wrote “Aluminum Baby”. As presented by the NEC Jazz Orchestra, this is a lovely constructed little-heard tune with a sauntering approach, and features the sax section in some unison blowing, with some nimble drum work by Harvey Mason.

In addition to the previously noted composition, The NEC Jazz Orchestra continues to show its collective chops in collaboration with Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone, as they deliver an outstanding rendition of his own composition “Cameo”. Furthermore, the Orchestra under the direction of the unconventional George Russell performs his composition “All About Rosie”. Russell, who had taught at NEC since its opening in 1969, was a particularly important figure in the development of modern jazz, and his composition reflected his distinctive approach to jazz harmony.

This entire disc is a worthy reminder of those performances and individuals who have made a significant contribution to the NEC as an institution committed to jazz education.

Cottontale; ‘Round Midnight; Zeibekiko; Thelonious; Aluminum Baby; All About Rosie; Comeo; The Train And The River; Reverence; India; Go Gently To The Water; Making Lunch; ‘Round Midnight; Maple Leaf Rag.  

—Pierre Giroux

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