WMU News

WMU's acclaimed jazz orchestra releases new CD

Nov. 26, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- With two Grammy-nominated albums under its belt, the Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra is making another bid for the honor with a new release, "Cosmosis."

"Cosmosis" is the award-winning ensemble's fifth release for Sea Breeze Records. From start to finish, the group's enterprising undergrads leave no doubt that they've come to swing, starting with Sonny Rollins' "Oleo" and continuing through a colorful program that includes compositions by Tom Harrell, John Coltrane, Jay McShann, Mark Buselli and Dave Holland. Other selections include Jim Martin's arrangements of the traditional melody "Dear Old Stockholm" and the standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" and Eden Ahbez's mega-hit from the early '50s, "Nature Boy," arranged by Brent Wallarab.

Co-directors Trent Kynaston and Rick Holland shuffled hardworking drummers Quincy Davis, Kevin Garcia and Jevin Hunter in and out of the starting lineup. They are replaced on the in-concert finale, Dave Holland's rapid-fire "Cosmosis," by celebrated WMU School of Music artist-in-residence Billy Hart, who drives the piece to its fiery conclusion.

Among soloists who shine are Shawn "Thunder" Wallace, on alto sax ("Dear Old Stockholm"), tenor sax ("Cosmosis," Harrell's "Time's Mirror" and "Shapes," and Coltrane's "Giant Steps,") and clarinet ("Oleo," and "Nature Boy"). Another returning performer, pianist Chris Sargent, who, like Wallace, played on two of the orchestra's earlier albums, is featured on Buselli's "Jovian Comets" and offers strong solos on "Time's Mirror" and "Shapes."

The disc also spotlights the talents of several other notable improvisers, including trumpeters Marc Landes ("Oleo," "Shapes") and Ryan Bullard ("Time's Mirror," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Cosmosis); trombonists Raphael Crawford ("Oleo"), Earlie Braggs ("Swingmatism") and Dave Lambert ("Nature Boy"); baritone Eric Olson ("Oleo") and drummer Hunter ("Oleo," "Blackbird").

The CD's release comes at a busy time for the orchestra. The 18-member ensemble recently was featured in a performance with the internationally recognized New York Voices at the Ford-Detroit International Jazz Festival. Over the years, the group has received international acclaim for its high performance standards and creative approach to big band jazz, including two-time top honors in the college big band category in Down Beat magazine's annual student music awards.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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