“Lab 2017” is a recording to mark 70 years of jazz history on the campus of the University of North Texas. The One O’clock Lab Band covers classics by such jazz luminaries as Duke Ellington and Chick Corea, as well as works by arrangers and musicians associated with the university.
There is actually more than one milestone to be celebrated with this recording. Not only does it celebrate the inception of the jazz program during the 1946-47 school year, but it also marks 50 years of One O’clock Lab Band annual recordings. And, it marks Alan Baylock’s first year at the university. Baylock’s “Old School” appears on the recording.
Jazz and the University of North Texas
With the recent crop of releases, it is easy to get the impression that jazz is important to the University of North Texas. Further, that the jazz recordings released this year are almost all intended to mark milestones or celebrate anniversaries indicates that jazz has been part of the institution in ways that many not associated with the University of North Texas may not have realized.
In addition, it further adds to the venerable status of jazz to see how the genre is used to mark the university’s 125th anniversary. With the quality of recordings and the long history of jazz and its cultivation at the University of North Texas, it is clear that this is jazz for appreciative audiences, not just ones associated with the university.
“Lab 2017”: One O’Clock Lab Band
While it is not necessarily smart to judge a book or a CD by its cover, it is possible to be entertained by such covers. In the case of “Lab 2017,” there is a pair of horn-playing cats standing upright in a pair of human shoes. Shoes that are too big for the cats. The symbolism seems to indicate that the One O’clock Lab Band has big shoes to fill. With the performers covered on the recording, it is a logical sentiment.
Under the direction of Baylock, One O’Clock Lab Band blazes through songs such as “My Shining Hour,” “Myself When I Am Mingus,” “500 Miles High,” and “Dizzyland.” The result is breathtaking for those who appreciate jazz.
Another standout track is “Roundabout” by Rich DeRosa, another now-famed arranger/composer associated with the University of North Texas. The song has a rather dream-like quality. Even with saxophones and other brass playing off an energetic motif, it never loses control. “Roundabout” has a nice amount of swing and dynamics from the brass section. The horns do not merely “blare,” but they enunciate to communicate loud and clear their role in the song. The result is artful jazz.
One O’Clock Lab Band might be celebrating 50 years in existence, but the work sounds timeless. Jazz fans can only hope that the reputation and recording catalog of the University of North Texas’ jazz department continues to grow.