“Perseverance” highlights the contributions of Rich DeRosa at University of North Texas

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The work of arranger, conductor and composer Professor Rich DeRosa is highlighted on the new album, “Perseverance: The Music of Rich DeRosa at North Texas.” DeRosa is the jazz  composition/arranging studies director at the University of North Texas. “Perseverance” is a compilation of DeRosa’s compositions and arrangements that have been recorded on the University of North Texas campus by the One O’clock and Two O’clock Lab Bands and the UNT Concert Orchestra from 2011-2016.

The recording includes DeRosa’s Grammy nominated song, “Neil,” and “Suite for an Anniversary” which was composed to celebrate the University of North Texas’ 125th anniversary.

Rich DeRosa: Making of a Legacy

Usually when so much music is dedicated to one person they are either no longer with us, or some sort of head of state. However, it is a different story entirely when the person honored with the music was responsible for having written it.

Still, it would seem that DeRosa would have been installed at the University of North Texas for decades. However, he has only been there since 2010. Apparently the impact of DeRosa’s work and outreach are greatly felt, and thus the compilation of his work by musical groups associated with the campus.

A nice touch that accompanies the recording are the liner notes that are essentially a book. In it, both DeRosa and his colleagues speak for themselves. DeRosa explains the backstory to certain songs’ inclusion in the work, and his colleagues describe his attributes as a person and a performer. Reading it gives listeners a feel for why the recording came about.

“Perseverance”: soundscape

The music on “Perseverance” has a big city feel. It sounds like New York jazz from the age of big bands. There is a satisfying sound to songs like “Take the A Train,” and “The Rat Race” have a nice swinging energy. No one instrument group overwhelms. The Grammy-nominated “Neil” composed in honor of Neil Slater, who lead the University of North Texas jazz department for decades. Slater won a Grammy 25 years ago for his composition, “Values” that marked the university’s 100th anniversary.

In terms of sound, “Neil” has a moodiness that doesn’t detract from the piece, but draws listeners in. A piano motif plays alone, at first. Almost muted brass begins to play, and the motif that had been played by the piano is replaced by another gentle one offered by horns. The drums sound brushed and don’t intrude on the mellow soundscape. Toward the middle, the piano comes back, playing a more lively line. It is complemented by an upright bass and brushed drums. There is a dreamlike quality to the song. The well-arranged piece is certainly a compliment to the man it is intended to honor.

If audiences can only listen to one song on “Perseverance,” then “Suite for an Anniversary” shouldn’t be missed. A relative opus at 14-plus minutes, its various movements have elements of jazz and classical music. The various dynamics keep things interesting, and each song piece has textures that keep audiences listening.

In a short period of time, DeRosa has managed to make a name for himself. “Perseverance” is a recording of only eight songs. But it is not the number of songs that makes the listening worthwhile, it is the stellar playing and arrangement of each.

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