JSU Jazz Ensemble Class 1 | Jazz Lives

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Jazz Lives

by JSU Jazz Ensemble Class 1

Collegiate big band jazz at its best - in the style of Count Basie and the Dizzy Gillespie Be-bop Big Band. "Jazz Lives"
Genre: Jazz: Big Band
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Things To Come
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5:18 $0.99
2. Blues Groove
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7:51 $0.99
3. For No One In Particular
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5:36 $0.99
4. Cleopatra's Needle
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7:24 $0.99
5. Shoo Bee Doo Bee Dee Bop
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4:16 $0.99
6. Palesa's Blues
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7:17 $0.99
7. Whatpressions
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11:31 $0.99
8. Shiny Stockings
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5:17 $0.99
9. Spain
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9:07 $0.99
10. Tiger Den Blues
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9:58 $0.99
Available as MP3, MP3 320, and FLAC files.


Album Notes
Jazz Ensemble Class Roll
Dr. Russell Thomas Jr.
Professor of Music

David LeFleur 1st alto saxophone Houston, Texas
Mitchell Dortch 2nd alto saxophone Jackson, Mississippi
Courtland Saxon 1st tenor saxophone Augusta, Georgia
Jarett Cordon 2nd tenor saxophone Houston, Texas
Gerald Morgan baritone saxophone Memphis, Tennessee

Damien Emilien lead trumpet New Orleans, Louisiana
Avery Sanders split lead / 2nd trumpet Lithonia, Georgia
Anne Berthold 2nd trumpet Raymond, Mississippi
Clayton Foster 3rd trumpet Greenwood, Mississippi
Dale O’Garro 4th trumpet Seabrook, Texas
Patrick Ross 5th trumpet Augusta, Georgia

Travis Prewitt 1st trombone Memphis, Tennessee
Jacobian Jones 2nd trombone Shreveport, Louisiana
Spencer Carter 3rd trombone Jackson, Mississippi
Shedrick Heard 4th trombone Memphis, Tennessee

Rhythm Section
Andrew Lewis piano Jackson, Mississippi
James Bell electric bass Bartow, Florida
Johnny Hubbard string bass Jackson Mississippi
Steven Maben drums Memphis, Tennessee


The Jazz Education Program would like to give special thanks to: The Department of Music, The Office of the Dean - College of Liberal Arts, The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, The Office of the Executive Vice President, The Office of the President, Friends and supporters of the Jackson State University Jazz Education Program, Dr. Jimmie James, Jr. and BlueCross and BlueShield of Mississippi.

If you would like to donate to the Jackson State University Jazz Education Program, please send donations and reference your donation to - account number: 02-3399 -Jazz Education

Jackson State University Development Foundation
Jackson State University
P. O. Box 17144
Jackson, Mississippi 39217
Telephone: 601.979.2282

Performance Commentary

Dr. Russell Thomas has been involved in Jazz instruction at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) for a number of years. His University jazz ensembles through the years reflect the extraordinary and broad skills he possesses in passing on the African American Jazz Legacy and Heritage. Dr. Thomas is also doing a great job as Chairman of the African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC)/HBCU Jazz Directors Committee since the year 2001. It is my ongoing privilege to work with him in educating our youth to the significance of the African American Jazz Legacy and Heritage.

Dr. Larry Ridley
Jazz Artist
AAJC Executive Director

The Jackson State University (JSU) Jazz Ensemble presents an excellent program of modern music written by composers such as Gil Fuller, Frank Foster, Chick Corea, Andrew White, Russell Thomas, and JSU students Benjamin Saxon and Andrew Lewis. The full band opens with Gil Fuller’s “Things to Come” and creates a great deal of energy and excitement. The band plays with precision and maturity at a fast tempo, which is unusual for a college band. On Russell Thomas’ “Blues Groove,” trombonist Kevin Ward plays the tune’s soulful melody like a seasoned professional and Ben Saxon’s tenor sax solo includes a combination of “down home” licks and modern bebop patterns. The full band concludes with a series of fiery passages before ending the piece. On the other end of the musical spectrum, the ensemble’s performance of Neal Finn’s “For No One In Particular” is musical and sensitive, and features Ben Saxon at his best. The band plays equally as well on Andrew White’s “Shoo Bee Doo Bee Dee Bop” which showcases an effective and tasty drum solo by Steve Maben. On Thomas’ “WhatPressions,” based on the same form and harmonic changes as John Coltrane’s “Impressions,” the full ensemble delivers another fine performance with thoughtful and energetic solos by pianist Lewis, tenor saxophonist Saxon, trombonist Ward, and drummer Maben. The band follows with Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings” in the style of Count Basie’s band. I’m sure this performance of Mr. Foster’s gem will make him proud. Pianist Lewis and tenor saxophonist Saxon make their usual strong solo contributions here. Thomas’ “Tiger Den Blues” is another original that captures the musical spirit of the South. Guitarist Eddie Cotton turns in a stirring solo like a mature professional. The full band supports Cotton with occasional splashes of soulful passages followed by Kevin Ward’s muted trombone solo that reminds one of the late great Al Grey. This composition is a must for college or advanced high school jazz ensembles learning the play in the blues idiom. Last but not least, the program features a quartet from within the big band consisting of tenor saxophonist Ben Saxon, pianist Andrew Lewis, bassist Johnny Hubbard , and drummer Steve Maben on three compositions: Saxon’s “Cleopatra’s Needle,” Lewis’ “Palesa’s Blues, and Chick Corea’s “Spain.” Not only did the quartet add variety to the overall program, its members performed at a consistently high level as soloists and as a group. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the exciting musical performances on this recording by Jackson State University Jazz Ensemble Class I directed by Dr. Russell Thomas. You will be glad you did.

Larry McClellan, Ph.D.
Dean, Professional Educational Division (Retired)
Berklee College of Music
Boston, Massachusetts

The Jackson State University big band is simply kickin! There is one characteristic that all big band jazz ensembles must have in order to be viable. Energy! The energy here is great. The rhythm section is solid with a strong bass player (I enjoyed "Spain") and the horns are tight with beautiful soloists. Even Count Basie would like "Shiny Stockings". Good energy! Good work! Good Music!

Dennis Wilson
Associate Professor of Jazz and Improvisation
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Trombonist and Arranger - Count Basie Orchestra
Music Production Manager & Educational Director – Count Basie Orchestra

The Jackson State University Jazz Ensemble Class I CD, tentatively titled JazzLives, secures its place among the very best college and university jazz ensembles playing today with this outstanding recording. This magnificent, super-charged ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Russell Thomas Jr., has assembled a collection of straight-ahead tunes that provide a slice of jazz history from Gil Fuller, Dizzy Gillespie's associate and music arranger, to Frank Foster, former tenor saxophonist , leader and music arranger of the Count Basie Orchestra, to Russell Thomas, Jackson State University's jazz leader, to compositions from the pen of JSU students---Benjamin Courtland Saxon and Andrew Lewis, to the creative stylings of composer Neal Finn, as well as that of two legends---master musician Andrew White and pianist Chick Corea. The CD opens with Fuller's Things To Come and immediately the JSU Jazz Ensemble smacks you upside your head with a rendition of Gillespie's classic that would make him proud. What an incredible display of awesome power, sheer strength, and musical elasticity in this technically challenging tour-de-force. The JSU Band is explosive and the recordings of this tune that I know by Dizzy Gillespie's Orchestra and later, the Carnegie Hall Orchestra led by trumpeter Jon Faddis, give us utter delight in realizing that the JSU Band is not only preserving this great music tradition, but insuring its life and legacy by making certain that this generation of college students continues to perform this music and learn from it. Hats off to the entire band for its execution of this tune at Dizzy's frightening tempo, and special kudos to the lead trumpet player who peeled the scalp off of my head with his flawless execution. For many musicians I know, a good jazz band is judged by its ability to swing, its good ensemble playing, and the creative prowess displayed by its soloists. The JSU group more than satisfies these aesthetic criteria. Pick most any one of the tunes, Blues Groove or Shoo Bee Doo Bee Dee Bop or the Basie Band's Shiny Stockings or Russell's Tiger Den Blues, and they not only swing, but the groove is so evident and so strong. The JSU Band feels good, and it feels so good rhythmically, a necessary requirement in the rich African American tradition of swing and improvised music that was defined by persons like Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, and Dizzy Gillespie, just to cite a few. The ensemble blend and balance are exemplary, whether at a fast, medium or slow tempo. When the band plays a blues (thanks to Russell for his tunes), you hear not only correct notes and harmonies, but you hear the "grease" which was so much a part of the blues tonalities of the bands just cited. And, of course, thanks to saxophonist Benjamin Courtney Saxon, trombonist Kevin Ward, drummer Steven Maben, pianist Andrew Lewis, bassist Johnny Hubbard, and guitarist Eddie Cotton, the JSU Band is represented by talented student soloists who have something to say musically. I must add that the inclusion of compositions by students has enriched this entire creative initiative, and Saxon and Lewis are to be commended for their contributions to the repertoire of the band. In conclusion, the Jackson State University Jazz Ensemble Class I under the musical guidance of Dr. Russell Thomas Jr. has provided the jazz world with a first class CD, JazzLives. This terrific band has reminded us what it means to swing, and it will bring a smile to the faces of all who enjoy music of this tradition. The JSU Jazz Ensemble Class I has brought honor not only to the music department of Jackson State University, and to the university as a a whole, but to the world of good music and musicians. The artistic gifts that you have shared with us on JazzLives will continue to reverberate in our hearts and souls. Thank you for making us tap our feet and move our heads and bodies to this great music. Finally, go out into the world and continue to share your musical gifts with all.

Dr. Ted McDaniel
Professor of African American Music
Director of Jazz Studies
The Ohio State University

Dr. Russell Thomas has really done an outstanding job in creating this beautiful recording of the Jackson State University Jazz Ensemble Class I & Combo. His brilliant selection of tunes, writing, and rehearsing the ensembles demonstrate how dedicated and talented he is as a musician and educator at Jackson State University. Now, let’s get to the music on the CD. The recording starts off with a bang – “Things to Come.” Pay close attention to the trumpet section (powerful, rich & clear tones), the lead player…Dizzy, would be proud. Benjamin Courtland Saxon (tenor sax) presents a very intelligent improvisational approach to the tune with wonderful tone quality and great chops. “Blues Groove,” “WhatPressions” (based on “Impressions”) and “Tiger Den Blues” were penned by Dr. Thomas and added great flavor and variety to the CD. His compositions are clever, well-written and suit the players’ abilities. I particularly enjoyed the sax soli on “Blues Groove.” The section was well-balanced with excellent stylistic treatment of the tune and played with emotion and authority. Look out for many future contributions from Benjamin Courtland Saxon – he really has a handle on this music and his instrument. I must say that my favorite on this CD is Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings.” The band really swings hard with lots of feelings. The pitch, balance, and blend make this “easy listening” for even the very astute individual. This CD is a must have for serious jazz lovers. The tunes are great; the ensembles are well-rehearsed and lead by a very talented jazz educator – Dr. Russell Thomas. Congratulations!

Dr. Willie L. Hill, Jr.
Director, Fine Arts Center; University of Massachusetts Amherst
Past President – IAJE: International Association for Jazz Education
Past President – MENC: the National Association for Music Education

one: Things To Come (5:16)
(Gil Fuller, Consolidated Music Publishers)
Soloists: Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone,
Kevin Ward – trombone, Andrew Lewis - piano

two: Blues Groove (7:50)
(Russell Thomas Jr., Walrus Music Publishing Company)
Soloists: Kevin Ward – trombone,
Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone

three: For No One In Particular (5:16)
(Neal Finn, Walrus Music Publishing Company)
Solist: Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone

four: Cleopatra’s Needle (7:23)
(Benjamin Courtland Saxon, NightinGale Sings Music Publishing)
Soloists: Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone
Andrew Lewis - piano, Johnny Hubbard - string bass,
Steven Maben - drums

five: Shoo Bee Doo Bee Dee Bop (4:14)
(Andrew White, Andrew’s Musical Enterprises, Inc.)
Soloist: Steven Maben - drums

six: Palesa’s Blues (7:17)
(Andrew Lewis, AJL Music Publishing Company)
Soloists: Andrew Lewis – piano,
Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone,
Johnny Hubbard - electric bass, Steven Maben - drums

seven: WhatPressions (11:31)
(Russell Thomas Jr., Walrus Music Publishing)
Soloists: Andrew Lewis - piano, Kevin Ward - trombone,
Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone
Steve Maben - drums

eight: Shiny Stockings (5:17)
(Frank Foster, Walrus Music Publishing Company)
Soloists: Andrew Lewis – piano,
Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone

nine: Spain (9:07)
(Chick Corea, Alfred Publishing Company)
Soloists: Benjamin Courtland Saxon - tenor saxophone,
Andrew Lewis - piano, Johnny Hubbard - string bass,
Steven Maben - drums

ten: Tiger Den Blues -Dedicated to Coach W. C. Gordon (9:58)
(Russell Thomas Jr., Walrus Music Publishing Company)
Soloists: Eddie Cotton - guitar, Kevin Ward - trombone

Producer & Music Director
Russell Thomas Jr.

Jazz Ensemble Recorded By
Blue Hyacinth Productions
Mayo, Maryland
Recording Engineer: Bill Krantz
Assisted by: Kevin Day and Doug Stringfellow

Jazz Quartet Recorded By
Jackson State University Technology Recording Studio
Jackson, Mississippi
Recording Engineer: Dowell Taylor

Mixed by
Bias Recording Studios
Springfield, Virginia
Engineer: Bob Dawson and Jim Robeson

Bias Recording Studios
Springfield, Virginia
Engineer: Jim Robeson

Cover Art / Graphics Design
Disc Makers
Pennsauken, New Jersey

Michael Jones, Russell Thomas Jr. & Robert Blaine

Compact Disc Production
Disc Makers
Pennsauken, New Jersey U.S.A.

For information about the Jackson State University Jazz Education Program, jazz scholarships, jazz graduate assistantships and jazz ensemble CDs contact:
Dr. Russell Thomas Jr.
Director of Jazz Education
P.O. Box 17055
Department of Music
Jackson State University
Jackson, Mississippi 39217
Telephone: 601.979.2141
Fax: 601.979.2574
Email: russell.thomas@jsums.edu
Web: www.jsums.edu

© 2010 Department of Music, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction of this recording is prohibited by Federal law and subject to criminal prosecution.


to write a review

Paul - Dallas

These guys performed like pros!!
These guys performed like pros!!