Listening to the Lamont Jazz Orchestra’s fourth recording, LJO ’06, I pine for those days when I played in the jazz band in high school. There was nothing I liked more than playing my trombone for the folks at yacht clubs and Eagles club dances. "Satin Doll," "Pennsylvania 6-500," "My Funny Valentine." It was great and listening to LJO one gets the sense that the young players, from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, feels like I did then, like it was something wonderful, like something was opening up inside them exposing them to all sorts of magical possibilities.With ten long tracks, you can listen to the album all night. Careful, however, about listening to it in the car. There’s so many different loud and quiet parts (much of the time within the same song), you’ll be constantly fiddling with the volume knob. "Abstract Large," by Fred Sturm, starts things off quietly before it flashes out with a tenor sax battle before returning to its origins, quiet and humble. "Secret Love," my not-so-secret favorite due to the prominence of trombones, is crisp and clean, arranged by Lamont faculty member Darren Kramer. Duke Ellington’s "I Didn’t Know About You" features the vocal talents of Yvonne Underhill. Her voice, which she lends on a couple of tracks, is sweet with a dollop of soul. The disc ends with a jazz fusion number, "The Dance of Maya," which includes everything from electric guitar to violin.
The big band plays big, yes, but, of course, they’re young and green. Some of the tunes are tight and whistle by smooth and sharp. Some are hit-and-miss, tottering. The solos can be smashing or can falter and flag. It’s a mixed bag, in other words. This isn’t the fault of the players, no, they’re learning, they’re testing and pushing boundaries and setting the bar high to see if they can reach it. On LJO ’06 they reach it often.