Listening to the University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band’s latest album Lab 2018 is like opening a window into the global future of jazz and contemporary big band music. In his colorful liner notes, after noting that his vibrant, inventive student ensemble has just this past year performed 28 concerts in 12 cities with 11 different guest artists, Director Alan Blaylock writes, “On more than one occasion, I was told by fans and former One O’Clock members that this is the best One O’Clock Lab Band they’ve ever heard. One fan had been listening to the ensemble since the mid ‘60s."
I’m sure many of those groups were fantastic, but Lab 2018 is more than simply a rhythmically expansive, captivatingly arranged showcase for student talent – it’s truly one of the big band recording events of the year! Under Blaylock’s dynamics-rich direction, in addition to inspired originals by Blaylock and professor Rich DeRosa, we’re treated to fresh twists on classics by Billy Strayhorn (the graceful “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing,” with the pin drop exquisite vocals of Marion Powers), Hector Villa-Lobos (“Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5”) and John Coltrane’s sweetly whimsical “After The Rain.”
The band, whose members hail from Doylestown, PA and Kenosha, WI to Tokyo, Cuba and Colombia, boasts a few standout soloists to keep our eyes on: flutist Brendon Wilkins, trombonist/arranger Brian Woodbury and tenor saxophonist Brandon Moore, who contribute three arrangements and composed the sassy, soulful and swinging originals “The Rhythm of the Road” and “Blues for Kazu.”