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Monkey

"Steve Thomason's wacky cartoons of manic monkeys capture the

 rambunctious spirit of this disc  and of the fine Wind Orchestra of the

  University of Nevada-Las Vegas. That spirit is especially heard in

   James Curnow's Fanfare for Spartacus and Steven Bryant's Monkey.

    Dale Wilson's What Was That Song I Heard You Singing? shows that

     the band has an affinity for jazz. While much of the work is scored  

      for jazz trio, the band plays backgrounds and interludes, sometimes

        joining in surreptitiously before taking over. The 24-minute work

         begins wistfully, and then develops a real head of steam with some

          high-energy improvisation by the trio, led by the excellent UNLV

           faculty pianist Stefan Karlsson. Faculty bassist Tom Warrington takes a long and very fine solo                   turn. Eliot Zugmund is the capable drummer. Also heard in a good solo is student tenor                                saxophonist Rusty Blevins. I enjoyed this interesting, well-crafted, and very attractive piece.

                 The UNLV band makes impressive sounds in Michael Davis s fine arrangement of Jerry                               Goldsmith's evocative music from the movie The Wind and The Lion. After a stirring opening                      section, sensitive lines are nicely delivered by woodwind soloists. A series of energetic section                     passages ensue, first by clarinets, then by trumpets. And so it goes through a 17-minute                                collage that reminds me strongly of Johan deMeij s epic Symphony 1, 'Lord of the Rings'. I                          hope this terrific arrangement is readily available. Standard band literature includes Julius                             Fucik's Thunder and Blazes and Ralph Vaughan Williams's Flourish for Glorious John.                                Claude T. Smith based his Variations on a Hymn by Louis Bourgeois on the Doxology, a                                nicely restrained example of a band genre favored by such composers as David Holsinger                             and the late Fischer Tull.

                             And then there is Alfred Reed's Praise Jerusalem, not heard here since the Trenton State                               University band did it some years ago (May/June 1996: 245). I wonder why it is not                                       played more often. Band directors who are thinking about programming La Fiesta                                        Mexicana for the umpteenth time should consider this spectacular work instead. The                                     UNLV musicians give it a powerful reading. The program ends with the UNLV Alma                                    Mater, composed in 1997 by Eric Whitacre, orchestrated by Anthony LaBounty,                                           with text by Robyn Lemon and band director Thomas Leslie. The engineers strove                                        for balance here, so the melody isn't always clearly audible, and the words--as sun                                         by the UNLV Chamber Chorale--cannot be understood. But the pretty song makes                                        the desired effect." - American Record Guide September/October 2001   

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