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The Return

"If you have read the feature article which precedes this review, there will be little suspense regarding my assessment of this new release by he University of Nevada Las Vegas Wind Orchestra. UNLV Director of Bands Thomas G. Leslie has made a 30-plus year career of delivering  the goods with a band that may not be in the geographical sweet spot   or getting national attention, but certainly should be on everyone’s short list of outstanding collegiate ensembles. Listening to the six works on this latest of ten CDs for the Klavier label, one immediately hears the fruits of his devotion and energy and understands Leslie’s evident pride in his student musicians. This is a recording that any band, including the premier bands of the powerhouse conservatories and music schools on the coasts and in the Midwest, would be pleased to produce.

Leslie does not shy away from the comparisons. Though he offers two new works, written by colleagues at the UNLV, he also offers new recordings of some well-established works for band that place him in direct competition with such big names as Haithcock and the University of Michigan Symphony Band—Michael Daugherty’s Raise the Roof on Equilibrium (alas, apparently OP)—and Corporon and the North Texas Wind Symphony—David Maslanka’s Traveler and Frank Ticheli’s Sanctuary on Gia. He has nothing to fear by such comparison. His troops are up to the challenge, and he has plenty of his own ideas about these works that make his recordings essential listening for those who love these now-classics. To overgeneralize the approach, a Leslie performance is dependably vivid, but warmer, more expansive and freely shaped, with more heart-on-sleeve and often a touch of melancholy.

In addition, one gets to hear the nuanced performance of timpanist Ted Atkatz, which makes seemingly easy work of the many trials posed by the Daugherty concerto, whether with sticks, brushes, or hands. The ensemble principals never falter, either, in all the exposed challenges they face and surmount brilliantly.

Exclusive to this silver disc, at least here in the U.S., are the other three works: Tom Davoren’s Return to the White City, Jennifer Bellor’s Bordello Nights, and Anthony LaBounty’s TRIUMPH. Davoren’s Olympic overture was written for the 2012 games in London, and was recorded on a limited edition Queen’s Diamond Jubilee CD by the commissioning Central Band of the Royal Air Force. The work traces impressions of a marathon run from chaotic start to triumphant arrival at the White City Stadium, scene of the 1908 London Olympics running events.

The other two works are part of a long series of works commissioned for the UNLV Wind Orchestra by Leslie or consortia to which he belongs. Bellor’s Bordello Nights was composed for performance at the 2016 Les Anches de Azur Music Festival near St. Tropez, France. It integrates a five-piece jazz ensemble, in this case the quintet of exciting professional artists from Los Angeles and New York listed above, in a work that is both improvisatory, boldly symphonic, and more than a little sassy. LaBounty’s fanfare, TRIUMPH, is a four-minute celebration of the ensemble’s participation in that prestigious event, and is notable for its brilliant brass writing..."

Read the entirety of Ronald Grime's review in Fanfare Magazine at the "additional reviews" link below.

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