I wrote a few weeks ago about the inaugural performance of the One O'Clock Lab Band under interim director Steve Wiest, and last night, as it has for the past eleven years, the band took its show on the road to the Conference Center at UT-Dallas, which is nearly in my backyard. (That last part is a big deal for me, because it's also close to my own college, so this gig provides a great opportunity for some of my students to see the band without having to make the trek up to Denton.)
As always, the band's repertoire proved to be a fine "sampler" of the program: A number of tunes from the forthcoming Lab 2008, a couple from the Thad Jones library, the Grammy-nominated arrangement of Chick Corea's "Got a Match?" and compositions by Wiest and just-retired director Neil Slater. There were also some tunes that were new to me: An arrangement (or "derangement," if you wish) by the somewhat obscure but adventurous Kenton writer Bob Graettinger, as well as a new tune by student composer (and former bandmember) Dave Richards that was written about a week ago. And, not surprisingly, the gig was capped off with the favorite One O'Clock encore tune, Pete Rugolo's "Machito".
But the thing that stood out the most was how much the band had come together in the past three weeks. He's taken a disparate group of players--several of whom are new to the school, and only six of whom have returned from last year's band--and molded them into a swinging, cohesive unit. I love getting to hear some of the tunes that were written when Wiest and I were in school, and I also appreciate both the sensitive dynamics and the unbridled energy of the band, credit for the latter of which can be given to the man up front himself. Every time I've seen Wiest this semester and asked him how it's going, he always says something to the effect of "I'm having a ball!" At a school that's known for having "dark vibes" at times, it's great to see someone approaching his work with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning.
As I've said before, I certainly hope that Wiest gets the permanent gig next year (and yes, protocol requires me to acknowledge my bias here: Steve's a personal friend and, as mentioned earlier, a former schoolmate. But I've been known to offer constructive criticism of other aspects of the program, even when those decisions were made by other former schoolmates, so I think some objectivity remains. Bottom line: I like what I'm hearing right now). But even if that doesn't happen, this is going to be a great year (and Wiest will remain on faculty no matter what).
Up next: A tribute to Maynard Ferguson in Ft. Worth on October 17.