UAB Jazz Ensemble
The UAB Jazz Ensemble is a student jazz orchestra sponsored by the Music Department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The UAB Jazz Ensemble has been directed by a series of notable professional musicians, including world-renowned bassist Cleveland Eaton (1996–1998), noted pianist / vocalist Ray Reach (1998–2005) and drummer / percussionist Mark Lanter (former student of Ray Reach) (2005–2007). In 2005, Ray Reach left UAB and accepted the position of Director of Student Jazz Programs at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. The current UAB Jazz director is trumpeter Steve Roberts.
In 2005, under Ray Reach's direction, the UAB Jazz Ensemble was chosen as the "College Band of Distinction" (the top award) at the Annual Student Jazz Festival at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. UAB trumpeter / saxophonist Omari Thomas was given the "Most Outstanding Soloist" award at this festival two years in a row, 2004 and 2005.
Performing and Recording Credits
The ensemble gives concerts at UAB's Alys Stephens Center and at local venues such as Ona's Music Room. In addition, the members of the UAB Jazz Ensemble are given the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the UAB Recording Studio. This studio, founded by former UAB Department of Music Chair Henry Panion, is the birthplace of many professional quality recordings by UAB performing ensembles, including the UAB Jazz Ensemble and the UAB Gospel Choir.
During former director Ray Reach's tenure at UAB, the Jazz Ensemble made it's debut recording, a collection of jazz orchestra arrangements. Featured on this recording are noted guest artists Ken Watters (trumpet) and Eric Essix (guitar). This CD, titled "UAB Jazz Ensemble, Volume One (1998 - 2005)," features the classic "Cottontail" by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and original compositions by Ray Reach and Eric Essix.
In addition to the abovenamed musicians, the UAB Jazz Ensemble has also recorded and performed with other notable jazz artists such as saxophonist Lou Marini and trumpeter Lew Soloff. The UAB Jazz Ensemble's recordings are known for their professional quality and skill of execution.
The UAB Weekend of Jazz
For a number of years, the UAB Jazz Ensemble hosted the "Weekend of Jazz," featuring visiting guest jazz clinicians such as saxophonist Ernie Watts, saxophonist Lou Marini, trumpeter Lew Soloff and others.
Under the direction of Ray Reach, the UAB Jazz Ensemble was a training ground for a number of notable alumni who are distinguished in the classical, jazz and R & B genre, including:
- Coleman Woodson, founding member Just A Few Cats, the band from whence American Idol Ruben Studdard emerged.
- Tim George - drummer for Just A Few Cats.
- Carla Stovall - Trombonist, Euphonium player, former cast member of the Broadway show Blast!. Former principal trombonist for the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Now pursuing a DMA in trombone performance at the University of Alabama.
- Chad Fisher - Trombonist, arranger, composer, member of the Tuscaloosa Horns. Leader of the Chad Fisher Group, voted "Best Jazz Group" at the 2007 BAMA Awards. Currently on the music faculty of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
- Abe Becker - Bassist (acoustic and electric), arranger, composer. Currently on the music faculty of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
- Jay Frederick - New York City based jazz drummer / percussionist. Former drummer for Ken Watters and Cleveland Eaton.
- Sam Shober - Guitarist / vocalist. Leader of the group Standard Time. Played in the UAB Jazz Ensemble under Cleveland Eaton and Ray Reach.
- Omari Thomas - Trumpeter / Saxophonist. Member of the Jazz Faculty of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
Notable UAB Jazz alumni who studied at UAB under Cleveland Eaton include:
- Carlos Pino - Bachelor of Arts in Music Technology, Master of Music in Jazz Studies from Rutgers. Member of numerous professional ensembles, including the Magic City Jazz Orchestra, the Night Flight Big Band and Ray Reach and Friends. Currently on the music faculty of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
- Sam Kennedy - Masters degree in Jazz Studies from Rutgers. Professional bassist, based in New York City.