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I Hear Sparks: The Dominant 7 & The Jazz Arts Messengers – Fourteen Channels

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Yeah, the kids are alright and nobody knows this more than Paul Romaine, the artistic director for the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts.

First, the backstory: The Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts has been around for ten years and has offered classes, camps and ensembles to Colorado youth. These opportunities can mean the difference between rising to some seriously cool artistic heights and missing the boat for some of these kids, so the work of the CCJA cannot be understated.

As artistic director, Romaine sees to it that the potential for these youth is maximized. Last summer, the CCJA offered its first-ever recording and music industry camp. As part of the program, 17 visionaries recorded an album of their own compositions and established their own individual publishing companies to learn about the industry and about how to put together a real record.

Fourteen Channels, then, is that record.

Released on the Tapestry label, Fourteen Channels puts these Colorado cats to work through some seriously sleek, fluid, swinging jazz cuts. There are two groups to be found on the album: The Dominant 7 and The Jazz Arts Messengers.

The Jazz Arts Messengers boots takes the first of the Fourteen Channels with a rollicking bit of magic called “Song for Robert Rauschenberg.” Best known for his combine paintings of the 1950s, the vivid and three-dimensional artist forms the perfect subject for this piece. The solos, provided by the alto of David Reid and the piano of Sam Yulsman, leap from the speakers sparkling with vibrancy and colour.

“Abril” is a beautiful and gauzy piece from the Messengers that takes things in another direction. Led largely by Sam Crowe’s flute, this Gregory Wahl-composed piece flutters like a bluebird through cool air.

The Dominant 7 prove to be masters of swagger, with the off-kilter “Hop On, Buckle Off” leading the charge with a fat, juicy groove that sizzles like a burger on the grill. Ryan Thrush cuts a smooth slice of awesome right up the middle with a blazing guitar solo, but it’s Lelah Simon’s bass that really holds it down with a pulsating groove.

Simon’s composition, “Green,” is every bit the glossy, gliding bit of lounge jazz it sets out to be. The piece is soft, almost pastoral, and Noah Fulton-Beale’s trumpet is a perfect fit.

As Romaine says in the record’s liner notes, “anyone concerned about the future of jazz needs to look no further than what is happening right here.” He’s damn right. Fourteen Channels opens up and breathes like a bottle of wine. These young performers are talented beyond their years, sure, but it’s their enthusiasm that really makes these 14 pieces of art soar.

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