The core of Diverse
was initially composed of four young musicians who were enrolled at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance. After winning the 2008 Gene Harris Jazz Competition in Boise, Idaho, the quartet became a quintet with the addition of pianist John Brewer. This, their debut recording, documents a collaborative collection of all-original material written by members of the group and showcases each player as a soloist. There are no weak links in this quintet; each is an asset to the integrated whole, which somehow allows each member to display his own unique qualities in playing up to the ensemble's name. In addition to writing the liner notes, jazz legend Bobby Watson (director of jazz studies at UMKC) joins the students for a collective demonstration of the past, present, and future of jazz on the rhythm-chages-based Leifer composition Where it Lives
. Other highlights include the ballad For Kim
, another Leifer composition that is simply stated and deeply felt; the hip-hop/gospel-tinged Sanders tune Sojurner,
and the floating Mehari original Lost in Darkness
. Overall, Diverse
is eminently listenable, infectiously grooving, consistently creative, and completely lacking in self-consciousness--all of the elements required of this author's favorite music of any genre. Jazz fans of almost any allegiance will find something here to their taste and will likely want to follow these young players over the course of what will undoubtedly continue to be a bright future.