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UNT Jazz Band Goes for Grammy Gold


by Stephen Becker 29 Jan 2010

Grammys are awarded Sunday, and this year, one north Texas band boasts a pair of nominations. But while The University of North Texas One O’clock Jazz Band has been nominated before, it has never won. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports:

CTA TBD

Grammys are awarded Sunday, and this year, one north Texas band boasts a pair of nominations. But while The University of North Texas One O’clock Lab Band has been nominated before, it has never won. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports:

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UNT’s One O’clock lab band – named for the hour this class meets, is the top jazz orchestra among nine at the renowned Denton music school. UNT boasts the nation’s first and oldest jazz studies program. Launched in 1947, it’s older than the Grammys. Director Steve Wiest says these nominations are huge, but also what he had hoped for. After all, the band has issued a recording every year since 1967 and has garnered four nominations. The last dates from 1991. But the band has never received two nominations in one year.

WIEST:  “Somebody that was just in a professional group, to get two nominations would be huge. Suddenly then they would be the darlings of the record label, and they would be pushed and be touring more. So for a university group to get it is incredibly exciting.”

This band can kick. Steve Wiest received one of the band’s two Grammy nominations for this composition, “Ice-9,” based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle.

WIEST:  “I came up with a really long and complicated chromatic melody. I just flipped it around and used that has harmony. It became this really complex thing I wasn’t sure they could play. But they’re playing well enough for a Grammy nomination, so they’re doing good.”

Pete Clagett, band member:  “I would say it’s an extremely challenging chart. Took us a long time to get it where it is.”

Dave Richards:  “It’s definitely the hardest chart in the library.”

Trumpet player Pete Clagett, and trombonist, composer and arranger Dave Richards

Richards: “It’s fun to listen to. It’s so far out that it’s just good for all.”

Clagget: “You don’t know what’s coming next, and all of a sudden you’re hit with something and “Oh, I didn’t’ see that coming.’ It’s a roller coaster ride.”

Both musicians say it’s the rare thrill to play in this band. What’s more, Clagett says he can forever say he’s on a disc nominated for two Grammys.

Clagett: “It gets us a lot of attention, especially from professionals who, you know, we’re competing against them for the award. We’re students, and people hopefully will realize the caliber of the program here,  which is on the professional level.”

UNT’s music program is so good, professional bands routinely scout here for musicians. But times have obviously changed, and there are barely any touring big bands out there to join. But neither these students nor Wiest say they’re worried.

WIEST:  “If you can excel in jazz at the highest level, then you have the skills that are admired most by everybody in music and also a lot of areas that aren’t music. We find people all across the spectrum in business and industry  – when you are from the One O’clock at North Texas, they know you have special skills together.”

Wiest says the band’s two nominations double its odds of winning. It faces four other nominees in each category of best composition and best large ensemble. But there is also another jazz band competing in the same two categories. So Wiest is holding his breath.

WIEST:  “So, if not this time, some day.”

While the Jazz Grammys will be announced Sunday afternoon, Wiest and his One O’clock band, touring in California, get to attend the Gala event on TV, Sunday night. Tenor sax player Brian Clancy can’t wait.

CLANCY: “And then the ‘after party.’ So its going to  be pretty cool. Hopefully, I’ll,  I was saying I’ll try to stay out of the news when I’m out there. Out of the bad news.”

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  • The One O’Clock Lab Band students and band members will also be sharing their Grammy experiences via Twitter, photos and video on the UNT web site – http://www.unt.edu/jazzgrammys . Check it out.