The University of North Texas’ Grammy-nominated jazz ensemble, the One O’Clock Lab Band, has been personally invited by Wynton Marsalis to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center this January as part of the inaugural Jack Rudin Jazz Championship. The band is one of only 10 collegiate jazz ensembles in the U.S. to be chosen to participate in the prestigious new competition.
The championship will mark the One O’Clock Lab Band’s first appearance at Jazz at Lincoln Center since its inception in 1948, and its first competition of this scale in years. Its musicians say they are certainly prepared for the challenge.
“It’s been a long, long time. Historically, we’d be invited to the Notre Dame Jazz Festival and we would win year after year, and everybody would complain because nobody could keep up with us,” says the band’s director, jazz composer and UNT alumnus, Alan Baylock. “Several years ago, the One O’Clock Band stopped competing, mostly because we’d be the featured performer.”
The championship, taking place January 18 and 19, includes workshops and competitive performances, culminating in a final concert featuring the top three bands and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. UNT’s ensemble will be up against bands from California State University, Northridge, University of Northern Colorado, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Eastman School of Music, The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, North Carolina Central University, and Temple University.
“It’s very significant to be chosen, because there are a lot of strong jazz programs across the country now,” says Baylock. “Of course, we were the first in the world to offer a jazz degree, and since then–thanks in part to many of our alumni–there are established collegiate bands throughout the country.”
The Jack Rudin Jazz Championship is named after a longtime supporter of Jazz at Lincoln Center and a founding supporter of Essentially Ellington, an educational program for high school jazz bands. The new championship will also pay tribute to the works of Duke Ellington, requiring each collegiate ensemble to play at least one song from the Essentially Ellington list.
Baylock says the One O’Clock Lab Band has already been listening to and rehearsing Ellington tunes to prepare for the occasion.
“Unlike our normal repertoire, which is composed by students and faculty, this is a chance to get into the mind of Duke Ellington and play his songs and style correct. We’re trying to go and be really authentic and sound as much as the original recording as possible,” he says.
You can listen to the ensemble’s recordings online–their next release, Lab 2019, comes out on November 22. They’ll have their 58th Annual One O’Clock Lab Band Fall Concert with guest Gary Smulyan on Tuesday, November 26 at 7:30 p.m. Purchase tickets here.