Ray Smith, director of the new BYU Synthesis album “Flying High,” has been teaching music to the students of BYU for 30 years. Smith is the director of jazz studies and professor of saxophone, working with talent such as Kevin Jenson, who was named the outstanding college arranger nationally by DownBeat magazine for his arrangement of “Jalousie,” a famous Danish tune on the album that many will recognize.
“My biggest inspiration for creating this album was to get these very fine players out to others who could enjoy their talents,” Smith said about the group of students he labels as one of the best bands BYU has ever had. “I wanted to document this band. Although students, these young musicians are already at a professional level of playing.” For the students who participated on the album, it was a labor of love. All 12 tunes were recorded in a single day.
Many will recognize the familiar tunes of “Hello, Young Lovers,” and “Send in the Clowns.” There is also a flavor of more contemporary jazz with the track “Waiting,” composed by Stephen Anderson, a BYU Synthesis alumnus and current professor of Jazz Studies at University of North Carolina. This tune features students Kurt Reeder on the piano and Ben Nichols on the tenor saxophone.
Two Danish-flavored tunes, “Det har ikke vaeret nemt,” an original by Kevin Jenson, and “Jalousie,” spring from a successful band tour to Denmark and Norway. Synthesis’ next international tour will be to Brazil during the summer of 2013.
Suzy Lind steps out of the trumpet section to offer her vocals to “Hello, Young Lovers” and “I Just Found Out About Love,” and she will carry you away with the emotion she packs into each note. Violinist Curtis Woodbury has been called "up and coming" by Jeff Coffin, saxophonist with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and the Dave Matthews Band. Woodbury’s talent shines through in spirited fashion in several of the songs, adding unique style with unmeasured precision.
“Flying High” is true to jazz roots, adding in a variety of styles that pull on emotions ranging from energetic to entrancing. The music is fresh, appealing to many audiences and filled with talent of students who simply want to play music and be heard.