Sunday 29 December 2013

The Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble Part 2: Space Train, from 1978

Now for the other album I have from this talented group of hard-blowing college students.  It's a very enjoyable big band set with some tasty concoctions, and this time, there is one African-American face in the crowd when you look at the back.  So it was clear that the tide was turning in the USA, that an artform entirely created by black people in the early 20th century, mastered by them, perfected and mostly played by them, could now be played in public by one solitary black individual in a white band numbering in the hundreds-- really, social progress is quite blindingly fast sometimes.

The apple-cheeked Dizzy Gillespie (he's always referred to in that way btw, it's mandatory, by law in the US) does a kind of cameo too writing the liner notes.  The sad-looking Marlena Dietrich-like female on the back is the singer Lisa Zakrajsek who doesn't seem to have done much afterwards not surprisingly and her voice leaves a little to be desired, as in the singing.  She was more the artsy type I suppose than the perky blonde with Farrah Fawcett hair whose picture graced the "Magic Carpet Ride" album (see here) and on whom everyone probably had a crush on.  Perhaps in those days in the late seventies they even had the opportunity to have intercourse with her, possibly even all at the same time, or so I understand was the case oftentimes in those days.  Sure hope the black dude got his chance too.

The title track is a very impressive composition and chart, presumably by one of the students, Tim Crawford.  Full information here.  Altogether a nice effort and worth listening to a few times.  Recall that in their next album they appeared Live in Montreux, which I might in a future moment of weakness (psychiatric that is) purchase, and subsequently recall came the pathetically titled "Jazz Lives" (though at the time it must have seemed appropriate enough).  As I said before the customary summer jazz festival in my town every year becomes more geriatrically oriented, despite the young and beautiful females they keep inviting to perform the same stupid old standards played millions of times before, with, in the last year, mandatory defibrillators placed at every tableside next to the antacids (during a lightning storm I understand one oldster actually recovered from a cardiac arrest when he was struck).  Like on transatlantic flights, each attendee was offered their own hearing aid which came in handy when the microphones failed on the first set -- though this didn't stop several white-haired grandpas and grandmas with clown-like red lipstick from dancing in the aisles whilst still in their electric scooters -- the kind with the old grocery bags hanging from the front baskets.  At that time I was almost run over by one handicapped 80-year old whom I cursed only to realize he was once one of the jazz greats whose name was on the marquee, and whose albums I had once collected when in university!  Not only did he autograph one record for me, he threw it in my face and cut my lip.  Life is plenty ironic, without having to get into the issue of reality TV stars....

Now here's the Northern Illinois University Jazz Ensemble performing their Space Train:


  1. ultra perfect album such an outstanding band!!! thnk you so much!

  2. Thanks for this one...seen it a while ago when I was purchasing 'University Of Illinois Jazz Band With Don Smith' (Don Smith being Lonnie Liston Smith's talented Singing, Flute and Piano playing Brother)...still waiting to Rip it though...

  3. oh wow, that's cool Franco, please let me know when you rip it because I need that one

  4. Replies
    1. Hello Julian
      Can you send me 2 links to download Space Train and Magic Carpet. PLEASE.

    2. can you please send me 2 links to download.

  5. no problem, new upload here:
    and also put up a new upload for the other album

  6. Hello Julian Ryan,
    Did I read correctly that there is an mp3 of Space Train? I owned this album when I was in high school, having purchased it while at Jazz Camp at NIU in 1978, and would love a digital copy.

    Don Soutar

    1. Yes it's here

  7. Great stuff, thanks a lot julian

  8. Check out another lp by this great band from 1970 with Donald Smith Has anyone got any other lps by NIU Jazz Ensemble (not already on the blog?)...a fantastic band and their stuff is impossible to find

  9. Here's another full lp by them from 70 University Of Illinois Jazz Band & The Hot 7 At College Jazz Festival 1970

  10. Thanks Bud, I was taken with the opening track "19 Before Soc's Last Cup" (featuring Cecil Bridgewater on flugelhorn), so have ripped it if anyone else wants a copy :