On October 14, 2012, Felix Baumgartner jumped to earth from higher than any man had ever before attempted, reaching speeds of Mach 1.25 in free fall in an act of daring, courage, and personal strength. On their new album, Free Fall, the Western Jazz Quartet (WJQ), the highly acclaimed faculty group from Western Michigan University, used Baumgartner's daredevil feat as a jumping-off point for musical acrobatics of their own. The album's music accompanies Baumgartner's journey from the surreal hot air balloon launch through the loneliness of near-space into the terror of uncontrollable spin and finally to the relief of alighting on the firm ground. The bold music on Free Fall, like Baumgartner's bold jump, celebrates the native restlessness of the human spirit to indefatigably pursue new territory, whether it be 24 miles above the sky or in the recording studio. The WESTERN JAZZ QUARTET is a resident faculty ensemble in the School of Music at Western Michigan University. Originally formed in 1974,the current group is Rathbun, Siskind, Knific, and Hall, each with extensive recording and touring backgrounds unto themselves. The quartet combines performing and teaching with uncommon success as they promote jazz music and jazz education through a very active schedule of tours, concerts and workshops. Activities range from performances for school children of all ages to concerts, tours and recordings with such artists as Art Farmer, Stefon Harris, Tim Hagans, Kenny Werner, Billy Hart, Mark Murphy, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Janis Siegel, and Bobby McFerrin. 1 Lighter Than Air 6:43 2 Everything Is Hostile 5:32 3 Awe And Remoteness 7:54 4 Claustrophobia 4:51 5 Privileged To Stand Where No One Else Stood Before 7:56 6 Velocity Unknown 1:32 7 Spin So Violent 5:11 8 Tropopause 3:51 9 Sand, Salt Grass and Sage 6:15 The Western Jazz Quartet has performed from Boston to Los Angeles, and tours regularly world wide. It has been featured at festivals in Canada, Europe and the U.S., and at a week of performances at La Villa in Paris, France. The group was honored with sponsorship by the Arts America Program and often tours as artistic ambassadors for the US Department of State including Mozambique, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. The Western Jazz Quartet has previously released five CDs in the United States: Mayan Myths (2006), Premiere (2005), with trumpeter Scott Cowan; and Sabine's Dance (2000), Blue Harts (1995) and Firebird (1992) with Billy Hart. Both Firebird and Blue Harts received top reviews in Down Beat magazine, with Firebird being named one of the best CD's of the 1990s. The group has released several CD's in Europe with pianist Wlodek Pawlik: Waning Moon (2000) on Universal Mercury Records; Turtles (1996), with Randy Brecker, on Polonia Records; and Live at the Jazz Club Aquarium (1995) with Billy Hart on the Koch International label.
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