The Jazz Repertory Ensemble is a learning and performing group dedicated to the collection, study, preservation, and recreation of classic music from the entire history of jazz. The group is committed to playing compositions and arrangements or recreations of classic recorded performances by such jazz legends as Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Gil Evans, and Charles Mingus.
With over five hundred compositions in its library, ranging from small combo charts to big band works, the jazz repertory ensemble exposes students and audiences to the rich tradition and inspiring work of many legendary performers and writers. Under the direction of Dr. David Joyner, who founded the group in the late 1980s along with Neil Slater, the Jazz Repertory Ensemble established itself nationally as one of the country's few ensembles dedicated to the recreation of classic jazz. The group has recorded two CDs, Dallas Doings and Rockin' in Rhythm.
Starting in 2001, under the direction of John Murphy, the ensemble has kept its focus on classic jazz and has also begun exploring the work of contemporary jazz composers. The fall 2001 semester was devoted to works by Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton. The spring 2002 semester focused on big band works by Sam Rivers, whose trio joined the ensemble for a concert. In the fall 2002 semester the group played a broad selection of works from the Swing Era, including concerts with vocalists and dancers. Spring 2003 was devoted to the music of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, including works by Pete Rugolo, Bill Holman, Bill Russo, Johnny Richards, and Bob Graettinger. In Fall 2003 the group played The Birth of the Cool and new music for nonet. Spring 2004 was devoted to the music of Charles Mingus. In Fall 2004 the group performed music by Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal. The October 26, 2004 concert featured guest artist Jovino Santos Neto, a longtime member of Hermeto's group. In spring 2005 the group played standards from the from the teens through the 1940s based on the list compiled by Richard Crawford and Jeffrey Magee in Jazz Standards on Record. A concert at the Sammons Center for the Arts in Dallas on March 2, 2005 featured pianist Steven Harlos of the UNT Faculty in an arrangement of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue for 10-piece ragtime ensemble. The director of the Sammons Center called it "one of the most memorable [performances] in the sixteen-year history of Sammons Jazz." During the 2005-06 academic year, the ensemble performed a variety of works from the literature for large jazz ensemble, with emphasis on works by Duke Ellington and Count Basie. In November, 2005a and 2006, the group played two daytime concerts for students at Bass Hall in Fort Worth.
In 2008-2009, when Murphy began serving as Chair of the Division of Jazz Studies, the group was directed by adjunct instructor Joe Janes. In fall 2009, Rodney Booth, Lecturer in Jazz Studies, assumed the director post.
The Jazz Repertory Ensemble meets three times a week for 50 minutes and performs several times each semester, both on and off campus. Interested players should perform the generic jazz audition and check "Jazz Repertory Ensemble" on the audition sheet. Call-back auditions will be held during the first week of rehearsals.