Skip to content

1974: The Princeton University Jazz Ensemble (PUJE)



Princetoniana Museum use only.

Photo: 1979 album front cover

During the 60’s and 70’s, the feeder high schools for Princeton often had a stage band. A critical mass of matriculating freshmen was familiar with the big band classics. These student musicians (mainly non-music majors) were interested in recreating a big-band experience in college and tackling more challenging material.

The Princeton University Jazz Ensemble (PUJE) was founded in spring 1974 by Gary Getz '76 and Eva Lerner-Lam '76. They made the decision to found the organization as an official Princeton student organization recognizing that a band with 20 or more performers would need support of the University to obtain rehearsal, performance, and storage space. This decision created a more stable organization with officers, budgets, and formal freshman recruiting. While initially a fully student run and spiritually renegade organization in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it became in the 1990’s an arm of the music department.

Bill McHenry served as President of PUJE for three years from fall 1976 to spring 1979. His goal from the beginning of his tenure was to create an ensemble with all strong players and no weak positions. In the spring of 1976, PUJE had two bands of generally equal stature. Bill kept the two bands, but in spring 1977 assigned the best players to the “A” band. PUJE hired a series of conductors to coach the bands. During Bill’s tenure, PUJE moved away from playing the Swing Era standards into more challenging and improvisational jazz as evidenced on the LP.



Princetoniana Museum use only.

Photo: 1979 album rear cover

Jim Capolupo Conductor, Brian Ewart '79 - Sax, Jon Healy '80 - Sax, Larry Brown '81 – Sax, Tim McNally ’80 – Sax, Amy Leenhouts ’80 - Sax, Doug Greene '82 - Trombone, Matt Geyman '81 - Trombone, Barry Welch '79 -Trombone, Ben Monderer '80 - Trombone, John Dolan '80 - Trumpet, John Hill '82 - Trumpet, Tony Branker '80 - Trumpet, Bill Ash '80 - Trumpet, Bill McHenry '79 - Trumpet, Emery Snyder '82 - Piano, Jon Stroup '79 - Drums, Steve Wexler '80 - Electric Bass.



Princetoniana Museum use only.

Photo: PUJE poster

Princeton University Jazz Ensemble – McCosh Courtyard, Princeton 1974

Front Row Left-to-Right Mike Floyd '75, Bob Smith '78, Burton Smith '75; Back Row Left-to-Right James Allison '76, Dennis Shedd '76, Artie Horowitz '75, Mark Reboul '77, Bill Tresham '78, Mark Dryfoos '77, John Pittenger '78, Photo by Eva Lerner-Lam '76.



Princetoniana Museum use only.

Photo: Unknown

"Jazz Ensemble caps successful year with new record"

Daily Princetonian, Volume 103, Number 71, 25 May 1979
By A. VIGLUCCI-MUNOZ, Assistant News Editor

The Princeton University Jazz Ensemble in the Hot 100? Well, maybe they won't make the charts for the time being, but the Jazz Ensemble continues its resurgence of the past year with the upcoming release of its new record.

The recording of a long-playing album is the latest in a flurry of activities that the Ensemble has undertaken during the '78-79 academic year. Apart from making the record, the band gave a fall and a spring concert in Alexander Hall, played at numerous Prospect Avenue club functions, and headlined a jazz festival hosted by Radnor (Pa.) High School.

School Days

In addition to hosting the festival at which the band starred, Radnor has played a very important role in the Jazz Ensemble's revitalization. Radnor is the hometown of the Ensemble's conductor, James Capolupo, who also directs Radnor High's jazz band. And Lawrence R. Brown '81, the president of the Jazz Ensemble, graduated from Radnor. Brown and Steven S. Wexler '80, one of the student conductors of the Ensemble, give Capolupo much of the credit for the Ensemble's newfound musical vigor. "He's young and enthusiastic. He loves music and he loves to teach it," said Brown.

When the Ensemble decided that they needed a new conductor after having problems with Paul Jeffrey, the old conductor, Brown called Capolupo at his high school to ask for suggestions for a replacement. Capolupo said that he was interested in the job, and eventually the search committee hired him from among the other candidates.

The idea for the record came up after the fall concert in December, which was well-attended and received good reviews. "We felt we had something there," said Wexler.

At first, the Ensemble considered recording a concert for the record, but they found out that they would obtain higher quality results if they recorded in a studio. So they hired Vogt Quality Records of Massachusetts, a company which specializes in college groups.

Owner Robert Vogt himself proceeded to turn the Woolworth Music Center rehearsal room, which was originally built to serve as a recording studio, into a working, fully equipped four-track recording studio. Vogt provided the equipment.

"You wouldn't have recognized the place," said Wexler. "He made the place look really professional."

The album took about seven hours to record. In that time, the "A" band of the Ensemble recorded seven pieces, most of them done in one or two takes. Vogt also overdubbed solos on the basic tracks, a technique which Wexler said allowed the soloists more of a chance to work out good solos.

The album will be ready by the end of May. Brown said they expect to sell it in the U-Store and in record stores in the area, as well as to alumni during Reunions.

Despite the successes of this year, all is not bright to the Jazz Ensemble. Wexler and Brown both complained about the band's unstable financial situation. The Jazz Ensemble earns most of its income from the dances they play on Prospect street. Admission to their concerts is free. Nevertheless, they must hire a professional conductor, buy music and take care of all their own expenditures.

Get a job

According to Wexler and Brown, the members of the Ensemble dedicate much of their energy to getting and playing jobs, which they would not do if they had a choice.

Unlike other groups such as the Glee Club and the Freshman Singers, the Jazz Ensemble receives no support from the Music Department. According to Wexler and Brown, the department "doesn't have the money to assist the Ensemble."

Another problem that the band must confront is the lack of an adequate concert facility on campus. Despite all these problems, however, Brown and Wexler feel that the Jazz Ensemble is in good shape for the coming year, and are excited by the prospects of their record. –

Howard K. Nam—Princetonian


Princetoniana Museum use only.

In April 1979 PUJE self published a stereo 12-inch 33 1/3 RPM LP titled The Princeton University Jazz Ensemble. The album liner notes were written by Bill McHenry. The record was published by Vogt Quality Recordings.

The recording featured here is "Dizzyland."