‘Best of the Two’ album release honors esteemed retired UNT Lab Band directors

What: Jim Riggs and Jay Saunders, jazz leaders and retired UNT Lab Band directors, to be honored at a University of North Texas College of Music Division of Jazz Studies album release celebration. 

When: 2 p.m. Oct. 14 (Saturday).

Where: Harvest House, 331 E. Hickory St. in Denton.

Tickets: Free.

Media: Download images here and here.


More information: For a complete list of UNT College of Music events, including faculty and student recitals, visit the College of Music calendar and the College of Music Facebook page.

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Jim Riggs and Jay Saunders have dedicated their lives to the University of North Texas – first as students, then as directors of College of Music lab bands before retiring. They are now being honored by the Division of Jazz Studies with the release of “Best of the Two,” two CD boxsets featuring music they directed and recorded while professors and jazz bandleaders.

“Jim Riggs and Jay Saunders are icons of the jazz program at North Texas,” said Craig Marshall, lab bands manager. “They’ve jointly impacted the lives of thousands of UNT students over the impressive span of their careers, providing students the insight and experience to succeed as professionals in music.”

The album release celebration will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 14 (Saturday) at Harvest House in Denton, located at 331 E. Hickory St., and will include a performance by the Two O’Clock Lab Band, directed by Rodney Booth.

A three-CD boxset tribute to Riggs – “Airstream Artistry: Jim Riggs’ Best of the Two” – includes 40 selections from 10 CDs recorded by the Two O’Clock Lab Band under his direction. Riggs, who played in the One O’Clock Lab Band as a student while earning his master’s in music from 1969-72, has had a prolific career. From Frank Sinatra, to Ella Fitzgerald, to Ray Charles, Riggs has performed with legendary musicians around the world and has played with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. In 1973, he returned to UNT to teach jazz saxophone and direct the Two O’Clock Lab Band. He remained a leader in jazz education until his retirement in August 2008.

“Nice! Jay Saunders’ Best of the Two,” a two-CD boxset, features a selection of 18 tracks recorded by the Two O’Clock Lab Band under Saunder’s direction from 2008-14. A veteran of the Stan Kenton Orchestra and fixture in the national jazz scene, he was member of the One O’Clock Lab Band as a student from 1965-68 while earning his bachelor’s in music. He returned to UNT to earn his master’s in music education in1974, then again as professor of trumpet and jazz history in 2000. In his time at UNT, he also directed the One and Three O’Clock Lab bands. During his career, Saunders has played with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennet and Sarah Vaughn, and has performed with the Dallas and Fort Worth symphony orchestras.

“Both of these CD compilations are collector items for fans of big band jazz and, in particular, the hundreds of UNT jazz alumni who are represented on these fabulous recordings.” Marshall said.