Reverse is a run-of-the-mill instrumental, albeit done in a manner fit to send the worshipers of the Kenton pre-beat beat. Me, I'm not one. – hel
And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
How Many Hearts Have I Broken
Tears, as sung by Anita O’Day, may easily prove to be Stan's first smash record hit. It has just about all the tricky cliches necessary to make a bestseller. Gene Howard sings Hearts. Stan's arrangement are interesting, but no interesting enough to make material like this sound very convincing. He, too, should be given more instrumentals to do.
Gotta Be Gettin’
Sweet Dreams Sweetheart
Gettin’ ls all Anita O’Day, with some Ellington-style backing from the brass. Sweetheart ls insipid, with a mushmouth vocal from Gene Howard. When, oh when, will Kenton cut some of his good things?
Just Sittin’ and A-Rockin.’
Artistry, the new Kenton theme, a jump take-off on his old one (a perfect example of metamorphosis of the band, incidentally), is as exciting a big- band side as heard during the past year. Brilliantly conceived, from Kenton’s full, certain opening piano chords, through Eddie Safranski’s brilliant, driving bass (best bass work of the entire year, one of the finest recorded jobs ever done), the weird, brass work, and Vida Musso’s wonderful, gutty tenor sax solo (as great as anything he has ever recorded before). Reverse spots some great June Christy vocalizing, definitely placing her among the great vocalists of the day. Tune is Ellington’s catchy, beautiful tune with clever excellent lyrics. Arrangement is superb, wild brass kicking throughout. Here’s a band to watch, but good for the coming year! Recording, by the way, complements the band with an unusual, rather hollow sound.
♪ ♪ ♪ Rika-Jika-Jack
This starts as a boogie blues at piano, then moves into brass figures. Vida Musso has a blowing contest with the brass, and wins hands down for volume and ideas. Next the Chico Alvarez trumpet, surprisingly relaxed, into an ensemble chorus which suffers from very bad balance, something unusual with those west coast Capitol records. Record closes with Kai Winding's tram chasing the trumpets, thru all of which Eddie Safranski manages to hold the boogie beat on bass. Jack is like the That's What You Think O'Day did with the Krupa, this time with June Christy scatting. (Capitol 273).
♪ ♪ ♪ It’s A Pity To Say Goodnight
Piano intro here will remind you of one Edwin Wilcox played on the old Lunceford of Avalon. Recording on Riff has some of the sharpest highs I’ve ever heard on wax. With Vido (just-returned) Musso, and rarely heard altoist Boots Mussuli the record swings but musically just doesn’t have as much to offer as many recent Kentons. Reverse should be a tremendous dollars and cents deal for Stan. Get the modulation before the June Christy vocal—hangs on a lone baritone sax. Miss Christy consistently impresses as a girl who can sing rhythm tunes and make them sound meaningful instead of silly—quite some trick when you look at some of the lyrics. (Capitol 298)
♪ ♪ ♪ Artistry In Bolero
♪ ♪ ♪ Safranski
♪ ♪ ♪ Opus In Pastels
♪ ♪ ♪ Ain’t No Misery In Me
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Artistry In Percussion
♪ ♪ ♪ Fantasy
♪ ♪ ♪ Willow Weep For Me
This album is certainly a heart-warming event for band leader Stan Kenton. Whatever your views of his music, there is almost no one in the business who doesn’t like and admire the gaunt west coast pianist for his honesty, sincerity, and earnest desire to see music progress.
The Artistry series is continued with Bolero, Bass (Safranski), and Percussion. They and the other sides outline what is the broad outline of the Kenton jazz concept: extensive use of bass against piano, sweeping dioramas of brass, pungent tenor and trombone solos against section choirs, and a constant preoccupation with harmonic colorings applied in strong dynamic contrast.
Some of the complaints previously voiced with respect to Boyd Raeburn apply here: not enough real dynamic shading, heavily blotched application of colorings, and a constant reiteration of certain rhythmic and harmonic tricks. However in most of the scores done either by Rugolo and Kenton there is very definite intent and build-up to climaxes that are too often missing with other bands trying the same effects.
Only other real criticism of the band is that whereas a band like Ellington tosses off similar tonal constructions with ease and fluidity, there are too many times when the band sounds labored and too carefully prepped for its role.
Sorrento is laid out for the Vido Musso tenor. The background figures as in some of the Handy scores in a sense detract from the continuity of the solo line rather than enhancing it. As for the high-noted coda, there have been a great many tenor records doing the same thing.
Bolero starts with the dance rhythm and a single-fingered exposition of the pretty theme on piano. Rhythm line keeps moving up chromatically, a good gag keeping it out of the heavy rut a true bolero line can fall into. Climax doesn’t quite get to the heights Rugolo wanted, I suspect.
Safranski is more of the fast pizzicatto against Kenton piano with bass by the redoubtable Eddie. For my harsh review of five years ago, mes apologies, because this is certainly virtuoso bass as it is known in jazz.
Opus, written some five years ago, is a very pretty reed deal with a widely split section, and some strongly effective lead alto work. The delicacy of the side striving for climactic effect.
Misery opens with Kai Winding blowing some sensational trombone—interesting especially if you have an old Teagarden disc around and can hear the difference in the way the boys play the blues these days. Tune was written by Gene Roland and the blues are sung by June Christy. Initial effect is something like Duke got behind Betty Roche in the Blues section of BB&B. La Christy double-times some unusual blues lyrics and Boots Mussulli gets an alto chorus.
Percussion gives gangling Shelley Manne a chance to strut at drums. Get the very clever intro with the rhythmic pattern picked up by alto joined by trumpet and then the entire brass section. This is a favorite love of Stravinsky’s—interesting to find it here—as Dexter’s notes point out. There fallows a really tightly written chorus between brass and drums of which the band and Rugolo can well be proud. Here is no brassiness for volume, but really well conceived music.
Fantasy opens with an unusual effect of piano stating whole-tone theme and guitar following up on after beats while bass quadri-times. Then the Musso gets his in, after which unison trumpets and trams chase each other around on dropped 4ths of the theme. There are strong touches of the John Birks Gillespie here.
Willow has a Christy vocal backed by piano and brass moving up in step tones. Good example of under-statement where the trombones play a figure up to the expected change, but never hit it, leaving you hanging waiting.
These are all almost without exception excellent sides with much to listen for. They never swing in the accepted sense now, and too often they sweat too hard for the effect. The old bugaboo of intra0section writing comes up, as does the question of shading. But Kenton all in all can be proud of this album. It is fresh, and it does accomplish many things musical. (Capitol BD 39)
♪ ♪ ♪ After You
Bed is Kenton cross between a calypso and Tampico with June Christy and the Pastels, new Kenton vocal group, singing. Phrase ends are punctuated by the be-bop brass smears that Elliot Lawrence has been using too much. Middle uses Kai Winding trombone well. If Stan is trying to be commercial, the musical backgrounds are a little complex for the average nickler. Musically not enough happens to put it in the usual Kentonian box.
After has classy use of a vocal group (later trombones) to hold down theme and harmony while Kenton and bassist Safranski play musical chairs with each other. It's pretty and unusual. Other big bands take notice that there are other things you can do with ballads besides using straight chorus after vocal to more vocal. Here Kenton achieves what he wants to do: music which will sell, and still is of interest to himself, his band and other musicians. The Pastels need more wood-shedding for complete assurance in voice blending. (Capitol 361)
♪ ♪ ♪ (Parts I and II)
A double-header, this one opens familiarly with Kenton’s piano stating the theme (which sounds much like For You For Me For Evermore, but written in front of that tune) goes into a typical triple tempoed brass passage carried down again by the trams into a Vida Musso sax solo (good). Follows a reed section passage behind Ray Wetzel’s street-crier trumpet, which if the band had played five years ago, would have been a series of stiff off-beat quarter notes. Here the tonguing· and phrasing are more relaxed the “dig-a-dig” effect is fortunately gone. Back to an up tempo and excellent Boots Mussulli alto takes the side into its brass productioned conclusion.
Reverse restates the theme in prettily voiced trombones, followed by a characteristic passage for reeds (see Opus In Pastels.) Excellent use of three trumpets high echo voiced against plucked bass, and back to the original frantic passage used on the first side. Shelly Manne's drums and the brass finish things up.
All this listing here for good reason: there are many attractive spots on these two sides, but you can't help but feel listening to them that Stan is consciously trying too hard for something that should come easier. Climaxes are built rather than coming of their own accord. An artificial tension of tempo rather than solo-creativeness is constantly maintained. And on these sides at least the band too often sounds heavy and pretentious.
There are plenty of good soloists in the band, much musical talent and a sincere desire to play good jazz. Here at least if Stan's material had been condensed and made to hang together more on its own intrinsic merit rather than the musical stage setting affixed, the total effect would merit more raves. (Capitol 382)
♪ ♪ Machito
Collaboration opens with another elaborately stated piano theme, which melodically is close cousins to bits Stan has used before. After a good Kai Winding sliphorn solo, the theme is pretentiously restated by the whole brass section while the reeds run whole tone triads. A casual observer might wonder if you need 22 men for this, no matter how well done.
Machito, dedicated to the Latin-American stickwaver of the same name, opens to arpeggioed piano against son rhythm. More Winding trombone. The bridge into Chico Alvarez' solo doesn't click because all sections are playing at equal volume and all too loud; thus those voiced at more brilliant intensities completely drown other parts of the effect.
In the next chorus, trumpet players can only wonder what it must be like to play the Kenton leadbook for a whole night. The finish is a frantically high chase duet between Skippy Layton's trombone and Buddy Childers' ending, me memory says, on a high A flat.
There are some good sections on both sides. There are too many passages overblown, and even faultily executed, such as the trick unison between trombone and trumpet at Machito's conclusion, which doesn't come off because of lack of tune and simultaneous attack. Sure it's hard to do; but unless perfectly executed, it sounds as it does here: sloppy. (Capitol 408)
♪ ♪ ♪ Down in Chihuahua
Riff is just that: a simple chord progression in minor, repeated. Best solo is Chico Alvarez’ trumpet bit. Perhaps because of the simplicity of the arranging ideas compared to some of the other things the band has tried, this comes closer to swinging than do many previous Kenton sides. Reverse finds Kenton playing straight backing piano behind the Pastels’ vocal, unusual for him on records. Safranski’s bass is smartly used at the record’s beginning, while he has a passage with Shelly Manne’s drumming high-lighting his fine technique. As always though, the full band has to spoil things by screaming its head off. Why in heavens name does Stan seem to think that the only way you can climax an arrangement is by playing ffffff????? (Capitol 449)
♪ ♪ Thermopolae
When Raymond Scott did queer things to the peanut peddler some years ago with his Huckleberry Duck band, the authors probably thought that nothing quite as fantastic could ever happen to their innocuous little rhumba. But as it develops, they hadn't seen anything. Rugolo is the transformer this time and his modernistic scoring for the Kenton band is as energetic and a heck of a lot more rhythmic than most L-A bands' arrangements. Kenton's multifarious rhythm section really gets a beat going, and the high unison trumpet figures that are entirely out of phase with four to a bar rhythm are unique. Thermopolae is a moribund, impressionistic thing concerned only with mood—and a depressing one at that. It's pretty typical of the new sounds that the band is experimenting with but to these ears at least these sounds are undistinguished and monotonous. (Capitol 15052)
Elegy For Alto
Fugue For Rhythm Section
This My Theme
Album rating — ♪ ♪ ♪
This is the long awaited Kenton album of progressive jazz and it is bound to stir up a boiler factory of comment ranging from wild enthusiasm to downright vilification. It is a thoughtful selection, beautifully performed as are most of Kenton’s works and an excellently recorded package of the latest things that Stan and his musicians have been playing all over the country in concert. This album is different from its predecessor which, in the light of comparison at least, was modeled more along conventional swing band lines. The radical change is mostly in evidence in the rhythm structures of these advanced manuscripts since a lot of the unique voicings and chord combinations have been on display for some time. The rhythms presented here range from Latin American through odd patterns of five-four or seven-five down to even the lowly three-four. Monotony derives its name from a monotonously repetitive bass figure that plows doggedly through the entire score; Carnival spots the versatile Kenton rhythm section in a combination of progressivism and hard driving L-A rhythm and it comes on; Woman wills some awful vocal intervals to the hard working June Christy and reveals a heretofore unrevealed depth in some of her chest tones; Lament is a polyphonic creation by Rugolo that shows off the remarkable talents of Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida; George Weidler has a grand time altoing through the abstract Elegy in five-four time; Impressionism is a symphonic piece of Rugolo’s whose changing tempo midway is accomplished almost without realization; Fugue hands another tough score to the heavily manned rhythm section and what results will be intriguing to some rhythm minded listeners; Theme is a brave attempt by Miss Christy at abstract narration but she isn't quite heavy enough for it. I invited three musicians to listen to this album with me one night. One blew his top to the tune of a four note rating; two, who didn't get with it at all though admitting that they might after more sittings, gave it two notes and one, yours truly, took the middle course with a three-noter, maintaining that there is a lot therein that is wonderful, some that is merely show-offishness and some more that I’m not quite sure about yet. At any rate, how does it feel to read a review on Kenton where the word “sincere” is used not once? (Capitol Album CD-79)
♪ ♪ ♪ How High The Moon
With everything else that goes on in the Kenton band, the reminder doesn’t appear often enough that the industrious Stan is a pretty fair country pianist. Rugolo gives him a whole side to demonstrate the fact on the Interlude side, which is one of his more melodic originals. There’s no high brass or, in fact, any disturbance of any kind throughout, though the trombones lend some support and color for the last half of the first chorus. It’s pretty, simple and a refreshing contrast to the more typically rowdy Kentonistics. June Christy joins the rapidly growing list of girl singers (Ella, Anita, Ginnie et al) who have done a partly lyric, partly bop version of Moon and in so doing sings on top of a Kenton that comes about as close to being a (you will pardon the expression) swing band as he will get nowadays. It sounds good, too. The band has some very solid moments and there are fair trombone, better trumpet and best alto choruses along the way. If this is reaction let us make the most of it-and better still, let us make some more of it. (Capitol 15117)
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Willow, Weep for Me
♪ ♪ ♪ Bongo Riff
If I hadn't heard Stan play Bongo at the Shafer lake one-niter reviewed elsewhere in this issue, there would have been nothing but satisfaction felt for the waxed performance. But Rugolo's original got such enthusiastic interpretation on that job that the record, good as it is, came as something of an anti-climax.
Bongo, of course, is a score designed to set off the nimble fingers and startling rhythm patterns of bongoist Jack Costanza and in that it succeeds in a lively manner. He does have a feeling for the calculus of rhythm that is to be both admired and studied for content. Talk about rudiments. He just rewrote the book.
Willow is from the original Kenton album of a couple of years ago and sounds just as four-notish now as it did then. June sings the fine tune in a phrased style that could have sounded affected and fiat had she not done it so well. And the arrangement with its moving chord planes and energetic change of pace was one of the really slick things in that slick album. (Capitol 15179).
♪ ♪ ♪ He Was a Good Man
Know is a moderately slow instrumental score on the old standard and consists of a brilliant trombone choir chorus surrounded on both sides, fore and aft, by Stan's whimsical piano interplay with Eddie Safranski, he of the bass viol.
June Christy's blues vocal on Good is done fairly traditionally for a Kentonite, and the band holds back its big artillery for the most part in backing her. Darned inconsiderate of Dr. Kenton to bust up his band, incidentally. We're against it. (Capitol 15331.)
♪ ♪ ♪ Abstraction
♪ ♪ ♪ Somnambulism
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ Capitol Punishment
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ He's Funny That Way
♪ ♪ ♪ Peg O' My Heart
This album turns out to be a sort of combination of Stan's Artistry in Rhythm and Progressive Jazz books though it's apparent that this developed more from convenience than intent. This is a collection of odd sides from Capitol’s unreleased store of Kentonia and at least two of the sides and probably a third were made by the old band.
This is merely a commentary and in no sense a complaint, for the old band which, while not as superhip as his 1948 edition, had many elements that appealed more to Kenton devotees than those of the later date. The Chorale to these ears is the weakest side of the lot.
Piano and bongos occupy about half of the wax and merely kick a riff or two around in an annoyingly desultory fashion until rescued by the more interesting works of the brass. Abstraction is well-named and typical of the surrealistics of the band of this and last year. It, too, spots bongos, some nifty bass fiddling by Safranski, and Weidler's wailing alto.
Somnambulism, as a study of musical trig, is intensely interesting but is rather dreary and depressing in mood. It's a Ken Hanna score. Punishment is a gutty, strident bopper a good deal on the order of the, you will pardon the expression, Metronome Riff side the band cut last year. It's an old band side with a wonderful Boots Mussulli alto solo and some fine Kai Winding trombone.
The human voice that acts as an accessory to the brass in the final screamer is exhibitionistic, to be sure, but marvelously effective. Funny is probably an old side and is the only Christy vocal in the group. The high rating is as much for the fine Rugolo score as it is for Miss Christy. He really knows how to orchestrate reeds in a vocal chorus.
Peg is the final old band side with Stan's piano, Vido Musso's gone but not forgotten splashy tone and relaxed improvising and Winding's trombone. Pete Rugolo did all the manuscripts except Somnambulism, and each reaffirms the fact that he is one of the top arrangers in the country. (Capitol album CC-113.)
♪ ♪ ♪ Journey to Brazil
Ecuador will unfailingly remind you of Ellington's Caravan. It's an old Kenton side, since both Kai Winding and Vido Musso appear on it. Brazil is a Pete Rugolo score, with some very pretty guitar by Laurindo Almeida included. Just once, couldn't Kenton brass ever make an entrance at less than a scream? I still say Rugolo is a good musician, too given to constant striving for climax with this band, and too little attention to writing which would let that climax come naturally. (Capitol 57-631.)
♪ ♪ ♪ Mardi Gras
Fresh Kenton wax! However, Riff seems to follow the familiar formula of a figure repeated endlessly through the sections, with sustenatos blared back of it. One change noted: rhythm back of Art Pepper’s solo is much more relaxed than Kenton ever was before. Gras is listed with singing by the Kenton families—certainly sounds like a terrific beer party. Tune, credited to Laurindo Almeida, Kenton’s guitarist, is a very catchy one. (Capitol 888.)
Theme for Sunday
Incident in Jazz
Album rating — ♪ ♪ ♪
Most of these numbers are scores that Kenton has been playing on his recent concert tour, are therefore interesting samples of what his innovational band is putting down.
These sides make it obvious that Stan has much to learn to be a conductor of a large aggregation. The old Kenton problem of monotonous dynamics is still here, as well as problems in phrasing and conception.
The mere presence of added numbers does not make for more varied music. It indeed can make a fine stew into sloppy pottage unless perfectly handled.
Sometimes, too, Stan's enthusiasm for the sonorousness of his own words runs away with him. He introduced Trajectories at the New York concert by saying that as a disciple of the late Schillinger, Marks had introduced some completely unique sounds in this composition.
Unique to Kenton, yes. Unique? No. For all Marks has done here is to take an attractive theme and to present it split between several sections, as a round and canon, and with the rhythm section constantly accenting theme elements. This device, common to symphonic orchestration for more than half a century, has been for a long time the color property of a brilliant young man named Eddie Sauter, who started doing it with Red Norvo in 1936, went on to further heights with Goodman and other bands. Listen to Eddie's Superman for Goodman, done in 1940, and the 1946 score of Borderline for Ray McKinley, and see if you feel this side, while attractive, is an innovation.
Theme for Sunday is the familiar grandiose arpeggio piano style of Kenton, with the Louis Alteresque theme developed in expected manner. The piece fares better here than in concert, since the strings are well-balanced with respect to the band and the general lack of attention to dynamics can be controlled by the recording engineers. Careful listeners to Stan's piano sections will hear many of the same ideas he has used before on other recordings.
Conflict introduces the familiar Rugolo horns in half-tone chromatic agony, modified in this case by strings used in quarter tones for a brief section before Miss Christy steps in a la Kay Davis. My great complaint to this sort of is writing of Pete's is that while it may depict the kind of agonized neuroticism that Stan programaticaily feels is necessary (commercially? ), it is pretentious musically. As a result, a little of it is a strong diet for quite a while. Not only that, but if you analyze closely the writing of this kind that the Kenton organization has displayed in the last three or four years, you will hear a considerable recurrence of the same elements. Not just the style itself, but actual idea elements. Incident, by Bob Graettinger is more familiar beat-conscious Kenton jazz.
In his remarks about his band Kenton made the very valid comment that you don't need a driving rhythm section to get a great beat or great jazz. However, it requires a unity of musical conception and leadership which too often these grooves do not show.
Road is another June Christy vocal taken at extravagantly slow tempo. At least her intonation is much superior to five years ago, her phrasing freer. A later jump vocal chorus reminds one of a similar effort some years ago by Mildred Bailey. Listen to it (Vocalion) should you care to hear what we mean by unified conception between musicians and singer.
Mirage is impressionistic tonal painting of the kind utilized by Ferde Grofe in some of his older scores. Granted that Rugolo's use of orchestra here is more skillful—nevertheless the traditional objection to this kind of music has been that it was a mere palette of effects, not really an organized esthetic whole of music. And effects, no matter how clever, cannot be justified in the long run for themselves alone. Bill Russo's Solitaire, designed as a showcase for trombonist Milt Bernhart, has some of the most thematic writing, with interesting use of strings. Chico O'Farrell's Cuban Episode gives Carlos Vidal chance to display his conga virtuosity. Still wish someone would design a knee strap for conga drums, so that on a tune of this kind the drummer doesn't end half the time in a football crouch trying to play and hold onto his drum at the same time.
This is an interesting album as a Kenton effort. From jazz or concert standpoint, however, it reproduces the same difficulties as were found with Kenton's actual concert work. Too often the music is pretentious, bombastic, not possessed of enough real thematic and technical worth to justify the panoply of effects laid on it. It’s to be hoped that both in person d on records, Stan's next effort will not merit this judgment. (Capitol P 189.)
♪ ♪ ♪ Evening in Pakistan
Listening to Rogers, you may think you are hearing one of the versions of the Herman band, rather than death-to-the-beat Stan. Spoofing aside, this record moves as a unit far more than do most Kenton efforts. Shorty Rogers' score gives the brass a chance to blow high ones, Shorty himself a well-chosen middle register bit of the kind Sonny Berman used to essay so well. It's a fine solo. The Manne plays good shells back of the group and behind Art Pepper’s alto solo. The collective feeling displayed here is one that would help every side Kenton does. It should happen more often. Pakistan is scored for the strings, full woodwinds, and Milton Bernhardt's trombone. It's a tidy score, not too pretentious, nor does it accomplish any great esthetic feats. (Capitol 1043.)
♪ ♪ Be Easy, Be Tender
Another Kenton “Pops for the Populace” record, with Pete Rugolo having fun building a massed brass choir on the tune. The ending will puzzle you a mite—it dies away on an Afro-note, then shifts basic beat and comes back as though to an intro—and stops. This, however, may be an interpretation of the neurotic confusion of our times and must be given careful study as such. Jay Johnson Eckstines the ballad, Tender. (Capitol 1236.)
♪ ♪ I’m So in the Mood
Kenton's tribute to the Cuban leader who has made such magnificent records, but can't get into the U.S. due to AFM restrictions. It’s a shame the Kenton brass section is not as effective a rhythm instrument as Prado's. Prado, using no wide-toned trombones, keeps the entire pitch of his band higher than that of Kenton's (despite the fact that Kenton's leads are scored higher), and it has a sharper, cleaner sound. Maynard Ferguson’s solo is a wonderful sample of a trumpet man imitating a tin flute’s range. Unfortunately the ideas sound a little like that too. Mood is a ballad by Gene Howard, an old Kenton vocalist, now his press rep. It's sung by the Eckstineish Jay Johnson. (Capitol 1281.)
Jack: The person at Capitol who foisted this off on Stan should be ashamed. And so should Stan for agreeing to it. Musso has no more business playing with the present
Kenton crew than he has playing lead in the Lombardo sax section. The sides are just what you might expect. Yet they're asking $1.05 for the record, and will probably get it from a lot of persons. Rating is based solely on the band’s clean performance. Rating: Santa Lucia—4; Pagliacci—4.
George: The label on this one should have Vido Musso's name in large letters and Stan’s in small. The only creditable feature of the sides lies in the fact that it was an attempt to do something musical in a novelty record, a real rarity these days. On Lucia, the opening bars get a Wayne King-like sound. With all the musically interesting and exciting sax playing around today in Getz, Konitz, Sims, Steward, etc., I am unable to rate these sides as being of interest. But the record is bound to join the Freddy Gardner Columbias and Bird's Laura as best sellers. Rating: Santa Lucia—5: Pagliacci—5.
Pat: To quote from the slip-cover notes: “Their friendship (Stan's and Vido's) dates back to the early ‘30s...in 1939 they vowed that someday they would record them (these sides).” This was a youthful indiscretion on Stan's part. (Capitol 6F-1306.) Rating: Santa Lucia—3; Pagliacci—3.
Pat: Dynaflow is by Ray Wetzel, while the flip is a Wetzel and Gene Roland effort. Despite the modernistic title, Dyna is another Eager Beaver and fine to dance to after you shake the sand out of your shoes. A pleasant mood, if an old one. However, there's a really great Art Pepper chorus on this which is by no means nostalgic.
Tortillas has some Manana vocals by Wetzel and Eddie Gomez. Band provides the music for this vaudeville act, and there's a certain satisfactorily mounting tension, but that's all. (Capitol 1535.)
Jack: Jump is an effectively simple (for awhile) eight-bar blues figure that's played first by trombones, who are later joined by saxes playing a counter figure, then trumpets Art Pepper gets the only solo spot, handles it neatly.
Following Art, that same figure gets repeated over and over until you're mighty happy when the side finally hits the three-minute·mark.
Laura is an exact carbon of Stan's September Song-the band sings a chorus, trams come in, then the saxes enter with a flourish. This type stuff could go on forever; might get to be another Artistry series. (Capitol 1704.)
5 Night Watch
Pat: Latin rhythms on Francesca, a Sherm Feller composition, which spots a slow and moody Milt Bernhart trombone and Art Pepper’s livelier alto, but both too spottily and briefly. The band builds in volume to a central climax, but though unity is achieved, it is not to much musical purpose.
Watch is the Eager Beaver gnawing away again, with full brass at top volume, then rhythm alone, and ending all with a blast and a bloop. (Capitol 1774.)
George: Following along with Kenton's new treatment of standard instrumentals (September Song, Laura) the first side above is a musicianly rendition, very well done. Art Pepper contributes some Konitz-like alto.
Daddy is the old gold digger opus about diamond rings and such sung by June Christy and accompanied by Kenton's piano and the orchestra. Nothing earth-shaking. (Capitol 1823.)
Blues in Burlesque
Jack: This is one of the most hilarious records I've ever heard. I've listened to it at least 15 times, still break up at each hearing. It's the Maynard Ferguson—Shelly Manne tour de force Stan used in "Innovations" this year-a beautiful parody on big bands playing screaming blues with a shouting, hoarse-voiced singer wailing trite lyrics.
Maynard's trumpeting is almost likable on·the first side, as the band encourages him to "Go!" Shelly's vocal on the reverse is a classic-a perfect gem of a burlesque on the Woody Hermans, Wynonie Harrises, et al. This should sell an awful lot of copies.
The band sounds too relaxed to be in a recording studio. Someone must have, picked this up on tape when they were kidding around. No rating for this-there are no standards to judge it on. Just listen to it and have a ball. (Capitol 1874.)
Gambler’s Blues (Kenton)
I May Be Wrong (Gray)
A reissue of the Kenton version of St. James Infirmary (circa 1943) and the excellent Casa Loma dance side, both previously out on a 12-inch ·disc, will now probably appeal to buyers primarily on the strength of the Gray effort. (Decca.)
★ ★ Yes
Two commercial Kenton sides. First is the Bob Russell-Lou Spence adaptation of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, made into a typical mambo. Conte Candoli, though given label billing, is only heard in a brief high-register solo.
Reverse introduces Kenton's new girl, Jerri Winters, in a fair novelty. Gal has a good sound, phrases well, should eventually click on records. (Capitol 2020.)
★ ★ ★ ★ Delicado
★ ★ Bags and Baggage
Described as a “South American Baio,” Delicado has some member of the balalaika family in a solo role, plus the Kenton brass getting a good blowout and plenty of Latinesque percussion. The coupling is a bass solo by Don Bagley, written by Johnny Richards; for nostalgic Kenton fans it may recall Concerto for Doghouse, which featured Howard Rumsey—no! was that really 10 years ago? (Capitol 2040.)
★ She’s A Comely Wench
Gene Roland’s Cool Eyes is like The Major And The Minor with more interesting changes. Conte Candoli plays the theme, muted, against an intriguing background. The side builds well, with a short Bill Holman tenor spot on the way.
Jerri Winters tries to sing the nonsense on the back. (Capitol 2964.)
★ ★ ★ Stardust
★ ★ Bee Hive
Stardust starts out pleasantly, featuring Stan at the piano, builds up too busily but features a spot of good tenor toward the end. Bee Hive is a fairish Gene Roland original with unimpressive solos. (Capitol 2214.)
To those who recall an earlier and even more pretentious Kenton effort, Train will sound like a commercialized Monotony. This time there's a singer, too—Kay Brown, who seems to think that flat vibratoless tones constitute a hip sound. Gene Roland, normally a good writer, was the culprit on this side. ( Capitol 2250.)
Artistry In Boogie
And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
Across The Alley From The Alamo
Album Rating: ★ ★ ★
A compendium of best-selling Kenton sides dating from 1944 through 1947. Good solo spots here and there by, among others, Art Pepper, Kai Winding, Milt Bernhardt, Safranski. June Christy sings on the first and last titles; Anita O’Day on Tears. (Capitol H 358.)
GRAETTINGER: City of Glass. Augmented Stan Kenton Orchestra. CAPITOL H353 10”.
Performance ★ ★ ★ ★ ; Recording ★ ★ ★ ★ .
If your nerves are still raw and twitch in' from New Year's . . If a kitten daintily padding across an inch-deep rug-nap sets you groanin’ “Pul-lease quit that stompin’ around!” ... Then you’re in no fitten shape for such rackety-rax aural calesthenics as I'm prescribing today. For I've got a rugged workout for ya, man , and no softies or kids are gonna stand the gaff.
But if you've got tough ears and constitutions, I can promise you an adventure m new sound you’ll never forget…and more fun than you’ve had since that great day when you learned to pitch sliders and knuckles with a pile of rocks in grandpaw’s hot-house!
You’ll be feeling no pane either when Stan Kenton gets through with Bob Graettinger's City of Glass—probably the most exciting, maybe one of the most vital, and certainly the noisiest symphonic experiment yet achieved by a jazz composer and conductor.
Actually, there's no jazz in it (except for an echo or two in the Dance Before a Mirror third movement) but it sure is as "modern" as you can get. It's out of Schoenbergian and Bartokian blood-lines, perhaps, as far as the music itself goes, but all dolled up with the very latest in Graettinger and Kenton-style innovations where the frenzied but dazzling interplay of sonorities is concerned.
It's almost intolerably harsh and shill in stretches. Some of the stunts are beaten to exhaustion, a few are thrown away before they really get going, and oftentimes the use of too many effects at once tends to cancel out much of their impact. I wish Graettinger were as clever a dramatic psychologist as he is a sound-pattern weaver, for his work needs more astute editing and organization. Yet, for all that, he's got something here that's brashly alive and at its best tremendously exciting.
Many of his strictly musical ideas might have come straight out of the futurismus experiments of the symphonic enfants terribles of the ‘20s—and he could profit by a refresher course in Stravinsky's later works to learn more about thinning out these ideas and developing the best of them either more tersely or more fully, according to their demands.
But in clothing these ideas in brittle, acrid, but always electrifying sounds, Graettinger is a genuine pioneer in his own right. And in capturing Stan’s intensely driving performance on LP, Capitol makes a sizzling contribution of its own.
Credit Stan for a great idea here. In a 10-minute performance (available on two EP sides) he utters a lengthy narration, introducing every member of the band in a framework conceived with and orchestrated by Johnny Richards. It’s time we restored the dignity of the sideman, and Kenton’s effort is a powerful step in that direction.
Some of the men are heard very briefly. Frank Rosolino and Richie Kamuca come out best; Conte Candoli disappoints. Stan’s manner is tense and pretentious throughout, until near the end he is shouting “THIS IS AN ORCHESTRA!” as if trying to make himself heard above the Grand Old Uproar. Now we expect Mickey Katz to produce his version; entitled This Is An Orchestra? Anyhow, the idea could and should be duplicated by other top jazz outfits. (Capitol EASF 386)
23° N–82° W
Portrait of a Count
Invention for Guitar and Trumpet
Rating ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is the new Concepts LP, and it might as well have been called Artistry in Russo, for Bill wrote five of the seven originals. First title, which your atlas will show you means Havana, starts with a startling and highly entertaining piece of writing for the trombones, with the Latin rhythm and the unison reeds easing in, followed by unison trumpets. Blood, the swing ingest side of the whole set, was penned by Gerry Mulligan, indicates that Stan needs bigger doses of Mulligan in his books.
The Count (Conte candle) is well-framed in his portrait; the Invention for Sal Salvador and Maynard Ferguson was written by tenor man Bill Holman. Improvisation, the longest and most ambitious number of the set, has some of the most brilliant Russo writing but is the one we enjoyed the least, for its qualities are neurotic and depressing.
The Frank who speaks is trombonist Rosolino, and although doesn’t speak as freely and happily as he used to with Georgie Aulds’ quintet, this is an effective jazz horn concerto and swings more than the other Russo items. My Lady is addressed by Lee Konitz’ alto in attractively melancholy tones. (Capitol H 383)
★ ★ Tenderly
Stan goes back a few years in style in his treatment of The Creep, back to the Artistry in Rhythm days. But he makes the most out of the simple riff that could be the start of a new dance craze, and you’ll hear a pretty, muted trumpet solo poke its way out about midway.
Tenderly is done ala September Song, Laura, et al—vocal group singing in unison, a trombone choir, ensembles saxes, and so on. (Capitol 2685)
This Modern World
Rating ★ ★ ★
Whether this fits under jazz or classical is a moot matter. This Modern World is a large-scale composition by Bob Graettinger (who also wrote City of Glass). It was a year in the writing and has been recorded with meticulous care by Stan, his men, and Capitol’s engineers. The performance is excellent, with particular credit due John Graas (French horn), Gregory Bemko (cello), and in the best section of the work, Some Saxophones, Bob Cooper, Bud Shank, Bart Caldarell, Herb Geller, and John Rotella.
The music itself ls an unintentionally amusing throwback to the muddled ethos of late 19th century European romanticism—the kind of heavy, humorless fifth-hand idea patterns that Debussy, Satie, Les Six, and Stravinsky, among many others, rebelled against. Schoenberg broke through this kind of pomposity to built his duodecaphonic system, and other composers in their own eclectic manner, created their own way into the 20th century.
But Graettinger, though he has picked at a few contemporary techniques and “uses mathematical computations in his work” Is still spiritually a melodramatic Wagnerian. The fact that he uses jazz instrumental timbres (and an occasional tentative jazz rhythmic bass) makes him no more “modern” than if he mixed in some of Pierre Schaeffer’s electronic music. There is no organic life in this; it is a aeries of postures aimed at producing effect for effect’s sake.
Like much of what Kenton chooses to play in the dance and jazz field, this is progressive only if you're listening backwards. Graettinger does have a gift for creating expressive orchestral colorations. He would do well to concentrate less on the logarithms [sic] of music and more on musical devices as a means to communication, not as an end in themselves. But again, great credit is due the musicians for an excellent performance and Kenton for the courage and persistency to back his beliefs. It is much more important that the music be heard than that some critics find it volubly dull. After all, audiences rather than critics decide. (Capitol H 460)
A Theme of Four Values; Study for Bass; Blues Before and After; Bacante; Thisbe; Egdon Heath; Sweets; Dusk Bags; Hav-a-Havana; Solo for Buddy; The Opener; Fearless Finlay; Theme and Variations; In Lighter Vein; King Fish.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
The first eight are compositions by Bill Russo and the last eight are works by Bill Holman. With the exception of Holman's work for ensemble, Theme and Variations, none of the 16 strikes me as wholly integrated, mature composition. There is in Russo's work, especially, still too much reliance on novel textures and dramatic dynamics as ends in themselves and as coverups for inadequate thematic development and an insecure sense of melodic structure. Russo is more ambitious than Holman, judging from this LP anyway, and he certainly has much talent—as sections of all the numbers indicate, particularly Thisbe and Egdon Heath.
But Bill is still far from what the notes say his basic aim is—“more organic concepts of writing…working out something that is unified from beginning to end…” These works still have too much of that intensely fragmentary touch that tends to hover over the Kenton heath.
Holman writes with less range of mood or content than Russo, but within his more limited scope, he succeeds more often than Bill. One of his main aims, for example, is that “no matter how much is written down, the music should have all the feeling of improvisation. To do this, I try to avoid heavy masses of sound, and keep the music relaxed and full of movement, so individual soloists have as much chance as possible.”
Actually, Holman could still cut down even more on heavy blocks of sound, but there is generally a flowing quality to his writing and his scores do allow the band to swing more consistently than Russo’s (though I’m not sure that swinging in the pulsative sense is always Bill’s aim). Holman’s Theme and Variations, for example, is one of the rare cases where a Kenton band has swung in ensemble all the way. And the other works, too, give the soloists and the band room in which to move. It's too bad the compositions don’t have more to say as communications of imaginative ideas or basic feelings.
Good solo work throughout by the Kenton men. This was one of Stan's most rhythmically alive bands and they convey considerable zest in cutting through what in some cases must have been difficult scores with small time for rehearsal.
Especially noteworthy are Sam Noto, Davey Schildkraut, Candido, Frank Rosolino, Buddy Childers, Charlie Mariano, and Lee Konitz (In Lighter Vein). The recorded sound is good. Again Capitol and Kenton deserve congratulations for investing the time and money to record young writers like Russo and Holman. The investment is a good one, even if most of the initial results are either self-conscious or underdeveloped or both. (Capitol 12" LP W 524)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
The current Kenton band at its best is a hard-hitting, exciting unit with several chargingly swinging soloists, as this LP, Contemporary Concepts (recorded in the summer of this year) forcefully demonstrates. All the arrangements are by Bill Holman except for Gerry Mulligan's Limelight. Holman's writing is leaner and considerably less pretentious than several other writers previously and currently in the Kenton book. There are still some touches of Hollywoodian rhetoric, but by and large, Holman's scores are clean and directly driving. Best soloists on the set are tenor Bill Perkins and Charlie Mariano.
Among the rest of the soloists, also energetically inventive is the work of Sam Noto, Stu Williamson, Carl Fontana, and the rhythm section of Ralph Blaze, Max Bennett, and Mel Lewis. Lennie Niehaus' playing still hits me as built more of notes than of feelings that he can express and as a result, Cherokee, the vehicle for Niehaus, is the least moving track on the LP.
Deserving of much credit are lead trumpets Al Porcino and Ed Leddy and lead trombonist Bob Fitzpatrick. It's a well-disciplined, cohesive brass section. Very good recording, the kind Capitol does for bands better than any other company. There's also ample space for each number—this is what LPs are for. I've gotten more kicks out of this Kenton LP than any I can remember. Very close to five stars.
(Capitol 12" LP T666)
Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye; Lonely Woman; Just the Way I Am; You're Mine, You!; Angel Eyes; Come lo the Party; Baby, Baby All the Time; We Kiss in a Shadow; How Long Has This Been Goin' On?
Rating: ★ ★
Duet is just that. June Christy sings with accompaniment by only Kenton at the piano. This turns out not to have been a felicitous idea. Neither Kenton nor Christy have that strong an inherent beat to afford to be without bass and drums. (A guitar would have been apt, too.) Stan's accompaniment is too often heavily graceless and rhetorical. (Contrast it, for example, to the way Ellis Larkins backs Ella Fitzgerald.) June, as usual, has intonation problems, and as a result, there are several unintentionally jarring (I might say painful) moments.
June's chief asset, again as usual, is her sound. But her phrasing doesn't flow and is often otherwise debatable, and her enunciation is not as consistently clear as it should be. Also unfortunate is Christy's limited scale of dynamics and imagination. Over a whole 12" LP, there is too much of a sameness in her approach to each tune, and the over-all effect is close to a blurred monotone. A singer has to be very, very good to expose herself this starkly with just piano background. June Christy isn't. And Stan lacks here the subtlety and taste an accompanist must have. (Capitol T 656)
Fuego Cubano; El Congo Valente; Recuerdos; Quien Sabe; La Guera Baila; La Suerte De Los Tontos
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Cuban Fire! consists of six “ritual dances” by Johnny Richards, an attempt to write “North American music” on a base of “authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms.” There are four reeds, six trumpets, four trombones, two French horns, a tuba, guitar, bass, piano, drums, tympani, plus a Latin rhythm section of bongo drums, maracas, claves, congo drums, and timbales led by Willie Rodriguez.
The music undeniably generates excitement, but for the most part, it is a garish excitement, bright with a promise of emotional substance that never quite materializes. The compositions are, to a large extent, a series of dramatic entrances—by sections, by soloists, by rhythms—but there rarely occur moments of cohesively realized resolutions. Richards, an extremely skilled orchestrator, has painted large attacks of lush, brilliant colors; but again, after the first immediate impact of these boiling rainbows, there is the uncomfortable realization that the score is pregnant with the love of being pregnant. No whole is finally born.
There are driving, diving, and climbing solos by Kent Larson, Lucky Thompson, Carl Fontana, Lennie Niehaus, Vinnie Tanno, Bill Perkins, Bob Fitzpatrick, and Sam Nolo. The solos are technically arresting and contain large amounts of fire, but scattered as they are through these painted mirages, they finally have to deadend their flights, because they are trapped in a corridor of mirrors, a corridor lit by ricocheting reflections. Note, however, the crackling ascent of Tanno in the final piece. (Capitol 12” LP T-731)
In Rendezvous with Kenton (Capitol T 932), a program of 12 dance tunes is presented by the Kenton band on its home ground, the Rendezvous (formerly Balboa) ballroom. Each of the tunes has at least one solo around which Joe Cocchia constructed the arrangements.
Among sidemen heard are Sam Noto (With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair; They Didn't Believe Me, and I See Your Face Before Me); Kent Larsen (Memories of You), and Bill Perkins (This ls No Laughing Matter, Two Shades of Autumn, with Lennie Niehaus. and Walkin’ by the River, with Billy Catalano). Lee Katzman, Ed Leddy, Kenny Shroyer, and Archie Le Coque also are heard on other tracks.
This is Stan's scene now: dance music, but with some of the flash and fire of his concert band. He's carrying 10 brass, and every now and again you know it. A band like this could make jazz fans visit ballrooms if only to listen (D.C.)
BACK TO BALBOA—Capital T 995: The Big Chase; Rendezvous at Sunset; Speak Low; My Old Flame; Out of this World; Begin the Beguine; Get Out of Town; Royal Blue; I Concentrate on You; Beyond the Blue Horizon.
Personnel: Kenton, leader and piano; Sam Noto, Phil Gilbert, Lee Katzman, Billy Catalano, Jules Chaiken, trumpets; Lennie Niehaus, Bill Robinson, Bill Perkins, Richie Kamuca, Steve Perlow, reeds; Kent Larsen, Jim Amlotte, Don Reed, Archie LeCoque, Kenny Shroyer (bass trombone), trombones; Vince DeRosa, Jimmy Deckker. French horns; Red Kelly, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Back to Balboa marks Kenton’s return to the Rendezvous ballroom in Balboa Beach, Calif. It was recorded last January, before Kenton abandoned the project of using the ballroom as a permanent residence for his band.
Recorded at the ballroom, the sounds tend to be somewhat hollow, with some of the soloists sounding out in left field. However, this is a big band, one that is not hampered by such limitations.
Much of the dignity and discipline of Kenton's approach is manifested here. It is not a flawless band. At times, it displays a rigid dynamic sense. The use of Afro-Cuban rhythmic foundations tends to impose a stiffness, too. But this is an orchestra of incomparable vigor. The Kenton discipline produces sections that can work with equal facility as units in themselves and as interacting ingredients in Kenton's master orchestral plan. The band's book is varied (at least as indicated here) and contains contributions from some of jazz' most able composers.
Kenton, in describing Holman's Royal Blue in the notes, terms it "exciting, powerful, and positive." He could have been describing this band.
In Perkins, Kamuca, Niehaus, Noto, and Katzman, Kenton has several key soloists. Most of the charts in this LP are by Johnny Richards; at his best—as in Sunset—Richards uses the orchestra as an illuminating device. Other charts, by Marty Paich and Holman, take advantage of the orchestra's capabilities, too. The vivid over-all Kenton sound is precisely executed.
This is an important orchestra. It is a sad commentary on the jazz scene that Kenton was led to hire his own hall in order to sustain the band. The jazz audience should sustain the life of one of its most significant contemporary voices, if this LP is any evidence of the potential of the Kenton band. (D.G.)
Personnel: Kenton, piano and leader; Milt Bernhart, Kent Larsen, Jim Amlotte, Bob Fitzpatrick, Kenny Shroyer, trombones; George Spelvin, flute; Laurindo Almeida, guitar; Red Mitchell, Joe Mondragon, Don Bagley, bass (no tracks specified); Shelly Manne, Larry Bunker, Frank Flynn, drums (no tracks specified); plus a string section.
Rating: ★ ★ ½
The alluring aspect of Kenton’s music is that his individualistic efforts often defy classification. This means that listeners must devote some thought to his work.
This latest chapter is no exception, although it is less successful than past Kenton ventures. Here, Pete Rugolo has re-orchestrated, for trombones, strings, and rhythm section, material from the Kenton library, much of which Rugolo originally composed.
There are few solos and an abundance of weaving string lines. The strings carry the load throughout, which lends a sameness to many of the tracks, a sameness which wasn’t present originally. Although the strings are slickly handled, there is a studied air in many places that exists apart from the improvisational zest of the Kenton band.
Much of the content is strikingly melodic, indicating, at least to me, that there is material for many jazz groups in the Kenton book. Although this isn’t a set for the hard boppers, the melodic worth of the compositions makes it of interest.
Personnel: Stan Kenton. piano: Jack Sheldon, Frank Huggins, Al Sunseti, Bud Brisbois, Bill Catalano, trumpets ; Archie LeCoque, Bob Olson, Bill Smiley, Jim Amlotte, Kent Larsen, trombones; Bill Perkins. Bill Trujillo, Steve Perlow, Lennie Niehaus, Rill Robinson. saxes; Red Kelly, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
This album represents the only released record of the band Kenton took on tour during the early part of this year. At present writing Niehaus, Sheldon, Perkins, Kelly and McKenzie have departed which means another term for the leader of forging a nucleus of a new band.
In this set of established show tunes, all of which were arranged by Niehaus, the fabled Kenton penchant for experimentation and trail-blazing is stowed away. Basically, this is a dance album—and a pretty good one, at that. Niehaus' charts are clean, uncluttered, uncomplicated and decorated by the (forceful solos of LeCoque (Broadway), Trujilo, Sheldon (Party's Over), Niehaus (Baubles and Hey There), Robinson (Lola), Perkins (BaIi and All At Once) and Larsen (Paris). Sheldon’s work is particularly noteworthy.
Especially effective in stereo. (J.A.T.)
Personnel : Milt Bernhardt, trombone; Laurindo Almeida, guitar; Red Mitchell, bass; Shelly Manne, drums. Remaining personnel unlisted.
Rating: ★ ½
This is more classical than jazz, more depressing than absorbing, more boring than interesting. Pete Rugolo has done a competent job of scoring for a large string section, trombone choir, percussion, guitar, flute, and alto; but this attempt at “serious” music succeeds only in being pretentious.
Much of the thematic material has a very dark, moribund quality and leaves this listener wishing Kenton and Rugolo had seen fit to include more brightness in the scores. The only part of this collection that swings is 12 bars in The End of the World.
Sorry, but I found listening to this very tedious indeed. (D.DeM.)
ROAD SHOW—Capitol TBO 1327 (2 LP’s): Artistry in Rhythm; Stompin’ at the Savoy; My Old Flame; The Big Chase; Christy: I Want to be Happy; It’s a Most Unusual Day; Midnight Sun; Kissing Bug, Bewitched; How High the Moon. Freshmen: Day in, Day Out; Angel Eyes; I’m Always Chasing Rainbows; Paper Doll; Them There Eyes. Ensemble: Love for Sale (band); September Song; Walkin’ Shoes; The Peanut Venfor; Artistry in Rhythm (band only).
Personnel: June Christy, vocals; The Four Freshmen (Ross Barbour, Don Barbour, Bob Flanigan, Ken Albers); Stan Kenton, piano; Charlie Mariano, alto; Ronnie Rubin and Bill Trujillo, tenors; Marvin Holladay and Jack Nimitz, baritones; Bud Brisebois, Rolf Ericson, Nill Mathieu, Roger Middleton, Dalton Smith, trumpets; Kenton Larsen, Archie Le Coque, Don Sebesky, trombones; Jim Amlotte and Bobby Knight, bass trombones; Pete Chivily, bass; Jimmy Campbell, drums; Mike Pacheco, Cuban drums.
Rating: ★ ★ ½
Behind this album lies a basically good idea, that of recording a typical concert played by those concerned during the road tour of last fall. The virtues of such an undertaking are obvious (catching the spontaneity, that good old “on the road” spirit, etc.,) but unfortunately, in this case, the project backfired to a certain degree. Who, for example, could anticipate that June Christy would be suffering from a bad cold the night of the recording? Or that the quality of the recording would turn out to lack definition?
Despite such shortcomings, there is much in this package worth hearing once. If the Freshmen's segment consists of more clowning and cutting up than music, their antics obviously delighted the capacity audience in Purdue university's music hall the evening of Oct 10, 1959. This is a highly professional group, the members of which are just as much at home trading repartee as delivering a number in their distinctive way.
It is on the band numbers that the lack of recording definition is most noticeable. There is a muddiness in picking up the ensemble. though the bass and soloists come through bright and clear.
There is nothing new in the instrumental offerings, Mariano shines in his spot in Marty Paich’s concert arrangement of My Old Flame and Trujillo’s tenor is strong and swinging. There are some exciting moments from the trumpets, both in section and solos, but the liner content does not specify who blew what despite the extravagant layout, pictures son copy over three covers and four additional inside pages. Baritonist Nimitz has an effective solo spot in Mulligan's Walkin’ Shoes and the trombone work by Le Coque and Larsen is consistently good.
At times there can be heard some unevenness in the ensemble passages and the disappointing recording quality doesn't improve things.
Taking the package as a whole, one feels a letdown. June was in poor shape to sing at all, and this performance does her scant credit. The Freshmen’s clowning begins to pall after a few hearings, and their musical performances, though competent and, of course, stylistic after their fashion. are pretty unexciting. The package’s rating, then, is for what remains—the band—and there is much better Kenton to be bad in the record stores.
Personnel: Kenton, piano, leader; John Bonnie, Marvin Holaday, Charlie Mariano, Bill Trujillo, Jack Nimitz, saxophones; Bud Brisbois, Bill Chase, Rolf Ericson, Roger Middleton, Dalton Smith, Clyde Reasinger, trumpets; Jim Amlotte. Bob Knight, Kent Larsen, Archie LeCoque, Don Sebesky, trombrones; Jim Chivily, bass; Jimmy Campbell, drums; Mike Pacheco, Willie Rodriguez, Latin percussion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
''The Restless Searcher'' has been overdue a superior album for some time. This one's it, and the credit largely belongs to young arranger Bill Mathieu, whose charts sing with every measure. Mathieu's basic aim apparently is to maintain consistent integration of sound and section and to concentrate on smoothly flowing texture. The aim undoubtedly is achieved in this set of finely crafted arrangements, which abound in color and depth.
Then there's the high level of instrumental performance. The band sounds tightly knit, and there are no detectable goofs in either section or solo work. And the sax section work is a real gas. Of the soloists, trumpeter Ericson is a delightful and exciting surprise. He plain blows his head off and has developed a big, unselfconsious tone that comes through in spades particularly on Willow. Again, on The Meaning, Ericson draws warmth and lyricism right from the heart.
Trujillo's tenor is tough and booting, and trombonists Sebesky and LeCoque more than justify their slides on When Sunny and Ill Wind, respectively. Mariano fairly soars on I Get Along.
About the only reservation one may have is that the rhythm section leaves something to be desired. Campbell, though, does a good, workmanlike job—a difficult task—of keeping the monster moving.
But Mathieu is the real hero. He is decidedly a young man on the way up and should be watched carefully. (Listen to his work on Django and flip.) Kenton better hold on to him—and tightly—because here is one of the major arrangers of the future. (J.A.T.)
Personnel: Kenton, piano; Richie Kamuca, Lennie Niehaus, Billy Root, Sturl Swenson, Bill Trujillo, saxophones; Bud Brisebois, Joe Burnett, Frank Huggins; Roger Miffleton, Jack Sheldon, trumpets; Jim Amolotte, Kent Larden, Archie LeCoque, Bob Olson, Bill Smiley, trombones; Red Kelly, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.
Rating: ★ ★ ½
There must be a lot of bitterness and disillusionment brooding within Stan Kenton. This thinly veiled acerbity is recorded here and hangs like a thick cloud over the entire album. The problem is first stated by Kenton himself in his introduction to the album. His Pagliacci references to his repeated efforts to gain success and recognition are tragically accurate, and all point to the fact that his has been, in a large measure, music with a difference for difference's sake.
The album is pleasant and, in spots, even exciting. Tuxedo Junction actually swings, and Kenton is still a master of the dramatic impact. Bernie's Tune is accented with spectacular punches. Street Scene has an appealing arrangement, even though the tune becomes heavy. This band, like all Kenton bands, balances precariously on the wire between power and weight. Niehaus has a long, roller-coaster solo on the generally well-executed Love Affair. Although his tone and phrasing here are good, his lines ramble fairly aimlessly, building to no climax. Artistry in Rhythm, which opens and closes the album, remains the ambitious undertaking it always has been. Here it is no better or worse than the skillful, technical work that Kenton has played before.
If ever !here is needed evidence that any jazz presentation is the spitting image of its producer, I suggest this album as a case in point—aspiring, vocal, technically proficient, occasionally brilliant; yet polished and whitewashed almost to the point
Personnel: Ernie Bernhardt, Larry McGuire, Bob Rolfe, Sanford Skinner, Dalton Smith, trumpets; Jim Amlotte, Bob Fitzpatrick, Paul Heydorff, Dave Wheeler, trombones; Dwight Carver, Gordon Davison, Keith Lamotte, Gene Roland, mellophoniums; Gabe Baltazar, Sam Donahue, Wayne Dunstan, Paul Renzi, Marvin Holladay saxophones; Kenton, piano; Clive Acker, tuba; Peter Chivily, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.
Rating: (see below)
This is the first recorded sample of the new band and the new Kenton sound, and it is an auspicious debut, to be sure. As a straight, nonjazz ballad set, it rates five stars for the imaginative writing, the richness and depth of velvet brass sounds, and the over-all sensitivity of feeling for the material.
A glance at the titles should be sufficient to impart the mood and tone of the set. It is lush, romantic, and very, very relaxed. Tonally, there are moments approaching musical ecstasy as the mellophoniums rise within the arrangements, bringing to the music an effectively created feeling of rapture. Used in section this is a remarkable instrument for ballads.
While this is hardly an album for hipsters, there is much in the music that stands on merits apart from jazz.
Personnel: Kenton, piano; Ernie Bernhardt, Bud Brisebois, Conte Candoli; Bob Rolfe, Sanford Skinner, Dalton Smith, trumpets; Jim Amlotte, Bob Fitzpatrick, Jack Spurlock, Dave Wheeler, trombones; Dwight Carver, Gordon Davison, Keith Lamotte, Gene Roland, mellophonums; Gabe Baltazar, Sam Donohue, Wayne Dunstan, Marvin Holladay, Paul Renzi, saxophones; Clive Acker, tuba; Peter Chillily, bass; JerryMcKenzie, drums; George Acevedo, Latin percussion; Lou Singer, utility percussion.
Rating: ★ ★
I was physically exhausted each time I finished playing this album. Heavily arranged by Johnny Richards. Leonard Bernstein's score in the hands of the Kenton band loses whatever life and lightness it my have had. The15-piece brass section sits like a stone on the rhythm section, weighing it down, forcing it to pump instead or swing.
I suspect the nonswinging is due more to the interpretation of Richards’ arrangements than to the arrangements themselves. For example. there are some nice boppish brass figures on Cool. but instead of floating as such phrases should, they plod. And when the band quiets down, which is seldom, things almost swing.
Yet, on the other hand, Richards quite often has written too much into the score. Taunting Scene is a good example. Supposed to represent a “rumble,” according to the notes. I found the track nerve-shattering. But then, maybe that’s what a rumble does to bystanders.
There are short solos throughout the album. The best ones are by Candoli. Donohue is effective on Pretty, as is Spurlock on Taunting Scene, but Baltazar sort of goes off in four directions at once in his solos. Kenton is heard in a rather romantic mood on Tonight.
On the whole, this is a pretentious, overly dramatic effort. (D.DeM.)
Personnel : Bob Behrendt, Bud Brisbois, Bob Rolfe, Dalton Smith, Marvin Stamm, trumpets; Jim Amlotte, Bob Fitzpatrick, Newell Parker, Jack Spulock, trombones; Dwight Carver, Keith LaMotte, Gene Roland, Carl Saunders, mellophoniums; Gabe Baltazar, Sam Donahue, Wayne Dunstan, Marvin Holladay, Paul Renzi, saxophones; Kenton, piano; Keith Mitchell, bass, Jerry McKenzie, drums; George Acevedo, Latin percussion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
This attractive collection of jazz-based dance orchestrations is by far the best of the several albums the most-recent Kenton band has recorded. It sets out to be nothing more than a program of warm, moody dance music with decided jazz overtones and, as such, succeeds far more admirably than have the previous, more ambitious discs.
The pace is unhurried, the playing relaxed and sure, and the dark-hued orchestrations Lennie Niehaus has provided are warm, supple, and sensuous. The arrangements, moreover, emphasize very successfully the somber, autumnal quality the mellophonium section can impact.
The band does complete justice to the scores, blending well, shading nicely, and building to effective climaxes. The intonation problems that plagued the band previously seem to be completely licked here. The ripe, full sound the band gets suggests awesome power carefully under control which is indeed the case.
In short, a superior dance-ballad collection. (P.W.)
Personnel: Dalton Smith, Bob Behrendt, Marv Stamm, Bob Rolfe, Norman Baltazar, trumpets; Bob Fitzpatrick, Dee Barton, Newell Parker, Jim Amlotte, Dave Wheeler, trombones; Ray Starling, Dwight Carver, Keith LaMotte, Carl Saunders, mellophoniums; Gabe Baltazar, Buddy Arnold, Sam Donahue, Paul Renzi, Joel Kay, saxophones; Pat Senatore, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.
Rating: ★ ★
Kenton always has had an affinity for bombast, but his bands have also recorded some notable music: the LP with Young Blood and My Lady (Capitol 383) is one of the finest modern big-band albums ever
cut. Unfortunately, this session seems to be devoted to cacophony.
Turtle Talk by Dee Barton is an interesting dissonant composition, but the screaming ensemble figures that separate and interrupt the soloists make the performance virtually a self-parody. Malaguena has little to recommend it. Body, a feature for Donahue, begins quietly enough but builds to a tastelessly frantic climax.
Of the soloists, Stamm and Gabe Baltazar are the most impressive. (H.P.)
ADVENTURES IN TIME—Capitol 1844; Commencement; Quintile; Artemis; 3x3x2x2x2=72; March to Polaris; Septum from Antares; Artemis and Apollo; Apercu.
PersonneI: Dalton Smith, Gary Slavo, Bob Behrendt, Marv Stamm, Keith LaMoue, trumpets; Bob Fitzpatrick, Newell Parker, Tom Ringo, Jim Amlote, trombones; Ray Starling, Dwight Carver, Joe Burnett, Lou Gasca, mellophoniums; Dave Wheeler, tuba ; Gabe Baltazar, Don Menza, Ray Florian, Allan Beutler, Joel Kaye, saxophones; Kenton, piano; Bucky Calabrese, bass; Dee Barton, drums; Steve Dweck, percussion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Following the initiatives of Max Roach, Dave Brubeck, et al, Johnny Richards has jumped on the odd-time-signature bandwagon with an ambitious eight-part concerto or orchestra. As is invariably the case with Richards, the writing is brilliant. the voicing skillful, and the craftsmanship impeccable.
Thematically, the work at times is strangely reminiscent of early Kenton of the Rugolo and even pre-Rugolo eras. The orchestration, too, has some of the fulminous quality often associated with this band in its definitive years. The main difference , of course , lies in the instrumentation. A 14-piece brass section is a mighty load for any band to carry.
The band, in fact, seems to have been operating in recent years somewhat like a limbo dancer. Just as the dancer has to wiggle through under a pole placed ever lower, so the Kenton orchestra has to swing under conditions gradually proscribed by bigger sounds, more complex charts, and now awkward time signatures.
I find it very hard to believe that 7/4, for instance, is a natural, logical, or desirable meter for jazz. Like any time signature, it can be used effectively for occasional contrast, but between the 7/4 and 5/4 and 3/4 and 6/8 passages here, it becomes difficult at times to tell where “1” is.
Similarly, one cannot get a clear picture of the solo talent; soon after an individual begins to take over, he is swallowed by walls of trumpets and mellophoniums and trombones and saxophones. Nevertheless, there are a couple of admirable passages by Gabe Baltazar's alto, and some attractive work by mellophoniumist Ray Starling on 3x3x2x2x2. The soloist who stands out best is Kenton himself. His brooding, full-chorded style is well showcased in Artemis, a pretty theme that achieves at times a vaguely Claude Thornhillish mood.
By and large, of course, this being a concerto for orchestra, section and ensemble sounds dominate; to quote the liner notes, "huge blocks of sound encompass the listener…” and “Baltazar's note-lashing alto speaks out determinedly against the urgency of the horn-dominated brass section…” Against these odds, however Baltazar has to withdraw.
Despite the noted gravity problems, this is one of the Kenton band’s more intriguing albums, as one can usually expect when Richards’ pen is involved. For those mainly concerned with swinging and with blowing, this may be a 2½- to 3-star set; for students of orchestration and mass-scale experimentation, it deserves at least four; hence a compromise rating. (L.G.F.)
ADVENTURES IN TIME — Capitol 1844.
Rating : no rating
Kenton and composer Johnny Richards ought to receive credit for the year's most novel LP idea: a do-it-yourself movie scenario kit. Just put this disc on the turntable, sit back, and work up your own movie plot. All during this “concerto,” for example, I was envisioning this rocket ship forced off its course by a strong gravitational pull and made to land on an eerie, desolate, uncharted planet. The crew members, exploring the chilling, alien landscape, are surprised and taken prisoners by a band of androids who are armed with rayguns and taken to the court of the statuesque Amazonian chick who rules the planet. She, of course, is dressed in this gold lame toga and wears a metallic head-dress emblazoned with some sort of cabalistic design. She's got eyes for the rocket ship, captain, and…you take it.
The Kenton band executes with considerable expertise the faintly exotic material Richards has concocted, but in the main it seems just so much misspent energy for all concerned. Other than as an exercise in different time signatures (5/4, 9/8, 7/4, etc.), there would appear to be neither rhyme nor reason for this extended “suite.” The charts are pointless, flatulent, ponderous melanges of effects that serve no purpose and no apparent musical ends.
It's all bluff and bravado—Kenton at his most pretentiously trying. (P.W.)
Pete Welding. "Record Review. Adventures in Time." Down Beat. 23 May 1963. 25.
Personnel: Dalton Smith, Bud Brisbois, Conte Candoli. Bob Behrendt, Bob Rolfe, trumpets; Bob Fitzpatrick, Kent Larsen. Gilbert Falco, trombones; Dave Wheeler, Jim Amlotte, bass trombones: Dwight Carver, Joe Burnett, Bob Crull, Tony Scodwell, mellophoniums; Gabe Baltazar, alto saxophone; Steve Marcos, Ray Florian, tenor saxophones; Jack Nimitz, baritone Saxophone; Joel Kaye, bass saxophone; Kenton, piano; Don Bagley, bass; Dee Barton, drums; Frank Guerrero, Milt Holland, Latin percussion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Kenton's venture into bossa nova might at first glance. seem to be a measure of desperation—every time he seems to run out of ideas for a record he has a habit of re-examining those hits from the ‘40s on which he built his popular reputation. He has redone them in high fidelity and stereo, with strings, and now in bossa nova. And, by and large, the results this time are surprisingly satisfying. The old Kenton melodies adapt readily to a bossa nova backing, particularly Interlude, Artistry in Rhythm, and. unexpectedly, Eager Beaver. Moreover, the very nature of the tunes and the rhythmic setting imposes a sense of shading on the band that has been glaringly absent from the post-'40s Kenton works.
This version of the Kenton band proves that it is quite capable of varying its levels with sensitivity. The result is a feeling of warmth, of human beings at work, that one has missed in most of the mechanical and torrential sounds that have roared out of the Kenton crew in the last decade. The combination of bossa nova and a big band is not always felicitous but even though Kenton's rhythm section sometimes becomes a bit heavy in this context. the arrangements break down to piano and rhythm or what is essentially a small group and rhythm to such a great extent that the rhythm section is usually able to bold to proper airiness.
Personnel: Dalton Smith, Marv Stamm, Bob Behrendt, Bob Rolfe, Norman Baltazar, trumpets; Bob Fitzpatrick, Dee Barton, Newell (Bud) Parker, Dave Wheeler, Jim Amlotte, trombones; Dwight Carver, Keith LaMotte, Ray Starling, Carl Saunders, Gene Roland, mellophoniums; Gabe Baltazar, Buddy Arnold, Paul Renzi, Allan Beutler, Joel Kaye, Roland, reeds; Kenton, piano; Pat Senatore, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Kenton takes a back seat on this date to his long-time sideman, Gene Roland. Roland has written all the arrangements and is the chief soloist, his boss appearing prominently only on Ghost. The label credits the arranger with the composition of all the tunes, too, though the lead-off tune is actually a steal of that old folk song Reuben, Reuben.
Reuben illustrates the primary flaw of this recording: the rigidity and predictability of the music, as if every phrase were slide-ruled carefully beforehand and, aside from the solos, not a single note left to chance. For instance, Roland uses the device on Reuben of a two-beat tattoo to punctuate the end of the first eight bars of the melody. It is very effective at first, but the novelty wears thin after six times, and the formula is always the same: eight bars, boom-boom, then four bars out. Roland's soprano saxophone interlude is the only break in the orchestral scoring. More generally, the pieces do not have much of a blues feeling.
Yet the music is pretty, in the best sense of the word. If Roland does not allow much room for individual freedom, he has nevertheless written some lovely melodies whose moods his arrangements sustain with great effectiveness.
Aphrodisia, Dragonwyck, and Ghost are particularly rich performances. Ghost features a Kenton solo that is startlingly suggestive of Dave Brubeck, reminiscent especially of Brubeck's work on Audrey and Makin' Time of a few years back. To continue what is perhaps a strained analogy, Roland himself sounds like a soprano Paul Desmond, even to some of his phrasing. He, like Desmond, plays with a distinctive liquid lyricism.
Despite Roland's contemporary approach to his own instrument, his orchestral thinking seems rooted essentially in the 1940s (note particularly Stage Left, Formula, Fitz). The sound of the instruments is, of course, in the modern mode, but the section voicings seem to stem mainly from the postwar era.
Three other soloists make brief appearances: trumpeter Stamm and trombonists Barton and Fitzpatrick, to whom Roland dedicated Fitz. All acquit themselves well.
Heavy with brass, the various Kenton bands have performed a large body of music composed specifically for Kenton’s organizations, including several attempts at extended composition. Kenton has championed certain composers (Pete Rugolo and Bob Graettinger) and causes (Latin-influenced jazz) in the face of sometimes heated criticism. But no matter what his turn of mind at any given moment, Kenton always has hired excellent jazzmen to work in his—men such as Art Pepper, Charlie Mariano, Bud Shank, Lee Konitz, Bill Perkins, Zoot Sims, Conte Candoli, Maynard Ferguson, Ray Wetzel, Frank Rosolino, Kai Winding, Eddie Safranski, Shelly Manne, and Mel Lewis.
The album listed consists of remakes of several of his most popular recorded performances: Artistry in Rhythm, Interlude, Intermission Riff, Minor Riff, Collaboration, Painted Rhythm, Southern Scandal, The Peanut Vendor, Eager Beaver, Concerto to End All Concertos, Artistry in Boogie, Lover, and Unison Riff. They were re-recorded in 1956. Soloists include tenorist Vido Musso, who was with the band from 1945 to ‘47 and who re-created some of his earlier solos; trombonist Milt Bernhart; trumpeters Ferguson and Sam Noto; and altoist Lennie Niehaus.
It is perhaps the most typical Kenton record currently available.
Further recommendations: Some performances by Herman’s second Herd, including Early Autumn and Lemon Drop, are in The Hits of Woody Herman (Capitol 1554), which also contains samplings of a later Herman band with such musicians as bass trumpeter Cy Touff and tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca.
Though less typical of the Kenton approach than the recommended album, Contemporary Concepts (Capitol 666) and Concert in Progressive Jazz (Capitol 172) are better musically. The first-named is a 1955 collection made up mostly of standard tunes, arranged by Bill Holman, and features good solos by various members of the band, including altoist Mariano and tenorist Perkins. The Concert LP, cut in 1947, has original material by Rugolo and Graettinger and includes such titles as Elegy for Alto, Lament, Thermopolae, Impressionism, and Monotony. Pepper is particularly impressive on the tracks that feature his alto.
KENTON/WAGNER—Capitol 2217: Ride of the Valkyries; Siegfried’ s Funeral March from Goetterdaemmerung; Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin; Prelude to Act Ill of Lohengrin; Prelude to Tristan and Isolde; Love-Death from Tristan and Isolde; Wedding March from Lohengrin; Pilgrims’ Chorus from Tannhaeuser.
Personnel: Unidentified orchestra, Kenton, conductor, piano, arranger.
Rating: ★ ½
Kenton’s Neophonic Orchestra (presumably very similar in personnel to the ensemble heard here) has been serving a function of value during the last three months by acting as a clearing house for new performances of new works. Some have succeeded musically, and others have seemed to be of less significance; but at least they were given a hearing, and some stimulating, often exciting music was presented to a large and receptive audience.
Secondarily, the orchestra has been presenting reshapings of earlier works. The writers in these instances have included Pete Rugolo, two of whose pieces associated with earlier Kenton ventures were reintroduced; and two or three other alumni returning to the fold. To this list must now be added the name of a composer not previously represented in any Kenton library, that of Richard Wagner (1813-1883), whose works have been arranged by Kenton himself.
This clearly represented a challenge, and if one judges the results in terms of musical skill, he can be said to have succeeded.
These sides include, at several points, some of the most intricate, technically adroit, and expertly orchestrated work Kenton has ever done. What is open to question is the a priori assumption on his part that a project of this nature had some inherent validity.
The reaction to the sound of Wagner’s music a century later falls somewhat short of universal or unanimous satisfaction. For all its masterly ingenuity, it seems too often to Jack a basic warmth; very often one finds this transmitted in the Kenton reshapings of some of Wagner’s best-known works.
The Valkyries starts with a promising introductory touch by the leader and unison figures that augur a significant mood, but as soon as the theme itself enters, everything seems to fall apart. In terms of intensity, the track starts at the top and tries to escalate its way from here.
Kenton plays a long, ominous introduction to the Funeral March, which turns out to be a colorful orchestration with very few essential qualities that are not of the Wagner era—if one excepts the occasional accented use of a flatted third in a couple of unison-reed runs.
The Act I Prelude has a touch of pizzicato bass behind the music-box piano. At last one hears some tempo, but there is a lackluster quality to some of the reed work. The performance builds, how- ever, with considerable melodramatic effect, into an old-line Kenton finale.
The Act Ill Prelude opens brightly and makes extensive use of bongos for excitement. The possibilities that may have been latent in Kenton’s over-all concept are hinted at here, but the trouble lies in the theme itself, or rather in what time bas done to it. A melody that once was bold and heroic now suggests silent-movie music and a scene in which the heroine is being dragged to the railroad track by her hair. Time can do this to almost any music; it has done it already to a great deal of early jazz.
The Tristan and Isolde tracks are impressive illustrations of Kenton’s skill, particularly in his voicings and shadings for brass.
The Prelude bas a short passage of solo trombone, playing straight melody—the nearest thing to improvisation in the whole album. The Love-Death mounts to a staggering volume but has touches of early Kenton in some moments of reed writing.
The gloomy Wedding March is not the sort of treatment I would select for my daughter’s nuptials unless she contemplated a quick divorce.
The closing Pilgrims’ Chorus uses bongos again and is dynamically furious, with an effective finale reminiscent of 1950 Kenton.
To sum up, Kenton has achieved a tour de force here. The performance is as expert as the playing. What falls short of success is the original conception. There is a plodding, Germanically pompous sound to much of Wagner’s work that seems to be at odds with the kind of renovation Kenton seems to have had in mind.
Since Kenton’s name has been indelibly associated with jazz, inevitably a comparison comes to mind. A few years ago Duke Ellington recorded an album of Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and a full side of Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. The themes were used in most cases as a base for the expression of individual styles—not just the writing styles of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn but the blowing styles of the sidemen. No violence was done to the composers’ works, because the use of a new idiom necessitated a new frame of reference in evaluating the results.
In the case of Kenton/ Wagner no such attempt has been made.
There is very little that could be called jazz, by any standards, anywhere in the album, and virtually no improvisation As a result, much of what is heard seems to fall into a no-man’s land from which the literal disciplines of the original Wagner concert music and the essential improvisatory freedom of jazz are both absent.
A more meaningful end might have been accomplished either by going all the way in a new direction, as Ellington did, or by leaving everything just as it was in the first place. There is not much that is “neophonic” about Wagner per se and not enough that is neophonic about what happens to Wagner throughout these often arid sides.
One star for good intentions, another half-star for good performance. Let Kenton return to playing Kenton. (L.G.F.)
Personnel : Dalton Smith, Gary Barone, Ron Ossa, Frank Huggins, Ollie Mitchell, trumpets; Bob Fitzpatrick, Gil Falco, Vern Friley, trombones; Jim Amlotte, bass trombone; Vince DeRosa, Bill Hinshaw, Richard Perissi, John Cave, Arthur Maebo, French horns; John Bambridge, tuba; Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Don Lodice, Bill Perkins, John Lowe, reeds; Claude Williamson, piano: Emil Richards, vibraharp: John Worster, bass; Dennis Budimir, guitar, Nick Ceroli, drums; Frank Carlson, percussion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★
When one thinks of Kenton, one sees a man of great charm, of musical integrity, sincerity, and with a flair for the dramatic.
He has always been associated with musical endeavors that had dignity and class, and the works performed by this orchestra are no exception. These highly competent musicians and composers have turned out some well-written, workmanlike pieces interweaving classical forms with jazz rhythms. However one categorizes it, this music is well played and engrossing.
On the first side, there are three pieces, Fanfare by Hugo Montenegro, Prelude and Fugue by Johnny Williams, and Passacaglia and Fugue by Allyn Ferguson.
I found Williams’ piece particularly appealing, perhaps because, as the notes say, Williams had a definite image in mind, one with which I, too, can identify: the late Claude Thornhill. And Williams shows the affection and respect he has for Claude in the music. It suggests stylistically the great arrangements made by Gil Evans for Thornhill years ago, and he achieves this without being obvious or derivative. The soft, insistently recurring theme creates a mood that is both thoughtful and tender.
Much of the music in this album, however, seems to consist of somewhat conventional material. There's something rather safe about it. But it is beautifully recorded and played, and there are some outstanding soloists, notably Shank, who solos on almost every selection with his usual impeccable taste and sensitivity.
Adventure in Emotions by Russ Garcia is an interesting idea. Though rather stylized, it has some imaginative moments and some excitement. The composition’s section called Pathos sounds more like anguish. Anger predictably shows itself in the guise of loud drum and tympani effects. (Drummers have a lot to answer for; in these mood pieces, they are usually called upon to portray some excess of feeling, and they do it quite well.) Tranquility I found an imaginative section, one highlighting a beautiful trumpet solo by Barone. Joy comes skipping in with a glad feeling, like children running free, with hops and skips…but mischief rather than joy. Some humor here…The Games People Play set to music! Love and Hate: love gives way to hate rather early in the game. As the drums crash and thunder, then comes the haunting recapitulation by Shank, returning to the Love theme, quite beautifully done.
In Music for an Unwritten Play, by Jimmy Knight, I thought there were some Thornhillish moments too. Again there's a solo by Shank, giving the piece moments of added beauty.
Much praise should go to Kenton for organizing a thoroughly worthwhile project, by surrounding himself with talented musicians and composers, and giving them free rein. (M.McP.)
Personnel: Mike Price, Jim Karthner, Carl Leach, John Madrid, Jay Daversa, trumpets; Dick Shearer, Tom Whittaker. Tom Senff, Jim Amlotte, trombone; Graham Ellis, tuba; Ray Reed, Mike Altschul, Kim Richmond. Mike Vaccaro, Earle Dumler. reeds; Kenton, piano; Don Bagley, bass; Barton, drums.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
The first thing that impresses one in this album is the playing of Dee Barton, despite the fact that his writing is what’s being touted. Although Barton began his career as a trombonist, he is so thoroughly a drummer now that his charts reflect his percussive thinking. He instinctively and pulsatingly leaves the gaps that can only be filled by drum flurries, or else his melodic lines are such that they lend themselves to rhythmic doubling. It's most effective, but in the process, he has injected the current Kenton bag with a somewhat foreign flavor. Frankly, it doesn't sound like a Kenton aggregation; it approximates Rich or Bellson—muscular groups pushed from behind rather than led from out front.
But that’s not criticism—merely comment. Within this atypical framework, there are exciting pages of ensemble togetherness, moments of free-form flirtation, a good cross-section of orchestral moods, and above all, showcases for the band’s outstanding soloists: trumpeter Jay Daversa and reedman Ray Reed.
Too bad that no other soloists were heard from. Daversa enhances every track; Reed is heard on all but two. As remarkable as they are, it’s a bit unfair. The only other strands of sound that can be separated for purposes of crediting are Bagley’s authoritative bass lines and Mike Price’s fine screech work on Man.
The tracks that how Barton’s writing skill at its best are Three Thoughts and Woman. Thoughts range from a dignified opening statement to some driving pedal points that provide excellent foundation for Daversa and Reed, and tight, concerted voicings, reprised by broad polyphonic statements. Woman shows a swinging playfulness, muted trumpet and flute engaging in a tricky dialog. A New Day has the old Kenton trademark of rich trombone clusters, plus hauntingly beautiful solo statements by Daversa. Dilemma has the toughest orchestral fabric. Its momentum is assured by Reed’s frenetic solo and his and Daversa’s free sorties within some well-controlled orchestral comping.
Personnel: Mike Vax, Joe Ellis. Jim Kartchner, Dennis Noday, Warren Gale, trumpets; Dick Shearer, Mike Jamieson, Fred Carter, Tom Bridges, trombones; Graham Ellis, bass trombone, tuba; Quinn Davis, Richard Torres, Norm Smith. Willie Maiden, Jim Timlin, reeds; Kenton. piano; Gary Todd, bass, electric bass; Baron John Von Ohlen, drums; Efrain Longer, Latin percussion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The big band scene in the past decade has unwittingly resembled the political arena—every four years a “new” candidate throws his cats into the ring. 1962 was the renaissance year for Woody Herman and 1966 saw the birth of three remarkable bands, those of Buddy Rich, Don Ellis, and Thad Lewis. To further this hypothesis we need a band for 1970-71. And, by jove, here comes Stan Kenton.
Yes, Stan Kenton. My proclamation isn’t based entirely on this excellent, white- hot double album. I've beard the band in person twice recently-events that not only precipitated reverse withdrawal symptoms for this LP but also convinced 1hat this record is no fluke. Kenton has dropped a megaton bomb this time and the shock waves are only beginning to be felt. A big band freak as freaky as I should probably be numb to new stimuli by now, having frequently basked in the rays of Ellington, Basic, Herman, Rich, Ellis and Jones- Lewis. But even the jaded occasionally experience new thrills and if any phenomenon can engender new thrills it’s music. At least that’s my opinion and in my opinion this is a landmark Kenton LP.
In this day of corporate conglomeropoly, mergers, and similar umbilicals, Kenton”s recent declaration of independence comes as a breath of fresh air. He’s taken his legendary iconoclasm a step further by leaving the womb of Capitol and establishing his own label. No more Hair, no more Finian's Rainbou—just straight-ahead big band music by a straight-ahead band-leader who will know no more detours.
This LP reflects the advantages of that turnabout. There’s no trash here, no Top 40 trifles. If there’s an easy-listening title aboard it’s because it has paid its own way. There are several here—Rainy Day and MacArthur Park (arranged by Dee Barton), Didn’t We (Willie Maiden) and Hey Jude (Steve Spiegl). The presence of these tunes, for once, fails to conjure up the image of the snake oil salesman-jazzman trying to convince that, at last, jazz and pop have been married to the esthetic satisfaction of all.
It’s axiomatic that you can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps. Kenton has here an all-star cast of unknowns—a spirited outfit short on experience compared to Ellington-Basie counterparts but long on talent and enthusiasm. The band isn’t always precision personified but that is not the jazz ultimate anyway. This is a versatile crew that roars, swings, but mostly communicates.
On these tracks, the Kenton express has left nostalgia on a siding for the most part. You’ll hear the cry of the Peanut Vendor, but he’s too much a part of the legend to be totally ignored. The trumpets aren't as clean on it as on past recordings but the rhythm section cooks and Shearer’s trombone evokes the sidewalks of Guadalajara. Artistry in Rhythm? It’s aboard, too, but what bandleader hasn’t managed to sneak in his theme occasionally. If it’s worth having as a theme, it’s worth recording. Why hide it?
Minor Booze, a wry Maiden original reminiscent of his writing for the Maynard Ferguson band circa 1958, demonstrates the relaxed side of the band. It also introduces main soloists Davis and Gale and the muscular verve that is Von Ohlen’s hallmark.
Chiapas is indicative of the band's concert-styled charts and is also the best piece of music here. It’s written by Hank Levy, by now a familiar figure to followers of Don Ellis, and it’s a masterpiece. It opens with the strong, passacaglia-styled acoustic bass work of Todd, and is followed by dramatic brass swells. Shearer delivers the attractive melody and later there are bluesy ascending trumpet figures, another hypnotic bass pattern delivered this time on electric bass, and inspired solo work by Davis and Gale. A beautiful chart highlighted by sensitive ensemble work.
Tiare, Tico, and Granada also qualify under the concert banner and each has its merits. Tiare, a Ken Hanna original, is an ethereal, introspective theme enhanced by a lovely spot for Shearer’s trombone. Tico, by Holman, is a frenetic Latin exercise notable for shimmering brass work and the non-stop rhythm section work of Todd, Von Ohlen, and Logreira. Granada, also arranged by Holman, features the trumpet pyrotechnics of Gale and screech man Kartchner.
The more familiar material runs the gamut from a dirge-like Rainy Day (rich trombone pyramids, poignant reeds, building brass) to an inventive Didn’t We (an intriguing orchestral collage by Maiden featuring simultaneous improvisation, straight-ahead cooking, effective use of tuba, and Ferguson-style lead brass work near the end) to a wild Hey Jude that contains a long, free-styled tenor solo by Torres. MacArthur Park is the most exciting of the lot, though. After a tranquil part 1 (flutes on the theme, a cappella vocal by the band) comes a scintillating part 2—a hair-raising trumpet tour de force driven like mad by 1he rhythm section.
Terry Talk (dedicated to the Mumbles side of Clark Terry) is a misnomer as performed here. Featured vocalist-trumpeter Joe Ellis is much closer to Richard Boone than Terry but he gets in a fine plunger-muted spot between vocals. But this is something that can’t be brought off convincingly every night and I’ve heard Ellis do it much better in person.
Any team, and his band is a team, has to be strong down the middle and Kenton has several most valuable players. AItoist Davis is a fantastic musician—a lead man of style and taste and a soloist of imagination and conviction. At limes he sounds like Lennie Niehaus, Art Pepper, Phil Woods, et al., but mostly he sounds good. Lead trombonist Shearer (heard to advantage on Richard and several other tracks) is obviously inspired by the extrovert lead trombonist of all time, Bob Fitzpatrick, and lead trumpeter Vax can handle anything the varied, challenging Kenton repertoire demands.
The rhythm section is a special treat. Todd does yeoman work on acoustic and electric bass and Logreira is one of the few Latin percussionists I've heard who is more of an asset than a liability. Big band drumming is dominated by the over-40 set but Von Ohlen is also a giant of the genre—a veritable monster. His time is impeccable, his fills exciting and original, and be gives the bend an authoritative lilt at all times.
Stan Kenton has certainly left his mark on big bands and his ongoing reputation as a jazz educator is surely evidence of his concern for tomorrow's music. But the best testimonial to this futuristic figure is this band. In an age where the younger generation lends no energy to endeavors not wholly believed in, judging from the sound here and the dedication witnessed on the bandstand, this band believes the hell out of Stan Kenton. —Szantor
Personnel: Mike Vax, Gary Pack, Joe Marcinkiewicz, Jay Saunders, Dennis Noday, trumpets; Dick Shearer, Fred Carter, Mike Jamieson, Mike Wallace, Graham Ellis, trombones; Quin Davis, Richard Torres, Kim Frizell, Willie Maiden, Chuck Carte, reeds; Kenton, piano; Gary Todd, bass; John Von Ohlen, drums; Ramon Lopez, Latin percussion.
Rating: ★ ★★ ★★ / ★ ★★ ★
This is Kenton’s second double-album release (not counting reissues) on his Creative World label. It is absolutely top notch and much more varied in fare and polished in performance than the prior At Redlands Univ. LP.
The band has grown and with a relatively stable personnel situation, the ever-constant flow of new material has been not only well-digested but refined to a rare degree. A note about the ratings: Sides one and four get the five. Sides two and three are also very good but the material (mainly Hank Levy’s The Opener and One Step Beyond: Ken Hanna’s Bogota) somewhat less compelling. Rhapsody, featuring Carter and Rest of Your Life, featuring altoist Davis, account for most of the rating on those sides.
Though not as lively as most of the Redlands LP, the ensemble work here is, for the most part, incredible. The brass are most improved and lead trumpeter Vax is outstanding in execution if a bit stiff in conception. This was a one-night concert, no retakes—making the precision all the more remarkable.
The ensemble cohesion, though, is the biggest improvement. The sections are listening to and blending with each other, and the mighty rhythm section, paced by stalwart drummer Von Ohlen, is stronger than ever and the horns and the rhythm section have been welded much closer together.
On Bill Holman’s Malalga, Von Ohlen’s amazing drum energy nearly steals the show. But very much in the picture is Richard Torres, who distinguishes himself with a very lucid solo. He just might be the heaviest tenor to arrive via a big band context since Sa! Nistico. Trumpeter Noday contributes a strong solo—one of the tastiest and most well-directed high-not excursions yet heard.
Macumba is an unusual work—an ambitious and evocative suite by longtime Kenton contributor/confidant Hanna. It’s good—there’s excitement and some of the freest Kent on yet heard—but I dug the more restrained and melodic moments best. This is Johnny Richards country, so to speak—and the residency requirements are quite high. Though the band is extra fine here, culling this complex work with sensitivity and aplomb, I found about two-thirds of Macumba tedious and/or contrived. I alternately like it and dislike it.
Hanna hits the bullseye, though. with Rest of Your Life, which shifts from ballad tempo to a surging, romping trampoline base for Davis’ inspired alto solo—perhaps his best yet on record. Kenton’s piano, long overlooked (how about that solo album?), is to the fore here. He has a delightful touch and seems to cradle the melody in his hands while sifting and probing for the ultimate nuances. Nicely done, Stanley!
My favorite composition is Maiden’s clever, complex yet swinging Kaleidoscope—a well-integrated piece—the work of a true master. Trumpeter Pack a since-departed but very talented jazz soloist, gets off a deft solo here. Maiden’s Fool, an expanded revisiting of a chart written for the old Maynard Ferguson sextet, is lovely and graceful and offers some of the author’s airy, wistful baritone, of which more should be heard. Maiden is also responsible for the moving Love Story.
Caner’s solo showcase on Rhapsody (scored by Bill Holman) is a virtual textbook of virile, imaginative, yet tender baritone ballad playing—a demanding art. With beautiful sound and no wasted motion, he authors to my ears the best such playing since Gerry Mulligan’s solo on Manoir de Mes Reves (Django’s Castle) from The Concert Jazz Band LP of 1960.
This, then, is the imprint of a very together band at one of its peak periods. The “compatible quadriphonic” recording is superb —pure and direct. And Creative World, incidentally, is not your ordinary garden variety mail order schtick. All of the releases thus far releases included) have been very well recorded, functionally packaged and all pertinent date are included. —szanter
Personnel: Kenton, solo plano
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This beautifully recorded set of piano solos ought to be accessible even to those who find Kenton's orchestral concepts resistible and will have special appeal to lovers of the expansive, unabashedly romantic approach to music. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), Kenton's touch, voicing of chords and general harmonic orientation frequently have something in common with Duke Ellington (I think especially of the Ellington of pieces like New York City) Blues). The fact that both men are big band pianists and composers arrangers with an orchestral conception of the piano might well have some bearing on the matter.
But I don't mean to carry the comparison—or rather, suggestion of kinship—too far. Rhythmically, the two are poles apart; besides, Kenton is very much his own man here, and for listeners who care for his music, his reflective keyboard essays on a number of familiar pieces will be Intriguing and revealing.
There are also several compositions not associated with the orchestra, and these include some that, to me, are high points of the album: Pete Rugolo's charming Lush Waltz, the aptly named Reflection; and the nearly five minutes of Blues, not unexpectedly the most jazz based.
With the exception of this latter track, and the glimpse of Joe in Self Portrait, there is rarely a definite rhythmic pulse; rather, most of the playing Is rubato. Gently tinged with nostalgia, these lyrical piano reflections are Kenton without pomp and circumstance; a warm, intimate glimpse of a dedicated and sincere musician at ease.
Personnel: John Harner, Dave Zeagler, Mike Barrowman, Mike Snustead, Kevin Jordan, trumpets; Dick Shearer, Lloyd Spoon, Brent Stamps. Bill Hartman, trombones; Mike Wallace, tuba; Tony Campise, Rich Condit, Greg Smith, Dick Wilkie. Roy Reynolds, saxes; Kenton, piano; Mike Ross, bass; Peter Erskine, drums; Ramon Lopez, percussion.
★ ★ ★
Kenton has come forth with another striking and painstaking piece of big band craftsmanship in what is partially a salute to Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Chicago. It Is hard to imagine a group or 17 superb musicians surpassing the standards of quality that Kenton has reached with this ensemble. So why will I probably never listen to it again after I finish this review?
For one thing. I don't believe it swings. It concertises, but it doesn't really swing. It explodes with sound and fury. But it doesn't swing. It challenges. But it doesn't swing. Perhaps that's not its intent. It's dealing, after aII, with rock, and rock never swung in any real jazz sense. Yet. Kenton's band Is a jazz ensemble, so one might expect more of a jazz feeling.
For another thing, there is nothing truly distinctive about the band. As one or the bare handful of ensembles occupying the pantheon of orchestral excellence today, it seems to have lost its identity somewhere. It sounds like an outstanding studio band playing anther pretentious, overweighted, with-it arrangement This is the risk a man like Kenton (or Herman or Rich in his band days) runs, a man who's always looking to tomorrow and unwilling to make a large Investment in an identifiable tradition (Duke. Basie, Harry James).
Cannon is an impressive opening coda that goes nowhere in particular. Then there's Mother, all things considered, the best chart of the LP. There's some exciting dueling between Shearer and Stamps and some engaging work from the reed section, although brief. It's one of the few points in the program, in fact, where one realizes there is a reed section in the band. Once Upon A Time is spare and moody, featuring a whiff of Kenton before building up to a brassy climax. Drummer Erskine Is heavily featured on Free, although the mix lets him dominate the band throughout most of the LP. Fugue opens with an ominous bass chord that could have rumbled from the pen of Bernard Herrmann. Campise's solo is a honking free-blowing mish-mash undoubtedly portraying the “fall” of the piece.
Although the band is capable or anything. the soloists, most of whom have probably matured under rock influence, seem to have lost touch with such qualities as subtlety, nuance, swing and form. —McDonough
Personnel Kenton, piano; Terry Layne, Roy Reynolds, Dave Sova, Greg Metcalf, Alan Yankee, Bill Fritz, reeds; Jay Sollenberger, Dave Kennedy, Steve Campos. Joe Casano, Tim Hagans, trumpets; Dick Shearer, Mike Egan, Jeff Vusitalo, Allan Morrissey, Douglas Purviance, trombones; John Worster, acoustic and electric bass; Gary Hobbs, drums, Ramon Lopez, Latin percussion.
★ ★ ★ ★
As his latest album attests, Stan Kenton at 65 is still going strong. Having just recently passed that milestone post, the while-thatched band leader maintains a whirlwind schedule of concert and club dates, frequently performing at shopping malls and community centers before audiences seldom exposed to jazz. Indeed, Kenton has made his mark as much through education as performance; his band has spawned as many college instructors as renowned players. Since 1966 Stan has annually conducted hundreds of clinics and workshops throughout the country and his band of recent years has been a showcase for young talent. Here his present youthful ensemble manages to preserve the classic Kenton sound in up-to-date arrangements by Mark Taylor, Alan Yankee and the redoubtable Hank Levy. Contemporary material by Stevie Wonder and Chick Corea is adapted with remarkable compatibility to the overall band concept.
Wonder's Too Shy To Say opens with Kenton himself in fine pianistic fettle as the band proceeds to make the tune its own. The same swinging feeling permeates the entire session, combining all the hallmarks of the Kenton legacy—Latin rhythms, driving traps, progressive harmonies, sharp dynamics, sonorous horns and strong solo work—in a festive, mostly uptempo blend. The culmination is an extended treatment of Corea's Celebration Suite; the affinities between the musics of old master and young are manifestly evident and bespeak the continuity of the progressive tradition to the present day. Not the least of the album's virtues is the clarity of the recording, courtesy once again of Kenton's own Creative World label.—Birnbaum