Metronome

Performance Reviews

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George T Simon. "Spanier, Kenton Bands Draw Raves." Metronome. November 1941. 14, 46.
Young Coast Crew Packs Wallop; Arrangements and Beat Point Towards Sensational Future

STAN KENTON (A-3)

STAN KENTON and his Orchestra. Reviewed at the Casino, Balboa Beach, California.

Saxes: (1) Jack Ordean, (2) Red Doris, (3) Bill Laney, (4) Ted Romersa, (5) Bob Gioga. Trumpets: (1) Frank Beach, (2) Chico Alvarez, (3) Earl Collier. Trombones: (1) Dick Cole, (2) Harry Forbes. Guitar: Al Costi. Bass: Howard Rumsey. Drums: Marvin George. Vocals: Terry Harlyn and Red Doris. Leader and piano: Stan Kenton.

t’s little wonder that this Stan Kenton band has been causing such tremendous talk in the far west—talk that has finally begun to filter through to the east with so much pressure that managers of places like the Famous Door and Meadowbrook are already beginning to tell you what great business this young outfit’s going to do for them.

But it isn’t all “talk” that’s done all this, either. It’s music, darned good music. More specifically, it’s jazz, and great jazz at that. For within the Stan Kenton band nestles one of the greatest combinations of rhythm, harmony and melody that’s ever been assembled under one leader.

Kenton, himself, is chiefly responsible. He’s the lad who has arranged for the band’s distinction. That distinction revolves around the unique manuscripts that have poured from his pen and around the consequent interpretations thereof, they also being guided by Stan.

Besides producing some astounding voicings (which, one arranger admitted, scared the wits out of him), the Kenton saxes provide a great part of the tremendously energetic boot this outfit gives just about everything it plays. The attack of the reeds, their slight anticipations, their infinitesimal sharp-shooting at the true value of notes-modern conceptions like that make for a rhythmic barrage (and a style, too) that’s likely to knock you clear into the next room.

The reed quintet, of course, is aided immeasurably by the powerful, three-piece rhythm section, which spots a tremendous [sic] bassist in Howard Rumsey, who plays an electric instrument, by the way, a strong guitarist in Al Costi and a potent drummer in Marvin George. It’s an even more formidable section when abetted by Kenton’s piano, but that abettation thereto takes place very seldom. More of that later, though.

The brass, too, is a brilliant section. It has a terribly tough book to play, for just about everything in the Kenton library is written in scintillating keys. And that’s hard on any man’s lip. Stan’s extremely fortunate in having a sensational first trumpeter, a young lad named Frank Beach, who leads everything with a shrilling, thrilling tone backed by a real feel for rhythmic jazz. Surprisingly enough, the rest of the section keeps up with him, so that you don’t get the preponderance of lead trumpet that you might expect. However, because of the effervescent blasting, you sometimes do get a sharpness in intonation, something which you also do expect to hear from any section blowing and over-blowing as consistently as this one is forced to do. There’s only one real soloist in the quintet, Chico Alvarez, who plays some interesting stuff, but usually behind the beat, causing excitement to lag.

It’s interesting to note that the saxes don’t keep up with their lead man the way the brasses do. It’s not a matter of the amount of volume, either, though Jack Ordean does blow a powerful alto. It’s a thrilling alto, too: one of the surest and yet most exciting in its aeries of solos to hit jazz in many a moon. This Ordean is one man whose conceptions you’re going to hear plenty of from now on!

The saxes conceive fundamentally the same way; they obviously have the same rhythmic feel, and, as stated before, the result is rhythmically moving. But dynamically they’re not always consistent, so that at times you’ll not hear the rest of the saxes shading the way leader Ordean does. The cause quite possibly could be the set-up of the section, for Jack sits far at the left instead of in the middle. Little wonder, then, that the man at the farthest right might have a bit of trouble hearing just what is going on.

Come to think of it, lots of the men must have that same difficulty at various times. For the Kenton band, judged upon its Balboa showing and also upon a witnessed studio broadcast basis, is the loudest band in captivity. How the men, themselves, can stand that volume throughout a full evening is amazing. If the future audiences are able to take it, also, that will be even more amazing. As a matter of fact, that continual blasting is the one major deficiency that may keep this Kenton outfit from really hitting the top. It’s great to screech with complete abandon, but you’ve got to screech at the right time. When you do it all the time, even in a place as huge as the ballroom at Balboa, you’re going lo scare the folks—but scare them the wrong way.

Easy Medicine

Fortunately, Kenton has a simple remedy for this very major commercial deficiency. That’s simply the matter of adding softer numbers to his library. Right now (and remember, this is criticism from a commercial rather than an utopian point of view) he plays far too many originals and jump numbers and not nearly enough popular tunes. As it is now, some of the hepper minority might be able to take an all-night barrage, such as Kenton offers, but more than likely it’d be only a minority among an already existent minority. Add that up and see how much business you could do over a period of time! Yes, soft, mellow, and still musical treatments of pops are definitely the remedy here.

For complete achievement, Kenton also needs a good male singer. Red Doris, who also plays quite adequate tenor, is acceptable only on rhythm numbers. Terry Harlyn does her bit with a broad vibrato that helps, along with her phrasing, to convince you of her sincerity, but a well-rounded band can’t depend entirely upon one girl these days, even if she does look good enough.

As a matter of fact, most of the visual showmanship comes from Stan, himself. He’a a tremendously elongated fellow with a thin face and long locks, who bounces madly up and down in front of the band, gesticulating for brass figures by extending his long fingers, and calling for sax shadings via a huge spread of his arms. It’s all extremely sincere stuff, but you don’t find out that fact until you’ve talked with Stan afterwards. And unless you’re able to do that, chances are you’ll leave at the end of the evening, either laughing at the continual antics or perhaps believing (falsely, of course) that Stan’s a terrific show-off.

“Please Play More!”

From which you can gather that Kenton would do well to curb his gesticulistic enthusiasms. There’s another reason for that, too. For Stan is a brilliant pianist, one who can not only play great solos, but who’s one of the finest section men in the business. The boys in the band know that, and they feel that, too. It’s obvious in the improvement in the beat and in the greater steadiness of tempos (the trio rushes at times) whenever Stan gets weary enough to sit down and pound out beats on the key instead of into the air.

Yes, greater restraint is probably the keynote to the ultimate success of this thrilling new band. Not a depressing type of restraint, either, for nobody in the world would want to curb this group’s remarkable refreshing enthusiasm. However, all its brilliance will be tremendously enhanced once it is framed in a soft, contrasting frame. For Kenton, himself, must realize, the darker the night the brighter the star. And those stars are potentially brilliant.—GEORGE SIMON.
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Barry Ulanov. "Radio Review. Stan Kenton, Heavy Hot in One Groove." Metronome. January 1942. 17.
Palladium, Hollywood, California. NBC-Blue, December 16, 12:35 A.M.

This brief airing (ten minutes) was sandwiched in between the first radio communications from Honolulu since the siege that started World War II in America and a rapid-fire résumé of the day’s war news. So Kenton had to work hard to keep listeners interested. He did.

The microphones were opened to the network audience in the midst of an unidentified Red Dorris vocal. It didn’t mean very much, but the Palladium audience thought it was great stuff. They screams and yelled and hollered and whistled. And then they came back strong again between each number and during two of them as well. That helped raise the listener’s interest.

So did the stylized Stan Kenton jazz. Two of the three numbers on the show were credited to Joe Reso [sic] as arranger, and all three and the theme that followed spotted the same sort of music. The saxes featured a wide-open, baritone-predominant voicing, the brass played mostly staccato phrases emphasizing the rhythm and anticipating figures and the developments and variations there of. The whole must have weighed a pile of musical tons. Certainly no white band sounds so heavy. As a result, the band didn’t jump so much, though it strained and heaved in the direction of a beat all the time.

The exhilaration that comes with a really jumping jazz came just two or three times: with jack Ordean’s scooping alto on La Rosita, with red Dorris’s tenor solo on Tempo de Joe (Reso) that suggested Hawkins and Webster and Herschel Evans all at once, and with the steady beat of the last-names original, a set of figures reminiscent of Blues in the Night that fired the band to an impressive performance.

You wouldn’t know, from this airing, that the Kenton band plays more than one form and one formula of jazz. It’s got that combination of heavy voicings and staccato phrasings down pat. But there’s no reason why so formidable an organization must always sounds like a moving-man grunting under the weight of a concert grand piano. Not even the wildly enthusiastic Palladium audience can convince radio listeners that it’s right and it’s fun to listen to the same thing over and over again. For these ten minutes, the style didn’t wear too hard. But what does it sound like over a half hour?—ULANOV
Dave Hyltone. "Radio Review. Johnny Richards." Metronome. March 1942. 16.
Solos in Spurts, Mimicry Hurts

Zucca’s, Hermosa Beach, California. KHJ—Mutual, Feb. 15, 11:30, PWT.
For a band that has played around these parts as long as this one has, Johnny Richards should have a smoother, cleaner outfit. Richards is a fine musician himself and rates as one of the top clarinetist on the Coast. The band has no definite style which may or may not be desirable. Sometimes it sounds like Shaw, sometimes like Kenton and then again the Miller influence is noted.

During the half hour caught, the band played a nice, easy-to-listen-to program of dance music. Despite the announcer’s terrific build-up, the band as a whole did not play anything exciting.

Reeds on a Limb

The ensemble work by the reed section was good, but they worked almost alone with little or no help from the rest of the band. Several times a tenor solo here and a clarinet solo there made a better impression. These too few solos, however, which were probably Richard’s work, didn’t last long enough to build that impression. At the same time the drums were so heavy and plodding that the hand just couldn’t get into a groove.

Patricia Kay did two vocals in a mild manner and Frank Pacino, a good pianist, endeavored lo sing an original called, See What I Mean.

This band has done superior work in the past and shows a lot of promise for the future. In the present state, however, Johnny Richards will merely coast along. As heard on the air several times, the men do not seem to have the same spirit as their leader.—HYLTONE.
Barry Ulanov. "Stage Show Review. Stan Kenton." Metronome. April 1942. 17, 22.
Flatbush Theatre, Brooklyn, New York. March 17, 2:15 P.M. Show.

This band makes a terrific impact upon its listeners and viewers in a stage show. If this long presentation is a fair guide to it abilities, the Stan Kenton band is just about as good as it enthusiastic and excited admirers have been shouting for the past nine months.

The band played so much and showed so much of its talent in this theatre, that it can’t help but be judged upon a basis of this show. The clearest thing about the Kenton crew is it heaviness. Everything is designed toward that end. The low trombone scorings, the wide sax voicings, the blastings trumpet and the hard-working rhythm trio all emphasize weight. Fortunately, with that weight goes a feeling for jazz and an ability to swing. Only occasionally, in lightening changes of tempo, does the beat get lost and the jump disappear.

Stan is an impressive stage leader. His tall, wiry figure carves effective motions through the air in directing the boys through their paces and his resonant voice sounds very well in his intelligent announcements. He established a continuity at this show, designed to inform the folks why and how the band had chosen each of its numbers. Though this once or twice made too-long intros, the general effect was line, running the numbers on with suspense and distributing the credits as they should have been located.

The high spots, musically were provided by the opening Concerto to End All Concertos, which presented a little of everything in the band, including Jack Ordean’s only alto solo, which impressed for feeling and style, though it did run through almost every note of which the instrument is capable. A Setting in Motion showed off the big bass talent of Howard Rumsey, whose highly audible humming as he picks his electrified bull fiddle sells like mad to the audience. They demanded an encore. And so he and Kenton knocked out an amusing piano-bass duet.

Acts Backed Well

Arkansas Traveller and St. Louis Blues and the vigorous backing the band gave all the acts showed off again and again the powerhouse jazz of which it is capable. On Easy to Love, and in back of singer Eve Knight and Red Dorris, there seemed to be a certain uneasiness, possibly caused by the not exceptional singing itself. But the two vocalists got over to the audience on good stage presence alone. And that helped maintain the very high standard set by the instrumentalists in their work.

Much like the Jimmy Lunceford band in its intensity and power, the Stan Kenton organization put on a similarly jumping and inspired kind of stage show. It works bard, visibly hard, and it work well. It is fronted by an ingratiating leader and it ha a lot of excellent musical and showmanly stuff to offer it audiences. Who could ask for anything more?—B. U.
George T Simon. "Norvo and Kenton Bands Impressive." Metronome. August 1942. 10, 15.
Feel and Zeal for Intense Playing Carry Stan's More Versatile Band; Dorris, Ordean, Repay Lead Soloists

STAN KENTON (B plus—2)

STAN KENTON and his Orchestra. Meadowbrook, Cedar Grove, N.J.

Saxes: Jack Ordean, Bill Lahey, altos; Red Dorris, Ted Romersa, tenors; Bob Gioga, baritone. Trumpets: (1) Frank Beach (2) Chico Alvarez, (3) Earl Collier. Trombones: (1) Joe Howard, (2) Harry Forbes, (3) Bob Barber. Piano: Ted Repay. Guitar: Al Costi. Bass: Lawrence Granger. Drums: Marvin George. Vocals: Eve Knight and Red Dorris.
stan kenton 1942
What a great band Stan Kenton’s likely to have one of these day! Yes, what a great band it’s going to be, once it stops trying to be so great so quickly!

The potentialities of this potent group from the west coast are immense. The lads have both a great feel and a great zeal for playing. That’s obvious in the way they’re constantly knocking themselves out, in the way they keep pushing and pushing on and on.

That pushing on and on, that desire to get ahead as fast as possible, is reflected in the band’s style. It’s sort of a pent-up surge, exemplified, rhythmically, by anticipation of beats, hitting them just before they’re actually supposed to be hit, getting there faster than any other group of musicians would.

That intense driving is the Kenton band’s chief characteristic. It’s al o one of its chief drawbacks. For though it may be somewhat ingenious, and though it does serve as an identification tag, it produces a tenseness that makes both relaxed listening and dancing pretty much impossible.

This reviewer covered the Kenton band nine months ago, when it was pretty much of an unknown quantity on the west coast. He admired it then for its spirit, its ensemble feel, its wide sax voicings, its potent sax section, its strong first trumpeter, its rhythm section, its leader’s personality. Today, he admires it for the same reasons, and for others, as well.

Among the new admirable qualities is the band’s greater versatility. Whereas last autumn, about all it could do was play standards and originals, it can now offer a more varied routine, including a vast assortment of pops, many of them very interestingly scored. It now, too, has a stronger trombone section, stronger in quantity and quality, which is bearing more and more of an attack that relies more than most band do upon the lower register. And it also has an exceptional pianist, Ted Repay, who, playing in the Stacy-Bushkin school, supplies wonderful backings for soloists, especially singers, and comes through admirably on the few solos allotted him.

But the band, a bit stronger now commercially, has fallen down a bit in a few musical departments. The brass, strong as ever, is less sure of its intonation. The trumpets, as a section, play in tune, the trombones somewhat less so. But it’s the intonation of the sextet, as a unit, that is most off, and which should be investigated by Kenton and the brass-men, themselves.

The saxes, rhythmic, spirited as ever, have improved quite some in accuracy, as reflected in phrasing of sax ensemble passages. But the tonal quality of the section isn’t what it used to be. If anything, the boys are over-blowing their horns—a failing you’re more apt to find among trumpeters. Jack Ordean, brilliant as ever as a hot alto soloist, has developed a harshness of tone that does neither his own passages or those of the quintet (when he’s playing lead) very much good.

The reeds are blowing loud practically all of the time. That’s part of the band’s style. Once in a while they soften up, and when they do, they’re a far more pleasant group to listen to. But, on the whole, it’s mostly “ff” stuff.

The brass doesn’t play as loud as often as it used to. There’s more shading and more finesse in this group than there used to be. The saxes would do well to follow its lead.

Same goes for the rhythm section, too. It pushes so hard and so heavily that the others have to play loud in self-defense. Emphasis upon lower register automatically sounds heavy. Perhaps the sound scares this quartet, making the men feel that they have to push as hard and as deliberately as they do in order to keep the rhythmic ship from foundering. Perhaps, if they let up a bit, thus easing the tension, the rhythmic stiffness, which characterizes so much of the band’s work, and which makes it a difficult group for relaxed dancing, would disappear. For all four men are at least adequate, with the aforementioned Repay outstanding.

That the rhythm section can relax is evidenced in its work on ballads, notably behind vocals, when the rest of the band isn’t pushing so hard. Unfortunately, all the vocals, with no exceptions, are definitely very much below any par you’d care to set up.

Red Dorris, though not a great singer, is an exciting tenor-man, the most improved soloist in the band. Obviously a Hawkins admirer, he produces some of the most thrilling jazz emanating from the Kenton bandstand, and is currently giving Ordean very much of a tussle for top sax honors. Chico Alvarez is also an improved soloist. Previously inclined to play after the beat, the trumpeter has developed an assurance that now permits him to play more forcefully, more directly, and, of course, more thrillingly.

Chico is a member of a trio that’s most on the right track. That’s the trumpets. They’re paying more attention to shading; they’re playing more easily, less self-consciously, and more relaxed, than any other section in the band. Once the rest of the outfit gets out from the terrific pressure that it has developed for itself, once it learns to play easier, more relaxed jazz that isn’t ALWAYS trying to get there ahead of the beat, then the Stan Kenton band is really going to come into its own. What with its ingenious sax voicings, its trombone patterns, and its general, over-all will to please and forge ahead and ahead, there should be no holding this band back!
Barry Ulanov. "Kenton Highlights NY Stage Shows." Metronome. November 1942. 18.
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Good and Bad And Marvelous

Strand Theatre, New York. October 20, 6:30 P.M. Show.

It took four numbers, out of the six allotted the Stan Kenton band in this overstuffed and crowded show, to get the band going. When it finally moved, it moved magnificently, with all the power and infectious enthusiasm which this outfit displays at its best. Earlier pieces, Kalamazoo, Serenade in Blue, and Hip, Hip Hooray, had spotted deficiencies in intonation, some sloppy and/or disinterested attack as well as some good Kenton piano, pleasing sax team work and an exciting introduction to Dolly Mitchell.

Dolly sang Hip, Hip Hooray. She sang it pretty well. She looked wonderful. She sold marvelously. Her smile, her gestures, her general stage comportment are big time. They made up for her consistent flatting in Nemo’s patriotic piece. Then came Mr. Five By Five. Dolly really kicked this one off and the band strode mightily behind her into a fine middle tempo beat. This comely girl should be a big asset for Stan. She should have been heard at least once more in this show.

The Concerto To End All Concertos which followed Dolly was just that. It was a sprawling anthology of all the power devices used by the modern band, fragmentary, thick with inflated music, and tremendously exciting, withal. The saxes shined here. The trombones, and lead Joe Howard especially, were superb. The last band number, St. James Infirmary Blues, presented Stan as a singer, but only in gasps. For each of his phrases was broken up by very funny squeals, comments, squawks from Gene Howard, Red Dorris, and one or two others.

It would have helped if the show had allotted more Kenton. It would have helped if the band had gotten more quickly into its top groove. But in any case, Stan and colleagues made a good impression. The leader’s hard-working stage personality and the showmanship the hand as a whole were impressive. A little more polish and a few more breaks in the way of time and the Stan Kenton band will he putting on the altogether topnotch shows of which it is clearly capable. —B. U.
George T Simon. "Radio Review. Stan Kenton, Singer, Brass Right; Emphasis Less So." Metronome. January 1943. 18.
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Hotel Sherman, Chicago. Blue network. December 20, 11:15 P.M., EWT.

Stan Kenton is getting away from his over-emphasized jerky rhythm, and so his band is becoming much easier to listen to over the air. The vocals of Dolly Mitchell, the first first-rate singer he can claim, help immeasurably too.

Miss Mitchell was the first bright spot on A Touch of Texas, on which the rhythm section had a hard time getting together, probably because Kenton’s drummer appeared too anxious to play with the brass. But Dolly really gave out, and so did the trumpets, so that the result was indeed quite satisfactory.

The brass continued to shine on The Steam Is on the Beam, and there were signs of a good jazz alto, which, unfortunately, was blotted out by the rest of the reeds, who, again unfortunately, were not playing in tune.

Then came the program’s lowlight and its highlight.

The lowlight was a one chorus version of Moonlight Becomes You, which had only a pretty intro to commend it. The usually reliable Kenton trombones faltered on intonation, while a guitar covered up a good part of Red Dorris’ vocal, which was just as good.

Dorris is not a ballad singer. He is a rhythm or blues singer, as he proved so emphatically on the closing St. Louis Blues. He was absolutely superb on that. Kenton is making a huge mistake not building him along those lines and taking him away from ballads completely. Miss Mitchell was good on this production (the entire band sang a lot of backgrounds effectively), and so were a bass, a trumpet (at the beginning, not at the end) and a piano. The arrangement, too, showed a good deal of imagination.

Kenton’s band still has a lot on the ball. It has discarded some of its unworkable ideas. It is discarding more. And there are still more to get rid of. When all that happens, this band is going to hit hard! —SIMON.
George T Simon. "Radio Review. Kenton Went on." Metronome. July 1943. 21.
Frank Dailey’s Terrace Room, Newark, N.J. WABC_CBS. June 12, 11:15 p.m., E.W.T.

Judges by this broadcast, Stan Kenton’s band is veering away from it’s [sic] turret-lathed style of jazz and falling into a more natural and relaxed groove.

Opening number, Taboo, with its jerky anticipations, was typical of the old kenton style that began to from so monotonous, but the rest of the show sounded far easier and more impressive.

The overbalanced trombones didn’t help the opener much, either, and also interfered with Murder, He Says. But once the first song was out of the way, the band really opened up.

I Never Mentioned Your Name spotted a lovely intro and a vocal by Red Dorris which proved that the man has come along a long way, though he’s still not a fews and easy singer. A bad sax tome from somebody’s horn didn’t help much.

But Dolly Mitchell did help Murder, He Says. And how she helped it, too! The lass gets a great beat and she was helped mightily by the excellent drumming in back of her.

Drummer, whoever he is, and the entire band jumped right through Roger Beaver [sic], an original that spotted some moving riffs and exceptionally interesting key changes. The brass blew potently throughout, helping the rhythm section to bounce the entire opus to a fine climax of an excellent airing, one that showed the Stan Kenton band at least one rung nearer to the peak of perfection at which its leader is aiming.—SIMON
Barry Ulanov. "Stan Kenton. Blowing of Tenor: Tenor of Showing." Metronome. April 1944. 34.
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Spotlight Bands. Blue, March 9, 9:30 P.M, EWT

It was Red Dorris all the way. Stan Kenton was sick in Miami with an emergency appendectomy. Red took over the baton, said hello at the beginning, blew tenor through four of the six numbers, sang the two others. His hello and his blowing was fine; it set the pace of the program. His singing was a good deal less than that.

Red blew well in Arkansas, which spotted some light canonic writing and the Kenton trademark of heavy rhythmic anticipations, but didn’t offer listeners the questionable lyrics. Red blew eagerly in Eager Beaver, a pleasant figure expanded to full tune length by unchanging repetition. Red blew lustily in You Gotta Talk Me Into It Baby, which Dolly Mitchell sang well. Red just blew in Begin the Beguine, which offered some tasteful low register trumpet and bright piano.

Red sang Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me as he did on the record, with melodramatic fervor. He repeated on I’ll Be Around, losing the mood of the song and the arrangement.

This is a good band with some sizable assets. Biggest among them is singer-tenorman Red Dorris. I think he’d be a bigger asset as a non-singing tenorman.—ULANOV.
Barry Ulanov. "Stan Kenton. Holiday for Brass." Metronome. October 1944: 30
Adams, Newark.

The solidity of sound of this band is astonishing. From the opening strains of Stan’s theme, Artistry in Rhythm, through Eager Beaver, two Anita O’Day vocals, Gambler’s (St. James Infirmary) Blues, and the concluding flagwaver, Russian Lullaby, the Kenton crew rocked with an ensemble sound very little heard these days outside the Lunceford, Hampton, Basie and Ellington bands.

It’s the brass especially which is responsible for the impact of this band. I caught two Kenton shows at the Adams, early in September, and each time it was the trumpets and trombones which made the most formidable impression. John Carroll stepped out of the trumpets to play some overblown but moving jazz, and a fairly amusing take-off on corny hornmen. But it was back of Karl George’s brilliant lead that the trumpets sounded best, with fine support from the trombones; altogether, I should say, a marvelously consistent brass team.

Anita O’Day scampered through Straighten Up and Fly Right, kicked in her own forthright, infectious way through a blues. Anita’s enormous jazz talents have been too often underscored in these pages to need further description here. It should he said, however, that she has never sounded to better advantage than she does with this fine band.

Rest of the show was a desultory melange: Gene Howard throbbing unattractively through It Could Happen to You and I’ll Be Seeing You; the Modernaires, bellowing as ever; a miserable sister dance act.

Stan needs to do more with his ballads, preferably featuring his virile, Hines-like piano. He shouldn’t spot two comedy numbers (Gambler’s Blues sports some rather funny vocal byplay between Stan and the band now; John Carroll does Stardust satirically, as indicated above) on one bill. Straighten out those things and he’ll fly right­ all the time.
Leonard G Feather. "Stage Show Reviews. Stan Kenton–Louis Jordan." Metronome. August 1945. 26.
Bahama Joe and Uncle Tom

Paramount, New York.
There was nothing wrong with the Stan Kenton part of this show. On the contrary, it was probably the most successful stage show the lanky pianist-arranger has presented in the East. Opening with a flashy I Know That You Know, featuring some fine unison brass and his own Hines-like piano, he then presented his new singer, June Christy.

Miss Christy was very warm indeed, even for June. In addition to having a voice closely resembling Anita O’Day’s, she has a gorgeous blonde appearance and a personality that makes the dumbest square sit up and pay attention. Her handling of the satirical Tampico was a high spot of the show.

Gene Howard did his ballad chores satisfactorily and the band played the full piano concerto version of its theme.

There was plenty wrong with the Louis Jordan part of this show. As one of Louis’·s loyal admirers since his Elks’ Rendezvous days, I was mortified to find that he now has about the most complete Uncle Tom act put on by any Negro band in recent years. The combination of comic swallow-tail coat, Deacon Jones dialogue, prancing and cavorting, was just about everything the uninformed white man expects of the clowning colored man. Louis’s talents as a saxophonist were almost unexploited, his great blues vocal style distorted and wasted. Goodbye music, hello comedy! Well, he still makes some fine records, anyway.—FEATHER.
Barry Ulanov. "Stan Kenton: Adventuresome Outfit Rates B Plus Musically, 2 Commercially." Metronome. October 1945. 16, 51.
Reviewed at Cafe Rouge, Hotel Pennsylvania, New York. Saxes: Al Anthony, Boots Mussulli, altos : Bob Cooper, Sam Aleccia, tenors: Bob Gioga, baritone. Trumpets: Buddy Childers, Ray Wetzel, Russ Burgher, Johnny Anderson, Bob Lymperis. Trombones: Freddie Zito. Milt Kabak, Jimmy Simms, Bart Varsalona, Guitar: Bob Ahern. Bass: Ed Safranski. Drums: Bob Varney. Vocals: June Christy. Gene Howard. Ray Wetzel. Arrangers Stan Kenton, Gene Howard. Leader, piano, vocals: Stan Kenton.


STAN KENTON reached New York on September 10th, opening at the Hotel Pennsylvania at a pivotal point in his career. It was his first New York hotel location. It was the first opportunity for many of us to hear the new Kenton. The new Kenton is, paradoxically, the old Kenton. And that is cause for some rejoicing.

For some years, say two, between the debut of his band and the present, Stan has been wandering musically, playing more and more ballads, going in for more and more production numbers, and, consequently, playing less and less of the kind of galvanic jazz which was first associated with his name. The wandering years are over. For better or worse, Stan says, and his band proves it, he’s back to the kind of jazz he knows, feels and is best able to play. I think it’s for better.

Kenton’s music is heavy, using the broadest possible voicings, anchoring the band not only with a baritone sax but with a bass trombone as well. adding still more weight with his piano and a beat very close to the Lunceford two. At first, in the early days, this two-beat was so freighted with rhythmic anticipations that the sound of the band was more choppy than jumpy. Stan has learned a lot during his years of wandering and his band swings more subtly now and, as a result, connects.

Kenton’s music is loud, but not overblown. The nine brass shout but don’t holler, if that distinction is clear. The scoring is legitimate; it doesn’t depend on powerful lips and lungs alone to produce the big sound, though the might of Stan’s brassmen unquestionably helps. And there is captivating contrast in the alternately full-blown and delicate writing for the saxophones. In the terminology of modern aesthetics, this band sways sensitively and compellingly between a lusty expressionism and a lovely impressionism.

Some of the new drive of this band has been contributed by Stan himself at the piano, implementing his own vigorous arrangements with a keyboard style more like Earl Hines’ than anyone else’s, one beautifully suited to his musical aims. The more Stan plays piano, the happier I and a lot of dancers and listeners are going to be. Ed Safranski, the brilliant musician who played so much bass for Hal Mcintyre, is a recent addition to the rhythm section and an important one. His thoroughly modern conception of his instrument as a harmonic as well as a rhythmic voice helps fill out the band. His great drive joins with that of Stan and the brass to carry the jazz along lustily, gustily, vigorously.

The rest of the rhythm section, Bob Varney, drums, and guitarist Bob Ahern, fits excellently with Stan and Ed. They work well together, producing an even, swinging beat.

In the trombones two stylists of considerable distinction have emerged. Jimmy Simms and Freddie Zito both play in the properly popular scooped-pitch style, bending notes until they and the horns yell for mercy. Sometimes, the bending gets out of hand and rather than scooped pitch you get just wrong pitch. Neither Zito nor Simms is as yet a finished jazzman, but both are provocative and vital musicians. Bart Varsalona handles the quite rare bass ‘bone with real distinction in the section scorings, which always call for that lower register slide.

With Ray Wetzel complementing Buddy Childers’ solo efforts, Stan has two of the most tasteful and most talented of the younger trumpeters. Ray is an adventuresome musician (he recently bought a slide trumpet and is experimenting with the bastard horn) with a remarkably accurate top range and an equally out-of-the-way show of taste in the middle register. Buddy is one of the most forceful leadmen I’ve ever heard, still more proof to me that a section lead should be based not on a purely classical but on a jazz conception. His solos are short on notes and long on phrases, of the present moment in inspiration, bright and strong and tasteful.

Credit lead altoist Al Anthony with the handsome sound of the saxes and Boots Mussulli (who is so well nick-named) with those facile alto solos in the Benny Carter manner. Listen attentively to 18-year-old Bob Cooper, a tenor saxophonist of large tone, fine beat and enterprising idea. And be generous, in criticizing this band, with the other two saxophonists, too. Aleccia and Gioga add good voices to an execellent [sic] reed team. Excellent is the word for their efforts on the instruments devised by Adolphe Saxe, but when they switch to clarinets, all five of them, that is, as they have in some of Stan’s least effective scores, cry havoc! Everything goes to pieces. The most effective remedy for this intonative illness has been found, happily: no more scoring for five clarinets in that demanding Debussyan idiom.

There’s no need for five clarinet trickery here. Gene Howard, astonishing combination of a fair singer and a very fine arranger, has polished off some clarinetless ballad scores which back himself beautifully and contribute all the softness and subtlety anybody could want from a big band playing a popular tune. And in such originals as Opus Pastel, written for saxes and rhythm, Stan has demonstrated his own great capacity for imaginative music at a low volume, in an insinuating groove.

June Christy, who took Anita O’Day’s place, is an unexpectedly successful replacement for the brass-voiced hipster. June breaks notes and phrases much as Anita does, shades pitch in the same way, which means beautiful jazz singing most of the time and a little roughness and rudeness in intonation upon other occasions. Ray Wetzel has been added to vocalists Gene and June and Stan (who sings a couple of novelties); he is one of the hipper flippers of standard lyrics.

With more and more public sympathy for music of the character of this band’s, Stan should not find it hard to please audiences all over the country, if he remains resolute about his jazz aims. The feeling for daring modern bands has grown, among dancers, listeners and record-buyers, beyond mere tolerance to something close to real appreciation. They will find much to appreciate in Stan Kenton’s organization.
R Land. "Radio Reviews. Stan–He Ran." Metronome. December 1945. 50.
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Hollywood Palladium, Nov. 13, 11:15 P.M., CBS.

The band's new theme,
Artistry Jumps, indicates the revolutionary change in Stan's library since it last broadcast from the Coast a year ago. Power, brilliance, guts, precision–these are the attributes which have almost overnight shoved the Kenton gang into a top-drawer rank alongside Herman and Ellington.

Vido Musso's tenoring, trumpet getoffs by Ray Wetzel and Bud Childers, Jimmy Simms' Harris-like trombone, Ralph Collier's incredible drumming and Stan's virile piano solos popped through the speaker atop one another on
Painted Rhythm, My Guy's Come Back, Paper Moon and Long, Long Time. June Christy's vocals score, too, even though the O'Day influence is unmistakable. A surprise was Gene Howard's jump vocal on Paper Moon. He's still an excellent arranger.

Stan's new habit of playing his fast-tempoed theme for three or four minutes may not he commercial but it insures an abundance of musical boots. If he ever gets it on a record it will he his biggest smash yet. In short, this is a band which has finally hit its stride. Exciting even on ballads, CBS has really got something here and Kenton's nightly airshots are doing much to enliven the airlanes at a time when too many sad schmaltz crews are hogging the mikes.—LAND.
George T Simon. "Stage Show Reviews. Kenton–Cole. Stan Standard, Nat Natty." Metronome. December 1946. 45, 47.
Paramount, New York

It’s easy to see and hear why Stan Kenton’s band is causing so much talk. Mis stage show at the Paramount spotted a series of powerhouse arrangements that knocked the kids off their chairs, screaming almost as loud as the Kenton brass.

Stan spotted some good ensemble work and several fine soloists, most impressive being Kai Winding on trombone, Eddie Safranski on bass and the revivified Chico Alvarez on trumpet. The rhythm section sounded far greater than ever before, with Shelly Manne immense on drums and Stan, Eddie and Bob Ahearn jelling wonderfully well. June Christy, looking like Doris Day, was hampered by poor choice of material and a tendency of the hand to cover her up. The over-scoring was too noticeable throughout, especially on the Concerto, which, in its cut version, had little or none on the required continuity. Intelligent pruning is not at all out of place in some Kenton scores; so much that is really good is buried beside stuff that has obviously been written without too much planning, merely to show off a wild idea or ten.

Nat Cole’s Trio broke it up, as expected. The King is even greater in person than he is on wax and his infectious smile and genuine enthusiasm scored as much as did the group’s great music. The boys did just about all their hits, winding up with a flag-waverish opus also played by the Kenton band. Stan and his men also scored heavily in the showmanship department with the funnier-than-ever St. James Infirmary hokum. All in all, the show was a lot of fun.—SIMON.
George T Simon. "A Concert to End All Concerts." Metronome. April 1948. 13-14, 42.
Stan Kenton forgot to take himself seriously at Carnegie Hall; Result: Vaudeville

I’VE NEVER been a Kenton band enthusiast. I’ve appreciated what Stan has been trying to do all these years, and I’ve admired him for his tenacity and for his qualities as a leader of men. I’ve tried to mitigate all criticisms, because I’ve felt the man serves to be encouraged in his attempts to produce what he sincerely believes is progressive jazz, when just about every other band in business has been willing to settle for a stays quo or else slide backward with the rest of popular music.

Stan often asked me to wait. His wouldn’t be a dance band much longer. He was going to play concerts and he’d appreciate my withholding judgement until after his New York debut in that field. There’d be a lot of new and interesting material for me to hear.

So I waited. And finally I went to the concert.

I’m less of a Kenton band enthusiast than ever before!

You’d think that during a concert as important as this one must have been to Stan, he and Pete Rugolo would have presented some new and exciting material for the affair. The band played thirty-two numbers at this concert. Thirty-one of them were things it had played before, in theatres and in hotels. Of these, twenty were instrumentals, seven were songs by June Christy (all in one section thereby detracting considerably from her improved singing) and three were novelties, the last of which, Stan’s gag version of St. James Infirmary, plus comic introductions of various men in the band, lasted fully ten minutes and served as the climax of a supposedly serious concert!

The one new number was a four-part Prologue Suite, written and conducted by Rugolo. Starting with a stentorian introduction, it went into a Kenton piano passage, reminiscent of Intermission Riff. Part two showed off the high trumpets, who unfortunately weren’t in tune here, and then resolved into some cute by-play between Stan and bongo drummer Jack Costanza. The third portion, a rather martial sounding affair, featured some squeals by George Weidler, whom I recall as a very able, well-toned alto saxist, but who has been over-blowing his horn dreadfully since he joined Stan. The finale was wild and high, somewhat like Machito, interspersed with some good, legitimate electric guitaring. Prologue Suite is am interesting bit of work, somewhat lacking in continuity (as least on the basis of a single hearing), but certainly worthy of being presented at a Kenton concert and obviously a sincere attempt to present progressive jazz in concert form.

But the rest of the instrumentals! Well, how would you feel if you had gone to a concert, prepared to hear at least a few new compositions which would he indicative of what Kenton had stated he was trying to do, bring progressive jazz into the concert hall and present it in its proper medium, and you had, instead, been bombarded with the same things you’d heard the band do before: Artistry Jumps, Collaboration, Intermission Riff, Artistry in Percussion, Opus in Pastel [sic], Machito, Artistry in Boogie, I Get a Kick Out of You, Safranski, Concerto to End all Concertos, etc., etc.

Even that program mightn’t have been too disappointing, for the band played well that night, as it almost always does, and there were, in addition, some lesser-known instrumentals, like the pretty Elegy for Alto with its very exciting climax, Message in Harlem which spotted some excellent tromboning by Eddie Bert, the lovely Interlude, marred slightly by the rough blend of the trombones. Bob Graettinger’s interesting Thermopolae and the intriguing Impressionism.

But you expected more, because of all the talk you had heard about how terribly sincere Stan was and about how truly interested and thrilled he was to be able to produce in a concert hall for the first time this really true great American art form this medium of expression this emotional pictorial pattern of young emotional America presented through the medium of a progressive group of musicians who felt and believed the same way about jazz and about its place as a true American art form and as the best medium of expressing the pulse and the drive and all the emotions of young America striving to find its place in this wild unsettled chaotic world of ours. (Absence of punctuation influenced by Kenton.) You expected lots more new material.

But what you surely didn’t expect was a dressed-up version of kenton’s vaudeville appearances, which, in the final analysis, is all that his Carnegie Hall appearance turned out to be. The guys hammed it up much too much. Stan pulled off gag after gag. Ray Wetzel, who shouldn’t even sing in a gin-mill, did No He Tells Me and followed it with an off-color parody of Trees. Bart Varsalona, sitting in the front row and showing off all through the evening, was featured ion a comedy routine titled Invention for Bass trombone, which might have been sub-titled, Low Man in a Minstrel Show. In addition to Stan’s gagging, the receptive cracks about how little the guys were paid, and so forth, there was the lengthy St. James Infirmary routine, replete with references to homosexuals and Superman, and finally individual comedy routines by several band members. none of which bore any relationship to music and which certainly had no place whatsoever in a concert hall.

Stan has complained bitterly to me about METRONOME’S attitude toward his music. He has been so vexed by what has appeared in these pages that he has told me point-blank that he wants to have nothing to do with the magazine, whatsoever. He has taken that “I-wouldn’t-lower-myself-to-your-level” attitude. In all fairness to Kenton’s viewpoint I must state that he has not complained as much about the fact that Barry and I have never been too enthusiastic about his music as he has about what he considers a too flippant and too belittling approach that he feels we have toward his music. He has complained much more about what he considers to have been merely wisecracks in our record reviews that he has about any analytical criticisms we have made.

Whether our attitude was right or whether it was wrong in the past would necessitate another article of at least this size for adequate discussion. However, what our attitude in the past seems to me to count very little in the light of what Kenton has shown his attitude to be at the present. Though he continues to talk on and on with unmitigated intensity and though I believe very certainly that the man is absolutely sincere, I think that his behavior at the concert, his own flippant, hammy attitude, plus the non-fulfillment of his promise to produce interesting, new concert music, disqualifies him and his band from any really, serious consideration as concert artists. As a dance band and as a vaudeville act, the Kenton aggregation is still one of the finest in the business. But, I’m afraid, at least for the present, that’s all it is.
George T Simon. "Stan Kenton's Carnegie Hall Concerts." Metronome. May 1950. 10.
Stan Kenton’s Carnegie Hall concerts on April 8 and 9 were smashing successes. Audiences came and audiences cheered as Stan and his superbly disciplined musicians presented their Innovations in Modem Music.

The outfit, complete with its large and excellent string section (see above), performed the numbers in its Capitol album with even more precision and enthusiasm than their waxed version;. In addition, it played (in order) a pretty new Johnny Richard; number that showed some lovely, improved Milt Bernhart trombone; a thrilling rhythmic Cuban piece by Neal Heal with the band singing effectively behind Bud Shanks’ hot flute, and Shelly Manne playing great drums; a lovely guitar solo, Amazonia, exquisitely played by Laurindo Almeida; a bop original by Shorty Rogers, the closest thing to a jazz instrumental in the concert; a bit featuring Maynard Ferguson’s amazing, sometimes tasteless trumpet pyrotechnics; a montage of past Kenton favorites; a fairly exciting Love for Sale; a new Frank Marks number not as good as Trajectories; and a wild, moving, climactic Cuban closer. June Christy sang some things well, but her stint was mannered and totally out of keeping with the rest of the concert. and Stan talked too much and too incoherently between numbers. But the music was great! —G.T.S.
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George T Simon. "In Person. Pete Rugolo." Metronome. June 1950. 29-30.
pete rugolo made a very impressive debut as a leader last month at the Paramount Theater. Complete with a string quintet, his group accompanied Billy Eckstine excellently and got a fine audience response with its modern, well-played versions of Lover and Love for Sale. Pete featured three ex-Kentonians, Kai Winding, Eddie Safranski and Al Porcino, in a band comprised of some of the town’s best modern musicians. The usually bashful Rugolo surprised all with his easy, gracious fronting of the hand, introducing acts with aplomb, and conducting with the precision and fervor of a Kenton. —G. T. S.
Bill Coss. "In Person. Stan Kenton. Carnegie Hall, New York." Metronome. January 1952. 17-18.
Carnegie Hall, New York

Innovations In Modern Music–II, were, by and large, the Renovations of 195O. A rehash of the old and a dash of the new divided Stan’s latest concert into the good, the fair and the bad.

In the good category were the Shorty Rogers compositions: Art Pepper, Bob Cooper and Conte Condoli [sic], all beautifully played. The Cooper bit is in the same pattern as Art’s and as artful a showpiece as his is. Shelly Manne really swung the band on the up-tempo sections of both these compositions. Conte, who was the evening’s outstanding soloist, used his solo numbers to display his taste and delicacy with just enough pyrotechnics to depreciate Ferguson’s over-emphasis on the other Rogers piece. Conte cut Maynard to pieces but the applause was slight.

French hornist, John Gras presented his own composition (another name title), a kind of afternoon of a thorn in mood, beautifully played and conceived although the brass built to a climax which never happened. Gras has few peers among French horn players.

The fair category included Maynard Ferguson and parts of the other Shorty Rogers contributions. Ferguson can’t be denied. There are moments of great brilliance, but the plain fact is that Maynard, in the words of today, comes on too strong. And Shorty falls prey to this same kind of over-doing. His were the real jazz contributions; but he seemed too overconscious of the noise potential of the Kenton orchestra, too little concerned with the variety of color dormant in such a group. Christy’s singing of Moon, Easy Street and Lover was only fair because the backing, in most part, was so horrendous as to ridicule her position as a vocalist, to nullify her efforts as an interpreter.

The poor was, unfortunately, almost all June’s fault. I’ll Remember April was bad. Kenton seems to bring out the brassy band singer in June for she tortured notes, sang out of tune, phrased badly and breathed noisily. On Gloomy Sunday there was a paper and comb sound, largely due to the public address system. The arrangement was curiously ineffective with cymbal crashes, dissonance and flute scales. Ferguson’s screech solo on Easy Street was in horrible taste (the applause was deafening) but June managed to swing the band with the force of her own voice, which meant a forcing that was unpleasant at times. Willow Weep For Me had more harsh notes and a sacrificing of phrasing for effects which never came off.

Add to these, the experimental Improvisation and the prophetic City of Glass and you have the concert in a nutshell. The former, Bill Russo’s third contribution which many thought the highpoint of the evening, is another attempt at intuition; contrapuntal improvisation within an orchestral arrangement. Pepper, Condoli, Cooper and Russo stood in front of the orchestra with an indecision comparable to grade school actors who have lost their cue. And the total output was about as valuable. Ideally, this kind of thing should furnish excitement and color if nothing else, but this, in tone and expression, was the Salvation Army Band suddenly gone atonal. Surely the applause was occasioned by approval of experimentation rather than of worth? Bob Graettinger’s City of Glass (only the third section, Reflections, was played) was prophetic of things yet to come from within the Kenton organization; full scale modern compositions of a precise nature, determined by the policy of the year to write for effect or for beauty if composing can ever be as clear cut as that. Perhaps it was Stan’s fault in trying to make progromatic [sic] what Bob never intended to be, but this supposed sunset lost in atonality brought to mind a paraphrase [sic] from King Cole’s words, “I thought sunsets were much prettier than that.” This is no attempt to depreciate Graettinger. With prior program bias, at first hearing and without benefit of the intellectual channelling of the preceding movements, I found myself wandering through a musical city of a denseness that was not glass, where warmth and beauty were caught only in fragments by particularly exposed cornices and where building lines were lost in the shadows of a sunset.

More than anything else however, the Kenton concert brought several things into real prominence. Stan was not as dynamic as he has been in the past, his introductions lacked conviction and the audience attitude suffered consequently. Perhaps this was a result of the specific points of applause, deafening for Ferguson, Improvisation and Christy (especially for June’s I’ll Remember April). Perhaps Stan was as upset at I was by my ever-growing suspicion that the Kenton fan, like many other jazz fans, seem to lack the ability to hear, seems content to feel and, worse still wants to feel the hysterical tension which seems to have taken the place of the less neurotic, though just as unhealthy, aphrodisiac quality of the older jazz. Kenton is faced with the real danger of conforming to a pattern of JATP jazz because tension jades the appetite and must be added to with each succeeding year. His choice of concert recordings this year may determine the path. —B.C.
George T Simon. "In Person. Stan Kenton, Bill Levine's Rustic Cabin." Metronome. February 1953. 18.
THE LATEST Stan Kenton group seems to be taking itself a little less seriously than its predecessors did, and I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. Certainly, it’s a relief in one sense, because the high pressure area isn’t as constant, but, on the other hand, evidences of an unnecessarily cool feeling seem out of place in the disciplined sort of music that characterizes Kenton’s.

During its recent stint at Bill Levine’s Rustic Cabin in New Jersey, the band played both for dancing, as well as for listening. To me, it was still better in the latter field, both for positive and for negative reasons.

The positive reasons were some of the fine writing that Bill Russo has been doing for the band, the tremendous, collective impact of the ensemble playing, the trombone passages of Frankie Rosolino, who, to me, is one of the greatest, if not the greatest soloist Kenton has ever had; the cool, liquid, intricate bits by Lee Konitz, who is blowing his alto with more feeling than before; the brilliant, amazingly dependable lead trumpeting of Buddy Childers, one of the least heralded greats of today, and the strong, but not overblown trombone lead of Bob Burgess.

Both positive and negative were the passages blown by Conte Candoli, a trumpeter who has goo d ideas, but, Who so far as I can gather, just doesn’t possess the necessary command of his instrument to permit it to state what he is thinking. (I’m sure that no man would willingly try to sustain a note as uncertainly as Conte does); and the trumpeting of Maynard Ferguson, an inspiring technician in the section, but a pretty tasteless performer on solos.

Strictly on the negative side was the rhythm section. What’s happening here is quite beyond me. It has always been my belief, shared, I’m sure, with many others, that a rhythm section should play together. But at the cabin, Stan seldom played with the section, and, even so, his piano was so far away that I’m sure nobody could hear him. Sal Salvador seemed to be completely convinced that a guitarist’s sole contribution should be filling in now and then (when he wasn’t playing a solo), and generally amusing only himself. I couldn’t hear Ed Bagley [sic] at all, even though I was sitting directly across from the bandstand. I don’t know if that was because he was playing too intimately, or because the tremendous barrage that Stan Levy was laying down made it impossible for Ed to be heard. Like too many of today’s percussionists, Stan seems to be too interested in playing intricate drums (the man has good technique) and not interested in laying down a simple steady beat. (Oh, for Davey Tough!) Levy, of course, had a tough time out there almost on his ownsome, getting no help from the others. The rhythm section as a group might as well have been scattered to the four corners of the bandstand. Certainly each member seemed little interested in what his three compatriots, let alone the rest of the band, was doing, and such lack of interest can be rhythmically fatal.

Lack of a swing beat is nothing new to a Kenton organization, because swinging has never seemed to be one of Stan’s aims. But many of his latest arrangements sound as they are meant to jump. Much of the writing is rhythmic, much of it comparatively free, so that rhythmic relaxation is certainly possible. The horns blow the scores with a beat, but, because of the rhythmic section, the effect is never completed.

If Stan ever pays a much attention to his rhythm section as he does to his horns, he’s likely to wind up with the jumpingest crew he’s ever had. There’s a tremendous potential there, much of it already realized in the bands concert pieces, in the magnificence of its ensemble sound and execution, in the aforementioned soloists. It’s fronted, as always, by the most dynamic leader the field has ever known—one of its finest gents, by the way, too—a man who has done remarkably well when you consider all the replacements he has had to make in the last year, a man who should do even better when all his musicians attain the same level that can now be found in certain portions of this latest Stan Kenton band. —G.T.S.
Bill Coss. "Stan Kenton at Birdland." Metronome. July 1953. 18.
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WHEN LOUDER bands are had, Stan Kenton will have them. But, this time around, Stan's group has a tremendous swinging quality to add to the volume, a welcome addition to anyone who has bemoaned the ponderousness of other Kenton rhythm sections.

Then, too, this is a band filled with great talent, so that there is no end of precision in ensemble and variation in solos. And the talent is well-used in a swinging book written in the main, by tenorist Bill Holman and trombonist Bill Russo with four new contributions by Gerry Mulligan.

But for all that, this is very characteristically a Stan Kenton band, and, here the process of diminishing returns sets in. For this big, brilliant and swinging band is unfortunately a little too much of several things.

Buddy Childers and Ernie Royal contribute most of the high notes in the trumpet section and Conte, Don Smith and Don Dennis do more than their share, but hardly anyone can cut that trumpet book, or so it would seem to these ears throughout these years. And if eighty per cent of the time is a good average for the section, and it is, it seems absurd as well as unfair to allow such writing.

The trombone section is as good, but, here again, the Kenton touch is evident in the one-dimensional sound that they affect, singly and as a section, distorting, it seems to me, the handsome tone for which that instrument is more specifically designed.

Vinnie Dean's alto leads one of the best reed sections that Stan has ever had, balanced and in tune. As a group they hold their own, but they suffer singly, as have all Kenton's reed men, in the competition with the ten blasting brass.

Tenorist Bill Holman, altoist Lee Konitz and trombonist Frank Rossolino [sic] are the band's top soloists. Conte Candoli suffers from a nervous vibrato and a faulty beat. Trombonist Bob Burgess has similar beat trouble and a paucity of ideas.

All of which begins to change the color of this review, which began as a minor rave. And that is not the impression that l wish to convey, for what is good is very good. Stan Levy is a much improved, vibrant drummer. Art [sic] Bagley is a wonderfully steady bassist. Sal Salvadore is a facile, inventive guitarist either as a soloist (the best of the evening) or on rhythm.

But the penchant for the fortissimo, the anachronistic drag of the few boppers, the emphasis on effects for their own sake, and the anarchy which sometimes reigns in the arranging department, detracts from the band, from any band, no matter how brilliantly it blows or who does the blowing. The tunes that end like stories in the New Yorker, or those that end on high tide become duds when they become common, as do so man of the tricks that are up Stan's sleeves. Which is the reason for all these qualifications.
Howard Lucraft. "First Review on New Kenton Band." Metronome. July 1955. 8.
“This new orchestra is going to be my greatest yet,” claims Stan Kenton—and it probably will be. Stan’s fabulous faculty and potent propensity for developing jazz talent is legend.

Al Porcino is a real gas as number one lead man and Ed Leddy, who splits the 1st trumpet book, blows with equally assertive authority. Sam Noto and Stu Williamson play stimulating jazz. Neither of these guys yet creates quite the impact of a Conte Candoli but their potential is obvious.

In the reed section there are elegant alto solos by both Lennie Niehaus and Charlie Mariano—both derivative but both agile and accomplished, with the former the more academic, the latter more funky. Bill Perkins’ subtle articulated tenor style contrasts with Dave Van Kreidt’s more incisive approach. And Stan seems most happy with Don Davidson, the newcomer on baritone.

Drummer Mel Lewis was both exciting and appropriately dramatic in the previous Kenton band. Now he’s positively galvanic. He sparks and drives the whole aggregation, ofttimes injecting an eight in a bar inflection a la pianist John Williams. Max Bennett’s bass work is, as always, the sleekest and solidest. Guitarist Ralph Blaze’s comping gets looser all the time as he becomes familiar with the book.

On this Hollywood opening night only the trombones were not up to Kenton standards. Despite the authoritative lead of Fitz (Bob Fitzpatrick) the section balance just wasn’t. Furthermore, solowise, both Kent Larson and Gus Chappell were stolid and stilted–Kent boisterously so, Gus contrastingly timid. The ebullient extemporizations of Frank Rosolino were sadly missed by inveterate Kenton devotees.

19-year-old vocal discovery, Ann Richards, has, in Stan’s words, “as great a future as anyone in jazz.” She has the sound, the drive, the invention, and, to boot, she’s the cutest looking chick with the curviest figure to match. (see cut) Maybe she has to live a little before she emotes with a Christy sensitivity on the ballads but she has more than plenty of time.

Musically, exotericism not esotericism is the order of today in this new and current Kenton era. Stan’s programing at the Crescendo leant heavily on the flowing Holman originals and the lighter more swinging Russo things. These were paced with the commercial oldies–the Peanut Vendors and the September Songs–plus instrumental solos on the ballads and, of course, the rocking vocals of the Richards gal.

Stan himself, as ever, the effervescent, witty and vibrant front man, continues to charm. What a TV personality this guy will be when his CBS program starts this summer—and with a great influence for jazz.
Burt Korall. "Stan Kenton–Birdland." Metronome. September 1955. 21.
STAN KENTON ROAD BAND: Al Porcino, Stu Williamson, Sam Noto, Ed Leddy and Bob Clark, trumpets; Carl Fontana, Gus Chappell, Kent Larson, Don Kelly and Bob Fitzpatrick, trombones; Lennie Niehaus, Charlie Mariano, BiIl Perkins, Dave Van Kriedt and Don Davidson, saxes; Ralph Blaze, guitar: Max Bennett, bass; Mel Lewis, drums; Ann Richards, vocal.

Late in June, the heat and the latest edition of the Kenton Orchestra came roaring into New York City. There were very few of the old familiar faces, but more important, the band had assumed a new approach along with its new look. The band swung much more than in the past, and a great deal of the ponderous top· heavy feeling prevalent during other periods of the orchestra was very much in the background.

A large portion of the credit for this goes to Stan’s very precise biting brass section with Al Porcino leading the way from his first trumpet chair. I was greatly impressed by the ensemble work of all the sections.

The very basis of a jazz orchestra, however, lies within its rhythm section; the place where a band can find the ever important fire it needs. I believe the ingredients are certainly present at this writing. Drummer, Mel Lewis plays with a surety that gives the band definition and much of the small-group feel that is essential to moving the band off the ground. He is technically proficient and is very much at home in the band. Max Bennett and Ralph Blaze (bassist and guitarist, respectively) round out a swinging rhythm section.

My favorite soloist on the band, Bill Perkins, tenor in hand, came out and blew chorus after chorus of pulsating tenor that reminded this writer of Zoot Sims at his very best. It is very likely that a lot more will be heard from this particular tenor man. Altoist, Charlie Mariano was consistently consistent, impressing with his ideas and control of his horn. Stu Williamson and Sam Noto did most of the solo trumpet work admirably.

Unfortunately, the trombone section, though capable, found itself without a soloist of the stature of a Rosolino, Winding or a Bert, although Carl Fontana should make it.

The big commercial asset of this band is singer, Ann Richards. Although, at this juncture, she has not evolved an original sound or style, there is much feeling for jazz in her singing, an ability to sing very much in tune, and much potential for future happenings. She looks wonderful and handles herself with great poise on the bandstand.

The scores were most moving when from the minds of Gerry Mulligan and Bill Holman, and most colorful when the Bill Russo touch was evident. I hear that John LaPorta will be writing some scores for the band so it might be a cooler Summer than we both expected.

Stan was Stan…articulate in description of his music, and in commendation of his solo people, very much a leader in possession of a fine hand.
Burt Korall. "Stan Kenton at Birdland." Metronome. February 1956. 15.
I derive rare pleasure in writing this reiteration of the importance of the current and most pulsating of all Stan Kenton bands. Seldom, if ever, has the orchestra gotten close to the relaxed brand of swing that it is purveying these nights. At the foundation of this new-found vibrance is a unity of direction, a definitive desire on the part of all concerned to swing. The attitude has breathed happiness into the band, and the result is to be heard in all it does. A good portion of the responsibility for nurturing this metamorphosis in attitude are the arrangements of Bill Holman and Gerry Mulligan whose scores move off the paper, and push this organization toward a creative cohesiveness that strengthens belief in itself, while, we, the listeners, benefit. It is a fully beneficial listening experience, for it derives its excitement from natural sources rather than from pretension and its brother tension

Thee brass section, always an integral part of the Kenton sound, is fast finding itself after many years adherence to a lugubrious angry quality that has typified Kenton brass sections of the past. A light swinging oneness belies this section’s size, and gives it the facility to lock with the other instrumental divisions of the orchestra. Lead trumpeter Al Porcino sparkles in his role as chief moulder in this, the largest segment of the Kenton musical architecture. Certainly his responsibility cannot be underestimated for he holds the key to one of the basic strengths of this orchestra’s character.

Vinnie Tanno, a recent arrival in the fold, plays most of the trumpet jazz overzealously. However, frequent moments of exciting continuity betray a stability that will come with time and a more definite familiarity with his surroundings. I was disappointed in not hearing some solo work from Norman Faye whose tasty jazz efforts date back to the memorable Georgie Auld band of the ‘forties.

A great degree of the loose, flowing design that the whole band strives to improve upon from night to night or from selection to selection, for that matter, can be found in the solo-work of trombonist, Carl Fontana. Carl’s time and ideas arc quite provocative at this point in the game.

Moving a little to the left, words defining strength pertain to the current motor in the machine, the rhythm section. The three forceful blades of the propeller, Mel Lewis. drums, Max Bennett, bass and Ralph Blaze, guitar are a happy combination possessed of the insight and ability to make theirs a truly compelling, contributing unit. i\fax’s forceful, full sound pushes the machine. Blaze is as he should be: unobtrusively strong, rhythmically, and melodically moving in solo, and they both combine smoothly with Mel Lewis’ ever-growing facility to be more than just a pulse, but an identifying factor in the band’s personality. Here, a motor that continually improves and adds stature to the over-all picture.

The final five for discussion are the saxophones. All five of these gentlemen are interesting soloists though Perkins and Mariano prove the most adept. The latter gives definite indications of outgrowing the inevitable stamping as a Bird derivative. His solos arc consistently sensitive and beatful, and I look for continued growth to a fuller blossoming of his talent into complete individuality. Altoist Lennie Niehaus, remarkably agile technically, tends to be overly concerned with the technical aspect, but his obvious control of his instrument with the addition of a turn toward emotion and feeling could make for vital blowing in the future. Jack Nimitz, baritone, reiterated the fine musicianship he displayed on Woody Herman’s band, and should become even more important as time passes. The last tenor voice, Sinatra by name (Spencer) proved competent in his limited solo outings. In the final counting, these live as a section, compare favorably with any other five Stan has employed.

From here, Stan goes to the coast, and early next year to Europe. The line of musical goods now at his disposal should find many buyers among the musically devoted in this country and elsewhere.
Dan Morgenstern. "The Festivals: Twilight of the Giants? Randall's Island." Metronome. November 1961. 14.
Stan Kenton’s new band finally got the green light at 1:40 a.m. They had been ready since 7:30, and prior to that, been on the road all day. But tired as they might have been, they came on strong and full of conviction. Half the audience had long since gone home, but the band was not audibly or visibly discouraged. This is a brand-new band with a brand-new book and a section of newly invented horns—mellophoniums. It is a 23-piece band and it may well be the best band Stan’s ever had. They should have been on when everybody was still around to hear them. But then, this was a jazz festival n’est ce pas?