KENTON, BALBOA, THE RENDEZVOUS, and bis sounds—all synonymous!
THE RENDEZVOUS, on the southern coast of California, overlooking the blue Pacific on the peninsula at Balboa, has become not only the home, but workshop and recording studio for the great Kenton aggregation. The historic hall, smartly refurbished and aglow with activity, has been wired with the most modern sound equipment available and is once again pulsing to the excitement and color of “Artistry in Rhythm.”
it was late in 1957 that the Rendezvous became home base for the Kenton Orchestra. Balboa offered the stimulating surroundings; the Rendezvous offered a location spot between tours and incomparable acoustical properties.
The body of sound, and the crystal clear overtones achieved in this album, is attributed to the orchestra’s blowing over a block-long polished dance floor and reverberating from the great arched wooden ceiling. The effect, without the use of echo chambers or electronic magic, is one which seemingly places the listener within the walls of the pastel hall.
This, the second album from the Rendezvous, was sandwiched into a packed schedule of television shows, rehearsals, and the regular operating nights of the ballroom. So it was, on the evening of January 20, ’58, a well rehearsed Kenton Orchestra sat waiting for the tape to roll.
Typical of Kenton, several of the arrangements feature Afro-Cuban rhythms, which he himself feels will soon become such an integral part of American music that association with a definite locale will be from origin only.
comments by Kenton “After two years of requests, we finally had the opportunity to record the swinging Big Chase, a brilliant tempoed jazz composition by Marty Paich. Also from Marty’s pen came a fabulous melting of sounds in his arrangement of My Old Flame. Royal Blue was composed by Bill Holman, and was commissioned for our first tour of Great Britain in 1956. Exciting, powerful, and positive, it has become known and often requested on both sides of the Atlantic. The rest of the numbers in the album are recent contributions by Johnny Richards and reflect once again the brilliance of this outstanding orchestrator and composer of modern big band jazz. We feel this is one of our finest albums to date, and hope you share our enthusiasm format both technically and musically.”
Gold, Don. "Record Review. Back to Balboa." Down Beat 10 Jul. 1958: 25, 28.
Stan Kenton 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.
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.)
"Record Review. Back to Balboa." Billboard, 19 May 1957: 22.
BACK TO BALBOA (1-12”)—Stank [sic] Kenton. Capitol T 995
An exciting new effort from the swingin’ Kenton crew than can make a strong showing in pop and jazz markets. The arrangements are by Johnny Richards, Marty Paich and Bill Holman. The band has never sounded better, and the orkster’s fans should find this set an easy one to take. Sound quality is excellent. Selections include an explosive Latin beat styling of “Speak Low,” “I Concentrate on You” and “My Old Flame.”
MH. "Record Review: Back to Balboa." Jazz Journal Apr. 1963: 33.
Shera, Michael. "Record Review: Back to Balboa." Jazz Journal Apr. 1963: 33.
STAN KENTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA: Sam Noto, Phil Gilbert, Lee Katzman, Billy Catalano, Jules Chaikin (tpt); Kent Larsen, Jim Amlotte, Don Reed, Archie LeCoque (tbn) Kenny Shroyer (bs-tbn); Vince DeRosa, Jimmy Deckker (fr-h); Lennie Niehaus, Bill Robinson (alt); Bill Perkins, Richie Kamuca (ten); Steve Perlow (bar); Stan Kenton (p); Red Kelly (bs); Jerry McKenzie, drums. Rendezvous Ballroom, Balboa—January 20, 1958.
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
CAPITOL T995 (12-inch)—33/8½d.
Some confusion exists as to the personnel which is given on the sleeve as above. However, the baritone solos are credited to Robinson in the solo sequence listed and one Fitzpatrick is given as the soloist (presumably on trombone) on Speak Low. Definite information on these points lacking. Musically this record can only be taken seriously as a joke; perhaps as a shaggy dog story without the relief of an anti-climaxial ending. Seven of the titles were arranged by Johnny Richards with a dead-panned heavy-handedness that robs them of all their character. Begin the Beguine and Kurt Weill’s beautiful Speak Low suffer most. For Richards and many of Kenton's other arrangers the scoring of standards seems to be an end in itself in that it becomes a process whereby every melody is treated in the same way quite without regard for its individual character. Begin the Beguine, for example, should be scored so that its rhythm and the shape of its melody are clearly defined. But, like all the others, it is tricked out with the heaviest possible orchestration and loaded with every unnecessary detail imaginable. This business of systematic over-scoring reaches its hight in Flame. The melody is imparted with a ponderousness that is almost laughable.. The arrangements arc matched by the majority or the solos—especially the trombones. Perhaps the most consistent thing about Kenton’s records has been the really remarkable emptiness on the trombone solos to be found on them. With the exception of Kai Winding they all have had that staccato, a-rhythmic barking sound.
Could it be the result of over-blowing on so Kenton arrangements? Even Niehaus can do nothing in this context. On Beguine and World he has of the ingredients of good solos but l defy any altoist in jazz to swing against (and ‘against’ is the right word) the backings he receives here here. M.H.