Big bands may have started to disappear from the entertainment scene after War World II; but not Stan Kenton's. Unlike those other groups which hung in there like Ellington and Basie, Kenton virtually discarded playing for dance dates concentrating more and more on concerts. This allowed him to develop and play arrangements which became more complex and some claimed, pretentious, culminating in the controversial 23-piece Los Angeles Neophonic Orch. of 1965. The group at this hitherto unreleased 1971 Clearwater concert is not as large as the Neophonic group. But it still had 18 players with the Kenton trademark large brass section that blared as brilliantly as ever. What's missing are the great arrangers and players that peopled Kenton's 1940's, 50's and 60's groups and read like a Who's Who of jazz. Also missing is a band vocalist. Joe Ellis does "Terry Talk", a take off on Clark Terry's special style of wordless vocalizing forever institutionalized in his "Mumbles". Ellis' style in some ways anticipates the later coming of Rap.
This 1971 group not is made up of slouches, however. There are outstanding musicians in this group. Quinn Davis and Chuck Carter provide sizzling sax solos as does Gary Pack on trumpet. Dennis Noday shares with Pack the Maynard Ferguson high note trumpet player important to many Kenton arrangements. And Kenton plays some charts of his past arrangers like Bill Holman's "Malaga" and Dee Barton's "MacArthur Park". The leading arranger with this Kenton outfit, Willie Maiden, adds some interesting charts of his own. And the charts are as complex as ever featuring the expected, but still startling, Kenton drastic shifts in rhythm within the same song.
However, at this stage of his career, Kenton didn't have all that much new or different to say. And a few years after this concert, he would no longer be with us. Despite the fact that this group lacks the newness of earlier aggregations, its playing is still vibrant. But this 2-CD release is more than 1½ hours of Kenton and that may be too much for all but died in the wool Kenton devotees.
Track Listing: CD 1 Stan Kenton "Hello"; Didn't We; A Little Minor Booze; Chiapas; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life; MacArthur Park; Malaga; Terry Talk; Tico Tico; Sodomy (from Hair) CD 2 Girl Talk; Stan Kenton Orchestra Introduction; Bogota; Intermission Riff; Love for Sale; Hank's Opener; Peanut Vendor; Artistry on Rhythm
Personnel: Stan Kenton - Leader/Piano; Gary Pack, Dennis Noday, Mike Vax, Joe Ellis, Joe Marsinkowicz - Trumpet; Mike Wallace, Mike Jamieson, Dick Shearer, Fred Carter, Graham Ellis - Trombone; Chuck Carter, Kim Frizell, Quinn Davis, Richard Torres, Willie Maiden - Sax; Gary Todd - Bass; John Von Ohlen - Drums; Ellis, Joe - Vocals