Stan Kenton: Kenton Showcase (2000)
This re-release is composed of two Kenton albums from the 1950s showcasing the arrangements of Bill Russo and Bill Holman. Russo and Holman were more responsible for defining the Kenton sound than any other arrangers besides Kenton himself and Peter Rugolo. It is a testament to the greatest of Kenton's bands that they could acccomodate both the edgy intellectualism of Russo and the easy going swing of Holman at the same time.
One of Russo's best compositions, "Egdon Heath" (which is also found in New World Record's Anthology of Recorded American Music series), highlights the talents of trombonist Bob Fitzpatrick and the wonderful but woefully neglected alto saxophonist Davey Schildkraut. Conga legend Candido makes an appearance in Russo's "Bacante" while lead trumpeter Buddy Childers (who would also go on to play lead trumpet in the West Coast version of the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin Big Band) displays some great jazz chops in Russo's atypical swinger "Sweets."
The Holman charts feature Kenton's band at its most swinging, although there is much more harmonic and contrapuntal complexity to his writing than at first meets the ear. Three great alto saxophonists dominate Holman's arrangements: Davey Schildkraut, Charlie Mariano and Lee Konitz. Although Konitz's understated style would seem like a strange fit against the massive sound of the Kenton ensemble, he performs some of his best work here. Particularly impressive is Konitz's amazing display of technique in the hard driving "In Lighter Vein."
In listening to this album it becomes abundantly clear why the Stan Kenton Orchestra was the most popular big band of the post-war era and why it was musically one of the most important jazz groups of all time. Esoteric, swinging, playing in a dynamic range from triple fortissimo to triple piano, with virtuosic soloists and section work of symphonic calibre, the Kenton band had it all and still conntinues to be a powerful presence in jazz even twenty odd years after the death of its visionary leader.
Track Listing: A Theme of Four Values; A Study for Bass; Blues Before and After; Bacante; Thisbe; Egdon Heath; Sweets; Dusk; Bags; Hava Havana; Solo for Buddy; The Opener; Fearless Finlay; Theme and Variations; Kingfish; In Lighter Vein; Of All Things; Lover Man My Funny Valentine Bags (alternate take)
Personnel: Stan Kenton, piano; Don Bagley, bass; Buddy Childers, trumpet; Bob Fitzpatrick, trombone; Charlie Mariano, alto saxophone; Sam Noto, trumpet; Bill Perkins, tenor saxophone; Frank Rosolino, trombone; Dave Schildkraut, alto saxophone; Stu Williamson, trumpet; Candido Camero, conga; Milt Gold, trombone; Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Bill Holman, arranger; Bill Russo, arranger