Mike Vax Big Band: I Remember You (1995)
Subtitled "A Musical Tribute to Stan Kenton, Johnny Richards and Dick Shearer," this album features alumni of the Stan Kenton Orchestra from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in some of the finest big band performances recorded anywhere. Although Kenton's will forbade "ghost bands" (like those that endlessly repeat the music of Glenn Miller), trumpeter Mike Vax has been able to put together what has now become an annual tour of Kenton alumni (and newcomers) to perform the music of the Kenton era as well as new works written in the style of, or inspired by, Stan Kenton. The stable of great composers who wrote for his band include Pete Rugolo, Bill Holman, Bill Russo, Gene Roland, Johnny Richards, Hank Levy, Dee Barton, Lennie Niehaus and Willie Maiden.
The album leads off with Willie Maiden's swinging original "A Little Minor Booze," a barnburner in the best Kenton tradition. Fans of the Kenton bands of the 1960s, especially those great ensembles which performed such works as Johnny Richards' "Adventures in Time," will remember lead alto player Gabe Baltazar. On this album we hear Baltazar's arrangement of Carlos Santana's "Europa," featuring Steve Wilkerson on alto sax. Most people will recognize "Europa" from the popular recording made by Argentine tenor saxophonist Gato Barbieri.
Particularly moving is the band's performance of "Eurydice," the last composition ever written by Johnny Richards, and a piece he never got to hear performed before his tragic death from cancer. Fans will notice a similarity between this piece and the introduction to "Quintile" from the Adventures in Time album, also composed by Richards.
Composer/arranger John Leubke contributes some very nice new charts from right out of the Kenton tradition, including the Joe Cocker ballad "You Are So Beautiful" (a very nice song when Joe Cocker isn't singing), and "Samba da Gamba," which sounds at times like it could have been written by Hank Levy, who was best known for his use of unusual time signatures.
I Remember You is much more than a trubute album. It is a demonstration of how Kenton's music is living on and developing in new and exciting ways. And that, I suppose, is exactly the kind of tribute that Stan Kenton would have wanted.
Track Listing: A Little Minor Booze; Europa; Eurydice; I Remember You; You Are So Beautiful; The Singing Oyster; Yesterdays; Fata Morgana; Makin' Whoopee; Peanut Vendor; Along Came Bill; Samba Da Gamba
Personnel: Mike Vax, trumpet, leader; Members of the Mike Vax Big Band
Record Label: Master Source
Style: Big Band