Salute to Stan Kenton: Artistry in Contrast
Panel No. 2, which followed, was a humdinger, with Dave Pell as moderator and panelists Dick Meldonian, Med Flory and Bill Trujillo trading humorous anecdotes and one-liners about the good old days while Pell responded in kind. An hour that flew by far too quickly. Afterward, Trujillo hustled poolside for a concert by "Shelly Manne's Men" (Bobby Shew, trumpet; Frank Collett, piano; Chuck Berghofer, bass; Paul Kreibich, drums). The upbeat session, a departure from the usual big-band poolside fare, opened with an original titled "Cabu," followed by Benny Golson's "Whisper Not," Tadd Dameron's "Our Delight" and "Poinciana." Russ Freeman's "Hugo Hureway" preceded "Nightingale" and the free-swinging closer, "Bee's Fleet." Shew was his lyrical self, Trujillo plainspoken, the quintet close-knit with Kreibich using mallets to awaken memories of Shelly on "Bee's Fleet."
The early afternoon concert brought another big band onstage, this time backing songstress Nakasian in "Something Cool: A Jazz Portrait of June Christy." Nakasian, who teaches at the University of Virginia and is as much musician as singer, has a clear and likable voice, excellent range, solid intonation, perceptive dynamics and, apparently, an unerring knack for choosing the proper songs. The stellar program included "I'll Take Romance," "I Should Care," "This Time the Dream's on Me," "Midnight Sun," "It's a Most Unusual Day," "All About Ronnie" (a bow to the recently departed Chris Connor, accompanied only by bassist Chris Conner), "Too Marvelous for Words," "The Night We Called It a Day," "Lullaby in Rhythm," "Something Cool" (of course), "It Could Happen to You," the Woody Herman favorite "I Told You I Love You, Now Get Out," "A Stranger Called the Blues" and "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." On "I Told You I Love You" Nakasian mimicked a trombone, trading sharp four-bar volleys with Scott Whitfield. Standing ovation? Yes, and well-deserved.
Alto saxophonist Fred Selden's exhilarating concert, "The Music of Art Pepper," was preceded by Poston's audio-visual presentation, "A Portrait of Bud Shank," covering the renowned saxophonist's early years until he joined the Kenton Orchestra in 1950. For his session, Selden was backed by Pepper's last rhythm sectionpianist Milcho Leviev, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Carl Burnettfor a program that included the spine-tingling "Surf Ride," "Make a Wish, Make a List" (on which Selden played flute), "Groovin' High," "Patricia" (written for Pepper's daughter, who was in the audience with his widow, Laurie), a rather ramshackle "Red Car" and the buoyant "Straight Life." To his credit, Selden didn't try to mimic Pepper's singular approach but did a marvelous job sitting in for him.
There was one more concert before the dinner break, by the Shorty Rogers Big Band directed by trumpeter Bobby Shew. This was not a panoramic view of Rogers' work, as seven of the dozen songs were taken from a single album, Cool and Crazy, recorded in 1953. Apparently, the band thought it was performing an eighth tune from the album, "Chiquito Loco," but it was actually a big band arrangement of Rogers' "Popo." Those from Cool and Crazy included "Coop de Graas," "Infinity Promenade," "Short Stop," "Boar-Jibu," "Contours," "Tale of an African Lobster" and "Sweetheart of Sigmund Freud." The others were "Pay the Piper," "At Home with Sweets" (for trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison), "The Pink Squirrel" and "Blues Express." The band could have used more rehearsal time (and brisker tempos, especially on "Short Stop") but the soloists were invariably impressive with Selden (alto) in a group that included tenors Trujillo and Gary Lefebvre, trombonist Whitfield, trumpeter Carl Saunders and pianist Jim Cox.
After supper, Werner Herbers returned to conduct a big-band concert (with strings) of Kenton's "Innovations in Modern Music" (a.k.a. more Bob Graettinger). The full orchestra opened with Graettinger's "Transparency" (actually its antithesis), after which the string section was featured by itself on his "House of Strings No. 2." Next came the moment everyone had been waiting for, a few with anticipation, most with dreada sweeping orchestral version of Graettinger's "City of Glass." Herbers had directed the audience's attention to the last breathtaking chord in Movement No. 4, which couldn't arrive fast enough for this embattled listener. Helping pass the time more quickly was the thought of an amusing epigram attributed to the late trumpeter Buddy Childers that was making the rounds in the hallway: "People who live in glass cities shouldn't write charts."