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CD/LP/Track Review

The Stan Kenton Orchestra: Odyssey 1951-68

By Published: December 1, 2000
The Kenton Orchestra’s Odyssey, comprising previously unreleased concert dates from 1951–68, was assembled from various sources (audio tapes) by John Loeffler’s superb Astral Jazz label, which already has given Kenton partisans the orchestra’s definitive in–person recording, the magnificent Live at Keesler Air Force Base, 1958, and at least three other superlative concerts by the unrivaled Kenton ensemble. If Odyssey doesn’t quite parallel Keesler, it comes so close that scarcely anyone who admires Kenton’s super–charged modus operandi will be in the least disheartened. Overlooking all other aspects, the cadre of composers, arrangers and soloists alone makes Odyssey an indispensable adjunct to any Kenton enthusiast’s library. Among the more celebrated composers and / or arrangers are Manny Albam, Neal Hefti, Bill Russo, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Gene Roland, Lennie Niehaus, Bill Perkins, Johnny Richards and Stan himself, while the more prominent soloists include saxophonists Perkins, Niehaus, Art Pepper, Zoot Sims, Davey Schildkraut, Don Rendell, Bill Trujillo, Gabe Baltazer, Steve Marcus and Billy Root; trombonists Bob Fitzpatrick, Kent Larsen, Carl Fontana, Archie LeCoque and Jiggs Whigham (sorry, no Frank Rosolino); trumpeters Sam Noto, Rolf Ericson and Bud Brisbois, and Kenton at the piano. Bassists Don Bagley, Curtis Counce, Red Kelly, Scott LaFaro and John Worster keep flawless time, and drummers Shelly Manne, Stan Levey, Mel Lewis, Jerry McKenzie and Dee Barton accentuate the orchestra’s explosive temperament. Highlights (we could single out almost every number) include Mulligan’s “Swing House” and “Young Blood,” Holman’s “Carl” (for Fontana), “Theme and Variations” and “Kingfish,” his arrangements of “Yesterdays,” “Cherokee,” “Granada” and “Stella by Starlight,” Roland’s fugue–like take on “Bernie’s Tune,” Russo’s “Solitaire,” Joe Coccia’s “Nightingale“ (LeCoque’s ’bone feature), Kenton’s “Concerto to End All Concertos” (with a sublime chorus by Sims) and “Artistry in Rhythm," Roland's unruffled "Opus in Chartreuse" and "Blues Story," Richards' passionate "Cuban Fire" medley, and trumpeter Ray Wetzel's memorable head arrangement, "Intermission Riff," all performed under the big top without benefit of a safety net. For those who prize Kenton's marvelous road bands from the early '50s to late '60s, here's another treasure from the bounteous Astral Jazz storehouse.

John Loeffler, Astral Jazz, P. O. Box 9, Gardner, CO 81040. (phone 719–746–2011; fax 719–746–2071). jastral@aol.com


Track Listing: Disc 1

Personnel: Kenton, leader, piano, conductor. A

Record Label: Astral Jazz

Style: Big Band



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