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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stan Kenton Alumni Band: Road Scholars Live

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For more than twenty years, the Stan Kenton Alumni Band has kept the pulse of big-band jazz strongly beating through regular touring under the direction of trumpet master Mike Vax, who served as the Orchestra's first trumpet, soloist and road manager (and also spent one year leading The Dukes of Dixieland, a genuine New Orleans musical treasure) before assuming leadership of the Stan Kenton Alumni Band. Road Scholars Live captures this Band in their element: Blowing hot and cool through an encyclopedic survey of modern styles for an appreciative concert audience during their 2013 performance tour. It pulls ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stan Kenton Alumni Band: Road Scholars

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Road Scholars? A clever title indeed, but these gentlemen (and three ladies) are more akin to “road maestros," an appraisal that is abundantly clear from A to Z on this latest recording by trumpeter Mike Vax's turbo-charged Stan Kenton Alumni Band, taped at various concerts during the band's 2013 spring tour, a two-week, three-thousand-mile odyssey that encompassed a dozen concerts in six states and the District of Columbia. About four thousand people were lucky enough to see and hear the band in person; the rest of us will have to make do with these fourteen imperfect snapshots culled from its ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stan Kenton: Road Shows

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For younger readers: yes, there was a time long ago when large groups of talented jazz musicians traveled without respite from city to city and town to town, braving one-night stands or more night after night in (mostly) sold-out concert halls, dance halls, pavilions, nightclubs, schools and other venues. They were known as big bands, so enormously popular that they even had their own “era," and the world may never see their like again, at least not on the road. Fortunately for those of us who remain standing, some of their historic performances were recorded, and more than a few ...

BIG BAND REPORT

Did Stan Kenton Swing? You Bet Your Walkin' Shoes He Did...

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I've been listening to a lot of Stan Kenton's music recently while coming to grips with the age-old question, did the Kenton orchestra really swing? The answer, to me, is a no-brainer: Yes, Kenton swung. Liberally and often. [Note: This of course depends on how “swinging" is defined; opinions may vary]. In his own way--although he'd have been loath to admit it--Kenton's series of orchestras swung as hard as anyone, even Basie, Herman or Rich. For assurance, one need look no further than some of the arrangers Kenton employed--die-hard swingers such as Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan and Marty ...

DVD/VIDEO/FILM REVIEWS

Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm - Portrait Of A Jazz Legend

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Stan KentonArtistry In Rhythm: Portrait Of A Jazz LegendJazzed Media2011 “I thought that [Stan] was an echo of life itself: that life is precious, life is exquisite, and life is magnificent. He lived it, and his legacy points to some of those values. Whether we are able to interpret them or not, they are there." That's noted jazz historian, educator and author Dr. Herb Wong, having (almost) the last word on Graham Carter's superlative documentary, Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, and summarizing the legendary bandleader's life and legacy about as well ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Stan Kenton Alumni Band: Have Band, Will Travel (Live)

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Stan Kenton Alumni Band Have Band, Will Travel (Live) Summit Records 2010

For over two decades, trumpeter Mike Vax, a veteran of the 1970-72 Stan Kenton Orchestra, has been a tireless crusader maintaining the legacy of his erstwhile boss, who died at age 67 in 1979. Have Band, Will Travel (Live) is the Stan Kenton Alumni Band's fourth recording for the Summit label. It maintains the ensemble's commitment to Kenton not only through music performed by the original band, but also through modern compositions and arrangements which fit comfortably with the Kenton aesthetic. Audio ...

BIG BAND REPORT

Salute to Stan Kenton: Artistry in Contrast

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Artistry in Rhythm, the Ken Poston / Los Angeles Jazz Institute's 2009 homage to the renowned bandleader Stan Kenton, was held October 8-11 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points Hotel. As always, there was much to see, hear and admire: films, panel discussions, special presentations and, last but not least, no fewer than nineteen concerts by groups large and small including four lunchtime events at the Sheraton's outdoor swimming pool. A number of Kenton alumni were there, almost all of whom were performing in various ensembles and / or taking part in the panels. The music was, with at least ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

The Mike Vax Big Band Featuring Alumni of the Stan Kenton Orchestra: Sounds from the Road

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The traveling autobus--the road to the road--has frequently been used as a symbolic metaphor in movies, books, commercials and, of course, songs of all kinds. Bus travel seems to have an oddly romantic element. In the halcyon days of the barnstorming big bands, bus and car travel were the only direct ways to get to the gigs. Now that this bit of musical Americana is history, it takes awesome nerve for Mike Vax to briefly resurrect the concept of a bus-touring big band traveling America. And for world-class musicians to sign on to Vax's tour is testimony to the respect ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stan Kenton: Cool Hot & Swingin'

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Cool Hot & Swingin', the seventh in an ongoing series of Stan Kenton treasures unearthed by Bill Lichtenauer's ever-resourceful Tantara Productions, recaps a splendid concert performance in February 1956 at the Civic Auditorium in San Bernardino, CA.

This was a time when Kenton had pared the trombone and reed sections to four members each and added two French horns and a tuba, a departure that lasted about a year. It was also a time when the great Bill Holman, with whom Kenton didn't always see eye-to-eye when it came to composing and arranging, was writing the lion's share of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stan Kenton: Sophisticated Approach

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Sophisticated Approach is a reissue of eighteen iconic ballad arrangements by Stan Kenton, originally recorded in 1961 with his unique and controversial four-piece mellophonium horn section. The ballroom circuit was the life-blood of the Kenton Mellophonium Orchestra in the late '50s and early '60s, and this album, arranged by Lennie Niehaus, was intended as an addition to the dance library, which was to contain plenty of up-tempo tunes. After recording two beautiful slow pieces, however, the producers pushed for an entire album of ballads utilizing the Kenton mellophoniums.

Kenton's arrangements were often front-loaded with an eight to ten-man ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stan Kenton: Sophisticated Approach

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The Donald Rumsfeld of American big band jazz in the 1940s and 1950s, Stan Kenton didn't so much embrace his audiences as shock-n-awe them into submission with relentless carpet bombing. Kenton's monstrous orchestras--the most overblown being the 43-piece Innovations In Modern Music outfit of the early 1950s--specialised in heavy-footed, portentous, screaming brass performances which left zero space for light and shade, spontaneous improvisation or loose rhythmic swing. True to its era, Kenton's music was something from which to duck and cover.

By the end of the 1950s, economics had obliged Kenton to withdraw some of his men, and 1961's Mellophonium ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Stan Kenton/The Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra: New Horizons Vol. 1 & 2

Stan Kenton/The Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra New Horizons, Volumes 1 & 2 Tantara Productions 2005

Looking back on Stan Kenton, it's important to keep his bands in perspective. In '65, when these concerts were recorded, there just wasn't anything happening in big bands. Ellington was coasting, Basie was doing Beatles songs and Bond themes, and everyone was questioning the longevity of big bands. In rides Kenton to the rescue with the only permanent resident orchestra devoted to contemporary music, and a who's who of arrangers and soloists.

The first volume features sophisticated charts by ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Stan Kenton: Back to Balboa

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By 1957, the Big Band Era was pretty well over. Fortunately pianist Stan Kenton never got the message. In fact, he continued to tour with various aggregations well into the ‘70s, ultimately laying the groundwork for modern jazz education with school performances and clinics. While the handwriting may have been on the wall in the late ‘50s, there was still a large segment of the listening public that, having grown up on big bands, still loved the sound of a roaring brass section and tightly arranged saxophones. Stan Kenton offered them that, with the emphassis on the roaring. ...

ARTIST PROFILES

The Stan Kenton Legacy

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Submitted on behalf of George Harris

Before there were Dead Heads, Trekkies and even Beatlemaniacs, there were Kentonites. It’s difficult to believe that people like your father or uncle could have such unadulterated devotion to a leader, a band and an attitude about music, but it’s true. Sixty years ago, Stan Kenton put the musical world on notice that he was going to add his signature sound to American popular music, and pop/jazz fans have been rabidly divided on his merits, akin to the Tories and Loyalists. Only the likes of Chet Baker or Sun Ra have as strong a ...



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