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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
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
, 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 one notable (and overlong) exception, well worth hearing. More about that later.

Prologue

Betty and I arrived in L.A. two days early (on our thirtieth wedding anniversary), not for the "bonus" event at Capitol Records in Hollywood (at which the Mike Vax

Mike Vax
Mike Vax

trumpet
Band performed twice) but to spend Wednesday morning and afternoon with Betty's sister Barbara in Encino. After a few harrowing miles on the Interstate we had a pleasant visit and delicious lunch, returning to the hotel around suppertime to rest and prepare for the opening of the Kenton extravaganza.

Thursday, October 8

Artistry began, as is customary, at 9 o'clock Thursday morning with the first of four films, all devoted to "The Kenton Era." This one, spanning the years 1941-48, included clips of Kenton (with Gus Arnheim

Gus Arnheim
b.1897
's Orchestra in '37), bassists Howard Rumsey
Howard Rumsey
Howard Rumsey
b.1917
and Eddie Safranski, percussionist Chico (Alfred) Alvarez, trumpeter Buddy Childers
Buddy Childers
1926 - 2007
trumpet
, singer June Christy
June Christy
June Christy
1925 - 1990
vocalist
(whose "Something Cool" was sabotaged by a technical glitch), Pete Rugolo
Pete Rugolo
Pete Rugolo
b.1915
composer/conductor
's orchestra, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
, trombonist Kai Winding
Kai Winding
Kai Winding
1922 - 1983
trombone
playing "Lover Man" (with Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
on piano, Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
on drums, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
and saxophonist Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
lurking nearby), drummer Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
Shelly Manne
1920 - 1984
drums
(from the soundtrack of the Bob Hope / Bing Crosby film The Road to Bali), clips from the TV show featuring Herb Geller
Herb Geller
Herb Geller
1928 - 2013
saxophone
, Stu Williamson
Stu Williamson
1933 - 1991
trumpet
and Laurindo Almeida
Laurindo Almeida
Laurindo Almeida
1917 - 1995
guitar
, and bongo master Jack Costanzo
Jack Costanzo
Jack Costanzo
b.1922
bongos
performing in the Elvis Presley film Harum Scarum and backing Nat Cole on "Calypso Blues."

The film was followed by the first of five special presentations, "In Search of Bob Graettinger

," overseen by Werner Herbers, former principal oboist in the Netherlands Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Robert Morgan, director emeritus of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. While they were searching for Graettinger I went in search of band rehearsals, and found one delving into the more congenial music of Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
Shorty Rogers
1924 - 1994
trumpet
. At noon, it was off to poolside for a bite to eat and a concert by the splendid Cal State University-Fullerton Jazz Ensemble led by Chuck Tumlinson. The weather was cool but pleasant for a sleek hour-long program that included Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
's "In a Mellow Tone," Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
sax, tenor
's "Hav-a-Havana," Gene Roland
Gene Roland
b.1921
's "Street Scene," Hank Levy
Hank Levy
1927 - 2001
sax, tenor
's "Time for a Change," trumpeter Tim Hagans
Tim Hagans
Tim Hagans
b.1954
trumpet
' "Space Dozen" and Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
's "Anthropology" (with obligatory SuperSax passages for the reed section). The ensemble was tight, the soloists strong. Nice program.

After a short break, the Pete Rugolo Orchestra directed by Ron Jones was first up in the California Ballroom, playing music written by Rugolo for his own big band. With Rugolo's daughter Gina in the audience, the orchestra opened with "California Melodies," "Painted Rhythm" and "Early Stan" before featuring flautist Kim Richmond

Kim Richmond
Kim Richmond

saxophone
on a seductive version of "Poinciana." Richmond returned on alto for the venerable "Eager Beaver," which followed "Come Back Little Rocket." Rugolo was a consummate arranger of ballads, as shown on the next three numbers—"You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Sunday, Monday or Always" and "Laura." The orchestra closed the session with the lively "Fancy Meeting You." Besides Richmond, the first-rate improvisers included alto Dick Meldonian, trumpeters Ron Stout and Bob Summers
Bob Summers
b.1944
, tenor Billy Kerr and pianist Rich Eames.

A panel discussion, the first of four, followed in the San Diego Room with moderator Kirk Silsbee overseeing a quintet whose members were Rumsey, "Mr. Bongos" Costanzo, trombonist Eddie Bert

Eddie Bert
Eddie Bert
1922 - 2012
trombone
, bassist Don Bagley
Don Bagley
b.1927
and trombonist Roy Wiegand. Rumsey, who appears to have gotten his second wind at age ninety-two, offered several perceptive sketches of Kenton and his orchestras, as did the other panelists.

Rumsey's legendary Lighthouse All-Stars were reassembled for the next concert, which showcased the music of one ot its most gifted (and underrated) members, tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper

Bob Cooper
1925 - 1993
saxophone
. Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
sat in for Coop, with trombonist Andy Martin
Andy Martin
Andy Martin
b.1960
and trumpeter Marvin Stamm
Marvin Stamm
Marvin Stamm
b.1939
trumpet
completing a solid front line that was backed by a blue-ribbon rhythm section (pianist Steve Strazzeri, bassist Luther Hughes and drummer Kendall Kay). The songs, all written and / or arranged by Cooper, included "Jubilation," "Night Life," "Snap the Whip," "Mad at the World," "All the Things You Are" and "Moto." Everyone was on the mark and the audience was enraptured, blissfully unaware of what was yet to come.

What follows is one's personal opinion and should not be construed as anything more.

After the dinner break, things began to slide inexorably downhill as Kim Richmond took center stage to conduct a concert of "Progressive Jazz." The set began with two of Pete Rugolo's more prosaic charts, the frenzied Afro-Cuban theme "Machito" and four-movement "Prologue Suite," before Richmond invited the charming vocalist Stephanie Nakasian

onstage to sing three numbers—"Easy Street," "Interlude" and "How High the Moon." Following that brief respite, the ensemble closed with the equivocal "Impressions."

Many in the audience hadn't had time to recover before Werner Herbers appeared onstage to conduct a six-hour recital of "The Music of Bob Graettinger" (okay, it was one hour; it only seemed like six). Bob Graettinger. How can one suitably appraise his legacy? Well, to begin with, it must be conceded that his turgid and unwieldy themes, tedious and strident as they may be, do comprise "music" of a sort, even though devoid of any elements that would earn this listener's endorsement. To put it another way, were I to be appointed Jazz Czar I would immediately ban Graettinger's music from any and all future jazz events, as it clearly has nothing to do with jazz (that is to say, improvised music). The sole connection seems to be that it was performed by the Kenton Orchestra. Nevertheless, Graettinger's works were prominently displayed here, starting with "Thermopylae" and including "Untitled Original No. 427," "The Beachcomber," "Yenta," "Molshoaro" and a small-band version of the enigmatic "City of Glass."

I fully understand that some people, musicians among them, consider Graettinger's music to be nothing short of brilliant, while others shake their heads and wonder what the **** it was that they just heard. Obviously, I belong in the latter group. To me, most of it is nothing short of overwrought, self-indulgent noise. Among the comments I heard afterward, in the hall and elevator, none was positive—and that may be an understatement. On the other hand, a fully orchestrated version of Graettinger's reputed "masterpiece"—"City of Glass"—would not be heard until the following evening.

There were welcome reprieves during the set, as designated vocalist Nakasian made her second appearance and delighted the audience with her renditions of "Everything Happens to Me," "Lover Man" and "Fine and Dandy" ("Like singing in an earthquake," she later observed), while the orchestra performed one of Graettinger's more accessible charts, "April in Paris."

Perhaps Graettinger was, as some maintain, one of Kenton's more important composer / arrangers. But there were others, at least one of whom—the masterful William Russo

William Russo
1928 - 2003
composer/conductor
—was scarcely mentioned during the four-day event. Of course, it could be argued that his output was minimal. After all, he only wrote (among others) "Solitaire," "Halls of Brass," "Bill's Blues," "Portrait of a Count," "Frank Speaking," "23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West," "My Lady" and arranged much of the music on two of Kenton's more successful albums, Sketches on Standards and Portraits on Standards. End (for now) of unsolicited commentary.

Friday, October 9

Another day, another film, this one enveloping "Stan Kenton and the Birth of West Coast Jazz." Included were film clips of trumpeter Shorty Rogers (hilarious!); the Kenton Innovations Orchestra (from Ed Sullivan's TV show); saxophonist Art Pepper

Art Pepper
Art Pepper
1925 - 1982
sax, alto
; the Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
Maynard Ferguson
1928 - 2006
trumpet
Dream Band; Bob Cooper and saxophonist / flautist Bud Shank
Bud Shank
Bud Shank
1926 - 2009
saxophone
at the Lighthouse; trombonist Frank Rosolino
Frank Rosolino
Frank Rosolino
1926 - 1978
trombone
playing "All the Things You Are" and singing the humorous "Please Don't Bug Me"; Rogers with Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
1915 - 1998
vocalist
in a scene from the movie Man with the Golden Arm; saxophonist Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
; Rogers, Ferguson and Shelly Manne with trumpeter Conte Candoli
Conte Candoli
Conte Candoli
1927 - 2001
trumpet
and saxophonist Richie Kamuca
Richie Kamuca
Richie Kamuca
1930 - 1977
sax, tenor
; and the Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
Sextet featuring saxophonist Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
1925 - 1985
sax, tenor
and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
.

Panel No. 2, which followed, was a humdinger, with Dave Pell

Dave Pell
Dave Pell
b.1935
saxophone
as moderator and panelists Dick Meldonian, Med Flory
Med Flory
Med Flory
1926 - 2014
sax, tenor
and Bill Trujillo
Bill Trujillo
b.1930
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
Bobby Shew
Bobby Shew
b.1941
trumpet
, trumpet; Frank Collett, piano; Chuck Berghofer
Chuck Berghofer
Chuck Berghofer
b.1937
bass
, 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
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
's "Whisper Not," Tadd Dameron
Tadd Dameron
Tadd Dameron
1917 - 1965
arranger
'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

Chris Connor
Chris Connor
1927 - 2009
vocalist
, 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
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
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
Scott Whitfield
Scott Whitfield
b.1963
trombone
. Standing ovation? Yes, and well-deserved.

Alto saxophonist Fred Laurence Selden

's exhilarating concert, "The Music of Art Pepper," was preceded by Poston's audio-visual presentation, "A Portrait of Bud Shank
Bud Shank
Bud Shank
1926 - 2009
saxophone
," 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 section—pianist Milcho Leviev
Milcho Leviev
Milcho Leviev
b.1937
piano
, bassist Tony Dumas
Tony Dumas
Tony Dumas
b.1955
and drummer Carl Burnette—for 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

Harry
Harry "Sweets" Edison
1915 - 1999
trumpet
), "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
Carl Saunders
Carl Saunders
b.1942
trumpet
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 dread—a 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."

Having splintered the "City" into countless shards, Herbers departed, and after a much-needed break the "Innovations" orchestra returned, this time with Kim Richmond at the helm, to clear the air with some relatively accessible themes, starting with the venerable "All the Things You Are," showcasing trumpeter Ron Stout in the solo role once owned by Maynard Ferguson. After Franklin Marks' downward "Spirals," Nakasian returned to offer a wordless vocal on Rugolo's well-named "Conflict" and stayed for Cole Porter's "Love for Sale." Alto Don Shelton was brilliant on Shorty Rogers' "Art Pepper," trombonist Roy Wiegand

smooth as velvet on Johnny Richards' "Soliloquy." After three more vocals by Nakasian ("Get Happy," "I Want to Be Happy," Rugolo's arrangement of "Lonesome Road"), the orchestra wrapped up the concert and the evening with a rather stodgy and heavy-handed version of Rogers' buoyant "Jolly Rogers" (solos by Richmond, alto; Stout, trumpet).

Saturday, October 10

Saturday morning's third film, which I missed, was centered on the Kenton orchestra's vocalists including June Christy, Anita O'Day

Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
1919 - 2006
vocalist
, the Four Freshmen, Ann Richards
Ann Richards
b.1935
, Dolly Mitchell and Gene Howard. Alas, there was no available film footage of Chris Connor or Jean Turner. The montage was followed by a presentation of "Kenton Rarities" by Kenton bibliophile Steven Harris who must spend most of his waking hours searching for rare and almost-unknown Kenton curios. These particular items included "Artistry Jumps" (1945), an improvised Kenton / Christy duet ("He's Funny That Way"), "Autumn in New York" (with sub Al Cohn
Al Cohn
Al Cohn
1925 - 1988
sax, tenor
on tenor), a Chris Connor vocal ("Darn That Dream"), "Tamer-Lane," "Street Scene" featuring Gene Roland on mellophonium, "Swing Machine" (1968), "Step to the Rear of the Volkswagen" (1970), "Poinciana" (1971), "Pete Is a Four-Letter Word" (1974) and some choice four-letter words by Kenton himself from Donte's in Hollywood, circa 1968.

The noon poolside concert, by the Cal State-Fullerton Jazz Ensemble led by Chuck Tumlinson, was as sunny and refreshing as Los Angeles can be in mid-October. The band was pumped and on its toes throughout a pleasing set that opened with John Clayton

John Clayton
John Clayton
b.1952
bass, acoustic
's "Max" and included Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
b.1961
composer/conductor
's fine arrangement of "I Remember You," Clare Fischer
Clare Fischer
Clare Fischer
1928 - 2012
band/orchestra
's "The Duke," Don Menza
Don Menza
Don Menza
b.1936
saxophone
's aptly named "Groove Blues," a Jeff Jarvis arrangement of Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
's "Ain't Misbehavin'" (with the trumpet soloist doubling as band singer), Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
's "Slings and Arrows" and a Phil Wilson
Phil Wilson
b.1937
charmer, "Basically Blues." Another high-grade session by the college kids.

As Betty and I were to meet a young friend for lunch (she's a junior at nearby Pepperdine University), I was unable to catch the first half of another splendid concert, "Andy Martin Plays Frank Rosolino." What I did hear was superb, as Martin dazzled on Monk's "Well You Needn't," the standards "Flamingo," "Star Eyes" and "Yesterdays," and the chops-busting finale, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Martin's Grade A rhythm section was comprised of John Campbell

John Campbell
b.1955
, piano; Trey Henry, bass; and Kreibich, drums. As Martin noted, when it comes to jazz trombone Rosolino was truly in a class by himself, and there may never be another like him. But Martin comes about as close to Rosolino as anyone these days.

A late afternoon concert by the Maynard Ferguson Birdland Era Dream Band All-Stars directed by Don Menza was preceded by Panel No. 3, comprised of Kenton alumni Carl Saunders, Steve Huffsteter, Marvin Stamm

Marvin Stamm
Marvin Stamm
b.1939
trumpet
, Jim Amlotte and Joel Kaye. Again, many tantalizing tales of Kenton and his orchestra, onstage and off, were recited, interspersed with humorous asides and anecdotes that kept the audience spellbound and chuckling with delight. Moderator Larry Hathaway had little to do but ask each of the panelists how he got on Kenton's band, then sit back and smile with everyone else.

Tony Inzalaco, one of Ferguson's drummers, was among the alumni in the All-Star Dream Band. Others included Menza, trumpeter Don Rader

Don Rader
b.1935
trumpet
and alto Lanny Morgan
Lanny Morgan
Lanny Morgan
b.1934
. Rader and Morgan were featured on the easygoing opener, "And We Listened," Morgan again with trombonist Bill Reichenbach and trumpeter Shew on "Stella by Starlight." Menza took his turn alongside trumpeter Pete DeSiena and trombonist Charlie Morillas on "My Funny Valentine," after which Rader returned to share blowing space with Morgan, tenor Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
Pete Christlieb
b.1945
saxophone
and pianist Joe Bagg
Joe Bagg
Joe Bagg

keyboard
on Slide Hampton
Slide Hampton
Slide Hampton
b.1932
trombone
's colorful "Slide's Derangement." Another Hampton classic, the durable "Frame for the Blues," served as a backdrop for Menza, Morillas and bassist Chris Conner, with awesome high notes courtesy of DeSiena. The band closed with a twin salute to the animal kingdom by Willie Maiden
Willie Maiden
b.1928
, "Foxy" and "Three More Foxes," the first showcasing Christlieb, Menza, Bagg, baritone Adam Schroeder and trumpeter Jamie Hovorka, the second Rader, Shew, Hovorka and drummer Inzalaco. This was a loose and gregarious session, one that left almost everyone with a smile on his / her face.

Panel No. 4, held before the dinner break, was well-reasoned and perceptive, with clear and insightful commentary from its two panelists, bassist Max Bennett

Max Bennett
Max Bennett
b.1928
and legendary composer / arranger Bill Holman
Bill Holman
Bill Holman
b.1927
sax, tenor
. Moderator Kirk Silsbee asked suitable questions, which neither panelist hesitated to answer. The usually reticent Holman seemed quite at ease, and his answers were thoughtful and comprehensive, as were Bennett's. Those who were there departed for supper with much to review and ponder.

Back in the California Ballroom with appetites assuaged, the audience readied itself for "Contemporary Concepts," another all-star session highlighting dynamic charts by Holman and Gerry Mulligan. As Al Porcino

Al Porcino
Al Porcino
1925 - 2013
trumpet
was ill and unable to direct the ensemble, his place was taken by Carl Saunders who doubled as lead trumpet. Unlike the previous two evening concerts, one can hardly go astray while playing the music of Holman or Mulligan, as the band quickly proved on the opener, Gerry's passionate "Young Blood." Alto Med Flory soloed alone on Holman's arrangement of "Cherokee" and with trombonist Bob McChesney
Bob McChesney
Bob McChesney

trombone
and tenor Bill Trujillo on Mulligan's "Swing House." The standard "Yesterdays," once a showcase for tenor Bill Perkins
Bill Perkins
Bill Perkins
1924 - 2003
saxophone
, brought Trujillo to the fore again, while alto Dick Meldonian was featured on Holman's dashing arrangement of "Stella by Starlight." Mulligan's even-tempered "Walkin' Shoes" (Trujillo, Meldonian, trombonist Kenny Shroyer, trumpeter Marvin Stamm) and "Stella" preceded a pair of Holman's incomparable charts, "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "What's New," before the band rang down the curtain with his sparkling arrangement of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin."

If that wasn't enough Holman to please everyone, the final concert of the evening brought to the stage the Bill Holman Band, one of the few actual working bands heard during the weekend. As this was Saturday evening's main event, it was disquieting to note that the ballroom was no more than two-thirds full, if that, underscoring the fact that attendance was down compared to other events we'd attended. There were times, during other concerts, when the audience occupied less than half the ballroom's seating area. Let's hope that attendance improves when the Poston events resume next May (more about that later).

Holman, who doesn't always wear his "swinging" hat, had it on this time, opening with the arrangement of Lennon / McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" he'd written for the Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
Band in the late 1960s (solos by trombonist Martin, alto Rick Keller
Rick Keller
b.1961
saxophone
, pianist Bagg) and continuing with "Lightnin'" (Bob Summers
Bob Summers
b.1944
, trumpet; Kevin Garren, tenor sax), "A Day in the Life" (Martin, Garren), "All the Way" (featuring Martin all the way), Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" (Saunders, trumpet), "Friday the 13th" (Bruce Babad, soprano sax; Ron Stout, trumpet) and closing (almost) with Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
1917 - 1993
trumpet
's "Dizzy Atmosphere" (Keller, alto; Stout, Summers, trumpet; Kevin Kanner, drums). The band started to leave but the audience wouldn't let them go that easily, applauding and cheering until Holman called for an encore, Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning," underpinning electrifying solos by Bagg and tenor Rickey Woodard
Rickey Woodard
Rickey Woodard
b.1950
saxophone
. What a way to end the day.

Sunday, October 11

Sunday morning's fourth and final film was another must-see, as it included vintage clips of such Kenton standouts as Bill Perkins, Jack Sheldon

Jack Sheldon
Jack Sheldon
b.1931
trumpet
, Lennie Niehaus
Lennie Niehaus
Lennie Niehaus
b.1929
composer/conductor
, Carl Fontana
Carl Fontana
Carl Fontana
1928 - 2003
trombone
, Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
, Bill Chase
Bill Chase
Bill Chase
1934 - 1974
trumpet
, Shelly Manne, Charlie Mariano
Charlie Mariano
Charlie Mariano
1923 - 2009
reeds
, Shorty Rogers, Stu Williamson
Stu Williamson
1933 - 1991
trumpet
, Richie Kamuca
Richie Kamuca
Richie Kamuca
1930 - 1977
sax, tenor
, Stan Levey
Stan Levey
Stan Levey
1925 - 2005
drums
, Max Bennett and Scott LaFaro
Scott LaFaro
Scott LaFaro
1936 - 1961
bass
. Speaking of LaFaro, the film was followed by a special presentation, "Jade Visions: The Life and Music of Scott LaFaro," by the bassist's sister, Helene LaFaro-Hernandez, who set aside time afterward to sign her book by that name. LaFaro, as most jazz fans know, was a Kenton alumnus who later became an integral part of pianist Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
' groundbreaking trio before he was killed in an auto accident at age twenty-five. His sister emphasized his importance not only as a virtuosic bassist but also a rising composer whose influence would have been far greater had he not been taken from us so early in his career. Also taking part in the discussion were bassists Rumsey and Putter Smith.

The poolside concert, moved forward more than half an hour for scheduling purposes, turned out to be one of the weekend's highlights, as director Jeff Jarvis and the impressive Cal State-Long Beach Jazz Ensemble unleashed a spectacular performance that included the complete Cuban Fire suite, on which the rhythm / percussion section was no less than electrifying. The band opened in an easygoing vein with Willie Maiden's "A Little Minor Booze" and Dee Barton's soulful arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day" before turning up the heat on Holman's version of "Stompin' at the Savoy." Having warmed up the audience, the ensemble sprang headlong into Cuban Fire (complete with narrator and French horns / mellophoniums), and Johnny Richards' rhythmically emphatic tone poem has seldom sounded sharper or more invigorating. One thing that set the CSULB group above its counterparts was the over-all strength and creativity of its soloists, all of whom were outstanding. I was especially impressed by tenor saxophonist Tristan Thomas who framed a number of persuasive statements. At concert's end, the CSULB ensemble received a well-earned standing ovation.

That was a tough act to follow, but Panel No. 5 did the best it could, as former Kenton lead trumpeter Mike Vax moderated a lively and interesting session whose panelists were members of the "later" (1970s) Kenton orchestras. They included Kim Richmond, Greg Smith

Greg Smith
Greg Smith

guitar
, Al Yankee, Mike Suter, Dave Barduhn, Dale Devoe and Gary Hobbs, every one of whom said what an honor and a pleasure it was to have played with Stan the Man. Another eminent alumnus, alto saxophonist John Park, was lovingly remembered in a special audio / visual presentation, "The Legacy of John Park," by his son, Kim Parker, also a saxophonist and Kenton alumnus who had played alongside his dad in Kenton's sax section.

That set the stage for the weekend's seventeenth concert, this one by the innovative John Daversa Big Band playing "The Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton." The program included "Pententium Motion," "The Singing Oyster," "Three Thoughts," "Fast & Direct," "Camels," "A New Day" and "Missing Platelets," the last including the trumpet duo of John Daversa and his father, Jay, who had soloed earlier on "A New Day" and with alto Kim Richmond on Barton's "Three Thoughts." John Daversa fashioned several nimble solos, with others by trombonists Paul Young and Charlie Morillas and tenors John Yoakum and Tom Peterson. While the music wasn't what I'd call engaging, it was certainly well-played, and John Daversa is a personable and talented leader, composer and arranger.

After a break, another all-star band, this one led by pianist Barduhn, presented a prelude to suppertime entitled "Creative World: Stan Kenton in the Seventies." Jay Daversa was in the trumpet section, and Dee Barton's spirit was very much in evidence as the trombones took center stage on his enchanting arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day." Maiden's "A Little Minor Booze" was followed by Ken Hanna

Ken Hanna
b.1921
's "Bonhomme Richard" (written for Dick Shearer
Dick Shearer
b.1940
and featuring Dale Devoe), Hank Levy
Hank Levy
1927 - 2001
sax, tenor
's "Pegasus" and the lush Kenton treatment of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns." Lennie Niehaus arranged "The Party's Over," which preceded "MacArthur Park" (with men's chorus!), Al Yankee's arrangement of "Lush Life" and Holman's "Malaga." As an encore, Jay Daversa was featured on "America the Beautiful." The other captivating soloists were Barduhn; trumpeters Huffsteter, Stamm, Vax and Dennis Noday; trombonist Eric Jorgensen, alto Richmond and tenor Kim Park.

The light at the end of the tunnel was growing brighter as the Mike Vax Orchestra Featuring Stan Kenton Alumni began warming up for the final concerts of the four-day event. Audience in place, the band opened the first of two exhilarating sets with Dale Devoe's sunny "Alex's Tune" (solos by Peterson, tenor; Devoe, trombone; Huffsteter, trumpet), followed by a medley from West Side Story (Huffsteter, muted trumpet), Paul Baker's "El Viento Caliente" and Bronislau Kaper's "Invitation" (showcasing Kim Richmond's sensuous alto). Lennie Niehaus arranged Jerome Kern's lovely "Long Ago and Far Away" (Joel Kaye, baritone sax), which set the stage for vocalists Scott Whitfield and Ginger Berglund who wowed the audience with Steve Allen

Steve Allen
1921 - 2000
composer/conductor
's "This Could Be the Start of Something" and Bob Florence
Bob Florence
Bob Florence
1932 - 2008
band/orchestra
's "I'll Remember" (renamed "Our Garden" with lyrics by Scott and Ginger). Between songs, the duo had fun explaining that they are now man and wife. Trumpeter Don Rader was featured on Devoe's arrangement of "Softly As I Leave You" before the band closed the first set with an exuberant rendition of the venerable "Peanut Vendor" (during which members of the ensemble left the stage to walk among the audience as they played).

After an intermission, Set 2 got under way with Eric Richards

Eric Richards
b.1953
bass, electric
' funky "Crescent City Stomp" (solos by Vax, trombonist Wiegand, baritone Nancy Newman, drummer Hobbs). Niehaus' arrangement of "Lullaby of Broadway" was next, followed by Johnny Richards' "Artemis and Apollo." After Whitfield and Berglund returned to sing Frank Loesser's "Slow Boat to China," the ensemble tackled Richmond's new arrangement of "Intermission Riff," wherein he scored trombonist Fontana's solo for the band. Huffsteter's clever "Joint Tenancy" was a vehicle for two trumpets, his and Rader's, while Kaye's arrangement of Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
Johnny Mandel
b.1925
arranger
's "The Shadow of Your Smile" featured his bass flute with Rader's flugelhorn and Billy Kerr's tenor sax. Closing time had come, and what better way to end the concert and the weekend than with Holman's volcanic arrangement of "Malaguena." With Kerr's tenor out front, the ensemble tore into the chart with gusto, leaving the audience nearly breathless with euphoria tinged with a sadness prompted by the realization that "Artistry in Rhythm" was indeed over and the time had come to start packing, head for the airport (if necessary) and return home.

Epilogue

In sum, "Artistry in Rhythm" lived up to its promise in spite of some harrowing detours into the realm of the avant-garde (which Kenton no doubt would have relished). In other words, the high spots more than made up for any shortcomings (which, when seen by others, may have been hallmarks). Before leaving, Betty and I had already been given a flier announcing the next LAJI event, to be held May 27-30 at the Sheraton LAX Four Points, with a "bonus" Sunset Harbor cruise May 26 for the first 100 VIP registrants celebrating the legendary "Four Brothers" sound with the Woody Herman Orchestra directed by Frank Tiberi

Frank Tiberi
Frank Tiberi
b.1928
sax, tenor
and special "guest brothers" Arno Marsh
Arno Marsh
b.1928
, Bill Trujillo, Dick Hafer
Dick Hafer
b.1927
, Med Flory and Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
Roger Neumann
b.1941
sax, tenor
. Although the event doesn't yet have a name, the lineup of artists and groups is already impressive, starting with the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band and including Johnny Mandel, the Teddy Charles
Teddy Charles
Teddy Charles
1928 - 2012
vibraphone
Tentet, Hal McKusick
Hal McKusick
Hal McKusick
b.1924
saxophone
's Jazz Workshop, the Gil Evans
Gil Evans
Gil Evans
1912 - 1988
composer/conductor
Big Band, Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
Terry Gibbs
b.1924
vibraphone
(playing the music of Tiny Kahn), the Gerry Mulligan Sextet, a tribute to Stan Getz by Don Menza, the Elliot Lawrence Big Band, Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer
1929 - 2011
trombone
, a celebration of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, and the music of Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
b.1933
producer
, George Russell
George Russell
George Russell
1923 - 2009
piano
, Manny Albam
Manny Albam
Manny Albam
1922 - 2001
arranger
, Johnny Carisi
Johnny Carisi
b.1922
and Alec Wilder. And that's just for starters, as more performers and groups are sure to be added later. As always, one can find more details and registration information at 562-985-7065.

On the Horizon

The Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra swings back into action this month (November 2009) with concerts on the 24th at Eldorado High School and on the 29th at The Cooperage. In December, the AJO has dates on the 5th at the Albuquerque Museum (the annual NM Jazz Workshop fund-raiser, "Yule Struttin'") and on the 11th at Manzano High School.

A tribute to the late composer / arranger / pianist Bob Florence will be held at 7 p.m. February 21 at the Lobrero Theatre in Santa Barbara, CA. The concert will feature Florence's Limited Edition Big Band playing his compositions and arrangements including those from the band's CD, Legacy, recorded after Florence's passing in May 2008.

The Mike Vax Big Band, recently renamed the Stan Kenton Alumni Band Directed by Mike Vax, is planning a tour of western states next March, and a second tour of the South and Southeast in April. A limited number of fans rides the bus on every tour. For information, to book the band or sign up for the bus rides, phone 925-427-6666 or 925-872-1942, e-mail vaxtrpts@aol.com, or visit the web site www.mikevax.net

And that's it for now. Until next time, keep swingin...'!


New and Noteworthy

1. Jack Cortner Big Band, Sound Check (Jazzed Media)
2. Dana Legg Stage Band, The Other One (Sea Breeze Jazz)
3. SWR Big Band / Sammy Nestico, Fun Time (Hanssler Classic)
4. Alf Clausen Jazz Orchestra, Swing Can Really Hang You Up the Most (Sunny Nodak)
5. Terry Vosbein / Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, Progressive Jazz 2009 (no label)
6. John Burnett Swing Orchestra, West of State Street / East of Harlem (Delmark)
7. Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, I'm BeBoppin' Too (HighNote)
8. Dan Cavanagh, Pulse (OA2)
9. Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Muse (Creative Nation Music)
10. Terry Gibbs Big Band, Swing Is Here (Verve)
11. Dan McMillion Jazz Orchestra, Nice n' Juicy (Sea Breeze Jazz)
12. Cal State University-Northridge, Rain Song (no label)
13. Count Basie, Mustermesse Basel 1956, Part 1 (TCB)
14. European Jazz Orchestra, Swinging Europe 2008 (Music Mecca)
15. Arveheim / Berke Upscale Ten, Scope (Phono Suecia)


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