Like Portraits on Standards, which was released earlier by Capitol / Blue Note, Sketches is by and large an eleborate showcase for several of the wonderful soloists who earned their reputations with Stan Kenton’s pace–setting orchestra in the early ’50s when these recordings were made. As on Portraits, most of the arrangements are by Bill (now William) Russo or Stan himself, in this case seven by Russo, three by Kenton, two by Joe Coccia (“Spring Is Here,” “I’m Glad There Is You”) and one each by Lennie Niehaus (“Pennies from Heaven”) and Johnny Richards (“Stella by Starlight”). The soloists, each of whom is sublime (even in then–state–of–the–art monaural sound), include trumpeters Conte Candoli, Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Childers and Sam Noto; trombonists Frank Rosolino and Bobby Burgess; alto saxophonists Niehaus and Lee Konitz; tenors Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca and Bill Perkins; bass trombonist George Roberts, guitarist Sal Salvador, and the leader on piano. There are splendid star turns for Konitz (“Lover Man”), Candoli (“Pennies”), Burgess (“Over the Rainbow”), Rosolino (“Malagueña”) and Niehaus (“I’m Glad There Is You”) and two wholly instrumental numbers, Kenton’s arrangements of “Begin the Beguine” and “Dark Eyes.” One can’t help noticing that, unlike many of today’s inseparable clones, Kenton’s soloists — most of them, anyway — are almost instantly identifiable. No one, for example, would mistake Konitz, Candoli, Rosolino or Kamuca for anyone else, and their resourceful improvisations sound as fresh today as they did half a century ago. Of those spotlighted on Sketches, Konitz, Perkins, Childers, Ferguson, Russo, Holman and Niehaus remain active (the last three essentially as composer / arrangers); the others — including Stan, who died in August 1979 — are no longer with us. Sketches provides a fairly candid thumbnail impression of their peerless artistry, smudged only by its forty–two minute playing time.
Contact: Capitol Records, 1750 N. Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028. Web site, www.bluenote.com
Track Listing: Sophisticated Lady; Begin the Beguine; Lover Man; Pennies from Heaven; Over the Rainbow; Fascinatin’ Rhythm; There’s a Small Hotel; Shadow Waltz; Harlem Nocturne; Stella by Starlight; Dark Eyes; Malague
Personnel: Stan Kenton, leader. Tracks 1–10 — Buddy Childers, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Don Dennis, Ruben McFall, trumpet; Bob Burgess, Frank Rosolino, Bill Russo, Keith Moon, trombone; George Roberts, bass trombone; Vinnie Dean, Lee Konitz, alto sax; Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca, tenor sax; Bob Gioga, baritone sax; Stan Kenton, piano; Sal Salvador, guitar; Don Bagley, bass; Stan Levey, drums. Track 2 — add Laurindo Almeida, Aluisio Ferreira, Raphael Lemos, Nestor Amaral, Latin percussion. Tracks 11–12 — Bob Clark, Pete Candoli, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Don Paladino, trumpet; Bob Fitzpatrick, Frank Rosolino, Kent Larsen, Frank Strong, trombone; Norman Bartold, bass trombone; Lennie Niehaus, Charlie Mariano, alto sax; Bob Cooper, Bill Holman, tenor sax; Jimmy Giuffre, baritone sax; Stan Kenton, piano; Ralph Blaze, guitar; Max Bennett, bass; Mel Lewis, drums; Jack Costanzo, Chico Guerrero, Rene Touzet, Latin percussion. Tracks 13–14 — Ed Leddy, Vinnie Tano, Sam Noto, Lee Katzman, Phil Gilbert, trumpet; Bob Fitzpatrick, Carl Fontana, Kent Larsen, trombone; Don Kelly, bass trombone; Irving Rosenthal, Fred Fox, French horn; Jay McAllister, tuba; Lennie Niehaus, alto sax; Bill Perkins, Spencer Sinatra, tenor sax; Jack Nimitz, baritone sax; Stan Kenton, piano; Ralph Blaze, guitar; Curtis Counce, bass; Mel Lewis, drums.