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Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: A Kenton Trilogy, Part 1: Dance Time

Jack Bowers By

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Better late than never. Having already appraised Part 2 of Sounds of Yesteryear's three-part salute to the Stan Kenton Orchestra, it seemed only proper that the same should be done (albeit out of order) for Part 1 (and Part 3 as well, whenever it is released). Unlike Part 2, which is devoted to the artistry of four members of the orchestra (saxophonists Lee Konitz and Pepper Adams, vocalist Ann Richards, mellophonium master Ray Starling), Part 1 consists of themes from Kenton's dance book, recorded at three concerts, in 1956, '59 and '60 (the first in Hollywood, the last two at Burlington, Canada's Brant Inn) with arrangements by Kenton, Gene Roland, Joe Coccia, Bill Holman, Lennie Niehaus and Gerry Mulligan.

Even though the music is from Kenton's dance library, that doesn't mean that none of it swings. The first concert, from February '56, includes Holman's classic arrangement of "Stompin' at the Savoy"; the second, from June '59, Niehaus' energetic takes on "Lullaby of Broadway" and "Baubles, Bangles and Beads"; and the third, from April '60, Coccia's buoyant arrangement of Jerome Kern's "They Didn't Believe Me" and Mulligan's tasteful version of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine." As was true on the Trilogy's second volume, The Sound of Jazz, complete personnel isn't listed but soloists are. And, as before, the perceptive liner notes are by Kenton scholar Michael Sparke.

Each of the concerts opens with the Kenton theme, "Artistry in Rhythm," and a brief introduction by the emcee of the day before diving into the music. At Zardi's Jazzland in Hollywood, that consists of the standards "Under a Blanket of Blue," Spring Is Here" and "Imagination," as well as "Savoy," Roland's "Opus in Chartreuse" and Ray Wetzel's well-traveled head arrangement, "Intermission Riff." Tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins, at his smooth, Lester Young-ish best, is the main soloist. Dance music, yes, but even Coccia's treatment of the Rodgers and Hart ballad "Spring Is Here" swings easily forward behind crisp solos by Perkins and trumpeter Sam Noto.

Niehaus arranged six of the eight numbers on the first of the Canadian concerts, Kenton the others ("Street of Dreams," "The Night We Called It a Day"). Cole Porter is well represented, having written "So in Love," "All of You" (another Niehaus swinger) and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." The soloists are alto Charlie Mariano, trumpeters Rolf Ericson and Bud Brisbois, bassist Carson Smith and trombonists Archie LeCoque and Jimmy Knepper. The third concert offers more of the same, with the standards "Laura," "They Didn't Believe Me," "Begin the Beguine" and "When I Fall in Love" complementing Roland's "Cha Cha Sombrero." Solos are by Ericson, Brisbois, alto Gabe Baltazar, tenor Paul Renzi and trombonist Dick Hyde. For Kenton fans (and others), more than seventy-two minutes of top-flight dance music (that often swings) with sound and balance that are more than acceptable from end to end.

Track Listing

Theme and Introduction; Opus in Chartreuse; Under a Blanket of Blue; Spring Is Here; Intermission Riff; Imagination; Stompin’ at the Savoy; Theme and Introduction; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Young and Foolish; Lullaby of Broadway; So in Love; All of You; Street of Dreams; You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To; The Night We Called It a Day; Artistry in Rhythm / Sign Off; Theme and Introduction; Laura; They Didn’t Believe Me; Cha Cha Sombrero; Begin the Beguine; When I Fall in Love; Theme and Sign Off.

Personnel

Complete personnel unlisted. Soloists – Bill Perkins: tenor sax; Sam Noto: trumpet; Ralph Blaze: guitar; Don Kelly: bass trombone; Ed Leddy: trumpet; Charlie Mariano: alto sax; Rolf Ericson: trumpet; Archie LeCoque: trombone; Jimmy Knepper: trombone; Bud Brisbois: trumpet; Carson Smith: bass; Dick Hyde: trombone; Paul Renzi: tenor sax; Gabe Baltazar: alto sax.

Album information

Title: A Kenton Trilogy, Part 1: Dance Time | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Sounds of Yesteryear

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