The Sound of Jazz
by the legendary Stan Kenton
Orchestra follows Part 1 of a Kenton Trilogy, Dance Time,
and hopefully precedes a third component yet to be named. Although Kenton has been gone for more than forty years (he died in August 1979), he has hardly been forgotten, with reissues of concert and studio sessions by the orchestra appearing on what seems to be a fairly regular basis. In this case, the album is divided roughly into four parts, saluting, in order, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz
, baritone Pepper Adams
, vocalist Ann Richards
and mellophonium master Ray Starling
. Dates and locations of the recordings aren't named, nor is complete personnel, but the various soloists are listed. Arrangers include Bill Russo, Lennie Niehaus
, Bill Holman
, Johnny Richards
, Gerry Mulligan
, Pete Rugolo
, Starling and Gene Roland
. One would have to search far and wideperhaps without successto find a more accomplished ensemble of big-band writers. And as a bonus, the perceptive liner notes are by Kenton scholar Michael Sparke who also compiled the album.
Konitz' four-song segment opens with Niehaus' fast-moving "Solo for Alto," on which trumpeter Conte Candoli
takes the first shot, followed by Konitz at his swinging and cerebral best. Russo arranged "You Go to My Head," Holman "Lover Man" and "In Lighter Vein." Each one is a splendid showcase for Konitz' burnished alto, all recorded, as was "Solo for Alto," in front of an enthusiastic audience. Adams, later to become a star in his own right, opens with Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" (arranged by Holman) and follows with Holman's swaggering "Kingfish," Richards' Latin-centered take on Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You" and Mulligan's aptly named "Swing House." Trumpeter Dennis Grillo and tenors Richie Kamuca
and Bill Perkins
solo on "Kingfish," Grillo, Niehaus and trombonist Kent Larsen on "I Concentrate on You," Larsen, Niehaus, Perkins and Kamuca on "Swing House," but Adams is the headliner.
Richards is heard on five songs, all but the last ("Don't Worry 'Bout Me") scored by Holman, and all recorded in concert, as is almost every number on the album. The Holman charts are "Black Coffee," "The Thrill Is Gone," "Imagination" and "Back in Your Own Backyard." Soloists on Richards' set are Larsen and trumpeter Sam Noto
. "Backyard" is taken at a typically brisk tempo, "Thrill" at an uncommonly rapid clip. Starling's six-number parcel is preceded by brief remarks from Kenton, who describes Starling as "a great mellophonium player" and "a helluva pianist." Starling wrote the first five numbers, on which he solos with Carl Saunders
(who has risen to greater heights as a trumpeter), trumpeter John Eckert
, drummer Dee Barton, alto Gabe Baltazar
, tenor Steve Marcus
, fellow mellophonium specialists Keith LaMotte and Dwight Carver and last but not least, baritone saxophonist Joel Kaye
taming the tiny piccolo on Starling's buoyant "Little Boy Blew." Starling's other themes, each one bright and bouncy, are "Four of a Kind," "Genghis Kahn," "Patterns" and "Mellophobia." The set closes with Erroll Garner
's "Misty," on which Starling takes the lone solo and has his exceptional way with the ungainly mellophonium.
While the spotlight shines, and deservedly so, on these four Kenton stars, they are encircled every step of the way by that marvelous Kenton sound, unlike no other orchestra before or since, underscored by wave after wave of irrepressible brass and thundering rhythm. Sound quality is uneven, which would be the norm for concert dates from that era, but it's neither irksome nor displeasing, and there is decent separation among the various sections. And even though many of these songs were staples in the Kenton library, most if not all of these versions are previously unissued. For Kenton fans, another in a continuing series of unsung treasures.