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Out of the entire recorded oeuvre of the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Adventures in Time is one of the most adventurous and musically satisfying records. The album features eight compositions by Johnny Richards arranged in a suitelike totality, with the title "A Concerto for Orchestra."
If Richard's "Concerto for Orchestra" bears little harmonic resemblance to the composition of the same name by Bela Bartok, the overall conception of the work is indeed influenced by the Hungarian master. Richards treats the jazz orchestra as a single soloist, exploiting the available multifaceted textures and sonorities in an organic fashion.
While some critics have derided this album as bombastic and unjazzlike, Kenton and Richards were aiming for much more than the typical fare for a big band. What the Modern Jazz Quartet did in synthesizing the jazz combo and European chamber music, Kenton was doing in combining the big band with the complexities and sonorities of the traditional European orchestra.
The music contained herein expresses a range of emotions and textures every bit as complex and affecting as those found within a symphony by Gustav Mahler. There are times when Kenton's forces roar with a full orchestral tutti, episodes of incredible lyricism, and numerous instances of inspired improvised solos and intense swing.
One of the most interesting aspects of Adventures in Time is that it is one of the first instances of a jazz recording made employing unusual time signatures (for jazz, that is), such as 5/4, 9/8, 6/8 and 7/4. Four musicians provide the bulk of the solos: Gabe Baltazar on alto sax, Don Menza on tenor, Marv Stamm on trumpet and Ray Starling on mellophonium.
Ray Starling is one of the most underappreciated figures in jazz. A musician of incredible subtlety and invention, he made the unwieldy (and intonationally suspect) mellophonium do things that one would have thought impossible. In the laconic "Artemis and Apollo," Starling delivers a solo as movingly beautiful and powerful as anything ever recorded by Freddie Hubbard.
Gabe Baltazar's solos on "Artemis" and "March to Polaris" reveal him to be a saxophonist who was every bit the equal of the acoustic behemoth of the Kenton brass section.
And nowhere is the unique sound of the Kenton trombone section heard to greater effect than in "Quintile," so named because of its 5/4 time signature. Adventures in Time sounds as breathtakingly modern today as it did when it was first released over forty years ago.
Track Listing: Commencement; Quintile; Artemis; 4 3 X 3 X 2 X 2 X 2 = 72; March to
Polaris; Septuor from Antares; Artemis and Apollo; Apercu
Personnel: Stan Kenton, piano; Bud Parker, trombone; Dalton Smith, trumpet; Ray
Starling, mellophonium; Dave Wheeler, trombone; Gary Slavo, trumpet;
Steve Dweck, tympani, percussion; Tom Ringo, trombone; Ray Florian,
sax; Johnny Richards, arranger, conductor; Jim Amlotte, trombone;
Dee Barton, drums; Bob Behrendt, trumpet; Allan Beutler, sax; Joe
Burnett, mellophonium; Bucky Calabrese, bass; Dwight Carver,
mellophonium; Bob Fitzpatrick, trombone; Joel Kaye, sax; Keith LaMotte,
trumpet; Don Menza, sax; Marvin Stamm, trumpet; Gabe Baltazar, sax