In May–June 1991 musicians and fans from around the world gathered in Newport Beach, California, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Stan Kenton Orchestra’s debut at the famed Rendezvous Ballroom. From that four–day event came a five–CD boxed set, Stan Kenton 50th Anniversary Celebration: Back to Balboa
(MAMA 1003). Broad as it was, however, the set couldn’t encompass all of the music performed on that memorable occasion, and some of those who’d been there asked for more. This new album, Back to Balboa, Volume 6,
was produced in response to those requests. Included are two selections (“Stella by Starlight,” “Neophonic Impressions 65”) from the pre–concert rehearsals on May 29. “Stella,” which features alto saxophonist Bud Shank, is performed by the Kenton Alumni Band conducted by Bill Holman, “Impressions” by the same ensemble conducted by Marty Paich. If what MAMA has gleaned here are the “leftovers,” the Kenton gala must have comprised some of the most awesome Jazz concerts ever held, as this sixth CD in the series is, in a word, superb in every respect. If the boxed set is anywhere near as grand as this (I’ve not heard it, an oversight I must endeavor to correct), it certainly should be in every big–band enthusiast’s library, as should Volume 6. After opening with a snappy rendition of Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine” by the Buddy Childers Big Band, the album reaches an even higher plane with “Poor Butterfly,” performed by the late and greatly missed tenor giant (yes, he was that), Bob Cooper, and his quartet. Coop returns later to scamper cheerfully through “I’ll Remember April,” while Shank’s quartet is showcased on “The Doctor Is Out,” alto and Kenton alum Gabe Baltazar on Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night.” The other tracks headline big bands led by Maynard Ferguson (“Hit and Run”), Bob Florence (“Willowcrest”) and Tom Talbert (“Manoir de Mes Reves”). The personnel on each reads like a who’s who of top–notch West Coast–based sidemen including trumpeters George Graham, Steve Huffsteter, Carl Saunders, Ron Stout, Frank Szabo, Wayne Bergeron, Bob Summers, Conte and Pete Candoli, Chuck Findley and the late Rolf Ericson; saxophonists Matt Catingub, Jay Migliori, Ray Reed, Steve Wilkerson, Bob Militello, Jerry Pinter, Bob Efford, Lanny Morgan, Ray Herrmann, Jack Nimitz, Ray Reed, Kim Richmond, Lee Callet and Bill Perkins; trombonists Bob Fitzpatrick, Ken Shroyer, Roy Wiegand, Mike Fahn, Alex Iles, Rick Culver, Bob Enevoldsen, Charlie Loper, Don Waldrop, Andy Martin, Eddie Bert, Dick Nash, George Roberts and Jiggs Whigham; bassists John Leitham, Don Bagley, Trey Henry, Tom Warrington and the late Monty Budwig; drummers Jerry McKenzie, John Perett and Peter Donald. That’s not a complete list, but you get the idea. The quartets also boast impressive personnel with Cooper accompanied by pianist Tom Ranier, bassist Leitham and drummer Ralph Penland, Shank by pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Sherman Ferguson, Baltazar by pianist Michele Faber, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Nick Martinis. Highlights? Simply choose any of the eleven tracks and rest assured that you'll hear more than a couple. About the only thing that's missing is an audience to applaud the last two selections, but we've a hunch that those who are fortunate enough to hear this marvelous compilation may be putting their own hands together to provide the necessary sound effects.
Contact:The MAMA Foundation, 555 E. Easy St., Simi Valley, CA 93065. Web site, www.mamajazz.org; e–mail email@example.com