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Stan Kenton: Cool Hot & Swingin'

Jack Bowers By

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Cool Hot & Swingin', the seventh in an ongoing series of Stan Kenton treasures unearthed by Bill Lichtenauer's ever-resourceful Tantara Productions, recaps a splendid concert performance in February 1956 at the Civic Auditorium in San Bernardino, CA.

This was a time when Kenton had pared the trombone and reed sections to four members each and added two French horns and a tuba, a departure that lasted about a year. It was also a time when the great Bill Holman, with whom Kenton didn't always see eye-to-eye when it came to composing and arranging, was writing the lion's share of the charts, and a dozen of the seventeen presented here are Holman's, including at least four that have come to be widely regarded as classics—"What's New, "Stompin' at the Savoy and his own "Theme and Variations and "The Opener (played at a slower than usual tempo).

In a career as leader that spanned thirty-five years, Kenton never fronted an orchestra that was less than admirable, and this one is no exception, with first-class musicians in every chair. In his liner notes, Michael Sparke praises a number of the soloists—trombonist Carl Fontana, alto saxophonist Lennie Niehaus, tenor Bill Perkins—and deservedly so, but says not a word about the vastly underrated (except among fellow musicians) baritone Jack Nimitz, who is superb on his feature, "My Funny Valentine, and more than fifty years onward remains a stalwart presence on the L.A. big-band scene.

Fontana is showcased on "Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Perkins on "Out of Nowhere, and trumpeter Ed Leddy on "Speak Low. Although some of the other trumpet solos are undetermined, Sam Noto does an excellent impersonation of Conte Candoli on "What's New, and that sounds like him on "I Remember You. Niehaus is loose and unflappable on his eight solos, as are Perkins on his five and guitarist Ralph Blaze on his three. The rhythm section is in the capable hands of Kenton, Blaze, bassist Curtis Counce and drummer Mel Lewis.

The sound is monaural but reasonably clean for its time, with minor distortion only on the more tumultuous passages in "Intermission Riff, the inescapable problems with balance, and rough but tolerable edges elsewhere. Everything else is quite impressive save perhaps the pallid group vocal on Kenton's arrangement of "September Song. But we'll let that misstep slide, as any previously unissued music by the Kenton orchestra is by definition worth hearing and appreciating.


Track Listing: The Opener; My Funny Valentine; What

Personnel: Stan Kenton, leader, piano; Ed Leddy: trumpet; Sam Noto: trumpet; Vinnie Tanno: trumpet; Lee Katzman: trumpet; Phil Gilbert: trumpet; Lennie Niehaus: alto sax; Bill Perkins: tenor sax; Spencer Sinatra: tenor sax; Jack Nimitz: baritone sax; Bob Fitzpatrick: trombone; Carl Fontana: trombone; Kent Larsen: trombone; Don Kelly: bass trombone; Jay McAllister: tuba; Irving Rosenthal: French horn; Fred Fox: French horn; Ralph Blaze: guitar; Curtis Counce: bass; Mel Lewis: drums.

Title: Cool Hot & Swingin' | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Tantara


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