Various Big Bands Kenton Portraits - A Loving Salute Tantara Productions
The word breathtaking is over-used these days, so I must beg your indulgence as I use it to describe Kenton Portraits - A Loving Salute, which is indeed a loving and, yes, often breathtaking salute to one of the most admired and innovative bandleaders who ever lived, Stanley Newcomb Kenton. True, all of the material on the first disc in this two-disc set, and some on the second, has been released elsewhere, but hearing these splendid themes played consecutively on one marvelous anthology is simplyfor lack of a better wordbreathtaking. If you're an admirer of Kenton and his music, and this album doesn't move you to tears, perhaps nothing will.
Ten ensembles of various shapes and sizes are represented, all but two from North America. The exceptions are Kenton alumnus Bobby Lamb's Trinity Big Band from the UK and composer/pianist Francois Glorieux's Orchestra from Belgium. Even though Glorieux's three memorable tracks were included on his Tribute To Stan Kenton, that album isn't widely known or available, and they will be new to many listeners. Trinity's lone selection, "Stone Canyon, can be heard on its album Trinity Big Band Salute Stan Kenton, and on another of Tantara Productions' anthologies, Horns Of Plenty (Vol.3).
Four of the fourteen selections were recorded in concert, including the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra's eloquent opener, "I Remember Stan. The composition is arguably one of the finest big band works ever written by Lennie Niehaus, who played saxophone and arranged for Kenton from 1951-52 and again from 1954-60. Other numbers recorded live are Bob Florence's expansive "Appearing In Cleveland, Herb Harrison's fast-moving "Bus To Nowhere and Bill Holman's "The Tall Guy." The first of these is from the Mike Vax Orchestra's album Next Stop, Live . . . On the Road, the second from Herb's Book by Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra, and the last was recorded more than a dozen years ago by the Stan Kenton Alumni Band during a Bud Shank Jazz workshop in Port Townsend, WA. The soloists on that one include pianist Dave Barduhn, trumpeter Conte Candoli, soprano Bill Perkins and drummer Frank Capp.
The first disc closes with two dazzling selections by the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors: Hank Levy's lively swinger, "With The Old Man In Mind, and a medley of Kenton favorites smartly arranged by Ken McCoy, both of which are included on the AJA's The Legacy Of Stan Kenton. The second disc opens with a pair of gems by Galen Jeter and Dallas' Original Jazz Orchestra: the standard "My Foolish Heart (arranged Kenton-style by Dave Bowman) and another evocative composition by Niehaus, the buoyant "Tribute To Kenton. Trinity's picturesque "Stone Canyon, written and arranged by Lamb, uses French horns to good advantage, as do five other groupsthe Glorieux, Wiester and Dallas orchestras, Kenton Alumni Band and Canadian Brass Jazz All-Stars, who close the second disc with Kenton alumnus Don Sebesky's powerful arrangement of Kenton's theme song, "Artistry In Rhythm.
Perhaps the most touching moments on the album are provided by the Paul Cacia Studio Orchestra's "Kenton In Portrait, wherein can be heard spoken tributes to Kenton by several of those who knew him best: Bob Gioga, Lee Konitz, Carl Fontana, Laurindo Almeida, Bob Cooper, Shorty Rogers, June Christy, Pete Rugolo, Milt Bernhart, Buddy Childers and Dick Shearer. The homage, we're told, was cobbled together in a hurry when a recording of Halls Of Brass (using classical musicians) proved unsatisfactory. Cacia and Rugolo fleshed out the idea in about four early-morning hours, Rugolo quickly wrote the chart, and the rest, as they say, is history. Cacia's closing remarks, preceding the wistful "Auld Lang Syne, were written by satirist Mort Sahl. Of course, there's no way to follow that except with "Artistry In Rhythm, which the Canadian Brass All-Stars perform brilliantly.
In seeking to describe accurately this remarkable series of tributes to the incomparable Stan Kenton, I can think of no better words than those used on the album's jacket: "A vivid canvas that captures the elegance, power, color, drama, thrill and awesome beauty of [Kenton's] orchestras. That about sums it up, but I would add one more word. It really is...breathtaking.
Tracks and Personnel
CD1: I Remember Stan; Appearing In Cleveland; Artistry In Trombones; Tribute To Stan Kenton; In Memoriam Stan Kenton; Bus To Nowhere; With The Old Man In Mind; Stan Kenton Medley.
CD2: My Foolish Heart; Tribute To Kenton; The Tall Guy; Stone Canyon; Kenton In Portrait; Artistry In Rhythm.
CD1: Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra (1); Mike Vax Big Band (2); Francois Glorieux Orchestra (3-5); Vaughn Wiester's Famous Jazz Orchestra (6); U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors (7, 8).
CD2: Dallas Original Jazz Orchestra (1, 2); Stan Kenton Alumni Band (3); Trinity Big Band (4); Paul Cacia Studio Orchestra (5); Canadian Brass Jazz All-Stars (6).
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