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Mike Vax Big Band: Sounds From The Road

Marcia Hillman By

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Featuring no less than a dozen alumni from the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Mike Vax's Big Band displays the drive and spirit of the musical organization that crisscrossed the country from the 1940s.

All of the essentials of the Kenton sound are here. A tight and smooth sax section is heard on the opening "Alex's Tune." "La Virgen de la Macarena," the song played at bullfights, has a searing trumpet performance by the leader. There is an easygoing original by trumpeter Steve Huffsteter entitled "Mr. Natural," featuring Alex Murzyn's laidback tenor sax. A bright-sounding trombone section is highlighted on "Boney" where pianist Bob Florence (who passed away four days after the band returned home from this 2008 Midwestern excursion) delivers a notable statement. Kenton's own dreamy arrangement of "I'm Glad There Is You," with Bob Kafka playing the piano solo, is totally delicious ear candy. Then there is the requisite vocal by the "boy and girl" band singers (Scott Winfield and Ginger Berglund) on "A Slow Boat To China." One of the highlights is Bill Holman's dynamic arrangement of Lecuona's "Malaguena" for driving brass section. There is also a bonus track, recorded earlier, of "All The Things You Are," dedicated to, and featuring a fine solo by, Florence.

Though the material on this CD was recorded on the road at different venues with individual acoustics, the balance is good and sound is clean and clear. Stan Kenton, who died in August, 1979, decreed there would be no "ghost band" after he was gone, but this band is carrying on his legacy and one hopes he is somewhere smiling. All of the excitement that earmarked the original Kenton orchestra has been captured for a new generation.

Track Listing: Alex's Tune; Seascape; La Virgen de la Macarena; Mr. Natural; Pennies From Heaven; I'm Glad There Is You; On a Slow Boat to China; Boney; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Autumn in New York; Variations on a Brazilian Folk Song; Oblivion; Malaguena; All the Things You Are.

Personnel: Kim Richmond: soprano sax, alto sax, flute; Pete Gallio: tenor sax, flute; Alex Murzyn: tenor sax, flute; Keith Kaminski: bari sax, alto sax, flute; Scott Peterson: bari sax; Joel Kaye: bari sax, bass sax, flute; Mike Vax (leader), Dennis Noday, Carl Saunders, Steve Huffsteter, Don Rader, Dan Fava: trumpet and flugelhorn; Roy Wiegand, Dale DeVoe, Scott Whitfield, Curtis Fox: trombone; Kenny Shroyer: bass trombone; Mike Suter: bass trombone, tuba; Bob Florence, Bob Kafka: piano; Chris Symer: bass; Gary Hobbs: drums; Dee Huffsteter: Latin percussion; Scott Whitfield, Ginger Berglund: vocals.

Title: Sounds from the Road | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Summit Records

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