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Today, more than four decades after the fact, the music on the Stan Kenton Orchestra’s memorable appearance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival sounds as fresh and invigorating as ever, even though there is nothing on this long-overdue release from Pablo that Kenton fans won’t have heard perhaps hundreds of times on other occasions. From Bill Holman’s suitably named “The Opener” to Marty Paich’s “The Big Chase,” which closes the concert, the orchestra traverses familiar ground with such indispensable numbers from the Kenton book as Holman’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” Gerry Mulligan’s “Young Blood,” Bill Russo’s “23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West,” Ray Wetzel’s “Intermission Riff” and other crowd-pleasing evergreens. Stan’s theme, “Artistry in Rhythm,” follows “The Opener,” while tenor Bill Perkins is showcased on Holman’s arrangement of “Yesterdays,” trumpeter Sam Noto on “Everything Happens to Me,” alto Lennie Niehaus on “The End of a Love Affair.” Completing the program are the always electrifying “Peanut Vendor” and Johnny Richards’ “La Suerte de los Tontos” (Fortune of Fools) from the orchestra’s Cuban Fire! album. Noto, Perkins, Niehaus and trombonist Kent Larsen are the featured soloists with Stan heard briefly on “Savoy” and “Peanut Vendor.” The typically dynamic Kenton rhythm section is securely anchored by drummer Jerry McKenzie (No. 1) who had only recently come on board when another drummer failed to work out.
Although Robert Gordon writes that the concert was “captured on state-of-the-art (for its time) recording equipment,” its generally subpar sound quality embodies the album’s principal (indeed, perhaps its only) weakness. On the other hand, the sound is not so poor as to lessen appreciably one’s enjoyment of the music, and Kenton enthusiasts, no doubt thankful after the passage of so many years to have recorded documentation of the historic concert at Newport, should be able to overlook any flaws and bask in the warm glow of another incandescent performance by Stan Kenton’s thundering orchestra in full stride.
Contact: Fantasy Records, 10th and Parker, Berkeley, CA 94710. Web site, www.fantasyjazz.com
Track Listing: The Opener; Artistry in Rhythm; Stompin
Personnel: Stan Kenton, leader, piano; Ed Leddy, Sam Noto, Lee Katzman, Phil
Gilbert, Bill Catalano, trumpet; Kent Larsen, Archie LeCoque, Don Reed,
Jim Amlotte, trombone; Kenny Shroyer, bass trombone; Lennie Niehaus,
alto sax; Bill Perkins, Wayne Dunstan, tenor sax; Steve Perlow, Bill
Robinson, baritone sax; Red Kelly, bass; Jerry McKenzie, drums.