272

Mart Kenney and the New Ballroom Orchestra: Swinging Musical Showcase

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Mart Kenney, Canada’s answer to Benny Carter, has been playing the saxophone for more than seventy of his ninety years and leading a dance band nearly as long, having formed Mart Kenney’s Western Gentlemen in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the early ’30s before he was old enough to vote. March 12, 2000, was designated “Mart Kenney Day” by the mayor of Vancouver in honor of Kenney’s 90th birthday. The band itself celebrated by recording this Swinging Musical Showcase, proving decisively that Kenney has lost little of the drive and enthusiasm that earned him renown as of Canada’s most popular and beloved bandleaders, even forcing him from “retirement” in the ’60s when his many fans insisted that he return to the bandstand, where he has been ever since. The New Ballroom Orchestra plays music for dancing, with some brief improvisations inlaid to add spice, a formula that has enabled Kenney to draw music–lovers into his orbit and keep them there for longer than most of us have been alive. The full orchestra is supplanted on five selections (“Berkeley Square,” “As Time Goes By,” “Alone Together,” “Autumn in New York,” “The Nearness of You”) by a quintet (with Kenney’s creamy–smooth pre–Swing Era alto — or soprano? it sure sounds like one, even though the liner notes say alto — in the spotlight), while vocalist Priscilla Wright is featured on three numbers (“Cool, Really Cool,” “’Deed I Do,” “Swing It, Baby”), the late Norma Locke on two (“P.S. I Love You” and Kenney’s theme song, “The West, a Nest & You Dear”). Among the reasons for the band’s continuing success is Kenney’s astute choice of sidemen; Rob McConnell, Canada’s best–known Jazz big–band leader, is among its alumni, while the present ensemble numbers in its ranks several of the country’s most accomplished players including two of McConnell’s longtime stalwarts, trumpeter Arnie Chycoski and trombonist Ian McDougall. McDougall, saxophonists Jack Stafford and Campbell Ryga, trumpeter Don Clark and pianist Bob Doyle are skillful ad–libbers who make sure the band keeps swinging between ensemble passages. But this is first and foremost dance music, and one can almost envision happy couples gently swaying to and fro as Kenney's topnotch ensemble fashions one lovely melody after another. As rhythm is the heart and soul of dance, Kenney risks no missteps there, employing a first-class section (Doyle, guitarist Ihor Kukurudza, bassist Torben Oxbol) that is anchored securely by drummer Gerry Adamus. The quintet numbers are equally persuasive, with Kenney's alto (or soprano) gaily decorating "Berkeley Square" and the other evergreens. Among the honors that have come Kenney's way are his induction into British Columbia's Entertainment Hall of Fame, his acceptance in 1993 of the Toronto Musicians' Association's "Musician of Distinction" award, and his guest appearances with many of Canada's leading orchestras including the Winnipeg Symphony. During World War II the Parade of Spotlight Bands in Canada featured only one ensemble, Mart Kenney's, and the band was showcased again during Air Canada's 50th anniversary celebration at Expo '86. On hearing Kenney's band perform, one ceases to marvel at his continuing popularity begins to wonder instead why it isn't even more widespread, as the New Ballroom Orchestra evokes memories of such celebrated American dance bands as those led by Ray Anthony, the Elgarts, Les Brown, Harry James, Charlie Barnet and the Dorsey brothers, to name but a few. But no matter; Canadians at least have been able to hear and appreciate Mart Kenney's marvelous dance music for about seventy years, and that is in itself a bounty beyond any price.

Contact:World Artists Productions, P.O. Box 60085, Fraser R.P.O., Vancouver V5W 4B5, Canada. Phone 604–324–8680; fax 604–327–5791; www.gadamus@hotmail.com


Track Listing: Duke Ellington Medley; Cool, Really Cool; Berkeley Square; Big Band Broadcast Blues;

Personnel: Paul Baron, Henry Christian, Stew Barnett, Arnie Chycoski, Don Clark, trumpets; Mart Kenney, Bob McDonald, Jack Stafford, Al Wold, Campbell Ryga, reeds; Ian McDougall, Dennis Esson, Jack Fulton, Bill Trussell, trombones; Bob Doyle, piano; Ihor Kukurudza, guitar; Torben Oxbol, bass; Gerry Adamus, drums; Priscilla Wright, Norma Locke, vocals.

| Record Label: World Records | Style: Big Band


Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Resiliency" CD/LP/Track Review Resiliency
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 18, 2016
Read "Closer To The Sun" CD/LP/Track Review Closer To The Sun
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "Sounds Of 3" CD/LP/Track Review Sounds Of 3
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 17, 2016
Read "Negative Spaces" CD/LP/Track Review Negative Spaces
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 20, 2016
Read "Find Your Wings" CD/LP/Track Review Find Your Wings
by Jim Trageser
Published: November 5, 2016
Read "The Beauty of Disaster" CD/LP/Track Review The Beauty of Disaster
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 22, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!