Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

273

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.

Title: Swinging Musical Showcase | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: World Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Cuando Sea Necesario Album Reviews
Cuando Sea Necesario
By Dan McClenaghan
March 22, 2019
Read West 60th Album Reviews
West 60th
By Peter Hoetjes
March 22, 2019
Read In Between the Tumbling a Stillness Album Reviews
In Between the Tumbling a Stillness
By Mark Corroto
March 22, 2019
Read Arirang Fantasy Album Reviews
Arirang Fantasy
By John Sharpe
March 22, 2019
Read The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul Album Reviews
The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
By Mike Jurkovic
March 22, 2019
Read Octopus Album Reviews
Octopus
By Jack Bowers
March 21, 2019
Read Pinch Point Album Reviews
Pinch Point
By Mark Corroto
March 21, 2019