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Album Review

The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: The Stage Door Still Swings (And Movies Too)


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The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: The Stage Door Still Swings (And Movies Too)
Since around 2001, noted trumpeter Mike Vax has periodically assembled an extraordinarily talented group of former members of the Stan Kenton's, Maynard Ferguson's and other elite bands and led that crew on short performance tours (and clinics) around various sections of the United States. While an alum group and not a "ghost band," their repertoire is heavily dominated by material made famous by the Kenton Orchestra. This 15 selection compilation is sourced from highlight performances during that near quarter century of tours.

As one might expect from a Kenton-infused effort, the album is big, bold,and brassy with a heavy dollop of balladic material. Selections are drawn from the GAS, Broadway hits and Hollywood staples with arrangements that predominantly feature the back rows of the band. And, the charts also frame a slew of terrific soloists. "Lullaby of Broadway" launches the session in a laid-back, swinging style. A Latinesque "Young at Heart" offers a saucy, driving change of pace and is a joy. "I Have Dreamed" is a textural delight that builds elegantly from trombone base to an engaging full ensemble climax. "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads" swings in a classic Kenton style and is another fine track.

There are some outstanding solo highlights on this recording. Recently passed trumpet ace, Carl Saunders' solo feature on "My Foolish Heart" for one, Dave Devoe's gorgeous bone tone on "I Have Dreamed," and Bob Florence's impressionistic take on "Young and Foolish." Ginger Bergland's and Scott Whitfield's vocal and scatting on the mash-up of "How High the Moon/Orinthology" and Mike Vax and Dennis Noday soaring on "Through the Eyes of Love."

The oldie, "Pennies from Heaven" offers up a tasty sax soli melody statement and fine afterthoughts from the ensemble. "All the Things You Are" is another example of some marvelous Bob Florence piano (complete with that classic jazz Intro as an outro) and ensemble colors. It's another album highlight. The quintessential date closer, "The Party's Over," lives up to its name and does its job brilliantly. While the charts emanated from different arrangers, the Kenton style—lush, textural, and intelligent—threads through this entire album. Whether on ballads or up-tempo pieces, the bands across the dates all shine bright. One might notice that since all tracks were live and recorded in various venues, that the sound is near studio quality. However, the performances recorded over a 22-year span all have a fine consistency of the things and swings that really count.

It's a most entertaining hour-plus of Kentonia, but, no dancing, please. Kenton wouldn't like it.

Track Listing

Lullaby of Birdland, Tonight, Young at Heart, My Foolish Heart, Young and Restless, I Have Dreamed, Baubles, Bangles & Beads, Through the Eyes of Love, How High the Moon/Orinthology, Yesterdays, Shadow of Your Smile, Love Theme from "Hair," Pennies from Heaven, All the Things You Are. The Party's Over


Additional Instrumentation

Kim Richmond, Steve Wilkerson, Scott Petersen, Chuck Carter, Mary Fettig, Paul McGinley, Keith Kaminsky, Nancy Newman, Ben Burget, Phil Hilger: alto saxophone;Bob Florence, Don Haas, Liz SeslerBeckman, Bob Kafka, Jeff Collela, Brian O’Rourke, Geoff Stradling, Charlie Ferguson, Dave Kane: piano; Bill Trujillo, Richard Torres, Roy Reynolds, Mary Fettig, Pete Gallio, Alex Murzyn, Alan Yankee, Kim Park, Rick Condit, Billy Kerr. Woody Witt, Bill Prince, Teri Danielsson, Gary Anderson, Woody Witt; Jim Widner, Chris Symer, Kristen Korb, Mario Suraci: bass; Dave Stone, Ted Sistrunk, Jenifer Leitham, Chris Finet: tenor saxophone; Chuck Carter, Joel Kaye, Roy Reynolds, Scott Petersen, Bruce Johnstone, Keith Kaminsky, Nancy Newman, Phil Hilger, John Mitchell: baritone saxophone; Gary Hobbs, Jerry McKenzie, Jamey Tate, Dr. Dave Clements, Claude Askew: drums; Joel Kaye, Nancy Newman: bass saxophone; Ramon Lopez, John Akal, Dee Huffsteter: Latin percussion; Mike Vax, Carl Saunders, Marvin Stamm, Dennis Noday, John Harner, John Coppola, Steve Campos, Jay Daversa, Jim Oatts, Dan Fava, John Daversa, Roger Ingram, Scott Englebright, Gabe Johnson, Pete DeSienna, Steve Huffsteter, Don Rader, Paul Von Adam, Brian O’Flarhety, Jonathan Dane, Greg McLean, Bruce Gates, Dave Cooledge, Tony Bonsera: trumpet; Dick Shearer, Roy Wiegand, Dale DeVoe, George Roberts, Mike Suter, Kenny Shroyer, Scott Whitfield, Curtis Fox, John Allred, Denny Brunk, Bill Hartman, Chuck Bennett, Bob Halseth, Dean Hubbard, Rich Bullock, Dave Keim, Brian Zebreskie: trombone; Jack Petersen: guitar; Scott Whitfield, Ginger Berglund: vocals.

Album information

Title: The Stage Door Still Swings (And Movies Too) | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Summit Records

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