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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke


STAN KENTON

BALBOA BASH
Complete Mac Gregor Transcriptions Vol 1
Stan Kenton and his orchestra - some personnel details given on sleeve note
NAXOS JAZZ LEGENDS 8.120517
Crotchet

1.Opening theme: Artists in Rhythm
2. Two Guitars
3. Blues in Asia Minor
4. You Alone
5. Deep River
6. A Setting in Motion
7. Balboa Bash
8. Don't Want That Woman around
9. Reed Rapture
10. Safari
11. Harlem Folk Dance
12. La Cumparsita
13. Night
14. Two Moods
15.Smoky
16. Too Soon
17. Opus in Pastels
18. Moon Mist
19. Elegie
20. A Little Jive Is Good For You
21. El Choclo
22. Night Life
23. Old Black Joe
24. Tribute To A Flattened Fifth
25. I Haven't The Heart
26. Closing Theme: Artistry In Rhythm.
Recorded September/ October 1941 Los Angeles


Never having been a great Kenton admirer, this disc came as a most pleasant surprise to me.This is very early music from the band and whilst there are some modern overtones in the arrangements it mainly features pieces for dancing, without any of the later excesses of orchestration. These selections are live from Balboa Beach as broadcast on the radio.

One of the more interesting aspects of this disc is the fact that it comes complete with the announcer's introductions and brief comments.This is useful in identifying arrangers and soloists (sadly no personnel is listed) and in describing the style of the piece. This method of description would certainly aid the understanding of any newcomer to Kenton or to big band music in general.

The three musicians most heavily featured are Chico Alvarez, trumpet, Jack O'Dean on alto and Red Doris on tenor saxophone and vocals( the tenor is good, in the style of Coleman Hawkins, the vocals are to say the least, journeyman, with somewhat dubious pronunciation.)

The standard of playing is very good throughout - the sections are obviously very well drilled.There are a couple of saxophone choir features, "Reed Rapture" and "Tribute to a Flattened Fifth" which are ably lead by Jack O'Dean on first alto. "Tribute" is from the 1940` suite for saxophones which also included the more famous " Opus in Pastels" which appears on this disc. "Pastels" for all its greater success is, to my mind, not as interesting as the two previously mentioned saxophone features.It is rather staccato and meandering in melody and is played over a very "chugging" rhythm section.

There is a smattering of Latin American type numbers, "La Cumparsita" ,"Night Life", some light comedy features such as" A Little is Good For You", and there are takes on traditional melodies( a favourite device from this era) as illustrated by "Deep River "and "Old Black Joe".

Whilst not representative of the sounds that are associated with Stan Kenton's more famous later orchestras this disc is a delightful insight into a working band in the early 1940's.

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry



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