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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Artistry in Rhythm

Avid AMSC 912






1. Artistry In Rhythm
2. Come Back To Sorrento
3. Fantasy
4. Opus In Pastels
5. Artistry In Percussion
6. Ainít No Misery In Me
7. Safranski
8. Willow Weep For Me
9. Artistry In Bolero
10. And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine
11. Peg Oí My Heart
12. Tampico
13. Capitol Punishment
14. Heís Funny That Way
15. Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy
16. Somnambulism
17. Abstraction
18. Chorale For Brass, Piano And Bongo
19. Bongo Riff
20. The Spider And The Fly
21. September Song
22. Jump For Joe
23. Laura
24. Spring Is Here
25. Iím Glad There Is You
26. Opus In Turquoise

1. Artistry Jumps
2. Interlude
3. Intermission Riff
4. Minor Riff
5. Collaboration
6. Painted Rhythm
7. Southern Scandal
8. The Peanut Vendor
9. Eager Beaver
10. Concerto To End All Concertos
11. Artistry In Boogie
12. Lover
13. Unison Riff
14. Fuego Cubano (Cuban Fire)
15. El Congo Valiente (Valiant Congo)
16. Recuerdos (Reminiscences)
17. Quien Sabe (Who Knows)
18. La Guera Baila (The Fair One Dances)
19. La Suerte De Los Tontos (Fortune Of Fools)
20. Tres Corazones (Three Hearts)

Stan Kenton always seemed to be slightly outside the mainstream of jazz. He was a big-band leader who went his own way. He was certainly talented Ė having played the piano and written arrangements for various bands before he formed his own ensemble in 1941. Yet his ambitious projects sometimes appeared excessive, and some critics condemned his ideas of "progressive jazz" as pretentious. On the plus side, his arrangements were innovative, as were those of the arrangers he employed Ė notably Pete Rugolo, Bill Russo and Johnny Richards. And his band fostered the careers of many notable artists, among them Frank Rosolino, Eddie Safranski, Maynard Ferguson, Shelly Manne, June Christy, Art Pepper, Shorty Rogers and Bob Cooper.

This double album provides a useful cross-section of some of Kentonís work, at a bargain price around £7. The first CD contains a variety of material from 1943 to 1956; the second CD comprises two LPs from 1956: Kenton in Hi-Fi and Cuban Fire!

The collection opens with Artistry in Rhythm, one of his first recordings for Capitol, which made a definite impact when it was released in 1943, introducing listeners to Kentonís unique mixture of near-symphonic seriousness with hard-driving jazz played with impeccable precision. Other tracks exemplify this dichotomy, with some sounding like miniature piano concertos (allowing Kenton to rhapsodise at the piano) and others more closely resembling the big-band styles that listeners were used to. Kentonís arranging expertise is evident on Opus in Pastels, with its saxophone choir, while tracks like Artistry in Percussion and Safranski show off the talents of Kentonís sidemen (on these particular tracks, Shelly Manne and Eddie Safranski).

The band was not above pleasing the crowds with popular sides like Tampico and Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy, both featuring singer June Christy, who was one of the many artists whose careers were launched or consolidated by the Kenton band. Some of Kentonís most popular tunes are found on the second CD, which reworks some of his earlier successes. Numbers like Intermission Riff and Eager Beaver are immediately likeable, while The Peanut Vendor shows the band at its best: dynamic, swinging and daringly arranged.

The last seven tracks on this CD comprise the Cuban Fire! suite, composed and arranged by Johnny Richards. It is performed by a massive 27-piece band, including seven percussionists, and is simultaneously exciting and overblown, in the way that many of Kentonís later recordings were. Stan didnít always know the meaning of the word "restraint" but the results were often memorable. And he employed many fine musicians who went on to become even more famous.

Tony Augarde


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