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STAN KENTON
and HIS ORCHESTRA

At the Hollywood Bowl 1948

SOUNDS OF
YESTERYEAR DSOY870

 

 

CD 1
1. Theme/Artistry In Rhythm [2:01]
2. Artistry Jumps [2:47]
3. Collaboration [2:43]
4. Intermission Riff [5:38]
5. Elegy for Alto [4:15]
6. I Can't Get Enough of You [2:15]
7. I'm In the Mood For Love [3:43]
8. Trees [2:02]
9. Interlude [4:09]
10. Artistry In Percussion [3:32]
11. Lament [3:34]
12. Opus in Pastels [2:34]
13. How High the Moon [1:08]
14. All the Things You Are [3:35]
15. Willow Weep For Me [3:08]
16. Theme to the West [3:40]
17. Harlem Holiday [A Message To Harlem] [3:08]

CD 2
1. Southern Scandal [3:34]
2. Eager Beaver [3:43]
3. Machito [2:16]
4. Peanut Vendor [4:57]
5. Chorale For Brass, Piano and Bongo [Prologue Suite 2nd Movement] [3:04]
6. Abstraction [Prologue Suite, 3rd Movement] [3:09]
7. Journey To Brazil [Prologue Suite Finale] [3:31]
8. Lonely Woman [4:27]
9. Soothe Me [3:13]
10. I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out [2:15]
11. Concerto to End All Concertos [6:34]
12. Invention For Bass Trombone [3:31]
13. Comedy By Stan Kenton [3:42]
14. St. James Infirmary [3:29]
15. Lover [1:54]
16. Closing Theme: Artistry In Rhythm [0:48]

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: (Ray Wetzel, Buddy Childers, Chico Alvarez, Conte Candoli, Ed Badgley (trumpets); Milt Bernhart, Harry DiVito, Harry Betts, Harry Forbes (trombones); Bart Varsolona (bass trombone); George Weidler, Art Pepper (alto sax); Bob Cooper, Warner Weidler (tenor sax); Bob Gioga (bari sax); Stan Kenton (piano); Laurindo Almeida (guitar); Eddie Safranski (bass); Irv Kluger (drums); Jack Costanzo (bongos); June Christy (vocals))
rec. Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, CA, 12 June 1948. [53:42 + 53:54]

 

The Stan Kenton Orchestra was one of the powerhouse bands of its time, and 1948 was a high point in the band's history. When taking the stage on 12 June 1948, Kenton's band was enjoying a No. 1 album and playing to a sold-out Hollywood Bowl. They were performing many of Pete Rugalo's most beloved and renowned arrangements. These were designed to showcase the band as a unit as well as to highlight the individuals, giving them each a moment in the sun.

With Rugalo writing the charts, Kenton certainly got the most out of his soloists. While Ray Wetzel is nearly a novelty as a vocalist, especially on the lighthearted number "Trees", June Christy is rightly showcased as one of the great vocalists of her generation. She arrives on stage scatting "How High the Moon" and continues to alternate between roles as torch singer and scat virtuoso. Her performance on "I Told Ya I Love Ya, Now Get Out" is particularly noteworthy, exuberant and fun. Beyond the singers, Kenton still knows how to show off his band's talent. "Lament" features the Brazilian guitar virtuoso Laurindo Almeida displaying guitar technique very rarely put on display in the 1940s, especially in jazz. Shelley Manne's showcased drumming in "Artistry in Percussion" is distinctly different from anything you would hear from Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa. While Mann is clearly in their class, he spends his feature displaying his versatility, switching tempo and style in rapid succession rather than simply showing how fast his hands can move while keeping time with his feet.

The ensemble playing is also remarkable. Kenton always tried to surround himself with the best musicians he could find, and it shows. The trumpets soar in the Latin and swing charts. When the band moves into the more progressive portions of their program, like in "Chorale For Brass, Piano and Bongo" or "Journey To Brazil", both from Prologue Suite, the band proves it understands the tonalities and spirit of composers like Debussy and Ravel, but is able to take them to a dance band audience. The Peanut Vendor is performed faster than the most famous studio recordings, and the quicker time combined with the Brazilian guitar and percussion all work together to give this the feel of a Latin American street parade. The "Concerto To End All Concertos" reminds the listener just how great a pianist Kenton could be when he decided to feature himself, but also gives great show of radical tempo changes in the band and shares the spotlight with Bob Cooper, Ray Wetzel, Art Pepper, and Eddie Safranski, all of them making ridiculously difficult playing sound effortless.

"I'm in the Mood for Love" is also particularly entertaining, even if it isn't actually performed well for much of the song. It's a solo trumpet feature for Ray Wetzel, and rather than taking himself too seriously, he clowns his way through the piece. As the recording was live, the first mistake makes the listener wonder if Wetzel simply made a rare mistake. As the piece careens out of control, the mistakes more and more obviously intentional and the band more and more obviously trying to shout down the errant notes, when he suddenly leaps into a few feats of virtuosity, which ends on a sour note, causing the audience to laugh. It becomes a jazz band equivalent of a Victor Borge number. Later on in the concert, bass trombone player Bart Varsalona literally engages in a little stand-up comedy while taking his turn in the spotlight. And finally, Stan Kenton himself takes a turn at the microphone to sing "St. James Infirmary", but for the most part the band and he just engage in some Rat Pack style hijinks. The crowd seems to have loved it however as you can hear them cheering and laughing the entire way through.

It's fairly defensible to say that these 33 tracks represent a high point in the history of one of the greatest big bands ever to be assembled. The performances very nearly flawless, and the performers are both able to play and perform at an incredibly high level.

As many fine points as this album has, there is at least one disappointing thing. The sound quality is extremely uneven. Sometimes the fidelity will noticeably change in the middle of a song, and often will change during crowd applause. It might be that there were multiple masters that were used. At times the recording becomes extremely bass-heavy, other times somewhat tinny, making it difficult to correct using your stereo's EQ.

If you are a fan of Kenton's work, this is definitely an album for your collection. If you're not familiar with his work then there are worse places to start than this concert. The sound quality leaves something to be desired but doesn't detract from the performances which are brilliant..

Patrick Gary



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