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May 2009

Stan Kenton Orchestra
Road Band ‘67
Tantara Productions

As we all get set to mark the controversial bandleader’s 30th death-a-versary, new Stan Kenton recordings are still seeing the light. This live recording, recorded at the Moonlight Gardens in June 1967, isn’t merely a low-fi exhumation. For the most part, presence and vividness are astonishing, and the musicians negotiate a fine set of arrangements with spirit and finesse. The orchestral swells lavished upon “I Will Wait for You” and “The Shadow of Your Smile,” both arranged by Kenton bassist Bill Fritz, and “It Was a Very Good Year,” arranged by Kenton, add a little unexpected luster to those ’60s relics.

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Stan Kenton

None of the big names who played with Kenton are on hand here, but the small circle of featured soloists are all capable, particularly Alan Rowe on tenor (“The Singing Oyster”), Jay Daversa on trumpet (“Limehouse Blues”), and Ray Reed on alto (“My Ship”). Reed’s wailing solos make you wish Charlie Parker had the benefit of Kenton’s backup.

Some audience kibitzers occasionally intrude, and when Daversa plays muted trumpet, he sounds marooned. So does Kenton on “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” But the leader is better miked for an unusually barrelhouse reading of “The Blues Story,” and his intro to “Taboo Montuna” is picante piano.

Originally published in May 2009
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