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Stan Kenton Orchestra: Stompin’ at Newport

Heading one of his best bands of the ’50s, Stan Kenton had a good afternoon at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957. Kenton called a dozen arrangements by Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan, Johnny Richards, Bill Russo, Lennie Niehaus and Marty Paich. With first-rate players across the sections, the band boasted superb soloists in trumpeter Sam Noto, alto saxophonist Niehaus, trombonist Kent Larsen and tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins. Perkins has long since moved on from the style he developed out of Lester Young, but in the mid-’50s his mastery of it led Stan Getz to say, famously, “Perk is playing more than any of us.” His solos on Holman’s arrangements of “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and “Yesterdays” and Mulligan’s “Young Blood” compare with his best work of the period.

Noto is full of pizzazz on “The Opener,” reflective between double-time passages in the first chorus of “Everything Happens to Me,” fleet and boppish in the upper register on his second chorus. He outdoes himself on “Young Blood.” Larsen solos impressively on both valve and slide trombone. Niehaus’ ballad feature on his arrangement of “The End of a Love Affair” opens with his gorgeous reading of the first 16 bars of the melody, accompanied only by bassist Red Kelly. Niehaus and Noto are on fire in Richards’ “La Suerte de los Tontos” and Paich’s “The Big Chase,” which also has Perkins and Larsen in swaggering solos. Kenton yields only slightly to his penchant for big-band bombast in the inevitable “Artistry in Rhythm” and a spirited “The Peanut Vendor.”

Norman Granz, who produced the 1957 Newport festival, recorded the concert. The tape languished in the archives until Fantasy’s Eric Miller unearthed it for this valuable first issue. The sound quality of the recording is excellent. The audience reaction to the band is long and loud, for good reason. This is a find.

Originally Published