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Stan Kenton’s Mellophonium Sound Reborn

Kenton alum Joel Kaye revives a '60s sound

Joel Kaye and the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra debut performance, February 2010
Joel Kaye, music director of the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra
Rand Moore, founder of the Madison Mellophonium Jazz Orchestra
M-Horns “color” the music

The Stan Kenton Mellophonium Orchestra was musically revolutionary during its three-year existence. Brilliantly executed from 1960-1963, and including the Grammy-winning Kenton’s West Side Story among its output, it nonetheless couldn’t be financially sustained. Today the music is 50 years old but the sound remains bold, brassy, bombastic and alive.

The Mellophonium is a three-valve instrument with a tone similar to a French horn with the bell facing forward. A Mellophonium band sounds brassier because its tone is colored by the M-horns in the range between the trumpets and the trombones. The four-horn Mellophonium section doesn’t replace, it augments and colors.

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