Chicago Jazz Ensemble: Kenton a la Russo: Live at the Jazz Showcase

Bill Russo was a prodigious force in the Kenton band in the early ’50s: as chief arranger, he had a significant impact on the sound of the band and on a generation of big-band arrangers. In founding the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, he made himself a large band (20 pieces plus singers) well-suited to his proclivities: precise but enthusiastic, disciplined and musical. For this collection, the second by the band in this incarnation, Russo contributed seven of the 12 arrangements; three are the work of Kenton, working with Pete Rugolo on two of them; Gene Roland penned the remaining two. The performances, recorded live at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, are crisp, clean and passionate; there’s not much more one could ask-save perhaps a bit more consistency in the solos. On the other hand, the two singers with the band, Bobbi Wilsyn and Vikki Stokes, are first rate. This is fine music, beautifully realized.