Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Stan Kenton Alumni Band: Have Band Will Travel

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Mike Vax

Stan Kenton stipulated in his will that he wanted no ghost band after his death. Mike Vax was once Kenton’s first trumpet and road manager, and now directs the Stan Kenton Alumni Band, 12 of whose 20 members played with Kenton. Still, Vax has respected Kenton’s wishes. Have Band Will Travel is only partly an immersion in nostalgia. It is more a dreamlike Kenton montage, a meditation on his music.

Kim Richmond’s new arrangement of “Intermission Riff” takes Carl Fontana’s trombone solo from the classic Kenton in Hi-Fi album and voices it out for the whole band, turning it gigantic. Kenton also played “Long Ago and Far Away,” but here there is a suave solo by baritone saxophonist Joel Kaye newly woven through the sections of the band. “Tonight” is from the 1963 Grammy-winning Kenton’s West Side Story. Johnny Richards’ arrangement is retained, but with different instrumentation (no mellophoniums here). The high point of the album is hearing this song again, reconfigured in Richards’ achingly slow impressionism, intricate orchestration in the service of emotion. Liz Sesler-Beckman’s piano and Don Rader’s muted trumpet are like secular prayers. At the end, long trombone chords sing amen.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published