Stan Kenton: The Sound of Kenton

The Kenton band typically places its emphasis on ambitious arrangements, but at this point in its history it lacked even a minimum core of convincing jazz soloists to sustain interest. Throughout this two-disc, 18-track set are well-crafted charts by tenorman Willie Maiden, Hank Levy, Ken Hanna, Dee Barton and Bill Holman, which variously reflect contemporary takes on such old Kenton hits as “Tico Tico,” “Intermission Riff,” “Peanut Vendor” and “Artistry in Rhythm,” as well as such then-popular but now-faded grandiosities as Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We?” and “MacArthur Park.” There is also a nod to Kenton’s conception of black jazz on the blues-based “Terry Talk,” a mumbles style rap voiced by trumpeter Joe Ellis, which is as embarrassing a piece of minstrelsy as has ever been presented in the name of jazz. John Van Ohlen shines as a booting drummer throughout, but little of consequence can be ascribed to the other soloists, who range from flamboyant displays of chops on the part of the brassmen to unimaginative redundancies from the reedmen.