May 18, 2024

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CD review: Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra – The Stage Door Still Swings (And Movies Too) – 2023: Video, CD cover

Since around 2001, noted trumpeter Mike Vax has periodically assembled an extraordinarily talented group of former members of the Stan Kenton’s, Maynard Ferguson’s and other elite bands and led that crew on short performance tours (and clinics) around various sections of the United States.

While an alum group and not a “ghost band,” their repertoire is heavily dominated by material made famous by the Kenton Orchestra. This 15 selection compilation is sourced from highlight performances during that near quarter century of tours.

As one might expect from a Kenton-infused effort, the album is big, bold,and brassy with a heavy dollop of balladic material. Selections are drawn from the GAS, Broadway hits and Hollywood staples with arrangements that predominantly feature the back rows of the band. And, the charts also frame a slew of terrific soloists. “Lullaby of Broadway” launches the session in a laid-back, swinging style. A Latinesque “Young at Heart” offers a saucy, driving change of pace and is a joy. “I Have Dreamed” is a textural delight that builds elegantly from trombone base to an engaging full ensemble climax. “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” swings in a classic Kenton style and is another fine track.

There are some outstanding solo highlights on this recording. Recently passed trumpet ace, Carl Saunders’ solo feature on “My Foolish Heart” for one, Dave Devoe’s gorgeous bone tone on “I Have Dreamed,” and Bob Florence’s impressionistic take on “Young and Foolish.” Ginger Bergland’s and Scott Whitfield’s vocal and scatting on the mash-up of “How High the Moon/Orinthology” and Mike Vax and Dennis Noday soaring on “Through the Eyes of Love.”

The oldie, “Pennies from Heaven” offers up a tasty sax soli melody statement and fine afterthoughts from the ensemble. “All the Things You Are” is another example of some marvelous Bob Florence piano (complete with that classic jazz Intro as an outro) and ensemble colors. It’s another album highlight. The quintessential date closer, “The Party’s Over,” lives up to its name and does its job brilliantly. While the charts emanated from different arrangers, the Kenton style—lush, textural, and intelligent—threads through this entire album. Whether on ballads or up-tempo pieces, the bands across the dates all shine bright. One might notice that since all tracks were live and recorded in various venues, that the sound is near studio quality. However, the performances recorded over a 22-year span all have a fine consistency of the things and swings that really count.

01. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Scott Whitfield – Lullaby of Broadway
02. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Liz Sesler-Beckman, Don Rader – Tonight
03. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Kim Richmond, Greg McLean – Young at Heart
04. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Carl Saudners – My Foolish Heart
05. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Bob Florence, Mike Vax – Young and Foolish
06. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Dale DeVoe, Don Rader, Charlie Ferguson – I Have Dreamed
07. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Kim Richmond – Baubles, Bangles, & Beads
08. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Mike Vax, Dennis Noday – Through The Eyes of Love
09. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Scott Whitfield, Ginger Berglund, Greg McLean, Rick Condit – How High The Moon/Ornithology
10. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Rick Condit, Dennis Noday – Yesterdays
11. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Joel Kaye, Don Rader – Shadow of Your Smile
12. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Mike Vax – Love Theme From Hair
13. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Mike Vax – Pennies From Heaven
14. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Bob Florence – All The Things You Are
15. Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Pete Gallio – The Party’s Over

Additional Instrumentation

Alto Saxophone: Kim Richmond, Steve Wilkerson, Scott Petersen, Chuck Carter, Mary Fettig, Paul McGinley, Keith Kaminsky, Nancy Newman, Ben Burget, Phil Hilger
Tenor Saxophone: Dave Stone, Ted Sistrunk, Jenifer Leitham, Chris Finet
Baritone Saxophone: Chuck Carter, Joel Kaye, Roy Reynolds, Scott Petersen, Bruce Johnstone, Keith Kaminsky, Nancy Newman, Phil Hilger, John Mitchell
Bass Saxophone: Joel Kaye, Nancy Newman
Trumpet: Mike Vax, Carl Saunders, Marvin Stamm, Dennis Noday, John Harner, John Coppola, Steve Campos, Jay Daversa, Jim Oatts, Dan Fava, John Daversa, Roger Ingram, Scott Englebright, Gabe Johnson, Pete DeSienna, Steve Huffsteter, Don Rader, Paul Von Adam, Brian O’Flarhety, Jonathan Dane, Greg McLean, Bruce Gates, Dave Cooledge, Tony Bonsera
Trombone: Dick Shearer, Roy Wiegand, Dale DeVoe, George Roberts, Mike Suter, Kenny Shroyer, Scott Whitfield, Curtis Fox, John Allred, Denny Brunk, Bill Hartman, Chuck Bennett, Bob Halseth, Dean Hubbard, Rich Bullock, Dave Keim, Brian Zebreskie
Vocals: Scott Whitfield, Ginger Berglund
Guitar: Jack Petersen
Piano: Bob Florence, Don Haas, Liz SeslerBeckman, Bob Kafka, Jeff Collela, Brian O’Rourke, Geoff Stradling, Charlie Ferguson, Dave Kane
Bass: Bill Trujillo, Richard Torres, Roy Reynolds, Mary Fettig, Pete Gallio, Alex Murzyn, Alan Yankee, Kim Park, Rick Condit, Billy Kerr. Woody Witt, Bill Prince, Teri Danielsson, Gary Anderson, Woody Witt; Jim Widner, Chris Symer, Kristen Korb, Mario Suraci
Drums: Gary Hobbs, Jerry McKenzie, Jamey Tate, Dr. Dave Clements, Claude Askew
Latin Percussion: Ramon Lopez, John Akal, Dee Huffsteter

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