It seems that any discussion, written or oral, about Stan Kenton begins with the observation that few musicians of any genre generate more controversy than Kenton. That this musician is the source of so much contention and discussion among detractors and admirers alike, means that he manages to get people's attention. Nonetheless, there is one point about Kenton that even his strongest detractors cannot dispute. From the early 40s to the late 70s, his groups were home to many who were to becomes some of the top white musicians and arrangers in jazz. Kenton units also spawned three major practitioners of the cool school of vocalizing, Anita O'Day, Chris Connor, and June Christy as well as the under-recognized Ann Richards. Like him or not, Kenton is one of the few whose music is immediately recognizable. This album is a concert by the Dennis Noday Orchestra, a Stan Kenton tribute band given in Jacksonville, FL in 1979. The playlist includes many of the Kenton songs with pretty much the same arrangements Kenton used. Like the original Kenton band, there are some outstanding solos throughout, with alto player Richie Perri responsible for many of them. He does the Red Dorris solo on "Eager Beaver" and shares the Zoot Sims solo in "Intermission Riff" with Nick Brignola and Hank Bredenberg. Charlie Mariano's haunting alto solo on "Stella by Starlight" is also replicated by Perri. Nick Brignola's solo on "Rhapsody in Blue" is the height of lyrical melodic baritone sax playing. Kenton's music, and this tribute album, are much like Boston weather. If you don't like the way it is now, wait five minutes and it will change. Kenton's music ranges from the trumpet blaring, heavy drumming barnburners like "Malaguena," "Eager Beaver," and "Artistry in Rhythm" to softly played ballads like "Here's That Rainy Day" and "Yesterdays," which features a lovely tenor solo by Jim Hayward. Noday played with Kenton from 1969 to 1974. He also was a member with another high voltage band, Maynard Ferguson's. Not only does Noday pay tribute to the Kenton musical style, but to his conducting mannerisms as well. You can hear Noday counting off the beat at the start and shouting tribute to the soloists at the end of each tune. He also does a Maynard Ferguson upper register trumpet solo on "Maria." This album should not disappoint Kenton fans.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan