Stan Kenton

Artistry in Voices and Brass

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Enthusiasts of jazz innovator Stan Kenton (piano/arranger) have long heralded Artistry in Voices and Brass (1964) as one of his most distinctive titles, with a premise as involved as the results are unique. Kenton, along with longtime collaborative arranger Pete Rugolo, teamed up with Milt Raskin (lyrics) to retrofit ten of Kenton's instrumentals with new expanded scores for no less than 18 voices -- four sopranos, four altos, four tenors, four baritones, and two basses -- as well as a quintet of trombones. The entire aggregate would also be supported by a four- or five-piece rhythm section. As one might anticipate with such a congregation, the results are predictably mixed. There are occasions, such as the noir melancholia of "Solitaire," and the sultry Afro-Cuban "Daydreams in the Night" -- which is based on the tune "Machito" -- that work remarkably well. The tension and release that defined the originals have been aptly recaptured in this reincarnation. The dramatic flourishes of "Night Song," which is a new variation on "Artistry in Rhythm," at times leans toward bombast, however the rich melange of voices and instruments propel the melody into some interesting and atypical directions. Conversely, "Painted Rhythm," "Intermission Riff," and the boorish, bolero-derived "Flame" are studies in excess. Kenton's jazzy piano solos, which were the initial focus, are in many cases the saving grace of the otherwise indulgent artistry. This proves the old adages that sometimes newer [read: more modern] isn't always better, and too many cooks do indeed spoil the proverbial sonic stew. In 2003, Collectors' Choice Music issued Artistry in Voices and Brass as half of a two-fer CD, alongside Kenton With Voices (1957) -- both of which are making their digital debut. The disc is enhanced with an additional trio of unearthed 'bonus tracks' including "Sunday's Child," "Thanks for You" and "Orchids in the Moonlight."

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