With this release, volume one in a series, Naxos Jazz gets its hands on some of the earliest recordings of the Stan Kenton band, an ear-opening collection of MacGregor radio transcriptions made around the time that he was recording for Decca. These, mind you, date well before the series of path-breaking Capitol recordings that made the band famous -- and they show the Kenton sound already partially in place, the trademark staccato sax section punctuating the line, the brasses just starting to blast. Even at this point, you cannot mistake this band for anyone's else's, even in the more commercially motivated tunes. Interestingly, only a handful of the nine Decca titles appear here, leaving room for a lot of material that went undocumented by the major labels. There are also a few previews of Kenton-penned recordings to come: the Kenton theme "Artistry in Rhythm" (which he pilfered from Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe"), the jumping "Harlem Folk Dance," and the sublime "Opus in Pastels" (here, it's faster and more staccato in phrasing than the great 1946 Capitol recording). Chico Alvarez's trumpet can be heard in several solo spots, and Howard Rumsey's scatted loosey-goosey bass solo feature, "A Setting in Motion" (which Decca recorded under the title "Concerto for Doghouse"), is a kick. Some of the MacGregors had appeared on LP as early as 1953, yet this systematic release should easily supersede all earlier efforts, with clean, listenable transfers but no personnel listings.
AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell