Have Band Will Travel

The Stan Kenton Alumni Band

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Have Band Will Travel Review

by Ken Dryden

The Stan Kenton Alumni Band, directed by trumpeter Mike Vax, are not what you would call a ghost band rehashing a steady diet of dusty charts from decades ago, but a living tribute to the late bandleader/composer, who died in 1977. The material on this CD is drawn from recordings made during their 2009 tour, mixing elements of old and new arrangements, all played with enthusiasm and finesse. Starting off with "The New Intermission Riff," which alto saxophonist Kim Richmond based on Carl Fontana's trombone solo in the original "Intermission Riff" and expanded for the full band, the band crackles with energy. Veteran arranger Lennie Niehaus scored the standard "Long Ago and Far Away" in swinging fashion. Gerry Mulligan's "Swing House" isn't one of his better-known works, though this snappy miniature is an obvious highlight. The newer arrangements also merit praise. Scott Whitfield and Ginger Berglund share the vocals in Steve Allen's upbeat "This Could Be the Start of Something Big." Steve Huffsteter penned the infectious "Joint Tenancy" (an intricate reworking of the changes to "Alone Together") and shares the solo spotlight with fellow trumpeter Don Rader. "Crescent City Stomp" isn't something one would envision in Kenton's repertoire, but Eric Richard's progressive blend of blues, New Orleans rhythm, and fiery solos will get anyone on his or her feet. Beautifully recorded and performed, the Stan Kenton Alumni Band continue to build on the tradition of the late bandleader.

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