Stan Kenton

Jazz Compositions of Stan Kenton

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While most of the credit for the Kenton repertoire has been lavished upon the likes of Pete Rugolo, Bill Russo, Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers, Johnny Richards, and others, the bandleader himself may have been the most talented composer of all. This late-'70s vintage compilation from Kenton's custom label addresses that issue most impressively, drawing from Kenton's long Capitol tenure, deliberately leaving out such signature items as "Artistry in Rhythm" and "Painted Rhythm." To tell the truth, you don't miss the obvious omissions because the showcased material is so strong, so memorable, and in some cases, startlingly original. The LP mixes original recordings from the 1940s "progressive jazz" bands with '50s remakes from Kenton in Hi-Fi, touching upon the Innovations Orchestra, the Mellophonium band, and other periods. There's only one track from the post-Capitol years, a rather aimless rendition of "Reflection" by Kenton on solo piano (from his spotty solo album). A tune like "Opus in Pastels" from 1946, written only for saxophones and rhythm section, has a lovely tune and a progressive slant while at the same time taking you back in nostalgic time to Balboa Island. Kenton's contributions to the Innovations Orchestra were just as radical and harmonically adventurous as those of his staff, Bob Graettinger excepted, as always. Even on the recordings taken from 78s, the sound is terrific for its time. As Rugolo and his successors took over the arranging tasks from the busy bandleader, Kenton's output diminished greatly in quantity from the early days, and this album makes you wish that he had written more.