This CD contains a pair of vintage Stan Kenton (piano/arranger) releases, both available here for the first time in the digital domain. Kenton took his big band background and, in the truest sense of the term 'jazz', experimented with modern and practically arithmetical harmonic arrangements for a variety of settings. The first of the two albums featured here is Kenton With Voices (1957). This is a distinct platter, as it is his first with vocalists. This is fascinating because not only had Kenton been a recording artist for over a decade, but he was also single-handedly responsible for the discovery of the Four Freshmen. The assembled ensemble includes the Modern Men -- Bob Smart (vocals), Paul Salamunovich (vocals), Tony Katics (vocals), and Al Oliveri (vocals) -- along with Kenton's then-wife, Ann Richards (vocals). Each of the dozen scores are hearty and highly stylized, bearing the earmark of the dissonant phrasings that Kenton so ably choreographed into minor masterworks. He indulges "Dancing in the Dark" with a frenzy of Polynesian-flavored percussion that also weaves through the brisk, revamped reading of "Temptation." Richards provides a balance with her warm lead on "Softly," "Women Usually Do," and the refined "Opus in Chartreuse." Artistry in Voices and Brass (1964) takes a considerably different approach. Kenton is joined by his on-again/off-again colleague, Pete Rugolo (arranger), as well as noted wordsmith Milt Raskin (lyrics), overhauling ten previously familiar Kenton instrumentals, giving them significant augmentations in the form of four sopranos, four altos, four tenors, four baritones, and two basses (18 in all), a quintet of trombones, and an alternating four- or five-piece rhythm section. The results, while undeniably ambitious, are decidedly mixed. Thoroughly successful are the brooding and forlorn "Solitaire," a reworking of the sultry Afro-Cuban "Machito," titled "Daydreams in the Night" here, as well as the almost cinematic "Night Song," which is based on "Artistry in Rhythm." The same is not true of the uninspired "Flame," or the garish, bombastic "Painted Rhythm." Luckily, ample space is given to Kenton for a few well-executed piano solos; the marquee of the originals. The Kenton With Voices/Artistry in Voices and Brass two-fer is part of Collectors' Choice Music's long overdue reassessment of Kenton's voluminous catalog. This title has also been supplemented with three previously unreleased 'bonus tracks' -- "Sunday's Child," "Thanks for You," and "Orchids in the Moonlight," although there is no indication that any or all of them hail from the same sessions as either LP.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer