Stan Kenton

Live at Newport: 1959, 1963, 1971

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The three editions of the Stan Kenton Orchestra represented on this triple-disc set are amazingly consistent, considering that a dozen years separates the first from the third shows. The 1959 Newport performance is worth the price of the set by itself, a high-quality, high-fidelity recording of the Kenton band ripping through its repertory of that period in superb style, tight and bristling with collective virtuosity, all on display in a bracing performance across 48 minutes, with just the right level of audience presence for the listener. Highlights include solos by Jimmy Knepper, Rolf Ericson, Bill Trujillo, Charlie Mariano, and Mike Pacheco. The 1963 performance, from Kenton's mellophonium period, offers a very different sound, and a much more cerebral, introspective brand of jazz, equally well executed here and, again, in glistening fidelity, with solos by Kenton, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Mariano, Gabe Baltazar, and Jiggs Whigham, among others. The 1971 set doesn't include Kenton, who was recovering from surgery, but the orchestra rises to the occasion and then some -- almost to prove their mettle (they'd been away from Newport for a long time), they seem to be putting out 110-percent of their capabilities, in terms of speed and the sheer number of notes spinning out. The whole box is fantastic stuff for fans of big-band jazz, and the 1971 set has enough progressive wrinkles in Hank Levy's arrangements that they could have had a shot at cross-over potential, if they'd wanted to go that route.

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