Arranger Joel Kaye, who was part of Stan Kenton's mellophonium band of the early '60s and his Neophonic Orchestra of 1965, led his own Neophonic Jazz Orchestra in Denver beginning in 1989. For the highly enjoyable Live at Vartan Jazz date, Kaye mostly arranged standards (with a few obscurities tossed in), and although the music is conventional and swinging, there are many inventive and surprising segments. In fact, none of the standards owe much allegiance to earlier recorded versions, even "Frenesi" and "Take the 'A' Train." There are no major names among the sidemen, but the musicianship is excellent and the soloists are consistently exciting. In fact, this is one of the most rewarding big-band recordings of 1997, making one wonder why this orchestra is not better known. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow