Mike Vax

Next Stop: Live...On the Road

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Mike Vax, who gained his initial recognition as lead trumpeter with the Stan Kenton Orchestra during part of the 1970s, has been heard in a wide variety of settings ever since but seems happiest when leading his own big band. Although inspired by Kenton and including a few of his later-period alumni, Vax's 15-horn, 19-piece ensemble does not sound like a duplicate of Kenton's. It is a mighty outfit with many lesser-known but talented soloists. The biggest names among the sidemen are pianist/arranger Bob Florence, trumpeter Carl Saunders (who is showcased on "My Foolish Heart"), and altoist Kim Richmond, but Saunders and Richmond only get one solo apiece since there are so many fine players in the band. Among the other main soloists are trumpeters Vax, Jay DaVersa, and Mike Olmos; tenors Pete Gallio and Alex Murzyn; and altoist Scott Peterson. However, it is the passion of the ensembles and the inventive arrangements that consistently steal the show. The arrangements of Lennie Niehaus, Gerry Mulligan ("Young Blood"), Hank Levy, Frank Mantooth, Ray Wetzel ("Intermission Riff"), Dale DeVoe, and Kenton (an odd version of "The Love Theme from Hair"!) are colorful, with the high point being Bob Florence's lengthy "Appearing in Cleveland," which is his impression of several Kenton-associated pieces. This CD is easily recommended to fans of the Stan Kenton legacy.

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