[Dixielandjazz] Stan Kenton and the Neophonics

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 27 17:30:35 PDT 2004

If Kenton's Neophonic Orchestra is not YKOM delete now. Otherwise, for those
who like Big Band Kenton, and his collegiate neophonics, check this review
out. "Horns of Plenty" 3 double CDs - Tantara. Also for the Texans, is Vol.
2, the Univ. of N. Texas Neophonic Band, and for the Brits, Vol. 3, London's
Trinity Big Band.

Still a lot of Kenton in today's school music programs. Seems to fascinate
the teachers.

Steve Barbone

By Harvey Siders From the 04/05 Jazz Times Jazz Education Guide

The ever-charismatic, ever-controversial Stan Kenton formed his Collegiate
Neophonic Orchestra as an adjunct to his Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra in
1966. When the parent organization was born two years earlier, it was one of
two resident orchestras at LA.'s Music Center (the other being the LA.
Philharmonic,  under the direction of Zubin Mehta, a figure almost as
domineering as Kenton.)
The collegiate extension was inevitable considering the mushrooming college
jazz band scene in Southern California and Kenton's missionary clinician
zeal. Besieged by nearly 200 applicants from 26 local campuses, Kenton and
his brain  trust of educators fashioned a near-Neophonic clone that
eventually sent a great  many future sidemen up from the minors to the
Kenton band.
Equally inevitable was the "Neophonic" (new sound) concept spreading to
other states and other countries, which is the basis for the ambitious
three-double-CD project Horns of Plenty (Tantara). So you have the
Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra in Volume One, the University of North Texas
State Neophonic Orchestra in Volume Two and, in Volume 3, London's Trinity
Big Band, expanded by four French horns which, while not playing Neophonic
charts per se, still have to conquer difficult arrangements by Kenton,
Johnny Richards, Marty Paich and  Trinity jazz director Bobby Lamb, who has
long spread the Kenton gospel.
Highlights abound. Let's focus on the students first. On Volume One,
trumpeter Gary Pack, in spite of poor miking, shines on James Hill's
excellent "Tribute to a Poltergeist" and again on Alf Clausen's "Three
Sounds for Neophonic Orchestra." The whole band comes alive on Mike Francis'
"Marche," particularly drummer Wynn Smith and Ruth Ritchie and Gene
Strimmling on various percussion and mallets. The students really show their
maturity in dealing with  Pete Rugolo's composition "Conflict," which is
sprinkled with quartertones. The outstanding trombone solo comes from Jeff
Apmadoc, who, like Gary Pack, eventually graduated to Kenton's orchestra.
There's plenty of counterpoint in "Toccata" by Bill Fritz, associate
conductor of the Collegiate Neophonic.
In Volume Two, composer Hugo Montenegro comes up with a true meaning of the
word "fanfare" in his "Fanfare for the New," and the 34 Texans eat it up. It
is  brass-plated excitement over unceasing percussion. And they literally
feast on three fugues, written by John Williams, Bob Florence and Allyn
Ferguson, whose "Passacaglia and Fugue" is the most academically correct.
The passacaglia begins in the bowels of the band-the bass clarinet-and
builds organically. Jim Knight's  programmatic "Music for an Unwritten Play"
sounds like Richard Strauss had come back and learned how to swing.
Volume Three features another 34-piece organization, the Trinity Big Band,
plus three guest soloists. The CD's 13 tracks are roughly divided between
standards and Latin charts-- with British guest artists playing all solos in
the Latin numbers. The section work is brilliant throughout, particularly in
"La Suerte de los Tontos" and "Tres Corazones." The infectious Latin rhythm
is held  over to spice "Eager Beaver" and, more successfully, the familiar
theme "Artistry in Rhythm." Excellent band, but the soloists should have
been featured more.
No complaints when it comes to the big boys, the big sound or the soloists.
There's enough here to please every Kenton lover, any big-band fan and most
nit-picking audiophiles. As for the history-minded, there are tracks have
never been released. There are the overall discographical efforts to be as
thorough as possible. (A sheet of print errors accompanies each volume.)
Above all, there are arrangers such as Lennie Niehaus, Marty Paich, Gerry
Mulligan, Gene Roland, Bill Holman, Johnny Richards and Kenton himself
represented on these three discs; memorable soloists like Marvin Stamm, Gabe
Baltazar, Charlie Mariano, Sam Donahue, Bob Fitzpatrick, Niehaus and a well
kept secret in baritonist Marvin Holladay.
Sure, there were many sidemen who complained constantly about working for
Kenton, but even they could not deny the effect he had on students
everywhere. The Kenton dynamism has left an indelible mark on all high
school and college bands, and that legacy is demonstrated in this six-disc
collection in what can be considered a swinging cause and effect.

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