Stan Kenton Alumni Band – Have Band Will Travel: Live – Summit Records – DCD435, 64:59 ****½:
(Mike Vax – Leader. Woodwinds: Kim Richmond – (lead) sop. sax, alto sax, flute; Pete Gallio – tenor sax, flute; Alex Murzyn – tenor sax, flute; Keith Kaminski – bari sax, alto sax, flute; Joel Kaye – bari sax, bass sax, flute. Trumpets & Flugelhorns: Mike Vax – lead trumpet; Dennis Noday – split lead; Paul Von Adam; Steve Huffsteter; Don Rader. Trombones: Roy Weigand – lead; Dale DeVoe – split lead; Scott Whitfield – split lead; Kenny Shroyer – bass trombone; Mike Suter – bass trombone, tuba; Rhythm Section: Liz Sesler-Beckman – piano; Chris Symer – bass; Gary Hobbs – drums; Dee Huffsteter – Latin percussion. Vocals: Scott Whitfield & Ginger Berglund.)
Stan Kenton left us a great legacy when he embarked on his method of performing concerts somewhere in the 50s and on through the years combining seasoned musicians with new up and coming young musicians. An alumnus started building up and came together for reunion performances of Kenton’s music. The tours continued to spread the wonderful big band and symphonic sounds. Mike Vax leads this tour which involved stops at schools giving opportunities for students to work with the band and to open the concerts playing with the alumni followed by the regular Alumni Band. Have Band Will Travel is a wonderful recording of the band’s performances on the tour.
The album opens with “The New Intermission Riff” and is a bit of a different but excellent arrangement of Kenton’s signature tune. I always enjoyed a certain version I heard years ago, but this rendition is excellent with great solo work from Liz Sesler-Beckman on piano, Alex Murzyn on tenor sax, Chris Symer on bass, and Mike Vax on trumpet. It swings! The riff was exciting as ever! The rest of the album songs hold very true to Kenton’s style of mixing up the rhythms with swing, standards done in a semi-symphonic style and Latin sounds. Be sure to catch the wonderful low flute sound on “The Shadow of Your Smile”. The album fittingly closes with a composition by Eric Richards called “Crescent City Stomp”. Now this is the sound of ‘The Big Easy’, New Orleans. You can hear that street beat but what really got my blood boiling was Gary Hobbs working the drums… you will tap your foot!
The album is not a sterile studio sound recording. It is live performances with appreciative audiences. The CD includes very good liner notes, and denotes who the soloists are on each song. I noticed my spirits were very uplifted by the end of the album.
1. The New Intermission Riff
2. Softly As I Leave You
3. El Viente Caliente
4. Long Ago & Far Away
5. Artemis & Apollo
6. Five & Dime
7. This Could Be The Start of Something Big
8. Our Garden
9. Swing House
11. Joint Tenancy
13. The Shadow of Your Smile
14 Crescent City Stomp
15. Crescent City Stomp (Bonus Track- Radio edit)
— Tim Taylor