Unknown titles from Stan Kenton and new works by Terry Vosbein.
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Max Frank Music is excited to announce the release of Terry Vosbein’s explorations into the big band world, Progressive Jazz 2009. Combining unknown titles from the library of Stan Kenton with bold original sounds from the pen of Vosbein, this CD packs 78 minutes/of must-hear music.
“Progressive Jazz in the best sense of the word: advanced, forward-moving and enlightening but in no way pretentious or self-absorbed,” according to reviewer Jack Bowers at All About Jazz. The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra is “remarkably accomplished, and takes to these demanding charts like ducks to water.”
Guest conductor Vosbein takes the band through their paces on seven never previously recorded compositions and arrangements written for Kenton by Pete Rugolo and Bob Graettinger. Add to the mix Vosbein’s own six contributions from sixty years later and you have a baker’s dozen of tasty delights.
Read the complete liner notes.
When encountering an album whose title is Progressive Jazz 2009, one question that naturally arises is, exactly how “progressive”? The answer, in this case, is progressive enough to enliven and inspire, but not progressive enough to aggravate or perplex. Composer / arranger / conductor Terry Vosbein has reinvigorated a number of heretofore overlooked themes from the creative world of Stan Kenton, added several of his own, and placed them in the capable hands of the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra for a concert performance that shines from start to finish.
Aside from Vosbein's, the songs were arranged either by Pete Rugolo (five) or Bob Graettinger (two). Rugolo composed “Artistry in Gillespie,” “Rhythms at Work” and “Hambeth,” Graettinger “Cuban Pastorale.” It's hard to comprehend why any of them isn't better known or performed more often. Vosbein's five works are no less engaging, from the high-flying “Crows in Tuxedos” to the sonorous “Real Princess,” which emphatically rings down the curtain. Vosbein also wrote “Jumping Monkey,” “Ahora es el Tiempo” (Where Is the Tempo) and “Odin's Dream” and arranged Stephen Sondheim's “Johanna,” while Rugolo arranged Claude Debussy's “Afternoon of a Faun” and the standard “Don't Blame Me,” Graettinger “Walkin' by the River.”
As noted, this is a concert performance, and while the sound and balance are by and large admirable, there are some brief passages on “Crows” wherein the trombones seem disconnected from the rest of the orchestra, almost as if playing in another room.* Otherwise, everything is keen and peachy--which also describes the orchestra and its soloists. For a regional ensemble, the KJO is remarkably accomplished, and takes to these demanding charts like ducks to water. The soloists pull their weight as well. Alto Doug Rinaldo is showcased on “Faun,” trumpeter Michael Spirko on “Cuban Pastorale,” trombonists Don Hough and Tom Lundberg on “Hambeth” and “Odin's Dream,” respectively, with other convincing statements by saxophonists David King, Alan Wyatt and Tom Johnson; trumpeters Rich Willey, Vance Thompson and Stewart Cox; trombonist Bill Huber, guitarist Mark Bolin, pianist Bill Swann, bassist Rusty Holloway and drummer Keith Brown.
This is Progressive Jazz in the best sense of the word: advanced, forward-moving and enlightening but in no wise pretentious or self-absorbed. Vosbein has chosen the music with care, and the KJO has brought it to life with dexterity and elegance. An admirable performance from end to end.
* Note from producer: This reviewer had a pre-release copy of the recording. Due to his keen ear, we were able to correct this audio glitch in the final version.
TERRY VOSBEIN is an accomplished composer in both the fields of jazz and classical music. He is also a music educator, currently teaching music composition at Washington and Lee University. He has had a particular fascination with the music played by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, particularly the arrangements that were in the Kenton book during the versions of the band that were labeled the Progressive Jazz Orchestra and the Innovations Orchestra. Two of the arrangers who contributed many of the charts to Kenton during this period were Pete Rugolo and Bob Graettinger. Vosbein spent three months of research in the Kenton archives at North Texas University research, and uncovered many arrangements by these and other arrangers that were never commercially recorded by Kenton, and, in some cases, may never have been performed by the band.
Progressive Jazz 2009 (Max Frank Music - 001) is taken from a January 2009 concert by the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra conducted by Vosbein, and presents seven of the unrecorded Kenton pieces, five by Rugolo and two by Graettinger, along with five original pieces by Vosbein plus his stunningly beautiful arrangement of “Johanna” from Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. This is a superb sampling of progressive big band jazz, wonderfully programmed by Vosbein, and executed impeccably by the KJO. Rugolo and Graettinger, particularly the latter, wrote arrangements that were somewhat out for most listeners’ tastes.
The pieces that Vosbein chose for inclusion on this program are all quite accessible, but still show a lot of the out-of-the-box thinking that made their arrangements so unique and special. The Rugolo charts are “Artistry in Gillespie,” an boppish ode to the trumpet master with just a hint of Latin influence, Debussy’s impressionistic “Afternoon of a Faun,” “Rhythms at Work,” a piece that presages some of the Rugolo selections on his 1950s Mercury albums, a lovely take on “Don’t Blame Me,” and “Hambeth,” a piece that sounds like it could fit into the score of a film drama. Graettinger is represented by “Cuban Pastorale,” a somewhat nervous view of that island that makes the title seem ironic, and “Walkin’ By the River,” about as straight forward an arrangement as one will find from Graettinger.
Vosbein’s original material perfectly complements the rest of the program. “Crows in Tuxedos” and “Jumping Monkey” are both playful pieces that would have been perfect additions to the Kenton book, as would the Latin hued “Ahora es el Tiempo,” the perfectly titled “Odin’s Dream,” and “The Real Princess,” the concert closer that serves as a nice punctuation mark for an impressive musical feast.
“Vosbein's own contributions would have easily qualified for acceptance into the Kenton library.” (Robert J. Robbins, All About Jazz) read more…
grise Pete Rugolo plus two charts from the iconoclastic composer/arranger Bob Graettinger, all dating from the period 1946-48. Moreover, Vosbein, an alumnus of the Kenton clinics during the Seventies, has added five of his own Kenton-inspired compositions plus a long-overdue Kentonian setting of a Stephen Sondheim classic.
Rugolo's 1948 “Artistry In Gillespie,” an excursion into bebop a la his “Capitol Punishment” recorded the previous year, launches the CD with the force of a rocket, with David King, Don Hough, Stewart Cox, and Rusty Holloway respectively re-creating the solo roles of Kentonians Art Pepper, Milt Bernhart, Ray Wetzel, and Eddie Safranski. The Rugolo treatment of Claude Debussy's “Afternoon of a Faun,” which dates from 1946 when the opus was about 55 years old, retains the impressionistic atmosphere of the original while transporting it into the realm of Kentonia via Doug Rinaldo's alto. “Don't Blame Me” is a typical Kenton ballad arrangement from the Forties, opening with the piano of Bill Swann, then building to a climax featuring Vance Thompson's trumpet, and finally settling to a quiet coda following Holloway's bass interlude. Hough re-traces the solo path of Eddie Bert on Rugolo's “Hambeth,” one of the few opuses in the Kenton repertoire with a Shakespearean title.
“Cuban Pastorale,” by the then 24-year-old Graettinger, is an atonal visit to Havana which avoided recording due to a commercial ban imposed by the American Federation of Musicians throughout most of 1948, featuring trumpeter Rich Willey. Graettinger and Rugolo appear to have traded roles on their respective charts of “Walkin' by the River” and “Rhythms at Work,” with each arrangement remarkably resembling the style of the opposite arranger (i.e. Graettinger's writing sounding more like Rugolo and vice versa).
Vosbein's own contributions would have easily qualified for acceptance into the Kenton library, and two of them (his arrangement of “Johanna” from Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, which spotlights the trombone section in a most Kentonian mode, and the original “Ahora es el Tiempo”) merit inclusion in the repertoire of Mike Vax's Kenton Alumni band. In his writing, Vosbein interweaves the influences of Rugolo, Graettinger, and such other distinguished Kenton arrangers as Bill Holman, Ken Hanna, Bill Russo, and Willie Maiden.
One additional bonus: the CD package displays a rare 1948 color rehearsal photo showing Kenton, Rugolo and Graettinger, along with saxophonists Bob Gioga and Bob Cooper with their backs to the camera, courtesy of the UNT Kenton Collection.
Track Listing: Artistry In Gillespie; Afternoon of a Faun; Cuban Pastorale; Walkin' by the River; Rhythms at Work; Don't Blame Me; Jumping Monkey; Johanna; Hambeth; Ahora es el Tiempo; Odin's Dream; The Real Princess.
Personnel: Terry Vosbein, Conductor, composer, and arranger; Doug Rinaldo, alto sax, flute; David King, alto sax, flute; Alan Wyatt, tenor sax; Will Boyd, tenor sax; Tom Johnson, baritone sax; Stewart Cox, trumpet; Michael Spirko, trumpet; Tom Fox, trumpet; Rich Willey, trumpet; Vance Thompson, trumpet; Tom Lundberg, trombone; Don Hough, trombone; Nate Malone, trombone; Bill Huber, trombone; Brad McDougall, bass trombone; Bill Swann, piano; Rusty Holloway, bass; Keith Brown, drums; Mark Boling, guitar; David Knight, Latin percussion.
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