Worthy and Enjoyable Big Band Jazz
John Tapscott | Canada | 05/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Trumpet ace Mike Vax deserves sustained applause for his tireless efforts in bringing jazz music and jazz education to schools and concerts halls all over the world. Vax was the lead trumpet player in Stan Kenton's superb early 70's band and the experience of playing with Kenton left a profound and lasting effect on him. He has a special interest in promoting and extending the Stan Kenton musical legacy and often organzies 2 week tours with a big band comprised of Stan Kenton alumni and other sympathetic musicians.
This present Cd "Next Stop Live ...On the Road" comes from Vax's Kenton Alumni band U.S. tour of 2004. The music was recorded at various stops along the way, and this means the recording quality varies a bit from track to track, though for the most part it is very listenable and captures the band's ensemble sounds quite well. Six of the CD's eleven tracks come directly from the Kenton book. Additional tracks includes the late Frank Mantooth's beautiful arrangement of "Young and Foolish" featuring Vax; John Boice's arrangement of "My Foolish Heart" for trumpet star Carl Saunders; as well as Lennie Niehaus' decade old swinging trumpet feature for the leader called "Vax Attacks." "Appearing in Cleveland" is Bob Florence's creative tribute to Kenton based on the "Artistry in Rhythm" theme. It is a powerhouse chart driven by the swinging young drummer Jamie Tate. "We Miss You Dickus" is Dale DeVoe's original dedicated to Kenton's long-time lead trombonist Dick Shearer. This memorable chart strongly evokes the sound of Kenton's 1970's band.
Vax is the main soloist on the CD and he plays very well throughout, especially on the closing "Theme From Hair." Trumpeter Saunders, tenorist Peter Gallio, baritonist Joel Kaye, trombonist DeVoe, altoist Kim Richmond, and pianist Florence are among the many fine soloists who make strong statements.
The inevitable question is, "How does this CD compare with the 'On the Road' CD from the 2001 tour of Vax's Kenton Alumni Band?" (search Stan Kenton on Amazon.com). Well, to be honest, though the present CD certainly has some fine performances, I do not find it quite as compelling or focussed as the earlier disc. "Next Stop" reveals a few more of the perils of live recording during a short tour. But while "Next Stop" may fall slightly short of total excellence, it is a very worthy big band jazz CD which will be much enjoyed by fans of the art form."
HENRY D. BUSCH | Detroit, MI USA | 12/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"JazzTimes - November 2005
"Bless you Mike, for keeping the faith. Not just for schlepping your 19 sidemen on the bus again, but for spreading the Gospel According to Stan in the process. Vax and many alumni of the Kenton band underwent all the inconveniences of being on the road, yet they overcame uneven audio systems (recording live at various venues) to create an excellent hour-plus of consistent exuberance.
The essential Kenton flavor runs through "Appearing in Cleveland," mainly due to the Bob Florence arrangement that updates familiar Kenton themes. But there are other heroes in that 14-minute tone poem, especially the constant pushing by drummer Jamie Tate, plus well-crafted solos by baritone saxophonist Joel Kaye and tenorist Pete Gallio. Talk about solos--three other tracks must be singled out. "Intermission Riff" is highlighted by the unerring intonation of bassist Chris Symer.
Few pianists have the sensitive touch of Bob Florence. His delicate keyboard approach to "Young and Foolish" can induce tears if the mood is right. Finally, on "My Foolish Heart" trumpeter Carl Saunders' solo, climaxing with a breathtaking high E, should be transcribed and distributed to every collegiate jazz program in the country."