Flyin’ Through Florida – Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Directed by Mike Vax

Flyin’ Through Florida – Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Directed by Mike Vax

Label: Summit Records

Release date: July 2018

Catalog number: 727


01 Artistry Jumps
comp: Stan Kenton
02 Someday
comp: Patrick Moraz, Lee Jackson
03 After You've Gone...Finally
comp: Turner Layton, Henry Creamer
04 In the Wee Small Hours
comp: David Mann, Bob Hilliard
05 Psyche
comp: Joel Kaye
06 O Mio Babbino
comp: Giacomo Puccini
07 How High the Moon / Ornithology
comp: Morgan Lewis, Nancy Hamilton / Charlie Parker, Benny Harris
08 Young at Heart
comp: Johnny Richards
09 The Trashman Cometh
comp: Jennifer Leitham
10 Through the Eyes of Love (Theme from "Ice Castles")
comp: Marvin Hamlisch
11 Shazam
comp: Al Cohen
12 El Manisero La Ultima Vez
comp: Moises Simons

One of the few touring big bands on the road, the Kenton Legacy Orchestra with their first (of 21 tours) through Florida, playing in nine cities, capturing the best of it on record! There are eight new pieces and four that come from the “old days”…the band ALWAYS strives to keep with Kenton’s thoughts about not doing too much “nostalgia”… with a main goal to produce new music in the Kenton style!

The oldies include “Artistry Jumps,” with the original arrangement; two arrangements that Dave Barduhn did back in the 1970s, “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and “Through the Eyes of Love;” and finally what they now call “El Manisero, La Ultima Vez.” Wait until you hear what the rhythm section does with this piece – completely different than any recordings before.

The new music is very exciting. As usual the writers have come up with a bunch of winners! Joel Kaye has given us a new arrangement of the Johnny Richards original that was recorded by Frank Sinatra “Young at Heart,” an original called “Psyche,” and an Al Cohn tune for the Saxophone section, “Shazam.” Scott Whitfield has arranged the Puccini aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” as a solo for Mike Vax, and Jennifer Leitham’s original “The Trashman Commeth,” as well as a great double bill so to speak, of “How High the Moon and Ornithology,” for he and Ginger to sing. There is a wonderful arrangement of “After You’ve Gone” by Dennis Noday’s good friend Lee Harris. Finally.” And last but certainly not least is Charlie Ferguson’s stirring arrangement of “Someday,” a pop tune done for sure in the Kenton Style.

SAXOPHONES: Kim Richmond, Phil Hilger, Rick Condit, Joel Kaye, Tami Davidsson, Bill Prince
TROMBONES: Scott Whitfield, Dale Devoe, Dave Keim, Kenny Shroyer, Rich Bullock
TRUMPETS: Mike Vax, Dennis Noday, John Harner, Jim Oatts,
Greg McLean
PIANO: Charlie Ferguson
BASS: Jennifer Leithan
DRUMS: C.E. Askew
VOCALS: Scott Whitfield,Ginger Berglund

MIKE VAX, a Kenton Alum, has devoted much of his professional life keeping the legacy of big band music, most notably that of Stan Kenton, alive and vibrant. In addition to Kenton’s musical legacy, Vax has carried on the Kenton dedication to education, an area where Kenton was one of the early leaders. One result of Vax’s efforts is the existence of THE STAN KENTON LEGACY ORCHESTRA, a big band that Vax has fronted through a few name changes for 25 years.



Mike Vax has done a yeoman job of keeping alive the musical legacy of Stan Kenton.  He has been leading the big band currently named the STAN KENTON LEGACY ORCHESTRA for many years, and has not only carried on Kenton’s musical influence, but has also continued to follow the commitment that Kenton had to jazz education.  Most years Vax has led the band on tours that combine these two activities.  The Spring 2017 tour found the band in Florida, and the highlights of that tour are found on Flyin’ Through Florida (Summit -727).  The band is not a “nostalgia” band.  They do play some of the original Kenton charts, but concentrate more of their concerts on playing new arrangements and compositions that are done in a style that reflects the Kenton influence, but are unique to this band.  The twelve selections on this disc include four from the former category, “Artistry Jumps,” two 1970s arrangements from Dave Barduhn, “In the Wee Small Hours” and “Through the Eyes of Love,” plus their take on the ever evolving “The Peanut Vendor,” here titled “El Manisero, La Ultima Vez,” the selection used to close all of their concerts during which the bands come off of the stage into the audience, and wails freely on this classic Kenton chart.  The new charts include a couple of nifty originals, “Psyche” by Joel Kaye, and “The Trashman Cometh” by Jennifer Leitham.  The band is full of scintillating soloists, but it is the ensemble playing that gives it the Kenton stamp.  It is sad that the economics of touring a big band is extremely limiting, making opportunities to here this impressive aggregation in person a rare pleasure, but this great sounding album will give the listener a taste of the excitement generated whenever the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra plays a concert.

Joseph Lane, Jersey Jazz