On 23 May 1956, fifty years ago, the Stan Kenton Orchestra recorded the tune El Congo Valiente at the Capitol Studios in New Your City.
The orchestra, directed by Stan Kenton, contained 18 musicians during this session and was one of the largest big bands of those days and could be enlarged to 26 or 30 men if necessary. The musicians to be heard as soloists are Lennie Niehaus, who playes a great solo on alto saxophone and Bill Perkins on tenor . Another great solo is for Ken Larsen, the trombone player. Vinnie Tanno, a not so well known trumpet player is responsible for the second solo.
The tune El Congo Valiente is part of the Cuban Fire suite, one of the most popular Kenton pieces. The arranger Johnny Richards just arrived at Kenton's band was reponsible for the latin sound. This suite became popular and it raised to number 17 in Billboard in a very short time.
I was lucky to see and hear the Stan Kenton band live in the Doelen 17 years later in Rotterdam September 1973 and what I remember was the great sound of the band and the typically effects the brass section made - the effects I identified with big band music. I was also impressed by the show - Stan staying before the exploding band as relaxed as a farmer feeding his chickens, directing with a simple move of his arm, the sections raising from their chairs when they played their parts. A great experience for a young adult !!
As I told before in my blog a few days ago when I reviewed the Marius Beets Powerhouse band record, big bands sometimes become a mush of sounds - not the Kenton band, this is big band music on a high level.
Enjoy a fragment: El Congo Valiente - Stan Kenton's Orchestra ( NYC 23 May 1956)