Vax joined Kenton in May 1970, and by August had fulfilled his boyhood dream of playing first trumpet for Stan - just in time for the Redlands album. He was with the band for two years, becoming road manager and also serving as co-leader during a four-month Kenton illness.
Next Stop, recorded live on the 2004 tour, features charts from the Kenton and Vax books, opening and closing with swinging contributions by Lennie Niehaus: "On the Street Where You Live" and "The Party's Over" which suggests more parties to come. In between, there's his "Vax Attack" which features intricate section work and high-flying solos by Vax and tenorman Pete Gallio. "Young Blood" is hot and there's no mistaking the Gerry Mulligan touch (even at 25!). Hank Levy's "Pegasus" is a challenging 6/8 chart that builds and builds while Kim Richmond's adaptation gives "Intermission Riff" more than a second wind.
Dale DeVoe wrote "We Miss You, Dickus" in memory of Dick Shearer. They sat together in one of those inspired Kenton trombone sections. It's a powerful arrangement with heartfelt solos by DeVoe and Gallio and intense brass passages. Bob Florence brings his delicate piano touch to "Young and Foolish" in a salute to its late arranger, Frank Mantooth while Carl Saunders, once on mellophonium but now on trumpet, combines technique and great beauty on " My Foolish Heart."
The bonus track from "Hair" was recorded at a private concert for Scott Tompach, the producer's son. The musicians played gratis on their day off. Scott passed away from brain cancer a month later.
The tour de force (there's simply no other word) of this tour is "Appearing in Cleveland." This Florence composition is what this tour, band and CD is all about. Kenton was an innovator with no use for nostalgia. In the hands of a ghost band (which his will banned), this quarter-hour would have been devoted to a medley of "hits." This ingenious piece gives us the dramatic Kenton sound with suggestions, paraphrases and quotes ("Artistry in Rhythm," "Eager Beaver," "Intermission Riff.") that are woven into Florence's fabric. It leaves you breathless. And it swings!!!
To quote Dan Morgenstern, " Stanley Newcomb Kenton is not gone forever - he's just on the road." Mike Vax, we thank you.