The Stan Kenton Legacy Band led by Mike Vax took to the road last month for its annual tour of schools and colleges presenting music in the Kenton style. With a dozen concerts in 10 communities in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, the Legacy Band is made up of alumni who played in one of Kenton’s various bands (1956-78), augmented by musicians from bands led by Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman.
According to Vax, “Stan hated nostalgia and stipulated that he didn’t want a ghost band traveling around playing his hits. We do play some of his music, but also present fresh new material as well as old favorites arranged in the Kenton style. We are carrying on his tradition of dedication to creative music and to jazz education.”
Mike continued, “The goal of the band is to perform meaningful music, talk about the jazz heritage in America, bring jazz music to young people, and offer our audiences a relaxed, entertaining experience.”
For a long time the band did not play Artistry in Rhythm, the Kenton theme and the number with which he always closed his sets. On a 2011 tour, a new arrangement by reedman Kim Richmond was introduced and enthusiastically received by the audience. Richmond’s comment was, “I think Stan would have liked it.”
Vax considers Kenton the Father of Jazz Education. “He provided financial support to get jazz in the schools, and the National Association of Jazz Educators organization (later the International Association of Jazz Educator and now the Jazz Educators Network) was his idea.”