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Standards In Silhouette – Stan Kenton

Standards in Silhouette



Standards In Silhouette was recorded in September 1959 by Stan Kenton and his orchestra, the entire set of arrangements for the LP written by Bill Mathieu. This recording stands alone in approach and style; Kenton himself only plays on Django (no piano called for by Mathieu on all others) and every standard is done at a slow, ballad tempo with very sparse, effusive writing. A hugely important year in the overall jazz and art music timeline; the same year Kind of Blue, Giant Steps and numerous other important recordings emerged.

In sharp contrast to earlier arrangers for the group such as Bill Holman, Lennie Niehaus, and Gene Roland, Mathieu’s music was not of the rhythmic, swinging variety. Kenton made a bold move and allowed the young arranger the full responsibility to produce an artistically and commercially viable set of arrangements for the band; for an entire ballad album. This was a savvy move and Kenton recognized Mathieu had full command “of an art aspired to by many writers, but rarely accomplished with the flair and ingenuity Mathieu achieves.” (Michael Sparke) Kenton’s intuition as a band leader and artist was spot on and Mathieu came up with nine ballads on standards that have become legendary for composers and arrangers to study.

By 1959 Stereophonic sound recording was now being fully utilized with all major labels. One of the great triumphs of the Standards in Silhouette album is the combination of the room used, the music, a live group with very few overdubs, and the recording being in full stereo fidelity (and later remastered to digital). Bill Mathieu was highly skeptical of the decision to record his music in a cavernous ballroom like Kenton’s Cuban Fire! and The Stage Door Swings had been done just a few years before. Mathieu adds, “Stan and producer Lee Gillette were absolutely right: the band sounds alive and awake (which is not easy when recording many hours of slow-tempo music in a studio), and most importantly, the players could hear themselves well in the live room. The end result is the band sounds strong and cohesive, and the album is well recorded.”

On Standards in Silhouette the soloists are the final touch that complete the picture. The set of solos by just Charlie Mariano alone are each masterpieces that foreshadow the future soulful playing later on from alto players such as David Sanborn and Dick Oatts. It is one of Mariano’s most influential set of tracks, though only delivered as a sideman. Mathieu is very generous with his praise in this respect for the band, “…and I was especially happy with the soloists, Roger, Rolf and most especially Archie. As far as Charlie, his playing, especially on ‘Django,’ provided the spark and authenticity the album needed.”

The influence of Gil Evans writing during that period and Mathieu’s admiration for Gil’s writing is acknowledged. The comparison fits well but Mathieu’s scores do not sound like cheap knock-offs of Evans’; his work on Standards In Silhouette is able to stand firmly upright on its own. Ironically, the one score which does not make the original 1959 LP is Lazy Afternoon (included on CD). This arrangement is directly comparable to the style and mood to Evans’ originals La Nevada or Bilboa Song. At 3:26 in length, Lazy Afternoon is far shorter than anything else recorded. The overall recording is a milestone achievement in 1959; the year that changed jazz.


Track listing

All arrangements written by Bill Mathieu total length 45:18

1 Willow Weep for Me (Ann Ronell) 5:52
2 The Thrill Is Gone (Lew Brown, Ray Henderson) 4:55
3 The Meaning of the Blues (Bobby Troup, Leah Worth) 5:27
4 When Sunny Gets Blue (Jack Segal, Marvin Fisher) 4:48
5 Ill Wind (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) 5:27
6 Django (John Lewis) 5:04
7 I Get Along Without You Very Well (Hoagy Carmichael) 5:05
8 Lonely Woman (Benny Carter]], Ray Sonin) 5:34
9 Lazy Afternoon (John Treville Latouche/Jerome Moross) 3:27

Tracks 1-8 comprised the original LP

Recording Sessions

September 21–22, 1959 at the Riverside Plaza Hotel, New York City


Conductor – Stan Kenton (piano on “Django” only)

Alto saxophone – Charlie Mariano
Tenor saxophone – Bill Trujillo, John Bonnie
Baritone saxophone – Jack Nimitz, Marvin Holladay
Trumpet – Bud Brisbois, Clyde Reasinger (tracks #3,8), Bill Chase, Rolf Ericson, Roger Middleton, Dalton Smith (all track except #3,8) Trombone – Archie LeCoque, Don Sebesky, Kent Larson
Bass Trombone – Jim Amlotte, Bob Knight
Bass – Pete Chivily
Drums – Jimmy Campbell
Bongos – Mike Pacheco (“Lazy Afternoon” only)