Down Beat

Blindfold Tests

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The Blindfold Tests was a feature that debuted in Metronome in the September 1944 issue. Leonard Feather would play a series of recordings for his guests, who in turn would comment on the music being played. Feather moved his column to Down Beat on 23 March 1951.

Below is a Blindfold Test in which Kenton was the commenter. Tests in which Kenton's music was reviewed by others are found beneath that.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Stan Kenton." Down Beat. 22 September 1966. 43.
Listen to the recording of the actual blindfold test
Selecting records for a Stan Kenton Blindfold Test presented a special problem. Many years had passed since the last time he took a test (there is no record of his even having done one for Down Beat); many new orchestras and arrangers had come to prominence. In Addition, there were innumerable small-group and avant-garde developments on which he could comment, plus dozens of new pianists. Since Kenton’s pro nary association has been with the big band, however, it seemed most logical to concentrate almost entirely on this area, provocative though his reactions might have been to some of the new creations. He was eloquent as ever; his comments as printed below involved as little editing as possible. He was given no information about the records played.

1. Cannonball Adderley. The Song Is You (from Great Love Themes, Capitol). Nat Adderley, comet; Adderley, alto saxophone; Ray Ellis, arranger.

Well, I'd say it was a very expensive try at a sophisticated jazz record. This guy had everything covered; be had a chorus going and a big string section. He bad the Latin rhythms and the two jazz soloists. I think the record is too cluttered up—too, shall we say, affected. I'd say two stars.

2. Orchestra U.S.A. Hex (from Sonorities, Columbia). Jimmy Giuffre, composer

I didn't enjoy what I just heard. It sounded to me like it could be considered an exercise in orchestration. I felt that the orchestrator squandered too much orchestral color too fast. It was just a panorama of effects—and the theme, if what I heard near the end of the record was the main theme, was not clear at all.

This is the kind of music that I think could be used in advanced cases of music therapy, possibly, to watch the expression on someone's face to sec if you've reached them at all. I don't see any validity as far as the music is concerned at all.

Maybe 20 years ago I would have said. “That's very interesting—I’d like to hear it again.” But I have no desire to hear it again. Nothing held it together. One star.

3. Kenny Burrell. Moon and Sand (from Guitar Forms, Verve). Burrell, guitar; Gil Evans, arranger; Alec Wilder, composer.

This could have been a great record, because it had all the ingredients that go together to make a great record. It had the color—it had the setting—but the thing it missed was subject matter. The theme was not at all strong. I thought the melody was very weak; I thought perhaps when the guitar player got into some improvisation, it would strengthen itself a little bit, but it didn't.

It's like having a lovely, romantic atmosphere for a party, and yet the people are boring because there's really no purpose for the party. It was hard for the arranger, whoever he was, to do much with it, because the melody didn’t have much content—Very flimsy. Two stars.

4. Duke Ellington. Artistry In Rhythm (from Will Big Bands Ever Come Back?, Reprise). Kenton, composer; unidentified arranger.

It seems like before, when I heard this, it wasn't this long. I think I have to say that this affects me in a very personal way. It's like the master of us all said, "Stan, don't take yourself too seriously. After all, you know, you do have a sense of humor; the world will turn whether you push it or not." And I think it in essence kind of says, "Regardless of all your screaming and hollering, we still like you anyway.”

I think it's beautiful. And he is the master too. I'd have to give it four stars. We bad a TV show in Kansas City plugging the festival there; they bad a guy, Richard Smith, who was president of one of the unions there, and be was talking about what's great about Ellington's band. They talked about everybody but the guy who is Ellington, right next to Ellington, and that's Harry Carney.

So I asked them, "How come you guys talk about everybody, and you don't mention the guy who's the capital “E" of Ellington, if Ellington himself is Ellington? It's Carney.”

Carney's sound has never been duplicated. He has identity, and to me he's Duke, you know? If there's a right arm that Duke has, he's Duke’s.

I don't know whose arrangement it is—it sounds like an ear thing; by that, I mean something they sat down and figured out—they just didn't sit down and say, "Okay, we're starting to play." There were ideas there. Very pleasing.

5. Oliver Nelson. Cascades (from Blues and the Abstract Truth. Impulse). Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Bill Evans, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Roy Haynes, drums; Nelson, composer.

The reason I asked to hear the first portion of that record again was that at first I thought there were some cross-rhythms going on that would be very interesting, but all I felt suddenly was a very nervous feeling about things, that I was hearing something strange, and when l asked you to play it again, I didn't think it was anything strange I heard—there were just time hassels going on.

They were awfully disturbing. Sounded like they needed to start and kick off again. But it did have an interesting sound. I liked the trumpet very. very much.

I wasn't too impressed with the piano. He's tasty, but suffers from the same fault of a lot of modern pianists—they get into one idiom, and they keep it going, and there are so many possibilities…he could have gotten a little more color from the piano by broadening it out a bit, getting away from just the stabbing left hand and the single-finger right hand—in spite of the fact that he did play some thirds.

I felt that, especially during the piano solo, the bass and the drummer were very listless, there was not much energy coming from them. I didn't feel that so much during the trumpet solo, because I believe the trumpet had more assertion.

And inasfar as the little composition idea on the end, I feel that sometimes these little modal effects can be carried too far; after it's said once or twice, then they should go ahead and spice it with something else. It gets to be a boring thing, and you finally feel that you want to stop the record and say, “What else is new?” Three stars, I guess.

6. Woody Herman. 23 Red (from Woody's Winners, Columbia). Dusko Goykovich, Don Rader, trumpets; Bill Chase, trumpet, composer, arranger; Herman, alto saxophone.

I don't have any idea whose band that is, but it's a wonderful record. It's truly happy music; I think the writing is excellent. and they got a groove going right at the beginning that never changed, and if you tell me the name of it, I'll go out and buy it, and I'd give it five stars.

The first alto player sounded like Marshall Royal a little bit. I don't know who the rest of the band was. Good feeling with the trumpet player.

7. Gerald Wilson. Viva Tirado (from Moment of Truth, Pacific Jazz).

I don't think too much can be said for the record. I think that it's nothing more than dance music. It's probably a very good grade of dance music, but the title could very well be called
Harmonic and Melodic Boredom.

Music like this is only good for one thing, and that's for dancing, because there's certainly not anything else there to serve of interest other than maybe a soft background. So you could maybe have a little atmosphere, because I don't think there's any validity in it at all. I'd give it four stars as dance music; as music I'd give it one star.

One of the problems is, you get that montuna thing going, and after a certain time, you feel like saying, "Okay, okay, I've heard it; what else is new?"
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Stan Kenton." Down Beat. 22 September 1966. 43.
Maynard Ferguson [Terry Gibbs] 23 March 1951
Stan Kenton. Maynard Ferguson. (from Kenton Presents, Capitol) Ferguson, trumpet; Shorty Rogers, composer, arranger.

I know this record. I didn’t like Kenton’s first band; used to argue about it all the time with Shelly, but the strings in the concert sold me; I dig him now. Maynard is a good trumpet player but not a jazz trumpet player; few trumpet men could play this, but there are some meaningless things he throws in that I don’t like. It’s a lot of work though, and Shorty wrote a great thing; 3½.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Norvo Trio Gasses Gibbs [Terry Gibbs]." Down Beat. 23 March 1951. 12.
Monotony [Norman Granz] 20 April 1951
Stan Kenton. Monotony. (Capitol). Arr. Pete Rugolo.

This has got to be Stan…you know, I don’t think even Kenton likes this! It must be that Monotony. If it isn’t called Monotony, it should be. Take it off, I don’t have to hear the rest. You know, I’ve been following the Kenton band for years, and the only things I ever liked were The Peanut Vendor, Lover and How High The Moon, and things like that…It’s a shame; this could have been a real swinging band, but it failed because Stan read a few books or something. He had wonderful raw material, eager young musicians, and music; but as Stan is verbose, his band is the same way. If you have a musical idea to sell, you sell it on its merits, you don’t press-agent it with a lot of loud talk.

This band cheats; it uses gimmicks and advertising slogans. What did ‘progressive’ mean, anyway? Goodman, Basie and Ellington never needed slogans. I’d hate to hear Kenton try to mess with some of the swinging bands at the Savoy. Duke Ellington was the real pioneer of jazz concerts, and he can go into the Apollo or the Savoy and play the same music he plays at a one-nighter for dancing and at his concerts—things like cotton Tail and Ko-Ko are good anywhere.

With Stan it’s 20 men for dancing one year, 40 men for concerts the next. I guess next year he’ll have to have 80 men, and the year after that, 160. If he or Pete have anything to say they can say it just as well with 16 men. Give the record no stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Granz Displays Sharp Ear [Norman Granz]." Down Beat. 20 April 1951. 12.
Solitaire [Lennie Tristano] 18 May 1951
Stan Kenton. Solitaire (Capitol). Composed and arranged by Bill Russo. Milt Bernhart, trombone.

A very professional sounding record, and a very good trombone player…A little too much vibrato to suit me, but a lot of personal warmth…This is not the kind of thing I enjoy listening to; the schmaltzy melody leaves me apathetic.

Arrangement is a little clumsy; mostly vertical writing…All strings at one point, all trumpets at another. But it’s very professionally executed and makes a good commercial record. Two stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Tristano Bows to Parker [Lennie Tristano]." Down Beat. 18 May 1951. 12.
Santa Lucia [Flip Phillips] 15 June 1951
Stan Kenton. – Vido Musso. Santa Lucia (Capitol). Musso, tenor.

It’s Vido—First chorus is nice, but they shouldn’t have doubled the tempo. What’s the point of taking a pretty tune like that and messing it up? Vido can blow; he plays a full tenor—I liked him on some of those old Benny Goodman records. Arrangement on this is just the usual Stan Kenton sound—Happy New Year! Give it two stars.
Leonard G Feather. “The Blindfold Test. Phillips Flips Over Ellington [Flip Phillips].” Down Beat. 15 June 1951. 12.
Dynaflow [Sy Oliver] 10 August 1951
Stan Kenton. Dynaflow (Capitol), comp & arr. Ray Wetzel says Feather! Art Pepper, alto.

I’d say this is Les Brown. Can’t think of anybody else whose band is so melodic and especially rhythmic. The ensemble sounds especially good in these days of non-melodic performances. The alto solo is good too…Sounds as if he has a feeling for the overall picture; doesn’t use too many notes, and sounds as if he would be sympathetic to any musical setting…Some musicians have so little flexibility, they play exactly the same way on Tiger Rag and Nearer, My God to Thee…Original conception here; a simple melodic thing that shows a tremendous sympathy for the guy who buys a ticket to a dance. Compared to most things, it’s in excellent taste too. Four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Strictly Personal, Says Oliver [Sy Oliver]." Down Beat. 10 August 1951. 12.
Jump For Joe [Billy Strayhorn] 7 September 1951
Stan Kenton. Jump For Joe. (Capitol). Comp. Gene Roland. Art Pepper, alto.

Sounds like Kenton…not a bad record; played very cleanly, but not too original, and kept repeating the original theme. The solo is not too inspired, but in keeping with the rest of it. Kenton is trying to do a very wonderful thing with his band, but becomes too frantic about the whole thing; everything’s a do-or-die struggle. There’s no looseness, which I think is one of the great ingredients of all good jazz. His more ambitious things are even more contracted, stringent. Tears me all up, makes me feel tense, and I don’t like to feel tense about music. Two stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Swee' Pea Stays on the Scene [Billy Strayhorn]." Down Beat. 7 September 1951. 12.
Street of Dreams [Eddie Safranski] 22 February 1952
Stan Kenton. Street of Dreams (Capitol). Art Pepper, alto; Stan Kenton, arr.

When did Kenton make this? It’s very much in the style of the band back in the days when I’d just joined it, in 1945 or so. The voicing sounds like one of Stan’s own arrangements. Very good bass; needed more presence, but he played nice things. Art Pepper’s solo was the only jazz feeling on the record. If I were to do a record like that I might try to add a little more jazz feel here and there, with bass fills for instance. It’s a good record, though—three stars, and Art’s solo is worth four.

A thing like this means a lot to Stan as far as the public is concerned. The versatility of the men shows up in the concert things, then they can turn around and play the jazz things, too. But things like this are the kind that gave me a chance to express myself. Sometimes Stan and I would just start playing piano and bass with no particular pattern in mind, and we’d wind up having a record. A lot of our things were born that way, right on the bandstand.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Safranski Calls May 'Most Exciting' [Eddie Safranski]." Down Beat, 22 February 1952: 12.
House of Strings [Ralph Burns] 21 March 1952
Stan Kenton. House of Strings (Capitol). Comp. & arr. Bob Graettinger; Art Pepper, alto, and Hamp Hawes, piano. [sic]

Hmmm ! I'd love to know what that's an extract from. It can't be a whole complete piece. Must be Schoenberg or Alban Berg or one of their disciples. I can't pretend to understand the 12-tone scale, I've never gotten that far. You have to hear something like this about 10 times before you even know what’s going on. But it sure is wonderful to hear music that can make your mind whirl in a spin. The performance is excellent, I'm sure, as little as I know about the music. According to what I've heard so far I'd rate it four, but I'd better rate it three, because…why should I give it a perfect rating when I can’t pretend to even understand it?
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Ralph Burns at Sy, Sighs at Shorty [Ralph Burns]." Down Beat, 21 March 1952.
Mirage [Gordon Jenkins] 21 May 1952
Stan Kenton. Mirage (Capitol), Comp. & arr. Pete Rugolo

10. Now there's one I'm really too old for. I find no charm in that at all. I assume it's Stan Kenton. To me, noises and sounds just for their own sake don't justify calling it progressive. It’s just a mish-mosh of effects and discords without any reason. It has nothing except effort: I can name you ten guys can write something like that in a half hour. That kind of writing is the easy way out, just discord for discord’s sake. Maybe it's over my head, but I don’t get it. I approve of thought behind it, of trying to do something different, but it should have some sort of melodic form or construction.

It may be that the young kids sit around and play this the way I used sit and play The Planets…but at least in The Planets there is some melodic line and some construction. We used to think that was real hot stuff. But this, I don't see what pleasure you can get from it unless you’re real neurotic, or else loaded.

To me this isn’t good, bad or anything—it’s just not music. No stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Jenkins Digs Goodman the Most [Gordon Jenkins]." Down Beat, 21 May 1952.
House of Strings [Mitch Miller] 2 July 1952
Stan Kenton. House of Strings (Capitol). comp. Bob Graettinger

Well, that's certainly a cross. You can hear Milhaud, you can hear Shostakovich. First I could have been deceived, but then the performance didn't have the incisiveness of a symphony orchestra, so I don't know who it could be. This could be Kenton but I have never heard him do anything with the strings alone. But it sounds to me like one of the things that the avant garde boys, like Rugolo, would write. Well, here goes my head. This sort of thing contributes nothing, because it’s all been said and said very well by Milhaud, by Bartok or by the grandaddy Stravinsky…it's all right to experiment, and maybe it’s even a new experience for these people who are doing it, but certainly they are contributing nothing new. I don't think the performance is too good, either. Two stars or so.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Mitch Puts Down Kenton, Flanagan [Mitch Miller].” Down Beat, 2 July 1952. 12.
Cool Eyes [Billy May] 13 August 1952
Stan Kenton. Cool Eyes (Capitol). Bill Holman, tenor, Conte Candoli, trumpet.

I think the name of that was Cool Eyes, wasn’t it? By Stan Kenton. I heard the record before it was released. In fact I was down around CAPITOL the day they recorded it. I think it’s another example of the good work Stan’s doing educating people, and making it easy for people like me. It’s doing us all a favor, because someone has to educate them and Stan is really going at it. I don’t know how commercial this record will be but I like it very much. I believe Stan and Gene Roland wrote it. Tenor player, I think, is Bill Holman. It’s a good tenor, and I like the trumpet work—I guess it was Conte, I’m not sure. I’d give this four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Lunceford, Swedes Fracture May [Billy May]." Down Beat. 13 August 1952. 12.
Cuban Carnival and Delicado [Percy Faith] 19 November 1952
Cuban Carnival
Was this Pete Rugolo? It sounded like a Pete Rugolo arrangement of Lover—did you notice the progressions? It's either Woody or Stan. I like it; there's no pretense, it's not supposed to be designed for dancing, obviously it's strictly for listening. I'd give it four…I take one star away only because of the refusal to become just a tiny bit commercial and let the public have some of it too.

That’s Kenton. I think he could have done real well with this if he had modified it a lot. I heard the original Azevedo record, and he featured such tremendous guitar work, I couldn't find anybody to do it that well, and that was why I featured a harpsichord on my version. There were an awful lot of clams in this guitar solo; if i had been in on the session I 'd have had Stan feature himself on the piano instead. Give it three.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Percy: No Faith in Phony Latins [Percy Faith]." Down Beat, 19 November 1952.
Mirage [Skitch Henderson and Faye Emerson] 17 December 1952.
I. Stan Kenton. Mirage (Capitol). Comp. & arr. Pete Rugolo.

FAYE: I loved it. I think it's very unusual…it has a beginning and a middle and an end, and although it's very modern music it has a certain lyric quality. I don't know enough about it to guess who it was, though you might think it was Schoenberg in parts. I would say more likely it was written by a modern jazz composer who had decided to do something serious. Give it five. SKITCH: Well; even though I've never heard it before I'm quite sure it must be the beginning of Stan Kenton's big band. The tip-off to me was when the trombone went pow-pow/ toward the end—and I decided very early it wasn't a legitimate orchestra because of the cup mutes, which you hardly ever hear in a symphonic orchestra. I guess because I like Stan, and because it leads in a direction that should be tried, I'd give it four stars. Not necessarily because I like it, but mostly be- cause I like Stan. I don't like the music, truthfully…

F. That's exactly what I was waiting for you to say, because this is the kind of thing you wrote for my show several times!

S: Never!

F: Just put on your ballet—put on your New Year's Eve Resolutions ballet! You wrote the same kind of music—as far apart from any kind of music there is—Leonard, did .you ever hear it? You'd love it.

S: Well, that was descriptive music written for a specific purpose, which this is not. This was written with an idea to just sit down and compose. F: Yet this music is descriptive, to me. I'd like to know what they call it.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Blindfold Day for Skitch & Faye [Skitch Henderson and Faye Emerson]." Down Beat, 17 December 1952.
Star Dust [Ralph Flanagan] 31 December 1952
Stan Kenton. Star Dust (Capitol). Kenton, piano.

That’s Stan Kenton…We worked in Chicago, this summer, at the Edgewater Beach, and Stan was playing at the Blue Note. When we got through we would get in our cars and tear down to the Blue Note to hear as much of Stan as possible before they got through, in fact I got two or three tickets.

It’s pretty hard to think of Stan’s music without thinking of Stan, the guy. I think he is just about the warmest person you can find; he makes you feel real at ease when you talk to him. Everybody knows he is about the most sincere person in the world; but to get back to this record, Star Dust has been recorded so many times, I would never want my band to record it. But here’s a guy comes out with a record that I think is among one of the three records I like of Star Dust. Everything is terrific.

There’s some parts of Stan Kenton’s band that I don’t like; there were some fellows in Kenton’s band this summer that I thought shouldn’t be there. I have heard Kenton’s band play the same arrangements, with different musicians, and sound 100 times better.

For anybody to stick their neck out by recording Star Dust these days you’ve really got to come up with something and I think this is it. Five stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Ralph Hails Duke, Stan; Flayed Kay [Ralph Flanagan]." Down Beat 31 Dec. 1952: 12.
23° N-82° W [Sammy Kaye] 20 May 1953
Stan Kenton. 23° N-82° W (Capitol). Comp. & arr. Bill Russo. Lee Konitz, alto.

That sounded like the same alto player who was on the second record…I got a great kick out of that introduction with the trombone stuff. Beautifully played. After that, the arrangement dissipated itself. The alto's execution is wonderful and his choice of notes is excellent…The composition sounded like a mambo with a progression of chords, that's all I can think of…I would give that introduction four stars, but the record as a whole two stars. I have no idea who the band is.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Bird Swings, Sauter Sways Kaye [Sammy Kaye]." Down Beat. 20 May 1953. 17.
Young Blood [Leonard Bernstein] 3 June 1953
Stan Kenton. Young Blood (Capitol). Arr. Gerry Mulligan.

Speaking of pretentiousness…! Is that a Kenton band? Strangely enough, what I liked about it was the beginning, and I like the ensemble parts better than any solo parts, which I found dry and ordinary—but there was a very nice quality to the beginning, even though it used all the stock-in-trade rhythmic and harmonic things I've heard for years; but as it progressed to the solos it lost interest, and at the end it became just a pretentious piece of bigbandism, which I just don't find amusing, or moving, or exciting—what else is there that it can be? Give it two stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Bernstein Discovers Nothing New [Leonard Bernstein]." Down Beat. 3 June 1953. 25.
Portrait of a Count [Ralph Marterie] 15 July 1953
Stan Kenton. Portrait Of A Count (Capitol) Trumpet, Conte Candoli; comp. & arr. Bill Russo.

To tell you the truth—I guess that’s Stan Kenton and Candoli. The trumpet was beautifully played except for one exception—I dislike the vibrato. All in all, he does such a beautiful job—I would give it five stars, even though the vibrato spoils his tone. The orchestra is the end!
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Marterie Wails Trumpet Blues." Down Beat. 15 July 1953. 21.
All About Ronnie [Andre Previn & Betty Bennett] Down Beat, 29 July 1953
Stan Kenton. All About Ronnie (Capitol). Chris Connors, vocal. Conte Candoli, trumpet.

Betty: Well, I love Conte—I just think there’s no one can play like him. But the singing sounded forced to me.

Andre: I didn't like the singing at all. The tune is one of those, what I call arranger’s tunes. A good arranger goes home and says, “Boy, what a crazy chord! Now, if I can only get a word that matches this—I’ve got a song.” I think this is kind of a real poor man's Lush Life. I didn’t like it at all. Two stars. Nice trumpet playing.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Herd Gases, Liberace Drags Previns.” [Andre Previn & Betty Bennett] Down Beat, 29 July 1953.
Lover Man [Ralph Meeker] 26 August 1953
Stan Kenton. Lover Man (Capitol).

I think that’s great. I haven’t heard that before. It’s a new group, isn’t it? Woody Herman? Well, I think the arrangement is great, and the solo work is great. The thing about that kind of an arrangement I like is that it’s sort of a seven-year lap. Played gently. It’s got a nice beat and everything: it’s so easy to listen to. It’s a very original treatment of the tune.

Five stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Ralph Meeker in a 'Fiveish' Mood." Down Beat. 26 August 1953: 19.
I Got It Bad [Duke Ellington] 13 January 1954
Stan Kenton. I Got If Bad (Capitol). Frank Rosolino trombones. Arr. Bill Russo.

Ha, that was wonderful. Who’s that, Kenton? Who’s the bone player? Real great. Very interesting. That’s a five-star record. No mistakes on that one. The departures from the melody—that’s a case of not doing it and giving the impression that you are. Just a suggestion. Like Strayhorn did with some of the effects in Jump For Joy—he made bells without using bells! It’s like making the sound of a train without using a whistle.

The soloist here employs the colloquial performance of the melody of I Got It Bad, which is something that most singers do, too—few of them use that jump after the first two notes, that ninth.

This is a wonderful record. Five.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Noblesse Oblige: Duke Lauds His Interpreters [Duke Ellington]." Down Beat. 13 January 1954. 23.
Crazy Rhythm [Eddie Condon] 24 February 1954
Stan Kenton. Crazy Rhythm (Capitol). Arr. Bill Russo. Lee Konitz, alto.

That must be a big band…there’s some very interesting voicing, as little as I know about big band voicing; the saxophones sounded very effective when they dashed in after that tornado was over. That wouldn’t be a band about as big as Hampton’s, would it? Or is it Hampton? I thought it was a good record. The alto was a bit on the bop side, wasn’t it? That wouldn’t be a style similar to Charlie Parker’s, would it? I’m not too interested in that type of saxophone work. The arrangement required some effort, though. I’d certainly give it three.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Those Electronic Sounds Give Condon AC-DC Fits [Eddie Condon]." Down Beat. 24 February 1954. 15.
Fascinating Rhythm [Guy Lombardo] 19 May 1954
Stan Kenton. Fascinating Rhythm (from Sketches on Standards, Capitol).

Well, of course, I can’t understand — I can’t find the melody, I can’t find the beat anywhere. I didn’t even know it was ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ until quite late in the record. It’s probably quite a good record as far as jazz and stuff goes, but I just don’t understand it. No rhythm, nothing melodic, just a lot of arpeggios; maybe that’s a bop thing but I just don’t get it. If you’re a jazz fan I suppose you would give it a fair rating. I have no idea who it was.

Afterthoughts by Guy: There’s a very interesting thing about that first record you played me—now you tell me it’s Stan Kenton. Well I said I didn’t like it and I could see no reason for it; however the Stan Kenton album, the one where he introduces the various soloists in the band—that’s one of the cleverest things I’ve ever heard in my life. I certainly enjoyed that—it was terrific! What’s it called, Prologue? But I just don’t get the point on record you played me—to get so much talent together and then to confuse it.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Dixieland and Four Aces Get Guy Lombardo Nod." Down Beat. 19 May 1954. 13.
Egdon Heath and The Opener [Pete Rugolo] 8 September 1954
Stan Kenton. Egdon Heath. (from Kenton Showcase: The Music of Bill Russo, Capitol). Bill Russo, arranger, composer; Bob Fitzpatrick, trombone; Dave Schildkraut, alto.

Sounds like Bill Russo, and since he writes for Stan it must be Stan’s band. And it was very probably Bill on trombone. Very well recorded and played...I don’t know who the alto man is; it isn’t Mariano, and I’m sure it isn’t Lee Konitz; it must have been made after he left. I loved that little swing part in there, and there’s some very interesting brass voicing...I loved the introduction, too, with the contrapuntal effects. Actually, the only thing I didn’t like was the trombone solo; not that it wasn’t well played, but I’d like to hear someone else with a warmer sound. Bill, if it was Bill, played it very legitimate, and it probably was meant to be played that way, but I’d have liked to hear someone like, say, Bill Harris play the same thing. But the composition, performance, the Mine alto solo – four stars.

Stan Kenton. The Opener (from Kenton Showcase: The Music of Bill Holman, Capitol). Bill Holman, arranger, composer; Frank Rosolino, trombone.

Sounds like one of the Gerry Mulligan school. Sounds like one of the arrangements Gerry wrote for Stan: it doesn’t sound like Stan’s band, only it must be because of the soloists – I recognized Frank Rosolino on trombone. Outside of that, it could have been Shorty’s band or some other. But I liked it. It swings. It’s very simple, tasty. I’d say about four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Rugolo Returns, Praises Russo; Duke a Puzzler [Pete Rugolo]." Down Beat. 8 September 1954. 19.
The Lady In Red [Oscar Pettiford] 20 October 1954
Stan Kenton. The Lady In Red (Capitol).

That sounded like a Pete Rugolo arrangement. I liked it very much. It was very tasty.

Those lead men in the brass section—the trombones and trumpets—were very good. You cannot do without them in a big band. The arrangement, sound, and the record itself were all very good except that they could have brought out the bass a little bit more. I’ll give that four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Pettiford Digs Babasin on Cello, Lloyd Trotman [Oscar Pettiford]." Down Beat. 20 October 1954. 17.
Bacante [Chico O'Farrill] 1 December 1954
Stan Kenton. Bacante (Capitol). Comp. & arr. Bill Russo: Candido, conga drum; Frankie Rosolino, trombone; Charlie Mariano, alto.

Well, it sounds big enough in spots to be Kenton, but I won't say it is Kenton. Again I must confess I am rusty, but if I have to guess I would say it was…maybe Lou Bellson. The composition started out to be interesting, then it went to a drum solo, which I suppose is all right. Louie's a wonderful drummer, but I just don't like drum solos. For what the composition is, I'd give it three stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. 'Woodchopper' Swinging in Mambo, Chico Finds." Down Beat. 1 December 1954. 13.
Sweets [Benny Goodman] 29 December 1954
Stan Kenton. Sweets (Capitol). Buddy Childers, trumpet; Milton Gold, trombone; Bill Russo, composer, arranger.

I don’t know whose band that is. It starts off kind of nice, but then it gets lost the last couple of choruses. I haven’t the slightest idea who that is. Some of the solos are good. The First trumpet solo is pretty good. I thought it got kind of shaky in spots there. To me, anyway. The trombone player sounds kind of amusing. I’ll put it that way. Marcheta, Marcheta, is that what he’s playing? Well, it’s just fair. Who is it?
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Benny Disappointed by Stan, Duke, Count Discs." Down Beat. 29 December 1954. 15.
Thisbe [Kai Winding & JJ Johnson] 26 January 1955
Stan Kenton. Thisbe (from Kenton Showcase: The Music of Bill Russo, Capitol).

Kai: obviously a Stan Kenton production. Well executed. The material they have to work with was...well, one of those way out things, you have to be in a certain mood to listen to it. Jazzwise it didn’t prove anything. Like so many Kenton things I’ve heard in the past few years, there’s no message as far as jazz is concerned. 3 stars for the performance.

Jay Jay: I go along with Kai, insofar as it was executed well. The Kenton trombone section, as always, came through with flying colors. The arrangement sounds as if though it was intended for a display of tonal and harmonic fabrics. A few interesting progressions, but I don’t see any link between that and modern jazz, or any kind of jazz. If I were a student at Juilliard or something, maybe some kind of message would have come through. I’d say 2½.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Riding the Trams with Winding and Johnson." Down Beat. 26 January 1955. 17, 21.
The Opener [John Lewis] 23 March 1955
Stan Kenton. The Opener (Capitol). Bill Holman, comp; Frank Rosolino, trombone; Charlie Mariano, alto; Sam Noto, trumpet.

This sounds like some of Stan Kenton's people. Frank Rosolino? Conte Candoli? I'm not sure. Three stars. It's become too much of a formula so it doesn't really offer anything—any more than the other pieces of that same type that they've been playing. That's all I can say.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. What's New? Not Much Piano, MJQ Chief Finds [John Lewis]." Down Beat. 23 March 1955. 15.
In Veradero [Woody Herman] 20 April 1955
Stan Kenton. In Veradero (Capitol). Comp. & arr. Neal Hefti.

Sounds like it might be Chico O’Farrill. It's an exciting piece, but there’s an awful lot going on there—he put in everything including the kitchen sink. I could have lived without part of it. But all in all, maybe because of the Latin groove, it's exciting. I could go for three on this.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Here's What Woody Herman Heard." Down Beat. 20 April 1955. 31.
Ting-a-ling [Carmen McRae] 18 May 1955
Stan Kenton. Ting-a-Ling (Capitol). Ann Richards, vocal.

I don’t know who that is…Sounds like it could be Georgia Gibbs. The arrangement is such a hollering-and-screaming thing that it doesn’t move me at all. I don’t like the band; I like to listen to more subdued things. I couldn’t give that more than two stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Carmen Blanches on Hearing R&B [Carmen McRae]." Down Beat. 18 May 1955. 25.
Study for Bass [Charles Mingus] 15 June 1955
Stan Kenton. Study for Bass (Capitol). Comp. Bill Russo; Don Bagley, bass.

It started with the bass part from Teo Macero's How Low the Earth. And there's a thing I wrote called Reflections for J. J. with the trombone part almost identical. I'm not saying they stole it…

The ad lib spots, where the bass player played the thirds, I thought it might have been Pettiford. But the thirds were out of tune. Oscar wouldn't do that, and play it out of tune; so it might be Red Mitchell, but I don't know. The trombones give me a feeling that Bill Russo had something to do with this.

The bass player is not George Duvivier; it's not Milt Hinton; it's not Clyde Lombardi—I'm trying to name cats that have studied their instrument. Now it might be Safranski on a bad day. The real stiff sound he gets. I don't like the writing, but the bass player had to work hard on this, and he deserves four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. 50 Stars for Bird! Mingus Exclaims [Charles Mingus]." Down Beat. 15 June 1955. 25, 33.
Bills Blues [John Dankworth] 24 August 1955
Stan Kenton. Bill's Blues (Capitol). Conte Candoli, trumpet; Bill Russo, arranger, trombone; Lennie Niehaus, alto.

I liked it very much. It's the sort of big band jazz that I think has a good balance of arrangement and playing. I liked the trumpet player particularly, though I liked all the soloists.

I should imagine the trumpet player was Conte Candoli. The trombone player was Bill Russo or Frank Rosolino. The alto player could have been Konitz, although the player didn't have as much presence in his sound as Konitz usually gets. Knowing what Kenton can do and has done, I won't put it at the top of his sides. I'd say three.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Dankworth Glad to Hear Duke Sound [Johnny Dankworth]." Down Beat, 24 August 1955.
The Opener [Sammy Davis, Jr.] 19 October 1955
Stan Kenton. The Opener (Capltol). Frank Rosollno, trombone; Bill Holman, comp.; Charlle Mariano, alto; Sam Noto, trumpet. Drummer not Identified.

Sounded like a Frank Rosolino trombone solo. I'm not familiar with the band; possibly it's an all-star thing. I didn't like the composition, but I did like the solos. The thing that disturbed me about this was that the drummer had a sound—that ringing cymbal sound, like shhhhhhhhh, that goes all over whatever harmonics the band is playing. I'm a guy that likes a crisp cymbal sound.

The composition sounded like an imitation of something that Gerry Mulligan might write. I don't think it was Mulligan, though, because his would have been a little more definite in harmonics. For the soloists, though, this one is worth three stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Sammy Speaks–Harshly, Kindly [Sammy Davis, Jr.]." Down Beat. 19 October 1955. 33.
A Theme of Two Values [Jimmy Cleveland] 11 January 1956
Stan Kenton. A Theme of Four Values (Capitol). Comp. Bill Russo; Bob Fitzpatrick, lead trombone.

That's Kenton; I can tell that band anywhere. At least it sounds Kentonish. I don't know who that trombonist was playing lead; I'd like to have heard Frankie Rosolino play that part, or Bobby Burgess. I like the way the trombones are used to capacity; they have a lot of beautiful work in this band…Maybe this was by Bill Russo. That rates four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Cleveland Lauds Basie Band, Jay, Kai [Jimmy Cleveland]." Down Beat. 11 January 1956. 29.
I’ve Got You Under My Skin [Clifford Brown] 22 February 1956
Stan Kenton. I’ve Got You Under My Skin (from Contemporary Concepts, Capitol). Don Davidson, bari sax; Stu Williamson, trumpet; Dave Von Kriedt, tenor sax; Charlie Mariano, alto sax; Sam Noto, trumpet; Bill Holman, arranger.

I liked the arrangement very much, but the shading was completely off base; stayed at a high grandstand level all the way. The volume was constantly at one pitch, overshadowing the soloists frequently. I didn’t care for the baritone, tenor and alto solos; the two trumpet soloists seemed like they knew the arrangement and the chord changes, at least better than the reeds, who were constantly scuffling. I don’t know the band. I’d give it three stars for some kind of ensemble work and the arrangement.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Brownie Digs Only Modern Sounds [Clifford Brown]." Down Beat. 22 February 1956. 25.
Intermission Riff [Stan Getz] 11 July 1956
Stan Kenton. Intermission Riff. (from Kenton In Hi/Fi, Capitol). Carl Fontana, trombone; Vido Musso, tenor sax; Mel Lewis, drums.

That must be a new recording. Of course, it’s Kenton. I like this recording much better than the First. It’s recorded beautifully, has a wonderful sound. The band swings pretty nicely, I think. I can’t understand, though, how Vido is on it if it’s a new recording. Except for the use of nursery rhymes at the beginning, the trombone player sounded very good. I don’t know who it is, the drummer might be Mel Lewis. Three stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Getz Chary with All Except Cohn, Sims [Stan Getz]." Down Beat. 11 July 1956. 29.
Southern Scandal [Urbie Green] 8 August 1956
Stan Kenton. Southern Scandal (Caplto)l. Kenton, composer and arranger; Carl Fontana, trombone.

I suppose that was Stan Kenton, although if my memory is right, the solos vary slightly on the record that I remember. I thought the trombone solo was good but no better than the earlier one. I guess that’s about a two-star performance as far as I can tell—there’s nothing unusual about it.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Urbie Hears 3 Worth 4, None for 5 [Urbie Green]." Down Beat. 8 August 1956. 31.
Lover [Zoot Sims] 5 September 1956
Stan Kenton. Lover. (from Kenton In Hi-Fi, Capitol). Vido Musso, tenor sax; Milt Bernhart, trombone.

Mass Hysteria! This would be a good show opener, but I wouldn’t buy the record. It was played well, though. I heard one something like this, but I don’t know if it’s that same one. Was it Stan Kenton? At first it sounded like Vido Musso, the tone is like Vido’s but he plays differently; 3 stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Zoot's Case [Zoot Sims]." Down Beat. 5 September 1956. 33.
In Veradero and You Go To My Head [Friedrich Guilda] 19 September 1956
Stan Kenton. In Veradero (Capitol). Neal Hefti, composer and arranger; Bud Shank flute; Bob Cooper, tenor sax; Harry Betts, trombone; Don Bagley, bass.

I really didn't like it so much—I don't think it's a jazz piece. I couldn't tell who it might be. I don't go for this kind of music very much, because I don't think it was jazz. There was nothing spectacular in any of the solos. I think the bass player could have learned his part better.

I never heard a record of Sauter-Finegan, and it could have been their band. It's hard to rate that, because I don't think it was jazz. The playing was actually good, but I don't think it belongs in a jazz blindfold test. No rating for this.

Stan Kenton. You Go To My Head (Capitol) Bob Graettinger, arranger; Bob Burgess, trombone; Richie Kamuca, tenor [sic].

Well, that’s Stan Kenton and Bill Russo’s arrangement. It may be Bill playing, too. I think by now you know my dislike for efforts to please the long-hairs with so-called jazz…I don’t need that!...I started enjoying the record when the introduction was over and I fell asleep again when it started back to the style of the introduction.

I don’t think it‘s necessary to do thins like this. Id this thing, You Go To My Head, would be played by, say, Lee Konitz with a little outfit, just as it is, with nice good thoughts for improvisation, I would prefer it. I think there is much more thought than in any brassy arrangement.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. A Classic Answer [Friedrich Guilda]." Down Beat. 19 September 1956. 31.
Recuerdos [Paul Desmond] 3 October 1956
Stan Kenton. Recuerdos (from Cuban Fire!, Capitol). Lennie Niehaus, alto; Sam Noto, trumpet; Carl Fontana, trombone; Johnny Richards, composer, arranger.

That’s a kind of record I very much like to listen to on a car radio of a convertible on a late summer night. It was a lush, wild quality that’s very appealing. I like the alto player particularly. I hope it was Charlie Mariano because I don’t think he has been recorded yet as well as he can play, although it could be at least 3 other guys I can think of. I don’t know who the band is, but I like the trumpet and trombone very much. Four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Desmond Digs [Paul Desmond]." Down Beat. 3 October 1956. 33.
Fuego Cubano [Chico Hamilton] 17 October 1956
Stan Kenton. Fuego Cubano {Capitol). Comp. Johnny Richards.

If that was Stan Kenton, it was very good. Being a drummer, I'm more interested in the over-all or ensemble sounds than I am in solos, unless a solo is extremely outstanding. I thought this was wonderful orchestrating on this particular number. The band was very clean and it was very well recorded.

I'd give it five stars because it said something, was very well played, and I liked it.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Chico's Choices." Down Beat. 17 October 1956. 29.
La Suerte de los Tontos [Cannonball Adderley] 28 November 1956
Stan Kenton. La Suerte de los Tontos (Capitol). Lennie Niehaus, alto; Vinnie Tanno, trumpet. Arr. By Johnny Richards.

I’ll say that’s probably Kenton playing Johnny Richards things. It sounds like Johnny Richards, anyhow…maybe it’s not Kenton. The arrangement was beautiful—a wonderful type thing. It is excellent for the style thing…the Latin rhythms, etc. However, I didn’t think the soloists really got with the six-eight feel. The alto player seemed to have command of his instrument, but the trumpet player seemed to really be floating. I’ll give it three stars for the arrangement. I think the alto player is in all probability Lennie Niehaus.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Cannonball Fires [Cannonball Adderley]." Down Beat. 28 November 1956. 31.
Spring Is Here [Sammy Kaye] 23 January 1957
Stan Kenton. Spring Is Here (Capitol) Sounded like Kenton to me. I'll give it four stars for arrangement and execution and one star so far as personal taste is concerned. I don't go for that extreme type of music.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Bands for Sammy [Sammy Kaye] ." Down Beat, 23 January 1957.
Stompin' af the Savoy [Sal Salvador] 17 October 1957
Stan Kenton. Stompin' af the Savoy (Capitol). Mel Lewis, drums; Stu Williamson, trumpet; Bill Perkins, tenor; Ralph Blaze, guitar; Max Bennett, bass; Bill Holman, arranger.

That's the Great White Father, isn't it? I think that's one of the best bands Stan ever had. I don't have this record, but I've heard the band play it in person. That's Bill Holman's writing, for sure. I think he's one of the best writers today. It sounds like Mel Lewis playing drums. He did an excellent job. I'm not sure if that was Sam Noto playing trumpet or not, but whoever it was, I liked it. That must have been Bill Perkins on tenor. That was a very fine solo, too.

I like this record, all in all. I know it was Ralph Blaze on guitar, because he was with the band at the time they recorded this. I'm not sure who the bass player was. I didn't recognize him, but I thought it was Don Bagley. He sounded pretty good, but I like Bagley better in small groups—if that was him. I like the idea of opening the record up and letting the guys play a little bit. I'll give this five stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Sal Meanders [Sal Salvador]." Down Beat, 17 October 1957.
Sophisticated Lady [The Hi-Lo’s] 8 Aug 1957
Stan Kenton with Voices. Sophisticated Lady (Capitol). The Modern Men, vocal.

Gene Puerling: Just a guess, because it did sound like a Kentonish background. I think that's the new Capitol album, Kenton and Voices. The group sings out of tune—sounds vaguely like a group we heard in San Francisco called the C Notes, but they were really just starting out, and it sounds like—if it was the Kenton organization—he picked up another group sounding like the Four Freshmen, arrangement-wise, in many respects, except that the Four Freshmen don't sing that high. I though it was a little bit contrived. I would rate it two stars.

Bob Morse: I'd rate it more than that—maybe 3½ because I think it's an interesting arrangement. I don't care for the way they sing it. It's a beautiful, touching song, and I don't think they were aware of what they were singing lyrically. I feel it was all in the execution of the notes. It's interesting to listen to but not an emotional thing, as that song should be.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Hi-Logic [The Hi-Lo's]." Down Beat 8 August 1957: 29.
Modern Opus [Johnny Richards] 1 May 1958
Stan Kenton. Modern Opus (Capitol). Bob Graettinger, composer, arranger.

I don't think I've ever heard this record before. However, it sounds to me like a work of Bob Graettinger, and if I'm correct, I'd like to say something about this boy because I think this kid was a great talent. The performance, incidentally, was very good—sounded like the Old Man, Stanley Kenton. Bob's linear writing—if you were to sit down and try to analyze it—you’d find that it was very brilliant…I don't like to comment either way whether a work of this sort should take a very strong editor, but I think you'll find that Bob Graettinger, when he died, left some very worthwhile, wonderful little gems. I‘d like to rate this four stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. John's Ideas [Johnny Richards]." Down Beat 1 May 1958: 31-2.
The Big Chase [Albert Mangelsdorff] 18 September 1958
Stan Kenton. The Big Chase (Capitol). Bill Perkins, tenor; Sam Noto, trumpet; Bill Robinson, alto; Archie LeCoque, trombone; Marty Paich, composer.

Well, I like the spirit of it. It must be a steady working group. I have no idea who it is; it might be Maynard Ferguson. The recording was very unusual—it had a lot of presence. I think the trombone player could have been Jimmy Cleveland, but I'm not very sure. I liked it very much. It was full of spirit, good section work, and the solos were very good. I'd say four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Al Mangles [Albert Mangelsdorff]." Down Beat. 18 September 1958. 45.
My Old Flame [Manny Albam] 1 October 1959
Stan Kenton. My Old Flame (Capitol). Bill Perkins, tenor; Marty Paich, arranger.

That’s a very empirical piece of scoring. Is that Kenton with horns? Sounds kind of like it could be Bill Perkins with a band like Kenton’s. Well it’s an extremely well played and well executed record. It’s hard for me to say whether this is overly impressive or underly symphonic...It’s a well planned out piece of scoring. At times I lost the tenor—it might be the stereo wasn’t adjusted correctly. I would rate this—on the basis of the writing, I have an idea that the man delved into the study of orchestration and did quite a job. I’ll have to say that it’s almost a 5 star performance of ‘My Old Flame’. Well, I’ll give it 4½ stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Manny Albam." Down Beat. 1 October 1959. 41-42.
Opus In Chartreuse Cha Cha Cha [Ernie Wilkins] 9 June 1960
Stan Kenton. Opus In Chartreuse Cha Cha Cha. (from Viva Kenton, Capitol).

I think that was Stan Kenton; it was just another Latin-type thing, very commercial and very typical. There was nothing interesting in it. Let’s give it 2½ and go to the next record.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Ernie Wilkins." Down Beat. 9 June 1960. 39-40.
[Pete Rugolo] 15 September 1960
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test [Pete Rugolo]." Down Beat. 15 September 1960. 33.
The Meaning of the Blues [Nat Adderley] 10 November 1960
Stan Kenton. The Meaning of the Blues (from Standards In Silhouette, Capitol). Rolf Ericson, trumpet; Bobby Troup, composer; Bill Mathieu, arranger.

Is that a standard tune? I didn't recognize it, but…Now this trumpet player is probably more of a very good jazzman than a very good trumpet player. Like, Dizzy and Maynard are good trumpet players. This one sounded more like a hip-innovator-type trumpet player. I don't recognize who it is; sounded kind of like Donald Byrd for a while, but I don’t know.

On the whole, I liked it. I hate to be a drag and keep giving everything big stars, but I have to give this four.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Nat Adderley." Down Beat. 10 November 1960. 45.
Lonely Woman [George Russell] 5 January 1961
Listen to the recording of the actual blindfold test
Stan Kenton. Lovely Woman (from Standards in Silhouette, Capitol). Comp. Benny Carter; arr. Bill Mathieu. Bill Trujillo, tenor saxophone.

I don’t know the composition, but when I listen to the music I get images of someone standing in front of a huge stage with his shadow reflected on the curtain and saying: “This is an orchestra!” If it has any connection with the particular orchestra I have in mind, and I think you know who I mean, I would say that its best days were when Mulligan came into the band with things like Young Blood and Bill Holman wrote Theme and Variations and some other things that impressed me.

Was this one Russo or Holman? You may have pulled one on me. Well, I would rate it two stars for orchestral technique, for being able to handle an orchestra that size, even though it’s not a lot of music. I respect the writer for being capable of producing that kind of sound, those moving textures.

Musically, I would describe it as an embellishment of what may be a maudlin kind of theme, but you can have ten or fifteen brass and just about anything is going to sound impressive. But it was overwritten, because the theme basically wasn’t profound enough to demand that kind of treatment. I didn’t care for the tenor player.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. George Russell." Down Beat. 5 January 1961. 43.
All or Nothing at All [Helen Humes] 11 May 1961
Ann Richards and Stan Kenton. All or Nothing at All (from Two Much!, Capitol.) Johnny Richards, arranger.

That was really a sizzler…The arrangement was wild. I think I know who it was, but since I'm not sure, I won't guess. The tune l really liked. The record I could have liked better. 'Three stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Helen Humes." Down Beat. 11 May 1961. 35.
Unison Riff [Al Hirt] 12 October 1961
Stan Kenton. Unison Riff (from Kenton in Hi-Fi, Capitol). Kenton, piano; solos: Vinnie Tano (with plunger) and Pete Candoli, trumpets; Lennie Niehaus, alto saxophone; Milt Bernhart, trombone.

I thought that was outstanding. It sounded like the great Stan Kenton, and there's a particular nod in there to the trumpet player with that plunger work there in the beginning. This is very difficult to do when it comes off right, and I thought he did it very well.

All the solos were outstanding, and the thing swung right along. The whole band was swinging. I rate that four bells.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Al Hirt." Down Beat. 12 October 1961. 37.
Turtle Talk [Frank Rosolino] 31 January 1963
Stan Kenton. Turtle Talk (from The Jazz Compositions Of Dee Barton, Capitol). Dee Barton, composer, arranger, trombone).

It could be Maynard Ferguson’s band...whoever it is, it’s a well-played and wonderful arrangement that wails from the beginning to the end. The trombone player is a fantastic musician: I’m not sure who it could be. I don’t think it is Urbie Green–but it could be. I sure dig the writing and the blowing–a lot of augmented changes. A lot of life to this, a lot of warmth; the sound was crazy, and it swung all the way through. I’ll give it Five.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Frank Rosolino." Down Beat. 31 January 1963.
Brasilia [Charlie Byrd] 1 August 1963
5. Stan Kenton. Brasilia (from Artistry in Bossa Nova, Capital). Kenton, composer.

There's nothing in particular wrong with that, but there's nothing right with it either. Kind of a blab thing. Is that an Audio Fidelity record? It could be one of those things from Brazil, but I don't have any idea who it was. Just somebody's concoction that doesn't mean anything to me. It might be good dance music, but I'm not even sure of that. It wouldn't inspire me to dance. As listening music, no stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Charlie Byrd." Down Beat. 1 August 1963.
Prelude to Act Ill of Lohengrin [Bill Russo] 25 August 1966
3. Stan Kenton. Prelude to Act Ill of Lohengrin (from S. K. Plays Wagner, Capitol). Kenton, arranger.

The usual objection to this sort of piece—I think it must be Stan Kenton’s Wagner Album—is that there’s too much echo with the high brass, that it’s really classical music, that it’s Byzantine and excessively symmetrical, that it doesn’t swing…and that’s all!

Everybody is using high brass these days. Stan can hardly be faulted for doing what even the pure do. There was excessive echo, and I think it spoiled the brass sound by making it melt together rather than be heard clearly.

As for its being classical, I couldn’t care less. I think I’m becoming freer and freer of those classifications. I just like to see whether the thing makes any sense or whether it doesn’t. As for its being Byzantine and excessively symmetrical, there’s nothing wrong with this, really.

Lastly, as far as swing is concerned, I really am very concerned about swing. By swing, I mean that particular sort of swing for which Count Basie was famous, although here I think I should point out that rhythmically, the record is very exciting. The percussion did some extraordinarily interesting things.

Now, to discuss a couple of other elements, I thought there were some unforgiveable clams in the trombone playing, just unforgiveable, and I thought that, although I’m prepared to judge the piece by itself rather than as it exists in relationship to Wagner, perhaps Stan hadn’t made the work enough his own, hadn’t—as Shakespeare did with Plutarch, or was it Hollingshead?—hadn’t sufficiently taken the material and made it into his own personality, that he had simply reset it rather than remade it. Three stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Bill Russo." Down Beat. 25 August 1966.
Septuour from Antares [Don Ellis] 12 January 1967
STAN KENTON. Septuor from Antares (from Adventures in Time, Capitol). Marv Stamm, trumpet; Johnny Richards, composer.

Well, that was Stan Kenton and his mellophoniums, and it’s from the album that he did where they were experimenting with different time pieces, this piece being 7/4. The 7/4 pattern, when you do it in 4 rather than 7/8, is much easier to feel, as far as being able to play a solo over it, but it is much harder to keep your place when you are soloing, because it’s similar to two bars of 4/4.

That’s why I noticed the trumpet soloist was mostly floating over the time, and would usually come out a beat late in his phrase. He would come out to end on 1 but would end on 2, because the measure was only seven beats long. I think it was probably Marv Stamm; he’s a good player, but you could tell he wasn’t exactly sure where 1 was.

I was talking to some of the guys that made this album, and they were saying how much they scuffled with it to learn these times, because I don’t think they had much of a chance when they made this album to go out on the road and play it; they just came in the studio and recorded it.

From experience, I know it has taken my band about a year to get comfortable in these different times. Now I can bring in any time signature, and once they learn the pattern, they’ve got it. They can sight-read it almost immediately.

I know at first when a guy comes into the band and tries to sit in with us, he has a terrible time. It shouldn’t be that hard; we should be used to it, but the sad fact is that jazz has been boxed up in 4/ 4 and 3/4 time for so long that it just seems very unnatural.

In other cultures 7/4, 9/4, and 5/4, those are the basic patterns. There is nothing really intrinsically hard about this—it’s just that learning it is a slightly different feeling. I think Stan is to be congratulated for being one of the first to really explore the time-signature thing in terms of big band.

I get sort of oppressed. I like—and I find it very exciting to have—heavy brass and screaming trumpets; I like that a lot, but when you hear it from beginning to end of the track, with no variation in dynamics particularly, it gets very oppressive.

That’s one slight criticism I’ve always had for a lot of Stan’s work. When you have a big band, especially with as many brass as there is on this record, it’s very easy to get that oppressive heaviness going with the brass. It is much more of a challenge to get something light happening.

From playing in a section, I know when you have five trumpets and five trombones, and other horns, just to be heard, there’s a tendency to play out as loud as you can and forget the dynamics.

All and all, I thought it was a step in the right direction. It rates four stars.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Don Ellis Pt. 1." Down Beat. 12 January 1967. 36.
Interchange [Freddie Hubbard] 12 January 1967
Stan Kenton. Interchange. (from The World We Know, Capitol).

It sounds like some of those things made a few years ago. Chico O’Farrill’s things, done by Stan Kenton, but I’m not really sure. It was a weird thing; it seemed like it started off in 5/4; then the piano solo by himself. I think the brass was too heavy for this particular arrangement. It was too much brass, I couldn’t hear any reeds. I really didn’t get the message on that: I didn’t know where he was going. It just seemed like he was trying to stretch out the chords, but overall I didn’t really dig it. One star, for doing it.
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Freddie Hubbard." Down Beat. 18 April 1968.
Man [Tommy Vig] 20 March 1969
STAN KENTON. Man (from The Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton, Capitol). Mike Price, lead trumpet; Jay Daversa, trumpet; Ray Reed, alto saxophone; Barton, drums, composer.

It's Stan Kenton's band. It was a modal composition and arrangement with different superimposed feelings on the 3/4 time. Like the usual big band sessions, they probably didn't have enough time to correct other little mistakes, or they just didn't want to edit it too much…the lead trumpet player certainly plays very high. The soloists were mostly, to use one of your expressions, perfunctory. However, it was pure jazz with no other but musical purposes, and as we have seen, that in itself is a rare quality. So, for the braveness…I don't know when it was recorded. If it was recorded recently, certainly it's a great merit that it's free and trying to say whatever he wants to say, regardless of commercial purposes.

For that I would give 3½ stars. Judging it from the highest possible viewpoint of pure jazz, 2½.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Tommy Vig." Down Beat, 20 March 1969.
Dilemma [Don Ellis] 17 April 1969
STAN KENTON. Dilemma (from Stan Kenton Conducts the Jazz Compositions of Dee Barton, Capitol). Joy Daversa, trumpet; Roy Reed, alto saxophone.

Could you play the beginning of that again, please?…

That was a very curious mixture indeed of 1950 style big band writing, combined with some avant-garde solos by the trumpet and alto. I have no idea who…

I have only heard Jimmy Owens once, one solo he played in Berlin with Dizzy’s orchestra, but this sounded like it could possibly be him. I haven't heard the band, but I understand that Duke Pearson has a band that has been recording in New York; perhaps this is his band. This is just a wild guess.

It was interesting; I kept wondering if the two styles were ever going to get together, and they never did. But it was an interesting juxtaposition in any case. This particular kind of big band writing, in recent months I've pulled out everything in my book that even remotely resembles it, because it just seems to be so out of tune with what's happening today.

When people think of big-band writing, outside of say Duke, Basie or Kenton, this is what you usually come up with. It just sounds too dated for my personal taste, although it was very well written and if this had been recorded 10 years ago, it would have been fantastic, but today being what it is, it doesn't really get to me.

The trumpet player had some nice ideas. There again, I didn't hear any big overall, linking motifs or anything within the solos that held them together—just sort of snatches of nice little ideas here and there. All I can basically say is that it was rather curious and it was obviously well played on everybody's part, so for musicianship we have to give it a good rating, around four stars. But for my own personal enjoyment it would be more like three.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Don Ellis." Down Beat, 17 April 1969.
Lonely Boy [Frank Strozier] 29 May 1969
STAN KENTON. Lonely Boy (from Compositions of Dee Barton, Capitol).

Well, I don’t know who any of the players were. The band sounded good and I thought it was a good orchestration. It was very interesting, very enjoyable to listen to…

I think that for what it was, it got the message across to me. Four stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Frank Strozier." Down Beat, 29 May 1969. 27.
You're the Top [Anita O'Day] 29 March 1972
JEAN TURNER. You're The Top (from Stan Kenton–Jean Turner, Creative World, Inc.)

That's quite a surprise. We just closed shop again; I'm leaving. I don't know what that was. I have no idea. It was a conglomeration of somebody singing a lyric that had no timing, had nothing to do with what the band was doing, and that immediately loses me because I'm precise on that—there is a time, so many beats in the bar, and let's get with it.

It's got a nice tone. it's clear; it's up and out there. I don’t know who that is, I could make a stab. but I really have no idea. I'd give it a P for poor, because it didn't get together.

LF: The reason I played this is because she's an alumna, as you are. of the Stan Kenton orchestra……

A.O’D: Ann Richards? I had that passing thought…all right. I lose….

LF: No, no…it's a girl named Jean Turner, the only black girl that ever toured with Stan; she was very attractive and a pretty fair singer….

A.O’D: She's got a lot of tone, a lot of qualities. and if you say she's pretty, that probably helps. But she sure ain't no singer. She's up there shouting, she’s not with the band. You gotta present a picture, man. And don’t forget it's not easy to sing with that band!
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test [Anita O'Day]." Down Beat. 29 March 1972.
Artistry In Percussion [Elvin Jones] 12 October 1972
Stan Kenton. Artistry In Percussion. (from Stan Kenton Today! London). John Von Ohlen, drums.

I loved it! Six stars out of Five!
Leonard G Feather. "The Blindfold Test. Elvin Jones." Down Beat. 12 October 1972.
Decoupage [Sweets Edison] 22 April 1976
STAN KENTON. Decoupage (from Kenton ‘76, Creative World). Kenton, piano, conductor; Hank Levy, composer, arranger.

That’s a good recording, I would say. I think it was Stan Kenton; it sounded like him. Of course he always writes well. And the mixture of the different times there was quite interesting. It was 5/ 4 and 4/ 4.

I don’t know the soloists, but I would give it four stars, because the old masters like Stan Kenton, they never do anything bad; they have too much pride in doing something unless it’s well done. And he’s quite an authority on jazz. He’s one of the forerunners of the big bands. I give credit to fellows like Count Basie, Stan Kenton…well, I think they’re about the only ones that really try to sacrifice to keep a big band together. So I have complete admiration for him.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Sweets Edison." Down Beat. 22 April 1976: 37.
Quiet Friday [Maynard Ferguson] 9 September 1976
STAN KENTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA. Quiet Friday (from Fire, Fury And Fun, Creative World). Kenton, piano; Hank Levy, composer, arranger.

That’s the old man, and whenever I’m introducing coming attractions in a place I’m playing I’ll say, “I’d appreciate it if you ‘d all turn out to hear my father’s band…” Stan does get a beautiful feeling on the piano playing on that sort of thing. It reminds me of the theme from Sunday, that thing he did in 1950 when I was first with his band, and I owe a lot to that band and so do a lot of people, and to that man, of course. I enjoy this type of thing, which is only slightly typical Kentonish. I enjoyed the solos. To play in that band is to compete with the soloists of the past who are all…so many of them are the real heavyweights. It’s a band where it seems young players not only gain an identity, but improve, as I’d like to think that I did, and I’m sure we’re hearing some solos there that are fine right now…That sounds like some sort of educator’s put-down…but I still feel that they really haven’t gotten their thing together, but every one of them is really…just nice…

I liked the chart. Is that Hank Levy’s thing by any chance? He’s one of my favorite writers and we actually have our first Hank Levy chart going into our book. Three and a half stars.
Feather, Leonard G. "The Blindfold Test. Maynard Ferguson." Down Beat. 9 September 1976: 34.