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Jazz Ensemble I to record CDs of jazz legend Stan Kenton's music

RELEASED: May 26, 2011

Editor's Note: Jazz Ensemble 1 is recording a CD of Stan Kenton's never-before-recorded music. The recording sessions will continue through June 1 in the stage area of Gantner Concert Hall in Haas Fine Arts Center. Reporters and photographers can contact Robert Baca at bacarj@uwec.edu to make arrangements to observe the recording sessions, talk with the musicians about the project and to take photographs.

Jazz IEAU CLAIRE — A winter concert at a high school in Illinois left the owner of a record label so impressed that he invited the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble I to record a CD featuring never-before-recorded music by the late jazz legend Stan Kenton.

"We are ecstatic that the jazz ensemble would be honored with an invitation of this magnitude," said Robert Baca, Jazz Ensemble I director and professor of music at UW-Eau Claire."I consider the invitation a byproduct of the strength of the entire music department, and it's an honor for us to participate in this great CD effort."

The project will honor the 100th birthday of Kenton, who was a big band leader, American pianist, composer and arranger, and jazz icon known for his enriched harmonies in big band music. Kenton's bands were on the road from 1941-78. In the 1960s, his Mellophonium Band won two Grammy awards.

The UW-Eau Claire recordings will be part of a package of CDs that will be available through Tantara Productions' record label and distributed internationally, said Bill Lichtenauer, owner of Joliet, Ill.,-based Tantara Productions.

"Over the years I had heard great things about the UW-Eau Claire jazz program," Lichtenauer said. "When I heard they would be playing in a free concert at a nearby school, I went to hear them. I thought they were very top-drawer, very tight, crisp and well-rehearsed. They played some difficult pieces and, much to my surprise, a couple were from the Kenton book."

After the concert, Lichtenauer approached Baca to ask if he would be interested in participating in the Kenton CD project. "Much to my surprise, he immediately said yes," Lichtenauer said.

The Tantara CD project will include multiple two-CD packages. One of the CDs in each package will include never-before-released Kenton performances, while the second CD will feature a university or civic orchestra performing never-before-recorded Kenton music, said Lichtenauer, who was a longtime Kenton acquaintance and fan. One CD package already has been released, which features a jazz ensemble from DePaul University in Chicago, he said.

Kenton was the founder of the college jazz education programs that now flourish around the country, Lichtenauer said of his interest in including university jazz students in his project.

The Kenton charts, which date back to the 1960s and 1970s, include compositions that contain complex meter changes and elaborate chord progression, Baca said. Despite the challenge, Jazz Ensemble I is enjoying the recording sessions, he said.

UW-Eau Claire's Jazz Ensemble I's CD will be paired with a companion CD that features the 1970s Kenton Orchestra, Lichtenauer said, noting that he hopes the CD package will be released in August.

Earlier this month, Lichtenauer spent two days in Eau Claire with Baca and members of Jazz Ensemble I.

"It was very exciting and wonderful to get together with the group," said Lichtenauer, noting that he was amazed at the hospitality shown to him and his son by Baca, the jazz students and the campus as a whole. "I appreciate the student musicians' efforts. These are extraordinary and demanding concert-type pieces of music that they are doing. I'm very appreciative of the hard work they are doing on this project."

The Jazz Ensemble I recording sessions will continue through June 1.

For more information, contact Robert Baca at 715-836-4371 or bacarj@uwec.edu, or Bill Lichtenauer at tanprod@aol.com.

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JB/DW

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