There are several 'Big Bands' in the Chicago area and the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra is the most recent. They have wasted no time in catching up with their peers and their popularity is underwritten by growing attendance levels at live performances and the enthusiasm shown by their lively and outrageously excited audiences.
Recorded live at FitzGerald's Night Club in Berwyn, Illinois, this album is an outstanding example of how Director Lenny King has generated superb Kenton sounds that would be difficult to parallel. Stan Kenton would have been proud and very surprised because when it comes to musical dynamics, this band has got it all. If you listen to each section, the expressive intent of Kenton and his arrangers shines in a fine example of tone color, power and precision.
Each section of the band is aware of what it takes to create the sounds of the big band stylists that we still revere today. The expressive long sustained passages and flow are truly amazing. Lenny King has done a great job in developing an authentic mirror image of those amazing bands of yesteryear.
The band plays regularly at FitzGerald's Night Club and other Chicago locations. They have also performed concerts with such artists as jazz trumpet player Dennis Noday and in June 1996, they appeared with the Four Freshman in a tribute to Stan Kenton at the Four Freshman Society Convention in Lincolnshire.
Director Lenny King has over 40 years of activity in jazz commencing with his early musical education at Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University. Formerly Director of Bands and Coordinator of Fine Arts at Rolling Meadows High School, Lenny went on to lead and train many performing jazz groups that attained national recognition for their excellence.
Amongst the many Honors earned by Lenny King is The Citation for Excellence and the Outstanding Jazz Educator Award from the National Band Association in 1985. It should also be noted that the Rolling Meadows High School Band under his direction was selected to perform at the Mid-West National Band Clinic in 1978 and 1984, the MENC Convention in1984 and the NAJE National Convention in 1980. His jazz ensemble was also selected for the NAJE Project II record album.
In addition to his work as Director of the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, Mr. King serves as guest conductor and as adjudicator for clinics and music festivals in the Mid-West area.
His total dedication to training, the development of students and young talented jazz musicians, combined with his sheer energy and extensive musical knowledge, makes him one of the few people around, who could produce an exact Kenton sound and do justice to other renowned jazz orchestras as well.
"Live and Screamin' is a metaphor that illustrates the way in which the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra gets the attention of it's audience every time they perform in public. The audience gets what it wants; the jazz arrangers who made the big bands famous!
In showcasing trumpet star Dennis Noday for this album the accolade for initiative must go to Lenny King. The brilliance of Noday's playing in Maria and McArthur Park and the charts that were used, clearly identifies the versatility of this band in it's endeavor to produce the sounds of Maynard Fergerson, Stan Kenton and others.
Dennis Noday is not only exciting to listen to, but also plays with great feeling, power, and expression. His interpretation of Blue was passionate and soulful. His performance of each number made it clear that his comfort level with the band and his respect for the musicians supporting him, was infinite. Even Maynard would applaud!
For me, this is one of the most versatile and accomplished big bands I have ever heard. As a broadcaster and 'jazz host' I am always pleased to air any of the Lenny King cuts. As a listener and regular attendee at Fitgerald's Night Club, I scream as loudly as anyone else in the club after the band has finished a number. Lenny and the band have become my friends and I enjoy sharing those evenings with them. I suggest that now you have bought and listened to this album you too, will find yourself following the band around. If you do, it will be time well spent!
Jazz Host " All Things Jazz"
90.9FM WDCB Radio
Glen Ellyn / Chicago, Illinois
CMJO Home Page