Rollin' To Balboa

by Paul Jennings

As you will know from our mini-biography on page 80, we are honoring jazz band leader Stan Kenton's centennial in this issue. To add special meaning to this celebration, we are including two selections for your recorder players arranged in the style of his band from a couple of eras.

The first tune is a relaxed Latin jazz setting of a favorite recorder tune, "Merrily We Roll Along." Kenton's band was based on the West Coast, and many of his bands over the years had a distinctive Latin flavor. As a matter of fact, for many years, Kenton carried a full-time percussionist – in addition to his drummer – who often played congas. While he frequently changed the exact instrumentation of the band, it was often "bottom heavy," sometimes with two bass trombones and two bari saxes in their sections. The basic Kenton sound is rich, with chord voices low and well-spread. There is little vibrato, by choice, and Kenton on the piano usually played sparsely.

These two tunes pay an homage to some of Kenton's great arrangers, including Johnny Richards, Bill Holman, and Dave Barduhn. The melody is tucked into a rich set of passing chords set over a cool bass line performed by bass and bass trombone. (It might be fun to not tell your students what the melody is and see if they notice!)

By the way, I came up with this title as a way to hint at the melody, and to allude to something that has to do with Kenton's band. Balboa refers to a place in California where the band had early and continued success: The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Bay. It also shows up in at least one of Kenton's album titles.

If you're interested in following along with the road map for both of these pieces, you will find PDFs of the piano/recorder scores online.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.