UA Little Rock’s Jazz Ensemble Traveled Back in Time with Heartwarming Tribute

Photo: Alexis Nalley/The Forum

The UA Little Rock Jazz Ensemble paid tribute to the legacy of Stan Kenton Monday night in the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall.

The director, Dr. Michael Underwood, said Kenton was really interested in getting more jazz programs in universities, so the idea to pay tribute to him just felt right.

The Ensemble played a total of six songs that related to Kenton’s jazz career in some form or fashion. They started with “Shiny Stockings” (1955) by Frank Foster. This song really highlighted the Ensemble’s ability to work together with combined melodies from the trumpets, piano and drum set.

When the Jazz Ensemble played “But Beautiful” (1947) by Jimmy Van Heusen, the trombone section in the band really excelled. Every transition during this piece was even and smooth. The crowd clapped during the song to show their appreciation of the band’s ability to play as one unit.

Dr. Emery Stephens sang along with the band to “The Look of Love” (1967) by Burt Bacharach. His powerful baritone voice helped bring the harmonious notes floating from the band’s instruments to life.

“Chronometry” (2001) by Fred Sturm was an absolutely striking piece. Sturm passed away in 2014, and Dr. Underwood said he felt compelled to include this musical masterpiece in the tribute.

“His legacy deserves to live on,” he said.

All of the composers of these musical pieces had influence from Stan Kenton in some way, and the Ensemble really brought out the beauty in the songs they chose to play. Dr. Underwood pointed out that they chose to pay a tribute to Stan Kenton for multiple reasons.

“It was serendipity more than anything else,” he said. “[Kenton] was always looking for ways to bring color to his music.”

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