PHS jazz band opens for Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra

The Prescott High jazz band opens for the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra Friday, Nov. 10. (Courtesy)

The Prescott High jazz band opens for the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra Friday, Nov. 10. (Courtesy)

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The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, directed by local jazz trumpeter Mike Vax, performs at 7:30 Friday, Nov. 10, at PHS's Ruth Street Theater. (Courtesy)

Prescott High School’s jazz band is going to open for the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra for one night only on Friday.

It all started last spring when the orchestra’s director, Mike Vax, approached Prescott High School Instrumental Music Director Dan Bradstreet. They’d been hired for a gig in Scottsdale and Vax was trying to line some performances up, Bradstreet said.

“When you get the Kenton Legacy Orchestra in town, you got to get them a concert,” he said. “The Prescott Band and Orchestra Boosters are hosting the event.”

Starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10. The high school’s jazz band opens for the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, which will perform at 7:30, Bradstreet said. It’s also going to be a celebration of his 75th birthday, Vax said.

Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased by calling 928-277-1576 or by visiting www.prescottjazz.com or www.bigbandjazz.net. Tickets at the door are $25.

The jazz band has been sweating because Vax has always pushed them to be ready by the third week of school and the Jazz Summit, Bradstreet said. Since then, they’ve been gearing up for what was next, he said.

“We’ve learned three new tunes, we’re going to repeat one of the songs from the first concert we did. So we’re going to play four songs,” Bradstreet said. “Probably about 20 minutes of music and then we’ll get out of the way and let the big boppers take the stage.”

As for the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, Vax said he doesn’t have to get the band prepared for this show. They’ve been together for 26 years and are one of the very last road bands, he said. Most big bands don’t travel and this one does bus tours every year, with a three-week tour of the East Coast next year, Vax said.

The orchestra plays enough of the older tunes that the older people in attendance will remember, but they also will introduce new music, something Kenton did throughout his life, he said.

“The older music everybody already knows. Every year we have new music because that’s part of the legacy of Stan Kenton,” Vax said. “If you do it right, the people that want to hear the old music will accept the new music too.”

Kenton was also one of the fathers of jazz education and started a number of programs including summer jazz camps and the National Association of Jazz Education, he said. In his lifetime, Kenton was always involved in jazz education because he knew that in order to make jazz music survive, it had to be given to the kids. That’s part of the legacy orchestra’s whole goal, Vax said.

Prior to the concert, the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra are going to put on a clinic for the jazz band on Friday, helping the kids on their parts and giving them tips and pointers, Bradstreet said. Further, the concert is something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives and they’ll always be able to say that in high school, they opened for the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra, he said.

The concert is at Prescott High School’s Ruth Street Theater, 1050 Ruth St.