But my dad kept his commitment. Getting out of town for a little while would be his grief therapy. The loving embrace of dozens of colleagues and friends could only help as he worked through his loss. However, when it came to the method by which he would get to Port Townsend from L.A., he went his own typical way. Instead of a plane or a train, he chose an automobile.
He rented a car at Burbank Airport and was gone for the next two weeks: three days of driving each way between Southern California and the Olympic Peninsula, plus the week he spent at Centrum itself. I gladly would have accompanied him, but from the moment he told me the plan, it was clear he wanted to do it alone. Time to think, time to reflect, time to come up with some jokes for the concert.
When he returned, my dad did mention that he had narrowly avoided an accident with a truck on the next-to-last day of his drive back to the Southland. He was on Interstate 5 somewhere around Los Banos and decided he'd like to spend the night at the coast. Santa Cruz or Monterey, it may have been, about a hundred miles to the west. And it was already getting dark. The only road linking that portion of I-5 with the coast offers just a single lane in each direction for stretches and is notorious for its head-on collisions. My dad never elaborated much on the details; all I could do was feel grateful that I had no reason to regret not having insisted on going along.
This is by way of letting you know that Bill Lichtenauer's Tantara Productions has just issued four Stan Kenton volumes on CD, each a two-disc set. Volume 4 is comprised of a program of Kenton music performed by the McGill University Jazz Orchestra on one disc and the Centrum tribute concert from 1993 on the other. I never heard that concert until now -- and never expected to -- so this recording is a particular treat for me. I recommend it to anyone who wants to relive Milt Bernhart in his element, standing at a microphone, with an audience in front of him and a big band behind him.
To learn more about Volume 4 of the new Kenton collection, as well as the rest of the Tantara catalog, visit www.tantaraproductions.com.