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Stan Kenton

There have been few jazz musicians as consistently controversial as Stan Kenton. Dismissed by purists of various genres while loved by many others, Kenton ranks up there with Chet Baker and Sun Ra as jazz's top cult figure. He led a succession of highly original bands that often emphasized emotion, power, and advanced harmonies over swing, and this upset listeners who felt that all big bands should aim to sound like Count Basie. Kenton always had a different vision.

Kenton played in the 1930s in the dance bands of Vido Musso and Gus Arnheim, but he was born to be a leader. In 1941 he formed his first orchestra, which later was named after his theme song "Artistry in Rhythm." A decent Earl Hines-influenced pianist, Kenton was much more important in the early days as an arranger and inspiration for his loyal sidemen. Although there were no major names in his first band (bassist Howard Rumsey and trumpeter Chico Alvarez come the closest), Kenton spent the summer of 1941 playing regularly before a very appreciative audience at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, CA. Influenced by Jimmie Lunceford (who, like Kenton, enjoyed high-note trumpeters and thick-toned tenors), the Stan Kenton Orchestra struggled a bit after its initial success. Its Decca recordings were not big sellers and a stint as Bob Hope's backup radio band was an unhappy experience; Les Brown permanently took Kenton's place.

By late 1943 with a Capitol contract, a popular record in "Eager Beaver," and growing recognition, the Stan Kenton Orchestra was gradually catching on. Its soloists during the war years included Art Pepper, briefly Stan Getz, altoist Boots Mussulli, and singer Anita O'Day. By 1945 the band had evolved quite a bit. Pete Rugolo became the chief arranger (extending Kenton's ideas), Bob Cooper and Vido Musso offered very different tenor styles, and June Christy was Kenton's new singer; her popular hits (including "Tampico" and "Across the Alley From the Alamo") made it possible for Kenton to finance his more ambitious projects. Calling his music "progressive jazz," Kenton sought to lead a concert orchestra as opposed to a dance band at a time when most big bands were starting to break up. By 1947 Kai Winding was greatly influencing the sound of Kenton's trombonists, the trumpet section included such screamers as Buddy Childers, Ray Wetzel, and Al Porcino, Jack Costanzo's bongos were bringing Latin rhythms into Kenton's sound, and a riotous version of "The Peanut Vendor" contrasted with the somber "Elegy for Alto." Kenton had succeeded in forming a radical and very original band that gained its own audience.

In 1949 Kenton took a year off. In 1950 he put together his most advanced band, the 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns. Its music ranged from the unique and very dense modern classical charts of Bob Graettinger to works that somehow swung despite the weight. Such major players as Maynard Ferguson (whose high-note acrobatics set new standards), Shorty Rogers, Milt Bernhart, John Graas, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Laurindo Almeida, Shelly Manne, and June Christy were part of this remarkable project, but from a commercial standpoint, it was really impossible. Kenton managed two tours during 1950-1951 but soon reverted to his usual 19-piece lineup. Then quite unexpectedly, Kenton went through a swinging period. The charts of such arrangers as Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Lennie Niehaus, Marty Paich, Johnny Richards, and particularly Bill Holman and Bill Russo began to dominate the repertoire. Such talented players (in addition to the ones already named) as Lee Konitz, Conte Candoli, Sal Salvador, Stan Levey, Frank Rosolino, Richie Kamuca, Zoot Sims, Sam Noto, Bill Perkins, Charlie Mariano, Mel Lewis, Pete Candoli, Lucky Thompson, Carl Fontana, Pepper Adams, and Jack Sheldon made strong contributions. The music was never predictable and could get quite bombastic, but it managed to swing while still keeping the Kenton sound.

Kenton's last successful experiment was his mellophonium band of 1960-1963. Despite the difficulties in keeping the four mellophoniums (which formed their own separate section) in tune, this particular Kenton orchestra had its exciting moments. However from 1963 on, the flavor of the Kenton big band began to change. Rather than using talented soloists, Kenton emphasized relatively inexpensive youth at the cost of originality. While the arrangements (including those of Hank Levy) continued to be quite challenging, after Gabe Baltazar's "graduation" in 1965, there were few new important Kenton alumni (other than Peter Erskine and Tim Hagans). For many of the young players, touring with Kenton would be the high point of their careers rather than just an important early step. Kenton Plays Wagner (1964) was an important project, but by then the bandleader's attention was on jazz education. By conducting a countless number of clinics and making his charts available to college and high-school stage bands, Kenton insured that there would be many bands that sounded like his, and the inverse result was that his own young orchestra sounded like a professional college band! Kenton continued leading and touring with his big band up until his death in 1979.

Kenton recorded for Capitol for 25 years (1943-1968) and in the 1970s formed his Creative World label to reissue most of his Capitol output and record his current band. In recent times Capitol has begun reissuing Kenton's legacy on CD and there have been two impressive Mosaic box sets. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Jazz Compositions Of Dee Barton

Comments

REFUSED TO. HIRE BLACK MUSICIANS EVEN THOUGH HIS EARLY INFLUENCES WERE BLACK ARTISTS.
He was intense listening for me in early high school years...have found my happy place finding him again at nearly 71
hilljag76
A great treat. I once had an opportunity To
Audition for the Man!!
I often wonder what My life

may have been like!!
Tom Hill
The critic who wrote this somewhat negative tinged review has no clue as to what modern, progressive jazz was in the 50s,60, etc. Kenton blew us PURISTS....y e s , purists out of our seats.
His musicians were frontiersmen , jazz artists par excellence.. . . a n d you whippersnapp e r have the chahones to write as if you experienced what these guys were doing.
And the man, himself, Stan Kenton !
Had the pleasure of meeting Stan when he donated a huge box of old charts to my husbands big band sponsored by Yamaha in San Francisco in the mid seventies. We brought a bus load of the band members, all high school students, who will always remember they met this Legendary man.
andy_turenne
Absolutely one of my all time favorites. Innovative and always ahead of his time, I always loved his big powerful brassy tight harmonies and his sultry smooth slower melodies.... . H e was king of the bandstand.
Not my all time musical Hero ,but well up the list with his wide ranging innovative approach to Jazz music .Had the pleasure of seeing and Hearing him and band in Stoke on Trent England in the 1960s --- blasted out of my seat !! .
Now this swings, always have loved Kenton's sound. They don't make like that anymore!!!!!
Been a fan for over 60 years! Living in So. Cal had the good fortune to hear him in person many times at the Rendezvous in Balboa, the Hollywood Palladium and in concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Innovations - None Greater, EVER! Over the years met and became friends with many former sidemen, Shorty especially and both the Candoli's - Revsiited Back to Balboa in 1991 and 1994 and the Lighthouse - What a privilege to have lived in this age of really GREAT music with TALENTED musicians! Onl
merrysea5
whose chart? Cmon, pandora! is it Holman??
ataylor469
I attended two Stan Kenton Jazz Clinics in Springfield MO. in 1977 and 1978. Our pianist took sick in 1978 and Stan himself sat in for our rehearsals and our Friday night concert. He was not only a true professional , but just one heck of a nice guy. I will never forget the experience of sitting in on clinics and rehearsals all day and getting a Stan Kenton Concert every night. I'm sure there a many great players out there today who can list those clinics as a major milestone in their career!
I had the pleasure of meeting and having a cup of coffee with Stan back around 1970. He appeared at the college where I was teaching and I was pretty much in charge of his appearance at that venue. A true gentleman and a fantastic musician from my standpoint, he did a performance that night that was, as I had heard before, an amazing experience. I am sure that his harmonic and arranging legacy will live for a long time, as it should.
I have been in love with jazz since I was 9 or 10 and one of my earliest memories was listening to Stan Kenton during WW II (dates me doesn't it) when he was broadcasting from Hermosa Beach, I believe, and we could only receive it on Saturday mornings. Then as now I believe he was one of the most creative and innovative musicians in the jazz genre.
His West Side Story were so innovative and interpreted the music so well that Leonard Bernstein wished he could have used them for the movie version
It was 1956, I was 15 years old and living in Mannheim, Germany. I had the opportunity to see Stan Kenton mit seiner 'Big Band' perform at the legendary Rosengarten (As in Mozart and the Mannheim School). While my contemporari e s were into Elvis, Stan the Man was my god. And why wouldn't the father of progressive jazz' not be? Almost 20 years later, I took my new wife to Disneyland and lo and behold none other than Stan Kenton was holding forth at an outside gazebo just off of Main Street.
Saw Kenton live a couple of times in the 70s. Still creating new stuff and as always, bring in young talent to stay in touch with the times. Saw him in Seattle and he had just brought a local college kid into the band.

His use of dynamics if nothing else set him apart. Whispering one minute, then blowing the brass off.
He was so creative with the use of five saxes, five trombones, five trumpets. Brass at its best. It could be loud and it could be mellow. He had such great talent. I first heard his band in the 1950s in high school and have truly enjoyed all of his music since. Wish I had gotten to a Kenton concert. What a creative talent!
One of the saddest things about Kenton Les Brown, Woody Herman, and all the great cats who are now gone is we didn't appreciate them enough when we danced to them and played their charts in our swing and jazz groups. Genius only truly appreciated after they die!
Kenton & his music - my life long passion. I went on a mission to collect all of his recordings. Thought I had almost acomplished it when I discovered that there are always more bootleg editions coming out and obscure clips being discovered. He was the funk or hip-hop of the 40's & 50's.
My high school had a clinic w/ Mr. Kenton and band back in 1979. Totally cool experience.
I'm still hoping someone can shed some light on what Stan is yelling - and at whom? - in "We'll be Together Again."
I got to see/hear SK record a Christmas album in a Sam Goldwyn sound stage with incredible brass (mellophoniu m s , flugelhorns, etc.) and great arrangements by Ralph Carmichael, among others. Looked for but never saw the date released by Capital... 'til decades later I found the recording by accident on a cassette sales rack in a Houston car wash! Took unknowing friends to see/hear him in a theater-in-t h e - r o u n d shortly before his passing. Kid I taught to play clarinet in H.S. played in one of his
I've been a fan since 1947 time frame when I first saw the Kenton Band live. I then had a chance to meet him during one of his experimental jazz concerts in the mid 50's
Listen to Stan Kenton's "Willow Weep for Me", then listen to Terence Blanchard, sounds like Terence might have got some input from Stan.
you know it's good when they make it sound easy to do
The Columbia Reds, one of my earliest exposures to jazz and big bands. Truly my favorites over all. Apple Honey is now playing.
A true master of Jazz.
Stan Kenton was one of the greatest progressive jazz musicians with tremendous imagination in his creative masterpiece arrangements and has been an outstanding teacher for many young musicians playing in big bands today. His screaming trumpet sections have all been fantastic. An outstanding artist this "STAN KENTON". Member Jim Davidson
He came to our hometown (Rochester NY) in 1954, in top form. I was already in love with him and his style and he's been my standard ever since. I listend to his records constantly - especially Artistry in Rhythm - and got to the point of instantly recognizing Conte Condoli, Maynard Ferguson (a no-brainer), Frank Rosolino (tragic guy) and Gene Krupa no matter whose band they were with later on.
salmo2
All I know is I met Stan Kenton once. His band arrived and left in a bus from Mission Bay High School, San Diego in maybe 1974 or 75. I shook hands with him. He was very tall, very ingratiating and had the biggest damn hands I ever shook. I knew as soon as he shook my hand that this man could cover the keyboard with the best. Might have even been a hell of basketball player. It was a Bright Moment.
Has anyone figured out what Kenton is yelling on "We'll be Together Again" (Road Band, '58)? About halfway through, Kenton (I assume)start s giving loud instructions - to the saxes? The janitor? Anyone understand it?
Stan Kenton---goo d musik
Another note, Stan Kenton became frustrated and increasingly soured over changes in the music scene and took to drinking heavily, on one of his appearances late in his career,he took to cursing in his introduction s , a fall in the parking lot later and striking his head, he was never the same and his recall and ability to perform were lost. A Sad end like so many others of one of the Major talents in Jazz. He was married to Singer Ann Richards who was also one of the Singers in his Orchestra.
Not Enough can be said or stressed of the impact Stanley Newcomb Kenton (1912-1979) had on modern music..funny recollection Buddy Childers had about Kenton Looking for another trumpet player and being told of Shorty Rogers,(he was from Woody Herman's Third Herd, Is he a dope fiend? No he sends every dime home to Margie and the Kids He's too cheap to think of scoring! Despite literally throwing Howard Rumsey off the bandstand in 1941 over how to play a tune, they remained life long friends.
hatmd5
One of my favorite jazz listening music orchestras
buckeye114
love this song! no matter who plays it
dave_53
Stan Kenton was the greatest. I used to go to Balboa to hear him in the 50's. I loved every minute of it.
I'm 14 and I love swing. I think everything back then was a lot easier. But how would I know. I'm just a kid. 8-<
122183710
I danceed to his music in my early twenties; memorable, and lost memory Pandora has restored to enliven my twilight years...my leg keeps pumping. Great music, great musician. Too bad their likes haven't been ressurected for a mostly tone deaf generation.
One of the greatest innovational jazz artists of the twentieth century. Kenton cut a new path in Jazz Orchestratio n and artistry. There has not been another like him in this respect. He allowed relatively unknown artists of his time to display their talents in a new and exciting way. His band arrangements and musical presentation s were, and still are; exciting, well balanced, and fully musical.
This (also) may read like a blog. (I hope it doesn't) Stan Kenton, his excitment of the unique music which defines him really got my attention 20 yrs. B4 I ever met him. - About 1968 He asked meto drive him to Santa Monica. On the way I asked, 'where are we goni'? His reply was one word: 'Synanon' Much to my further amazment, in 1972 I was the lover of his teenage daughter, Dana Kenton! (True story)


Stan Kenton was a musician, composer, & inovator who led an exceptional
orchestra with great arrangements unequaled to this date.
avinu6
The Johnny Richards period was definitely one of the major high points of the Kenton output and my own favorite. Where would we be without "Uncle Stanley"?
Nice album that also has a great arrangement of Ruebens blues from adventures in blues.
Rarely seen on selections.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . I s "Intermissio n riff" on any of these selections?

Thank you,
Great nipper
Still love his music. Musician myself(79)
Bo Willien
jason.reyes6
Kenton "76" is not listed. check it out if you already have not.

i listened to stan kentons artiry in rythem when i was in okinawa during the korean conflict
jerryrichmon d
I haavve a lot of his records and have been to dances back in the 40.
I'm a long time fan from the Balboa Beach days in the early 40s. Kenton was always 10 t0 15 years ahead of his time and a true innovator!
shopping82
I will never forget standing in front of the bandstand at Coney Island in Cincinnati, OH with my high school sweet heart who played trumpet and being engulfed in a cascade of sound, particularly Maynard Ferguson's high notes.
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