Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved reader experience across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

6

Did Stan Kenton Swing? You Bet Your Walkin' Shoes He Did...

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
I've been listening to a lot of Stan Kenton's music recently while coming to grips with the age-old question, did the Kenton orchestra really swing? The answer, to me, is a no-brainer: Yes, Kenton swung. Liberally and often. [Note: This of course depends on how "swinging" is defined; opinions may vary]. In his own way—although he'd have been loath to admit it—Kenton's series of orchestras swung as hard as anyone, even Basie, Herman or Rich. For assurance, one need look no further than some of the arrangers Kenton employed—die-hard swingers such as Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan and Marty Paich, to name a few. There's no doubt that Bill Russo could muster a swinging groove too, as could Pete Rugolo, Johnny Richards, Gene Roland, Dee Barton, Manny Albam, Neal Hefti, Willie Maiden, Lennie Niehaus, Hank Levy, Bob Curnow and their kin. With master craftsmen of their stature calling the tunes and writing the charts, how could any band not swing?

Kenton's brand of swinging, of course, neither began nor ended with the arrangers. He also hired musicians to whom swinging was second nature, guys like Zoot Sims, Art Pepper, Frank Rosolino, Stan Getz, Charlie Mariano, Conte Candoli, Bob Cooper, Bill Perkins, Carl Fontana, Richie Kamuca, Sam Noto, Bud Shank, Stu Williamson, Pepper Adams, Jack Sheldon, Milt Bernhart, Buddy Childers, Jack Nimitz, Bill Trujillo, Lee Konitz, Bobby Burgess and so many others. Shorty Rogers was on the band for a time, as were Russo, Holman, Barton, Maiden, Niehaus, Curnow and Roland (who kept leaving and coming back). Kenton also employed a number of superlative big-band drummers, from Shelly Manne to Stan Levey, Mel Lewis to Jimmy Campbelll, plus Frank Capp, Peter Erskine, Ed Soph and John Von Ohlen—not to mention the McKenzies, Jerrys One and Two. Barton, a trombonist, also doubled on drums.

There were times, of course, when the Kenton orchestra did not swing, but that was always Kenton's choice. He had larger purposes in mind, and swinging sometimes got in the way. But when Kenton chose to swing, he did so as well as anyone. To be more specific, there aren't, in my opinion, many charts that swing more lustily than Holman's "Stompin' at the Savoy" (still the No. 1 big-band arrangement in my catalogue). Holman also contributed such powerhouses as "Kingfish," "Fearless Finlay," "Zoot," "Royal Blue" and "The Opener" to the Kenton library, along with high-energy arrangements of the standards "What's New," "Limehouse Blues," "There Will Never Be Another You," "Crazy Rhythm," "Tico Tico," "I Remember You," "Stella by Starlight" and others including a dynamic arrangement of the Spanish classic "Malaguena." Speaking of swingers, Paich wrote "The Big Chase," Mulligan "Swing House," "Young Blood," "Limelight" and "Walking Shoes," Rogers "Round Robin," Maiden "A Little Minor Booze," Richards the Cuban Fire suite, Levy "Hank's Opener" and "Chiapas," Barton "The Singing Oyster" and "Turtle Talk," Roland "Reuben's Blues," Ray Starling "Mellophobia" and "Four of a Kind."

Like Holman, Russo's contributions were extensive, starting with his memorable salute to Cuba, "23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West," and including "Frank Speaking" and "Portrait of a Count." He also arranged lively versions of many standards: "Fascinating Rhythm," "Jeepers Creepers," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "You and the Night and the Music," "Crazy Rhythm," "How High the Moon," "There Will Never Be Another You" and so on. While the bulk of Niehaus' arrangements were written for Kenton's "dance library," many of them swing with abandon, as for example, "Lullaby of Broadway," "Younger Than Springtime," "Begin the Beguine," "Too Close for Comfort" and "On the Street Where You Live." Besides "Reuben's Blues," Roland wrote "Puck's Blues" and "Fitz" while arranging a number of Kenton staples including "Jump for Joe" and "Tuxedo Junction." Richards placed a swinging stamp on a number of standards including "Begin the Beguine" and "I Concentrate on You." I know I've left some (perhaps many) out, but the point is that Kenton's orchestra swung more often than not, and that anyone who holds a contrary opinion should certainly listen more closely.

The Commodores Drop Anchor

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 1-4 Big Band Report Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band...
by Simon Pilbrow
Published: July 18, 2017
Read A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass! Big Band Report A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass!
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 5, 2017
Read Time Check: A Paucity of Riches? Big Band Report Time Check: A Paucity of Riches?
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 2, 2016
Read Buddy Rich Rides Again Big Band Report Buddy Rich Rides Again
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 27, 2016
Read Buddy Rich: The Beat Goes On Big Band Report Buddy Rich: The Beat Goes On
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 11, 2014
Read Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread? Big Band Report Swingin' on a Riff . . . Hangin' by a Thread?
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 14, 2013
Read "A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass!" Big Band Report A Big Band Spectacular? You Bet Your Brass!
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 5, 2017
Read "Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band Spectacular" 2017, Part 1-4" Big Band Report Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival "Big Band...
by Simon Pilbrow
Published: July 18, 2017
Read "Internationales Jazz Festival Münster 2017" Live Reviews Internationales Jazz Festival Münster 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: January 26, 2017
Read "La La Land" DVD/Film Reviews La La Land
by Gareth Thomas
Published: October 17, 2017
Read "Arthur Blythe, 1940-2017: A Remembrance" Profiles Arthur Blythe, 1940-2017: A Remembrance
by Todd S. Jenkins
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "Cathing up with Lee Konitz" Catching Up With Cathing up with Lee Konitz
by Lazaro Vega
Published: April 23, 2017
Read "Four Beethoven Symphony Cycles – Blomstedt, Blunier, Weil, and Martynov" Bailey's Bundles Four Beethoven Symphony Cycles – Blomstedt, Blunier,...
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 18, 2017