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Stan Kenton

Stanley Newcomb Kenton (December 15, 1911 - August 25, 1979) led a highly innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. In later years he was widely active as an educator.

Stan Kenton was born in Wichita, Kansas, and raised first in Colorado and then in California. He learned piano as a child, and while still a teenager toured with various bands. In June 1941 he formed his own band, which developed into one of the best-known West Coast ensembles of the Forties.

Kenton's musical aggregations were decidedly “orchestras.” Sometimes consisting of two dozen or more musicians at once, they produced an unmistakable Kenton sound--as recognizable as that of the bands of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, or Count Basie. So large an orchestra was able to produce a tremendous, at times overpowering, volume in the dance and concert halls of the land; among musical conservatives it developed a reputation for playing strange-sounding pieces much too loudly, and indeed one comical MC introduced Stan Kenton as “Cant Standit.”

A Kenton specialty was Afro-Cuban rhythm, as exported to North America by such bandleaders as Machito (whose brass and reed sound, in turn, began to show the influence of Kenton). Translated into the Kenton idiom, however, the Latin rhythms might be scored for a full panoply of percussion instruments: tympani, bongos, conga, timbales, claves, and maracas. This component of Kenton's work may be heard on the 1947 recording “Machito” and on the album Cuban Fire, still in print after more than fifty years of ceaseless change in popular music.

Many of Kenton's band arrangements were written by Kenton himself, as well as other composers and arrangers such as Gene Roland, Pete Rugolo, W. A. Mathieu, Johnny Richards, Lennie Niehaus, Gerry Mulligan, Hank Levy, Bill Russo, Dee Barton, Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers, Ken Hanna, and Bob Graettinger (ref. his formidable but fascinating “City of Glass”). The music, which could be intensely dissonant, made use of powerful brass sections and unconventional saxophone voicings that showed Kenton's love of experimenting, reflected in the names he gave his ensembles: “Innovations Orchestra,” “Neophonic Orchestra,” and “Mellophonium Orchestra.” Kenton's theme song from the early days to the last was called, significantly, “Artistry in Rhythm.” It was owing in part to Kenton's ambitious musical nomenclature that many critics dismissed his work as mannered and pretentious. But apart from recording a few dance-band albums (Kenton's men could play standards beautifully), he avoided compromising his idea of jazz to please either critics or public.

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20
Album Review

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: Roots

Read "Roots" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Roots is a most appropriate title for this series of concerts by the Stan Kenton Orchestra recorded in 1944-45 on behalf of the Armed Forces Radio Service. While the sessions do include a handful of staples from the Kenton book ("Eager Beaver," “Reed Rapture," “Tampico," the well-known “Artistry in Rhythm" theme), it's clear that Kenton and the orchestra hadn't yet developed the singular persona that enabled it to safeguard its place among the front ranks of contemporary big bands until ...

35
Album Review

Stan Kenton: Salute!

Read "Salute!" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Stan Kenton, one of the most renowned and influential bandleaders of the twentieth century, died on August 25, 1979. Fortunately—for the sake of history in general and creative music in particular—Kenton's remarkable legacy lives on, and in a perceptive and open-minded world would endure forever. Even to this day, small but devoted groups of enthusiasts share a wish that some previously hidden array of his material might come to light, satisfiying for the moment their craving for more memorable music ...

18
Album Review

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: Concert on the Pacific

Read "Concert on the Pacific" reviewed by Jack Bowers


The Stan Kenton Orchestra's Concert on the Pacific is actually a compendium of several concerts recorded between January and March 1958 at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California—a series that almost emptied Kenton's wallet and caused him to pause and regroup a year or so later. While this was post-Rosolino/Sims/Konitz/Levey, the Kenton Orchestra was never without its share of outstanding soloists, in this case saxophonists Lennie Niehaus, Bill Perkins, Richie Kamuca and Bill Robinson; trumpeters Sam Noto, Billy Catalano and ...

4
Album Review

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: In a Lighter Vein

Read "In a Lighter Vein" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Stan Kenton was a man of many moods, as was his intrepid and popular orchestra, which endured until his passing in August 1979 and whose renown is kept alive even today by the Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra. Kenton dons his carefree hat on In a Lighter Vein, an assortment of straight-ahead themes from the orchestra's jazz library, preserved in five concert performances from 1953-55 beneath the umbrella of NBC radio's All Star Parade of Bands. Original compositions ...

4
Album Review

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: Concert Kenton

Read "Concert Kenton" reviewed by Jack Bowers


There's no question that Stan Kenton led one of the more successful and popular orchestras of the storied Big Band Era, winning various yearly polls while drawing large crowds to his jazz concerts and dance performances from coast to coast. But Kenton always wanted something more: to enlighten as well as entertain. Music, he felt, should be cerebral as well as visceral. And so he formed the Neophonic Orchestra to play the sort of forward-looking jazz he felt many listeners ...

6
Album Review

The Stan Kenton Orchestra / Trinity College: Concert Impressions

Read "Concert Impressions" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Here's another splendid two-disc anthology from Tantara Productions showcasing music from the capacious Stan Kenton library, performed on Disc 1 by the Kenton Orchestra circa 1972-76 and on Disc 2 by the Trinity College Big Band, Alumni Band and Symphony Orchestra in 2004 and 2007. Tantara has now released more than twenty albums, all devoted to music by Kenton, with several, like this one, including performances by a second ensemble, usually from a college or university. Each ...

6
Album Review

Stan Kenton and His Orchestra: A Kenton Trilogy, Part 1: Dance Time

Read "A Kenton Trilogy, Part 1: Dance Time" reviewed by Jack Bowers


Better late than never. Having already appraised Part 2 of Sounds of Yesteryear's three-part salute to the Stan Kenton Orchestra, it seemed only proper that the same should be done (albeit out of order) for Part 1 (and Part 3 as well, whenever it is released). Unlike Part 2, which is devoted to the artistry of four members of the orchestra (saxophonists Lee Konitz and Pepper Adams, vocalist Ann Richards, mellophonium master Ray Starling), Part 1 consists of themes from ...

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Video / DVD

Stan Kenton: The Opus Story

Stan Kenton: The Opus Story

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

After Stan Kenton wrote and arranged Opus in Pastels in 1940, the song was regularly performed by his band and became a hit in 1946 after it was recorded at Capitol. With the arrival of the 12-inch album format in 1955,  the song was so pouplar that Kenton commissioned arranger Gene Roland to write a series of “opus" pieces with catchy melody lines to showcase the saxophones. Even arrangers Pete Rugolo and Bob Graettinger got into the opus act. Interestingly, ...

Video / DVD

Three New Stan Kenton Videos

Three New Stan Kenton Videos

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Cruising through YouTube yesterday, I noticed that three Stan Kenton Orchestra videos had gone up in recent weeks. The first was a short that was filmed in the spring of 1947 as a faux recording session for Capitol. In truth, the short was a showcase for five songs: . Artistry In Rhythm (the Kenton band's theme), Down in Chihuahua, Just a Sittin’ and a Rockin’, Concerto to End All Concertos and Tampico. The clip features Buddy Childers, Ray Wetzel, Chico ...

Video / DVD

Stan Kenton: Back to Balboa

Stan Kenton: Back to Balboa

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Back in the early 1980s, I headed out to Los Angeles to visit a friend in Huntington Beach for a few days. For the summer trip—my first to the L.A. area—I packed my Sony Walkman and a bunch of West Coast jazz cassettes. The tapes weren't to entertain. My motive was more anthropological. I wanted to listen to the music in its natural habitat while walking on the beaches of Hermosa, Balboa and Santa Monica. In other words, I wanted ...

2

Event

The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra In Great Barrington Massachusetts on April 15

The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra In Great Barrington Massachusetts on April 15

Source: Ed Bride Associates

The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra (“SKLO”) will make its first and only Berkshires appearance this year on Sunday, April 15, at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The 7pm concert will be a big band double-header, with the Monument Mountain Jazz Band opening for the Kenton Legacy band. Kenton was one of the last of the real jazz “road bands,” touring for more than 37 years until the late 1970s. The band is directed by Mike Vax, ...

Recording

Stan Kenton in Paris, 1953

Stan Kenton in Paris, 1953

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

From late August to late September of 1953, Stan Kenton embarked on one of the great European tours of his career. His hard-charging New Concepts band—formed in 1952 to feature a brassy, swinging wall of sound that showcased the personalities of individual soloists—was electrifying. The musicianship of each chair in the band was hair-raising when combined with gutsy arrangements. Kenton's 20-person road band in the late summer of '53 consisted of Buddy Childers, Conte Candoli, Don Dennis, Don Smith and ...

1

Recording

Kenton: Concerts in Miniature

Kenton: Concerts in Miniature

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

In early 1952, money was tight for Stan Kenton. The musical experiments of his massive 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra in 1950 had taken a toll on his wallet. What's more, the music didn't go over well with audiences, who found the classically influenced arrangements largely a bore. Kenton reconfigured his band in early 1952 and commissioned arrangements by Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman and others. But he needed to get the word out. The NBC radio network ...

1

Video / DVD

Video: Stan Kenton, 1962

Video: Stan Kenton, 1962

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

In October 1962, Stan Kenton and his Mellophonium Orchestra appeared on Jazz Scene USA, hosted by Oscar Brown Jr. The spectacular band featured Conte Candoli, Marvin Stamm, Bob Behrendt, Dalton Smith and Keith LaMotte (tp); Bud Parker, Tom Ringo and Bob Fitzpatrick (tb); Jim Amlotte (b-tb); Dave Wheeler (b-tb, tuba); Dwight Carver, Joe Burnett, Lou Gasca and Ray Starling (mellophone); Gabe Baltazar (as); Don Menza and Ray Florian (ts); Allan Beutler (bar-sax); Joel Kaye (bar-sax, bass sax); Stan Kenton (p); ...

1

Music Industry

Stan Kenton Legacy Band Emanates From Kenton Alumni Band

Stan Kenton Legacy Band Emanates From Kenton Alumni Band

Source: Ed Bride Associates

PRESCOTT, AZ — After a storied 23-year history of performances, tours, and educational clinics, The Stan Kenton Alumni Band will now be known as The Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra. Acknowledging the passage of time, the new name better reflects the band’s desire to continue the musical and educational legacy that Stan Kenton worked so hard to present, while striving to reach younger audiences as well as older fans. When Kenton died in 1979, his will prohibited the establishment of a ...

Video / DVD

Stan Kenton: Germany, 1953

Stan Kenton: Germany, 1953

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Between 1949 and 1951, Stan Kenton led a 39-piece band known as the Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra. The band's dreamy, Wagner-esque jazz arrangements were hip for a brief period but soon took on the characteristics of a wobbly truck transporting too much fine furniture. The orchestrations didn't click with young audiences and Kenton's musicians grew weary performing the syrupy modern-classical material. So in January 1952, Kenton abruptly retooled  and began commissioning swinging charts by Johnny Richards, Shorty Rogers, Gerry ...

TV / Film

Early Stan Kenton on Film

Early Stan Kenton on Film

Source: JazzWax by Marc Myers

Back in the 1940s, when radio, record company and movie studio efforts began to merge, shorts were viewed as a highly strategic way to promote bands in movie theaters before feature films came on. Here's a series of short films made with Stan Kenton... Jammin' in the Panoram (1942), with Howard Rumsey on bass...   Reed Rapture (1942)...   Tampico with June Christy in 1945...   Eager Beaver (1945)...   It's Been a Long, Long Time with June Christy (1945)... ...

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Photos

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Roots

Submarine Records
2024

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Salute!

Sounds of Yesteryear
2023

buy

The Long Lost Bird...

Liberation Hall
2023

buy

Concert on the Pacific

Sounds of Yesteryear
2021

buy

A Kenton Trilogy,...

Sounds of Yesteryear
2020

buy

A Kenton Trilogy,...

Sounds of Yesteryear
2020

buy

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