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Thread: All things Stan Kenton

  1. #1
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    All things Stan Kenton

    I didn't find a thread devoted to the music of Stan Kenton, so in this his centennial year, I think it is time to begin one.

    I know he is a musician a lot of folks love to hate. The most common complaint against him is that his music didn't swing. That might be a valid complainit if swing had been the intent of his music. In most cases, it wasn't and contrary to what the song may say, there are all kinds of music that can mean something quite substantial and profound even if it "ain't got that swing".

    The Kenton orchestras were second to none as fostering grounds for jazz musicians. A partial list of veterans of his bands over the years includes Art Pepper, Maynard Ferguson, Bud Shank, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, Pete and Conte Candoli, Bill Perkins, Richie Kamuca, Kai Winding, Laurindo Almeida, Frank Rosolino, Mel Lewis, Bob Cooper, Jimmy Knepper, Jack Costanzo, John Graas, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Lucky Thompson, Lee Konitz, Charlie Mariano, Lennie Niehaus, Curtis Counce, Jack Sheldon, and Peter Erskine.

    Not to mention his three greatest vocalists, Anita O'Day, June Christy and Chris Connor -- three of the greatest female vocalists of their times. And not to mention the great composers/arrangers who wrote for his band: Johnny Richards, Bill Holman, Gene Roland, Bill Russo, Gerry Mulligan, Willie Maiden, Pete Rugolo, Dee Barton and others.

    I know of no other bandleader -- not even Ellington -- who was as willing to experiment with his musical vision as Kenton was. Many times he completely restructured his band (at great financial cost), such as the 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns, or the Mellophonium Orchetra which added four of the newly developed mellophoniums to the traditional big band set up to add a richer, warmer sound to the brass, or his Neophonic Orchestra of the 1960's designed to showcase new compositions melding the styles of jazz and classical.

    So, feel free to chime in here with your opinions -- love him or hate him -- of Stan Kenton and his music.
    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

  2. #2
    Registered User xybert's Avatar
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    I heard my first Stan Kenton album earlier this year: Cuban Fire



    I thought it was pretty awesome, had a burst of enthusiasm but kind of got sidetracked and haven't made any further purchases yet. I didn't try particularly hard but i remember being unsure of where to go next with him. In my brief search i did get the feeling that there was a bit of ambivalence about Kenton's music out there, and i didn't manage to get a clear idea as to what the 'must have' albums were. Hopefully this thread will turn up some hot tips!

    Anyway, Cuban Fire... very cool album. I dare say it 'rocks'. Obviously i'm no Kenton expert but i hear something in this album that sets him apart and i'm definitely keen to hear more.

  3. #3
    Registered Hipster walkin's Avatar
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    I have the Story box set that I quite enjoy

    http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/imag...916514&s=music

    One of the jazz shows on the radio I used to listen to,the dj was a huge Kenton fan.I think he had all his records.I`m a big fan of Anita O`Day too(Christy and Connor were excellent as well) It`s pretty easy to tell that Kenton was one of the big band greats.

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    I do like Stan. I do apreciate his "experimental paths". But,it seems to me that his "experimental aproach" hydes the lack of creativity that genious like Duke have had.

    Saludos, and as I said in another post I'm new here.

  5. #5
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carlossuarez View Post
    I do like Stan. I do apreciate his "experimental paths". But,it seems to me that his "experimental aproach" hydes the lack of creativity that genious like Duke have had.

    Saludos, and as I said in another post I'm new here.
    I wouldn't say Kenton was hiding anything or that he had any lack of creativity. Ellington was certainly a more talented composer than Kenton (and I'd say a better piano player too). The royalties Ellington earned from his many popular songs which were covered by hundreds of other other performers is what allowed him to fund his big band even after other big bands had disappeared.

    Kenton's was a restless spirit, I think, always in pursuit of new sounds. He would have given up and ended his band in the 1950's as many other bandleaders did if he felt all he could do was play the same old songs in the same old way night after night. Instead, he continually sought out new composers and arrangers and musicians as well as new instrumentations for his bands. In that way, I guess he did rely upon the creativity of others, but it was up to him to form that material into a unified whole, something or which it could be said, "This is an orchestra!".

    In Kenton's case, he really did have "bands" and not just "a band", because the band of 1945 was much different form the band of 1955 which was much different from the band of 1961 which was much different from the band of 1968, etc. It was not in his nature to do the obvious or the easy thing when it came to music.

    I love Ellington. Ellington is probably the most represented leader in my music collection. He is followed by Kenton. Comparing the two however, is a pretty difficult proposition.
    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

  6. #6
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xybert View Post
    I heard my first Stan Kenton album earlier this year: Cuban Fire



    I thought it was pretty awesome, had a burst of enthusiasm but kind of got sidetracked and haven't made any further purchases yet. I didn't try particularly hard but i remember being unsure of where to go next with him. In my brief search i did get the feeling that there was a bit of ambivalence about Kenton's music out there, and i didn't manage to get a clear idea as to what the 'must have' albums were. Hopefully this thread will turn up some hot tips!

    Anyway, Cuban Fire... very cool album. I dare say it 'rocks'. Obviously i'm no Kenton expert but i hear something in this album that sets him apart and i'm definitely keen to hear more.
    Two other albums I would highly recommend for the beginner's introduction to Kenton are:



    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

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    [QUOTE=duaneiac;572802] It was not in his nature to do the obvious or the easy thing when it came to music.QUOTE]

    I completely agree with you at this point.
    Let me just remark something:

    In the cover of the first album from Mostly Other People do the Killing, Moppa writes:

    "....Duke wrote some of the greatest music in the history of human culture, and I love to play his tunes, but I writhe in agony every time I hear someone attempt to "pay homage" to the man by trying to re-record the same arrengmentes with solos that imitate the original. I don't need that. I own the original....."

    I think Stan shared this way of dealing with jazz. And that is what I like from him. Probably not a genious like Duke, but in any case a great musician, who really deserves the homage you propose, at least listening again to his music.
    Your are right, also at this point (always in my modest opinion)

    Saludos.

  8. #8
    Registered User xybert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by duaneiac View Post
    Two other albums I would highly recommend for the beginner's introduction to Kenton are:



    Cheers for the recs, i'll check them out.

    What's the word on 'City Of Glass'? Any opinions? The Penguin Guide to Jazz has it as a 'Core Collection' disc, but i get the impression opinions are divided.


  9. #9
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xybert View Post

    What's the word on 'City Of Glass'? Any opinions? The Penguin Guide to Jazz has it as a 'Core Collection' disc, but i get the impression opinions are divided.

    I wouldn't consider it to be representative of Kenton's work at all. In some ways, I guess it does reflect his constant quest to keep his band's music sounding new and different from all other bands. But it is more a showcase for Graettinger's work than it is an example of what the Kenton band would typically play. This CD is in my collection, but it's not one I play often.
    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

  10. #10
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    Recorded "live" 52 years ago today at Purdue University, this CD (originally 2 LPs) is OOP, but definitely worth hearing

    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

  11. #11
    Registered User xybert's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by duaneiac View Post

    I picked this up second hand the other day... first track Artistry Jumps reminds me a bit too much of "Feeeelings... nothing more than feeeeeeelings"... once i get past my initial knee jerk gag though, it's all good. Haven't had a chance to get too deep into it (not to sound like a broken record but i'm in the midst of a deep Mingus phase at the moment) but that's two for two for me with Kenton so far.

  12. #12
    Registered User WestUpperZombie's Avatar
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    I'm not Stan Kenton's greatest fan but I have a handful of his albums and enjoy them very much, Cuban Fire and Kenton in Hi Fi are particular favourites. But...I find it hard to like 'City of Glass', I play it from time to time and find it 'interesting' but as often as not give up after 20 minutes or so, which for me is a very rare thing, later I'll go back to where I left off so as to try to listen to the whole album but if I no longer had it in my collection I wouldn't rush to replace it.
    Happy Listening

    Ray.

  13. #13
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    It has been reported by a generally knowledgeable and reliable source on a West Coast Jazz internet message group that composer/arranger Pete Rugolo (who arranged for Kenton as well as for singers like June Christy and Peggy Lee) passed away yesterday. I believe he was 96.

    EDIT: Confirmation from the L.A. Times:

    Pete Rugolo, an award-winning composer and arranger who came to prominence in the world of jazz as the chief arranger for Stan Kenton’s post-World War II band and later wrote the themes for TV’s “The Fugitive” and “Run for Your Life,” has died. He was 95.

    Rugolo, who also had a recording career with his own band, died Sunday of age-related causes at a nursing facility in Sherman Oaks, said his daughter, Gina Rugolo Judd.

    As a composer and the chief arranger for Kenton from 1945 to 1949, Rugolo is credited with being a major force in shaping the progressive jazz sound of the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lano...golo-dies.html
    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

  14. #14
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    David Hajdu is not what you'd call a fan of Kenton's:

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/the-famous-d...jazz-monstrous
    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

  15. #15
    Player to be named later duaneiac's Avatar
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    Tomorrow, Sunday December 11th 23:00 on BBC Radio 3

    SYNOPSIS

    Julian Joseph presents an all Stan Kenton special programme for what would have been the bandleader's and composer's 100th Birthday. The augmented BBC Big Band conducted by Jiggs Whigham are in concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester to play Kenton's band classics, arranged by his star band members of Bill Russo, Johnny Richards and Bill Holman.

    As Whigham explains on the programme, Kenton was an encouraging bandleader and never stopped giving his players the opportunity to write and arrange for the band.

    This programme includes Kenton evergreens such as Bill Russo's "Frank Speaking" and Johnny Richards arrangements of "Speak Low " and "Stella by Starlight", a feature for Bass Trombone, a rarity in itself.

    The second half the concert is a complete performance of "West Side Story" - another Johnny Richards epic when the band are augmented by French Horns and Tuba.

    As Julian Joseph points out, all this just a few days before what would have been Kenton's 100th Birthday.

    BBC Big Band are:- Craig Wild, Danny Marsden, Brian Rankine, Martin Shaw, Andy Greenwood (Trumpets), Gordon Campbell, Andy Wood, Mark Nightingale, Pete North, Robbie Harvey (Trombones), Sammy Mayne, Dave O'Higgins, Steve Main, Jay Craig, Claire McInerney, (Saxophones) , Robin Aspland (Piano), Ian Laws (Guitar), Sam Burgess (Bass), Tom Gordon (Drums), Anthony Kerr (Vibes and Percussion), Adrian Miotti (Tuba), Jim Rattigan, Pip Eastop, Jonathan Bareham, Richard Ashton (Horns), Prof. Jiggs Whigham (Conductor).

    MUSIC PLAYED
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Artistry in Rhythm
    Composer: Stan Kenton
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Too Close For Comfort
    Composer: Holman/Bock/ Weiss
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Stella By Starlight
    Composer: Victor Young/Ned Washington Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Frankly Speaking
    Composer: William Russo
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Speak Low
    Composer: Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Lover Man
    Composer: Davis/Ramirez/ Sherman Arranger: Holman
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Pickwick
    Composer: Bill Russo
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Adeste Fideles
    Composer: Traditional
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Prologue
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Something’s Coming
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Maria
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — America
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Tonight
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Cool
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — I Feel Pretty
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Officer Krupke
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Taunting Scene (The Rumble)
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Somewhere - Finale
    Composer: Leonard Bernstein Arranger: Johnny Richards
    BBC Big Band, Prof. Jiggs Whigham — Artistry in Rhythm
    Composer: Stan Kenton

    BROADCAST
    Sun 11 Dec 2011 23:00

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01806p7
    Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
    I ache in the places where I used to play
    And I'm crazy for love, but I'm not coming on
    I'm just paying my rent every day
    In the Tower of Song -- Leonard Cohen

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