Stan Kenton: Progressive Jazz Series; the original recording arrangements used by the Stan Kenton Orchestra. New York: Leslie Music Co 1947. [6 v. (19, 23, 19, 19, 19, 23 p.), $1.00 ea.]
Stan Kenton is currently a respect leader among the avant-garde of jazz musicians. His sincere efforts are met with unrestrained acclaim of the young as attested by the commercial popularity and with sneers from the New Orleans-jazz cultists who find in his music a sinister blend of twentieth-century European and pseudo-African idioms that they happy to describe as a miserable hybrid.
The publication of these six study scores, five of them based on recordings in a Kenton album called Artistry Rhythm
(and not all six, as stated on cover) is a commendable undertaking. All are scored in concert key to facilitate reading. They afford a revealing glimpse into the whole controversial matter and are highly recommended as valuable examples of just about all that is good and bad in this type of jazz. Aspiring arrangers will discover brilliant ideas in scoring; Kenton’s admirers will point with pride to every complicated page; and the unconverted will find enough howlers to satisfy themselves permanently that were right all along, namely, that jazz is truly poor stuff.
The scoring is highly imaginative and at times as effective as anything done by our great modern masters of the orchestra. The rhythmic concepts are dazzling and represent the ultimate in polyrhythmic jazz dissonance. All this, unfortunately, adds up to little in the total, for the melodic and harmonic idioms, particular the latter, are incredibly inept and crude. Fancy, quasi-atonal melodic figures pop in and out for none but rhythmic reasons; thick, block harmonies, made up of any convenient 7th-, 9th, 11th, or 13th-chord (scored for five reeds, five trumpets, and four trombones) muddy the sound patter incessantly; and all this over the most banal harmonic sequences pounded out by piano and guitar. There is indisputable evidence of fine talent throughout but equally convincing proof of a complete misunderstanding of the most fundament principles of musical composition, principles that are as valid in jazz as out of it. Further publication of such scores should be encouraged, for only by bringing these problems into the open can any real progress be made in a field where such progress is long overdue.
The individual scores are: Artistry in Percussion
, perhaps the most interesting any of the lot and the work of Kenton’s chief arranger, Pete Rugolo; Artistry in Boogie
, by Kenton and Rugolo, and not in the album, contrary to the listing; Artistry in Bolero
, by Rugolo out of Ravel; Come Back to Sorrento
, scored by Rugolo; Safranski
, featuring its namesake, Kenton’s expert bass player; and Fantasy
, entirely the work of Kenton, and differing considerably from the recording. — Luther Noss
Notes, Second Series, Vol. 5, No. 3 (June, 1948), pp. 414-415