Progressive Jazz Study Scores

Although billed as Progressive Jazz scores, the first releases were in fact the mainstays of the Artistry in Rhythm band. Their publication demonstrated Kenton’s desire to have his music recognized as serious and worthy of study. Although the scores contain some inaccuracies, they are valuable insights into Rugolo’s thinking at the time.

The contemporary review below points out some shortcomings in the musical methodology of these early compositions. Upon deeper study they seem less impressive, full of simplistic “neo” devices, but generally resorting to old forms and sequences.

Kenton subsequently released additional study scores including Abstraction, Somnambulism, Bongo Riff, Capitol Punishment, Collaboration, Cuban Carnival, Fugue for Rhythm Section, Impressionism, Interlude, Lament, Machito, Minor Riff, Monotony, Rhythm Inc, Unison Riff, and Chorale for Brass, Piano and Bongo.

Though long out of print, copies turn up from time to time on-line and in libraries.

  • A review [Notes, June 1948)

    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

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Sierra Music Publications is the exclusive publisher of the Stan Kenton Orchestra's music! The following arrangements that were performed during the Progressive Jazz tour are available for purchase and performance:

Collaboration
Concerto to End All Concertos
Elegy For Alto
Impressionism
Interlude
Intermission Riff

Machito
Opus In Pastels
The Peanut Vendor
Unison Riff
You Go To My Head