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Articles by Terry Vosbein

Stan Kenton: Master Dramatist

Stan Kenton utilized dozens of composers and arrangers during the more than three decades that he led a jazz orchestra. Many were giants in their own right who went on to have critically acclaimed careers. But it was always Kenton himself who was the architect of the sounds emanating from his bands. read more…

Pete Rugolo and Progressive Jazz

When Pete Rugolo joined the Stan Kenton Orchestra as staff arranger in 1945 he brought with him his love of jazz, Stravinsky and Bartók. Given free reign by Kenton he experimented constantly, creating a sound that was at the same time innovative and popular. Although Kenton himself was already creating experimental scores prior to Rugolo’s tenure, it was Rugolo who brought to the band the extra-jazz influences and the ultra-experimental approach that were to dominate the band throughout its existence. read more…

New Concepts of Bill Russo

The latter half of the 1940s found the Kenton band winning major awards from jazz magazines for the band, the soloists and the writers, while at the same time moving further from the mainstream of jazz. As the band moved into the 1950s another classically aware composer would take over the reigns from Rugolo in defining the Kenton sound: Bill Russo. Remaining with the band for only four years, he left behind a legacy of quality progressive music. read more…

Willie Maiden and the New Old School

Willie Maiden came to the Stan Kenton band in 1969. At the age of 41 he was a veteran among the youngsters of the Kenton band. Over the next four years he composed or arranged over twenty-five titles. He wrote arrangements of several pop songs including Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, Jimmy Webb’s Didn’t We, Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair and Theme from Love Story. There were a handful of original ballads, such as April Fool and Hymn To Her. And he wrote several original swingers including Kaleidoscope, Boilermaker, No Harmful Slide Effects, For Better and For Worster and his most popular, A Little Minor Booze. read more…

Progressive Jazz 2009

After several years of chasing fame, band leader Stan Kenton had achieved it by 1947. His ideals of creative arrangements and compositions had proven to be commercially, as well as artistically, successful. But in April of that year, exhausted from the journey, and disgusted by the commercial music industry, he broke up his band and sent them home. Rumors of Kenton’s future plans floated around the music industry until it was finally announced that he would return in September, presenting what he termed A Concert In Progressive Jazz. read more…

Artistry in Jazz Education

For his entire career Stan Kenton looked toward the future. In the late 1950s it became apparent that the survival of jazz was in jeopardy. The changing musical industry provided no training ground for young musicians. If teenage musicians were to embrace modern jazz and carry the torch forward then they must be given a proper education. The complexities of contemporary jazz required that students be trained in classical and jazz techniques. Yet there was no place for students to find this type of instruction. read more…

New Horizons

By the time Stan Kenton conducted the premiere concert of the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra in January of 1965 he had been leading a band for nearly a quarter of a century. For those twenty-five years he championed contemporary large ensemble jazz, featuring a who’s who of talented instrumentalists along the way. But make no mistake. The Kenton band in all of its incarnations was first and foremost a writer’s band. From the Stravinsky influenced Pete Rugolo to the hard swinging Bill Holman, Kenton encouraged his writers to explore new horizons. read more…

A Kenton Celebration

By the mid 1940s, with the war moving towards a conclusion, Stan Kenton was on the verge of becoming “Modern America’s Man of Music,” a bigger than life moniker that he would use for the next decade. This was a transitional period for the sound of the band. The short off-beat accented figures that Kenton had picked up from Benny Carter’s writing were disappearing, as composer/arranger Pete Rugolo took over the reins of shaping the band’s sound. Progressive Jazz had appeared. read more…

Other Articles

The Music and Life of Robert Graettinger

It is clear that Robert Graettinger deserves much credit, for evolving a forceful, personal style, and for being one of a very few composers to attempt the “classical”/jazz duality, and to show true insight into both arts. At its best, his style is essentially “legitimate,” but with the vibrancy, intensity, and sheer timbral joy associated with jazz. read more…