Down Beat

News and Features

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"Stan Kenton Band to East; Gastel Manager." Down Beat. 15 September 1941: 7.
New York—Everyone connected with the General Amusement Corp. offices here is excitedly awaiting the arrival of Stan Kenton and his orchestra in the East. Kenton, who last week signed Carlos Gastel as his personal manager, was pacted to a 7-year GAC booking binder the day after Gastel took charge of Kenton's fast-moving California band.

Kenton plays piano, arranges, composes and fronts his band. They have played the entire summer at Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, Cal., broadcasting over the Mutual network.

Tom Rockwell, GAC president, who has been on the coast for the last two months, hailed Kenton as “the most promising band property to be uncovered since Artie Shaw,” and along with Mike Nidorf completed a deal with Gastel to handle the Kenton orchestra. A spot is being set for Kenton's eastern debut. He is expected here, after playing one-nighters across the nation, sometime in November. Decca will probably record the band, Jack Kapp having taken a personal interest in Kenton's future as a wax artist.

Important members of the band's lineup are Kay Gregory, vocalist; Red Doris, tenor saxist and singer; Jack Ordean, alto; Marvin George, hailed as “the finest young drummer on the coast;” Al Costi, guitar; Chicco Alvarez, trumpeter; Howard Rumsey, bassist, and of course Stan Kenton himself, who has had long experience as a pianist with many of the nation’s best-known orchestras Kenton is 29.

Gastel, who also is personal manager of Sonny Dunham’s band, now on tour of theaters in the East, signed a long-term management contact with Kenton.
"Ready for Big Test." Down Beat. 1 October 1941: 2.
Ready for Big Test…Stan Kenton, left, whose young band of California musicians is the hottest orchestral attraction on the coast, and his chirper, Terry Harlan, are ready to invade the east. General Amusement Corp. has the band under contract and is bringing it to New York next month. Carlos Gastel is Kenton's personal manager. Kenton plays piano, arranges, composes and fronts. Last week he made his first four records for Decca. Down Beat photo.
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"Kenton – Door Opener Nixed for 6 Weeks." Down Beat. 15 November 1941: 1.
New York—Stan Kenton's invasion of the East, and a long engagement at the Famous Door on West 52nd street, was rudely postponed from his skedded Nov. 20 opening and the youthful pianist and leader, instead, goes into Hollywood's Palladium Nov. 26.

Kenton, however, will hit New York about the first of the year. The Palladium offer came suddenly and his personal manager, Carlos Gastel, now on the coast postponed the Famous Door engagement after telephoning Irving Alexander, manager.

Kenton's first discs for Decca are selling briskly and there is much interest in his orchestra here, although it has never played east of California and has had I comparatively little airtime.
"Stan Kenton Cracks JD's Opening Mark." Down Beat. 15 December 1941: 11.
Los Angeles—Stan Kenton, heading the new band that seems to be the current sensation of the music business, opened at the Palladium here Nov. 25, and cracked the opening night record previously held by Jimmy Dorsey.

Actual figures were not released by the Palladium management but it was confirmed that the number of admissions was substantially higher than the opening night mark set by Jimmy Dorsey only a couple of months ago.

The Kenton band, organized last spring, had played only one steady engagement prior to the Palladium, a summer season at Balboa Beach, a seaside resort about 60 miles south of Los Angeles.

The rapid progress made by the band is a tribute not only to its musical merit but also to good handling by Kenton's personal manager, Carlos Gastel, and the local branch of the Rockwell agency.
"Stan Kenton to New York This Week." Down Beat. 1 February 1942: 1.
New York—Stan Kenton's long­ delayed invasion of New York becomes a fact Feb. 6 when he opens at the Roseland Ballroom on Broadway for a 4-week or 8-week engagement, with NBC airtime.

Kenton and his spectacular California band have rolled up an amazing record on the coast in the last six months. Recording for Decca, Kenton's arrival in New York has been long awaited by the trade.

Dolly Dawn and company will be on the same stand with Kenton at Roseland.

Kenton has his own options, and can make his date stretch to eight weeks if he chooses. His band is set for all of July and August at Meadowbrook, Cedar Grove, N. J.
George Frazier. "'You Can Have Kenton, I'll Take Mugsy Any Day,' Growls Frazier." Down Beat. 1 February 1942: 5.
If 1941 accomplished nothing else, it at least witnessed the completion of Mike Vetrano's phone call to Woody Herman. That call had been a source of deep and abiding anxiety for me ever since Mike first tried to put it through and I could never quite rid myself of the terrifying suspicion that he would run out of nickels before he had finally made himself clear. But now it's in the can, as they say out on the Coast, and both Ted Lewis and I can be at ease. Everybody's happy.

That particular line is still busy, though. No sooner had Mike hung up the receiver than Carlos Gastel picked it up and another significant conversation was underway. Things being what they are these days, I can’t promise a thing, but I’ll try them again in twenty minutes and call you back. Carlos Gastel is a very busy man and it is not at all improbable that he will soon be an affluent one. That, at any rate, would seem to be in the books. Carlos has a band that shapes up as one of those sensations (and I don't mean Sonny Dunham). He has, for your dancing pleasure, Stan Kenton and his orchestra, with a slew of network shots and a flood of publicity and the kids out front eating it all up, and before you know it you've got another Tommy, another Jimmy.

“I Don’t Like It”

The Kenton band has everything. But I don't like it. It has singers and soloists and pretentious arrangements and Publix endings. But I don't like it. To me, it's terrific in a revolting way. It's the poor man's Whiteman, and has no Beiderbecke to race your pulse. (“The kenton band has everything…I…like it. It has singers and soloists…I…like it. To me, it’s terrific…It’s…Whiteman, and…Beiderbecke to race your pulse.” George Frazier in Down Beat.)

Now there is one thing I think we ought to understand: If what Kenton has to offer, if his particular brand of dance music, is what is going to put him up there with the big boys and make him a lot of money, then I say good. No one, except possibly Peewee Russell, is in this business for his health. There is nothing tainted about being a smash hit, nothing disgraceful about being in the big money. If Lombardo and Kyser and Heidt and Kaye can reach the higher income on the strength of the mediocrity they peddle, I say more power to Lombardo and Kyser and Heidt and Kaye. But a commercial success is of itself no guarantee of a succes d’estime. It is my own considered feeling that Stan Kenton is going to be a great big name one of these days–and by that I am not implying that his music is in the same lowly class with either Lombardo's or Kyser's or Heidt's or Kaye's. (In fairness to Kyser it should be noted that there are a lot worse bands around than his.) As bands go, Kenton's is a pretty good one, but not, it seems to me, the stirring affair that several of my knowing colleagues insist that it is.

“Too Pretentious”

In the first place, I think thatI it 's much too pretentious, much too much out for Significance rather than for simplicity and the natural flow of the music. In the second place I don't care for its intonation. In the third place, I cannot stand performers who take themselves too seriously, and it is my impression that practically everyone in the Kenton band owns a complete set of Aeschylus. Off the stand they may be the sweetest characters on the face of God’s green earth (and those who know them personally assure me that they’re a swell bunch), but once see a mike they're transformed into palpable hams. In the fourth place, I fail to find the soloists either eloquent or especially stirring. All of which means no more than Kenton’s band does not produce any sort of jazz. But, like I’m telling you, it will probably be a sensation and if you’re waiting to make a call, I suggest that you look for another booth. I have an idea that Carlos will have that line tied up for quite a while.

But Muggsy’s Band Is Good

If you would like to know my notion of a good white band, I suggest that you listen to Muggsy Spanier’s. It’s simple, with the economy and the clean strength of the old Pollack band, but it is enormously exciting too. I like it because it is sincere, because its time is good and its soloists imaginative and original and its intonation is genuinely hot. I like it because in many ways it represents all the things that Stan Kenton’s band very definitely does not represent.

So Is Crosby’s

And if you are still curious and would like to know my idea of another white band, I give you Bob Crosby. It is understandable, of course, that if you don;’t care for Dixieland you will probably have to be convinced. But Dixieland or not Dixieland, it is a good band, one of the very, very few absolutely first-rate white bands in the business today. It's not the faltering affair that had the Bob-o-Links (I haven't a thing against them personally, honest), but a band that is strictly barrelhouse for twenty out of every half-hour broadcast. It has the time and the colossal soloists; it has the good tunes, the redolent tunes out of an earlier day and age and the modern classics on the order of Take the 'A' Train; and it never, never gets fancy. And it is versatile, too. It can do a sweet tune as well as it can do a hot one, and that, in this age of specialization is no mean accomplishment.

Praise for Newton

For the first time since the resonant nights of Bobby Hackett’s apprenticeship at the old Theatrical Club, Boston has a really first-class small band in its midst. The band is Frankie Newton’s and it came into the Savoy on Columbus Avenue January 12 for at least six weeks. Newton, of course, is an admittedly exciting musician, but his own band is no one-man affair. George Johnson on alto and Ike Quebec on tenor are superior performers, while Vic Dickerson, although not to these ears a magnificent soloist, plays some of the most exquisite trombone backgrounds imaginable. All in all, a swell little band and distinctly in the nature of a hypo for Boston’s listless nightlife.

There is just one thing I should like to mention: This Buster Bailey is one hell of a clarinetist and don’t let anyone tell you differently. The precise, intellectual Kirby scores don’t always allow him sufficient latitude to display his gorgeous talents, but hi appeared at a recent jam session in Providence and knocked the cover off the ball. It was one of the most breathtaking clarinet performances I have ever heard and, for my money, Bailey is really something.
"Mixed Reaction on Kenton Band's First N.Y. Job." Down Beat. 15 March 1942: 2.
Did Stan Lay an Omelet ·at Roseland?

New York—Did the highly-publicized Stan Kenton band lay an omelet on its first and only New York job?

"Hell no," cry the musicians and cats who dropped into the Roseland Ballroom to dig the California pianist-leader and his mob. But many another shook his head sadly and argued that Kenton had been "highly overrated and oversold" before he ever hit New York.

Kenton, whose book doesn't include many pop tunes, fared not too well with the pluggers who swarmed upon him demanding that their tunes were the "best of the batch." They didn't know that Stan himself has to do all his own arranging now, and can handle only about three a week. The publishers and pluggers, as a result, while complimenting Kenton on his music were stabbing him with the other hand.

"Dancers, Liked Band”

But Kenton isn't worried. "The dancers at Roseland liked the band," he said, "and the few who didn't gave way to many new faces who were attracted there by us. I guess we came out even.”

Meanwhile, the band is touring around the East. Next summer Stan and crew go into the famous Meadowbrook, in Jersey, for 10 solid weeks without a break, broad­ casting over Mutual, CBS and WNEW. And his new records for Decca may help, too. He cut five sides here last month among which was a 12-inch version of St. James Infirmary.
"Okun Okayed by Kenton and Ork." Down Beat. 15 March 1942: 3.
New York—Stan Kenton took a new road manager last week, a man well known in the trade for his promotion and publicity stunts. Henry Okun, for several years p.a. at the Meadowbrook in Jersey, takes the Kenton job formerly held by Bill Kelso, who remains in New York to go into radio. Kelso was Hank the Nightwatchman on the coast.
"Stan Kenton Gives Pittsburgh a Thrill." Down Beat. 1 December 1942: 18.
Pittsburgh—Stan Kenton's recent one nighter at the Aragon ballroom here in the heart of the Smoky City certainly convinced local J-bugs and musicians that he is everything he was everything he was cooked up to be and even more. "The joint was jumpin' " from the very first note of Kenton's artistry in rhythm to the concluding bar of music by this scorching discovery of '42 and his orchestra.
Walt Reller. "Kenton Revisits St, Louis, Draws Bigger Crowds." Down Beat. 1 February 1943: 9.
St. Louis, Mo.—Coming here direct from the Panther Room in Chicago, Stan Kenton and his band gave Tune Town ballroom followers a real treat the other week. This was Stan Kenton's second visit to St. Louis this season, but bigger-than-ever crowds proved his popularity. Vocalists Red Dorris and Dotty Mitchell shared the spotlite. Kenton's band is definitely one of the best heard here in St. Louis for some time.
"Kenton Gets 3 Pictures and a Radio Show." Down Beat. 15 July 1943. 8.
Bob Hope Program, Paramount Contract Lined Up for Stan

Los Angeles—Contracts which will put Stan Kenton in choice radio and picture spots were being drawn up by attorney: as this was written. If the deals go through, and there seemed to be little doubt, since all details were settled except the actual signing, Kenton will be the musical feature of the Bob Hope–Pepso­dent program when it resumes next year and also will have a three-picture deal with Paramount studios.

The contemplated pact for the Hope show will be a 52-week deal The music spot on the show was held until recently by Skinnay En­nis, who fronted a studio ork. When Ennis became an army bandleader at Santa Ana some weeks before the show went off air, Arranger Buddy Baker became musical director for the remaining shows.

Paramount deal calls for one picture within six months and gives the studio an option on two more providing option is taken up within a limited time after first picture is completed.

Kenton, who opened at the Palladium here June 29, is a local boy who got his start at the West coast's Balboa Beach less than three years ago.
"Costs Kenton $50,000 to Play for Hope." Down Beat. 1 September 1943: 2.
Los Angeles—Stan Kenton claims he will lose "at least $50,000 m cold cash" by providing music on Bob Hope's NBC radio program for the next year, starting September 28.

"Look at it this way," said Kenton, who two years ago was an unknown playing Balboa Beach. "Because we have a contract to play the Hollywood Palladium next year we are not allowed by the Palladium to play a location job within 100 miles of Los Angeles. Of course we can't go east-we have to be in Hollywood every Tuesday night. What does that leave us to do?”

Kenton's position is indeed peculiar. .While the Hope program is considered a choice plum for a band, and pays well, it still reduces Kenton's activities to a bare minimum. But 20 million persons will be hearing his band's powerhouse "artistry in rhythm" jazz every week, and Kenton's managers figure that when the year is over Stan's band will be hot enough to command $10,000 in theaters alone, as well as being far more potent on records.

Only spot news in the Kenton organization in the last fortnight was his dropping a trumpeter, making it a four-man section and his buying a home in Hollywood for his wife and their daughter, Leslie. Personnel of the Kenton orchestra for the Hope program comprises Frank Paine, John Carroll, Marion Childers, Ray Borden, trumpets; Harry Forbes, George Fay, Bert Varsalona, trombones; Robert Ahern, guitar; Joe Vernon drums; Clyde Singleton bass. Eddie Meyers, Bob Gioga, Red Dorris, Ted Vargas and Arnold Stanley, saxes, and Dolly Mitchell, vocalist. Kenton handles the piano chair himself.
"Kenton Readies for Trek South." Down Beat, 1 March 1944: 1.
Los Angeles—The Stan Kenton band left here in the latter part of February with the Bob Hope radio show, now making a tour of army training centers, which will extend through the south. Unit returns to Hollywood April 1. Kenton, unswayed by Jim Crow prejudice, will carry his Negro trumpet, Karl George, during the trip. It is understood this decision has the full support of Hope.
"Kenton Loses Tenor; Adds Anita O'Day." Down Beat, 1 May 1944. 7.
New York—A number of name bands, which were anticipating a breakup with the imminent leader's induction, should remain intact for a few months, following the recent draft ultimatum, which suspended the induction of men over 26. Leaders, who were recently placed in 1-A but have passed 26 are: Les Brown, Bob Crosby, Mitch Ayres, Ozzie Nelson, Erskine Hawkins and Sammy Kaye.

While selective service officials have announced that 95 percent of the men over 26 will be deferred temporarily, musicians are awaiting specific rulings on whether their talents are considered essential to the war effort. In the latest classification of essential jobs, music was not included. Arthur V. McDermott, New York City draft chief, declared musicians are in the same position as other unclassified workers-cases will be surveyed by their draft boards. From the west coast come reports that Spike Jones and Stan Kenton, both facing imminent induction, have been temporarily deferred because of their activities in playing training camps and service hospitals. Woody Herman's induction date has been postponed indefinitely because the Herd Boss is past the 26 mark and in 1-A limited, which places him in a classification which will not be tapped heavily for manpower. Boyd Raeburn, who has been in a rather indefinite draft status, is also over 26 and his chances of being drafted have faded for the present.
"Stan Plans Tour with New Stars." Down Beat, 15 May 1944. 1.
New York—Dave Matthews has replaced khaki-clad Red Dorris in Stan Kenton's band on tenor. Anita O'Day and Gene Howard, Krupa alumni, are now handling vocals, O'Day having signed after a year as a single and after turning down offers from several other name bands. During the summer vacation of the Bob Hope air show, Kenton plans to move eastward for a theater tour.
"Kenton Plagued by Bad Breaks." Down Beat, 15 August 1945. 2.
New York—Though there were no repercussions at the box-office during the Paramount theater stay the Stan Kenton band hit the jack-pot on bad luck on opening day at the theater last month.

Drummer Bob Varney was rushed to the hospital with acute appendix just two hours before the first show. Ray Toland of the James crew came over to fill in for a few shows. Next blow came when Max Wayne, bassist, had to leave for a rest because of a heart ailment. Ed Safranski, Mcintyre mainstay, replaced and may continue until the Mcintyre outfit returns from overseas. Third (and last, thankfully) mishap occurred through the courtesy of the army. Guitarist Bob Ahern left to report in St. Louis for an army exam. All of which left just Kenton as the only regular in the rhythm section.

Another replacement had Ray Wetzel, ex-Herman horn, taking over John Carroll's trumpet chair.
Tom Herrick. "Record Review. Stan Kenton Encores." Down Beat. 25 March 1949. 14.
Los Angeles—Rumors hereabouts are hot and heavy that Stan Kenton is planning a drastic revision in the style and personnel of his 17-piece band when he hits the one-niter trail in March. Several of his star sidemen, including Art Pepper and Shelly Manne, have announced that they'll make no more road tours with the band, and some rumorists have it that the band's book will be almost completely revamped.

Stan, however, scoffs at the reports. "There'll undoubtedly be some changes in personnel which will be for the benefit of all concerned,'' he says, "but no basic change in style.

New Material

"I'm preparing a lot of new arrangements and figure to have the fresh material ready when we go into the Oasis on Feb. 25, just preceding the road tour. But no one can say it will be a 'new Kenton band.'"

Anent the reports that several of the standbys say they'll have no more of the road, Stan says:

"You know how musicians are–always undecided until the last minute. Sure, the road tours get tiresome for me, too. But when the time comes to leave, most of the fellows find they are pretty well rested up and that there just isn't the kind of money to be made by staying home that can be made with our band on the road."

Jay to Try Movies

Reasonably certain at writing was that Jay Johnson, who took top position in the Down Beat band singer poll. will not be with the dance unit this year. Kenton's management concern, to whom Johnson is under contract, feels that the singer has a good chance of breaking into pictures if he remains here. He's up for screen
tests at several studios.
Ralph J Gleason. "Swingin' the Golden Gate. San Franciscans Object to Kenton Blues Parody." Down Beat. 11 January 1952: 12.
San Francisco—Little did Stan Kenton know when he recorded Blues in Burlesque what a storm he would blow up. Or maybe he did. Anyway, when Vivian Boarman played the disc over KRE on her regular Sunday night traditionalist program, record collectors, musicians, and blues lovers in the Bay Area were quick to protest.

Vivian snuck Shelly Manne's blues burlesquing in between a couple of volumes of the new Columbia Bessie Smith reissues; said she thought people might like it even if they didn't like Stan, and went ahead and played it.

Didn't Dig It

"Sacrilege!" "Profane!" “Bad taste!" "Insulting!" were some of the epithets hurled as a result. It just goes to show that no one takes his music more seriously than a preterist. Scratch a record collector and you find an argument.

The Kenton concert group, by the way, sold out both the War Memorial Opera House and the Oakland auditorium theater for its two nights here. Several hundred SRO tickets were sold at the Opera House and a couple of hundred were turned away as the Stan did the best business he's ever done at that spot.

The following night, the intimate auditorium theater had customers (at least 50) in the orchestra pit and another 100 back stage while a good 500 were turned away. At intermission, there was still a crowd outside.

Gross for the two was approximately $11,000. Capacity at the Opera House is 3;500; at the theater, 1,900.
"Kenton Bandsmen Join New Shorty Rogers Unit." Down Beat. 25 January 1952.
Hollywood—Shorty Rogers has abandoned, at least for the present, his plans to head a big band and at deadline was readying a new seven-piece unit well studded with former Kentonites, including Down Beat poll winners Jay Johnson (as featured vocalist), Art Pepper, alto, and Shelly Manne, drums.

Others with Shorty are Jack Montrose, tenor; Hampton Hawes, piano; Don Bagley, bass (also from Kenton), and Bob Enevoldsen, valve trombone.

Combo was set for debut Christmas night with a one-niter at a ballroom in southwest L.A. at 54th and Broadway now managed by Billy Berg, to be followed with a string of single dates in southern California.

As most of the dates are weekend stands, Shorty and Shelly will continue as regulars with Howard Rumsey at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, sending subs when working with the larger group.
Don Freeman. "I Remember Kenton When, Reminisces Gus Arnheim." Down Beat. 25 January 1952: 4.
San Diego—“Yes I remember Stan Kenton–a big, gawky guy just a little different from everybody else," said Gus Arnheim the old bandleader and composer.

"I'll tell you what I think about Stan and it's the same thing I told him when we had lunch together not too long ago. I hope Stan makes a million dollars and obtains the greatest possible satisfaction and happiness from his work. But–I still don't like the stuff he's doing."

Gus of course was Kenton's boss for a spell, roughly for 1½ years starting around 1938.

"That was the time when Goodman became famous," recalled Gus, a smooth, William Powell type of guy who has written a number of hits including One More Chance.

"I revamped my band from sweet to swing and for awhile Benny's band and mine sounded a lot alike. Well, I needed a piano player and I was looking around when some strong recommendations came in for Kenton. So I decided to try him.

"Now, I had never heard Stan play, you understand, but the minute he came in and I saw him, I knew he would be all right. There was just something about the guy. You had to believe in him just from looking at him.

“At first he seemed like a good, competent piano player–better than average. But then I realized he had something else to offer. That was when we made some records for Brunswick. Stan was part of a quartet that we called the Rhythm-Maniacs and they played some very modern stuff–probably collectors items now.

“That’s when Stan first showed his flair for the unusual. And, naturally, I encouraged him because that's what he wanted to do."
Gus figures he helped Stan quite a bit, not necessarily while the big guy was his pianist, but later when Kenton wanted some advice.

"Stan and Vido Musso were good friends, and Stan asked me what I thought of them starting a band together. I told him, 'Go it alone, Stan, that's the way for you.' No reflection on Vido, I still say it was good advice.”
"Kenton Adds French Horns." Down Beat. 22 February 1952: 5.
Hollywood—Stan Kenton is adding two French horns to his dance band unit for his date at L. A.'s Oasis starting Feb. 25, and probably will carry the additional instruments when he embarks on his full-scale dance tour latter part of March.

Vine street continued to babble with reports that Stan would come up with a wholesale reorganization of his dance unit, including a retreat to more marketable style. And Kenton continued to laugh at the idea when queried.

However, it's well established that at least some of the more important members of the band who are leaving feel that Kenton is no longer "sufficiently progressive”—or something.
Feather, Leonard G. "Stan Kenton: Is He Prophet or Fraud?" Down Beat, 7 March 1952. 1, 6, 19.
STAN KENTON: Is He Prophet Or Fraud?

by Leonard Feather

New York—Is Stan Kenton, who has been acclaimed by Beat readers as the leader of America’s No.1 band, truly a pioneer in his field, a Messiah of jazz, a spearhead of new thoughts and sounds? Do fans, critics and musicians alike agree on the pre-eminence of the Kenton organization?

Or is Stan Kenton a phony and his orchestra a fake?

What is Status?

The question of Stan’s status has been bothering me, as it has bothered many who spend some of their time speculating about the nature and future of the art form we still reluctantly refer to as jazz.

There have been times when I have found it hard to be objective, because Stan is unquestionably one of the nicest and most intense people you will ever meet in this business, and one of the most completely absorbed in the music that has enveloped him.

On the other hand, there have been moments when I have even doubted whether Stan is sincere about his much vaunted musical sincerity.

Stan Doesn’t Help

Talking to Stan himself doesn’t help. He can tie himself up in more verbal knots than you will ever unravel. When I gave him a Blindfold Test a couple of years ago, he had enough to say about every record to make a separate article in itself. But his talk is, long the delight of disc jockeys who can ask him one question and turn over the mike to him for the rest of the week, never you to understand more clearly the basic issues in any penetrating discussion on Kentonia.

These issues are, first, the question of how much Stan wants to stay with jazz, how much marriage there can be between jazz and classical music; second, the matter of his frequent insistence on such words as “progressive” and “innovations” in publicizing his music and how justifiable they may be.

Stan will talk around in circles for hours about these and allied subjects. After you have come out of the spin you still won’t really know the answer, but you will have a damned interesting conversation.

Some Views Worthless

There is a segment of opinion in the music business, especially around Tin Pan Alley, where the opinions expressed are based more on illiteracy and ignorance than on thoughtful analysis. We can dismiss as worthless the views of those who shrug off Kenton’s music with such comments as “Them crazy modern sounds; that guy goes too far out; who does he think he is, Stravinsky?” etc.

But we cannot easily reject the opinions of musicians, based on a sound knowledge of music and a sincere interest in its advancement. Among them, there is a sharp divergence of opinion on the value of Kenton’s contributions.

Recently I went to enormous trouble and absolutely no expense to plough through some 65 Blindfold Tests in search of every comment ever made by a blindfoldee regarding a Kenton record. The exploration brought startling results. Most of the comments consisted either of mild praise, apathy, or outright condemnation. The records were typical of Kenton items of all kinds and the critics a diverse bunch of noted jazzmen and singers.

Favorable Comments

Of the comments that were unreservedly enthusiastic, a number were made several years ago with reference to some of Stan’s more swinging efforts. “Kenton got off the Lunceford kick and loosened up” commented Dave Tough. “I like this band (1946) very much.” And Ray McKinley, in 1947, said, “He always manages to get a nice balance and continuity to the arrangements.”

Terry Gibbs declared: “I didn’t like Kenton’s first band, but the strings at the concert sold me. I dig him now,”

Chubby Jackson, speaking of Theme to the West, said, “Highly dramatic, very emotional; sounded like moving picture music ... four stars.”

Neal Hefti admitted he was prejudiced: “I know this is Stan, and I like everything about him, personally and professionally.”

Bird Dug Him

Charlie Parker found Monotony “weird” and “marvelous” and gave another four star rave to Elegy for Alto.

Tadd Dameron said of Pete Rugolo’s Mirage that it was competing with some of the great minds in modern music - “you’re going into another field here; it’s straight music” - but ascribed some warmth to it and gave it three stars.

Kenton alumnus Kai Winding declared himself very impressed by what Stan and this band (1950) are doing, the use of strings and the whole range of musical ideas”

The above few comments are the sum total of all the unqualified praise ever heaped on Stan in 5 years of blindfold tests. The full essence of each subject’s comments was always faithfully reported verbatim.

Other Side

Now let’s look at the other side of the picture.

Boyd Raeburn, once considered a contender and contemporary of Stan’s in the vanguard of big band jazz, typified the views of many listeners when he complained that “Stan doesn’t run the gamut of moods in music. If he wants excitement, he does it well but there’s no contrast”. And Mrs. Raeburn, singer Ginnie Powell, complaining that “Stan has to prove something with every number”, added, “I’m afraid he’s serious about a lot of things I think are very funny.”

On another double blindfold, that of Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Brown, who reviewed the Christy-Kenton Lonely Woman, Ella said, “This is over-arranged; there’s so much happening you can’t tell whether it’s the melody or what.” Added Ray, “They could have let her sing it. It sounds like she’s acting.”

Goodman Not Enthused

Benny Goodman, puzzled by Monotony, and inclined to view it as music “as some sort of exotic dancing,” said he didn’t think it was progressive and was quite sure it wasn’t jazz. “I think it’s a fair composition, period.”

Charlie Barnet: “After hearing this (Somnambulism) I can understand why people put the band down, I’ll give it one star, and I wouldn’t even give it that except Safranski is on it.”

Tex Beneke: “I don’t like that type of thing (Thermopolae) at all. A lot of discordant sounds. You’ve got to cock your head to make it fit.”

Shep Fields?

Allan Eager, of an early Kenton-and saxes-only opus: “Could this be Shep Fields? Those saxes are so sweet and sugary - it’s horrible!”

Billie Holiday, on a Christy-Kenton side: “This is just fair; the band and the singing, all fair, didn’t move me.”

Joe Bushkin, on the Kenton-Cole Jambo: “It sounds like a 96-bar ending on The Peanut Vendor. You wait for something, and nothing happens.”

Flip Phillips summed up his feelings about what he called “the usual Kenton sound” by describing it in three significant words: “Happy New Year!” And Bill Harris, horrified by Maynard Ferguson, said “Give this minus four stars!”

Tristano School

The Tristano school of musicians, who might be expected to look benignly on anything attempting to take music forward, are predominantly anti-Kenton. Typical views are Lee Konitz’s “Most of Kenton’s records are overloaded with things done for effect’s sake (but Konitz reserved a rave for Art Pepper); and Tristano’s comment on the Bill Russo Solitaire: “The schmaltzy melody leaves me apathetic. Arrangement is a little clumsy; mostly vertical writing.” “But very professionally executed” he added.

Norman Granz: “This could have been a real swinging band; but as Stan is verbose, his band is the same way. This band cheats; it uses gimmicks and advertising slogans. If you have a musical idea, you sell it on its own merits; you don’t press agent it with a lot of loud talk.”

Arrangers Talk

Of the arrangers I have either blindfolded or talked to on open-eyed occasions about Kenton, the general view seems to mix respect for Kenton’s attempts to accomplish something with regret at his failure to achieve it.

Typical is Billy Strayhorn’s comment: “Kenton is trying to do a very wonderful thing with his band, but becomes too frantic about the whole thing; everything is a do-or-die struggle. There’s no looseness, which I think is one of the great ingredients of all good jazz.”

Most of Duke Ellington’s comments to me on Stan Kenton have been off the record, and would not be printable even if their publication were sanctioned. But Duke who says he “never makes uncomplimentary remarks” for public consumption, heartily approved of Artistry In Percussion while under the impression that Shelly Manne might be Gene Krupa.

Should Get Credit’

Ralph Burns is another who feels that Kenton should be given credit because “at least he tries, when everybody else has given up trying.” He considers Mirage “one of the few things” that have really thrilled him in Kentonia, claims that many of Stan’s recordings must be judged according to classical standards, and tends to prefer such things as Shorty Rogers’ arrangements for the no-concert band; “At those times Kenton sounds exactly like Woody.” He can’t see the Artistry series or “all of those screaming things” and “wouldn’t know” whether Maynard Ferguson has talent.

Burns sums up Stan by pointing out that ”he’s done so much good and so much harm at the same time. It’s a lot of noise, but at least he’s making a lot of noise for music.”

Sy Oliver, after observing that “Stan Kenton stands for ashy sensationalism”, promptly swallowed his own tongue by giving a four-star rave to Dynaflow under the impression it was a Les Brown record.

Eddie Sauter says: “It’s hard to say whether Kenton is accomplishing anything. They aren’t doing anything original, spectacular or new. Even Bob Graettinger, who seems to be the most daring of writers, doesn’t do anything many practicing concert composer couldn’t do. ‘

Nothing Progressive’

I don’t think this music is progressive; as to whether it’s jazz, it’s nobody prerogative to say what is and isn’t jazz. Whether it’s music is an altogether different question. A lot of it is as pretentious as hell, and to make a categorical statement it should be classed as the No.1 band.

Kenton provides a great opportunity for his writers, but none of them are the sort of genius one needs to be in that position. Without detracting from Pete, that goes for him, and it would go for me too if I wrote for the band.”

Audience Unaware

Another noted arranger, who wished to remain anonymous, observes: “When Kenton plays those pretentious concert pieces, I’ll bet 75% of his audience hasn’t the remotest idea what’s going on. They don’t even enjoy the music, but they’re afraid to let their girl friends or classmates know that they don’t understand and appreciate it.

“Kenton’s personality has enabled him to get away with it, to establish himself on the basis of snob appeal. Hell, when it comes to the so-called serious music, those writers are just children beside contemporary classical writers, and as for the things that are closer to jazz, the best he can do will never touch even a second-rate Woody performance of eight or 10 years ago.”

After a moment’s pause, he added: “The trouble with most of that music is its neurotic quality. It sounds like neurotic music for neurotic people. Never a happy moment. And even when it tries to be extrovert, they go into a screaming fortissimo with absolutely no sense of shading. I guess the philosophy is, make a big enough noise, and people will have to listen; they won’t get a chance to talk that much with that much sound around.”

Private Opinions

The private thoughts of musicians on the individual members of the Kenton personnel are as widely varied as those on the band as a whole.

Of the Kenton soloists through the years, those who have come closest to earning unanimous approval are Shelly Manne, Art Pepper, and Ed Safranski. Many of the others, including Stan himself as a pianist and arranger, have variously been described as competent, overrated or mediocre. Early Kentonians such as Kai Winding and Stan Getz have, of course, since earned wide acclaim.

The straight-Kenton-ticket philosophy, which results in a number of instrumentalists solely by virtue of their happening to be currently (or even formerly) with Kenton, has been a source of much resentment.

Re June

June Christy has been the butt of many complaints in this regard. After the last Carnegie concert I talked with numerous prominent musicians and singers, whose opinions of her work that night varied all the way from those who thought she was out of tune to those who considered she had poor intonation.

But because June is a sweet person who has taken so much criticism, many of her critics happily bend over backwards to hail her for a record or performance that rises above what they consider her norm. (Me, I still find I’ll Remember April a very pretty record.)

As for Maynard Ferguson, I have discussed him with innumerable musicians, trumpet players, and others. While many concede his technical greatness, not one said they got pleasure out of listening to him. The reactions to his Beat poll victory ranged from surprise through mild disapproval to downright indignation.

Doesn’t Need Maynard

The most eloquent summation of most opinions on this subject was expressed by the brilliant British musician and writer, Steve Race, who wrote in the Melody Maker: “I need Maynard Ferguson like I need a hole in the head. To my mind, it represents everything that is worst in modern jazz.

It was when Ferguson joined the Kenton band that I began to first have my doubts about the much publicized ‘artistic integrity’ of Stan Kenton... I don’t doubt that Ferguson is a great technician. I just wish he were an artist too.”

There is much confusion in the general feeling about Stan Kenton’s place in jazz because those who discuss him are not quite sure which Kenton they are discussing: Solemn Stan, Swingin’ Stan, or Silly Stan.

The first offers albums of ambitious concert works by a 40-piece orchestra. The second is typified by such factors as a Shorty Rogers score, a Woody Herman feel, and frequent jazz solos. The third category is Tortillas, Enchiladas, and Beans, or Laura, or September Song, or anything else clearly designed for the cash register.

Like Swingin’ Stan

As far as it is possible to generalize about a band that has earned such a broad range of comment, one might say that no matter how important, pretentious, skilled, modern, significant, and brilliant the orchestrations in the Solemn Stan library may be, it is the works of Swingin’ Stan that have gained most acceptance among musicians.

This is possibly not the way Stan would want it to be, for when he announces a new concert work he does so with the air of of one who is disclosing the existence of a new atomic weapon.

Those who like Kenton’s concert works claim that they represent the ultimate in modern music. Those who are less enthusiastic base their reservation sometimes on a lack of understanding, sometimes on an even deeper understanding of the works of Milhaud, Stravinsky, and others.

These latter dissidents feel that Stan, far from being an innovator, is removing all the basic qualities and placing his music on a level where it must bear comparison with the work of modern classical writers.

Open Mind

Personally, I am open-minded. I have been variously intrigued, bored, enthused, disgusted, mystified, horrified, fascinated, and stimulated by Stan and his writers and bands and soloists. I have compared the band with a magnificent, super speed vehicle, streamlined in style and impeccable in performance, whose driver is not quite sure where he is going.

But at least, along with a few million other citizens of the world of music, I have found the Stan Kenton phenomenon worth of a great deal of serious thought.

Whether he’s a pacemaker or a faker, a Messiah or a liar, Stan is getting a lot of people interested in music per se. For this alone we all owe him a little gratitude.
Nick Bock. "Scanning." Down Beat. 7 March 1952: 5.

Los Angeles—This year may well prove to he the most important one yet in the career of Art Pepper. His recent exit from the Kenton fold to form his own quartet is focusing much attention on this important modernist, who from the first has been completely engrossed with jazz and has never considered any other approach in music.

Reared in Garden City, a small city near Los Angeles, Art left high school in his senior year to join Gus Arnheim's band in San Diego. That was early in 1943. Later in the year he wound up in Los Angeles, where he found sympathetic ears and real comradeship in Dexter Gordon and Lee Young. He joined their small combo, which then included an amazing young bassist named Charlie Mingus.

Helped Ideas

The free association of ideas among these musicians helped considerably to guide Art into the relaxed conception that is evident in his playing today.

He next worked with the great Benny Carter band of that period. When a tour of the south was lined up for the crew, however, Carter and Pepper both realized how much hardship the color line would work on both sides, so it was decided not to risk the inevitable trouble and heartbreak.

To Kenton

Carlos Gastel at that time was managing both Carter and Stan Kenton; through his efforts Art was hired by Stan late in 1943. It was during this period with Stan that he played his first recorded solo on Harlem Folk Dance, one of the band's early Capitol releases.

Art was drafted into the army in February of 1944 and shipped overseas. While in London he played a few jazz concerts, was guest starred with Ted Heath’s orchestra, and did some broadcasts over the BBC. During the three year period Art spent in the army overseas, the startling development that was taking place in jazz was completely hidden from his view. He was released from service in May of 1946 and had yet to hear Charlie Parker or Dizzy or, for that matter, any of the new sound jazz stars that were revolutionizing contemporary jazz.

Never Studied Pres

He had never paid the least bit of attention to Lester Young, and as he recalls it, Louis Jordan was his current idol on alto. Upon hearing Parker he wanted to throw over all of the past; as a result he became very depressed because he couldn't grasp the change fast enough.

Then came the long battle of transformation to a radically new style coming right at the time when playing jobs were particularly scarce. He found no work for a year and a half, spending his time in mastering the new sounds and directions.

Back to Stan

During this unusually dark period Art took odd jobs, anything he could find to support his wife Patti and their little daughter. Then in the summer of 1947 he rejoined Stan Kenton at Balboa Beach. He now came into the band with a positive style to offer, startlingly modern in conception.

Up until the formation of his new group, early this year, Art has been a featured soloist with both the Kenton dance band and the enlarged ''Innovations'' orchestra. Just 26, he has earned an enviable reputation and large following as one of the most consistent of the modern jazzmen
"Kenton Signs Chicago Girl." Down Beat. 7 March 1952: 13.
Hollywood—New girl singer signed by Stan Kenton is Jerry Winters, who has been working as a single in Chicago clubs for the last couple of years.

She asked Stan for a job when he played a one-niter in Chicago last year and ''he told me to send him a record and he'd be glad to hear me,'' she says. ''I thought he was just being polite, so I didn't do anything about it until recently, when I heard he was looking for a vocalist. I sent him the record, he sent for me, and here I am.''

Jerry makes her debut with the band when it opens at the Oasis here on Feb. 25.
"Stan Kenton Opens New York Office." Down Beat. 7 March 1952: 19.
Hollywood—Bill Emard, who handled advance promotion for Stan Kenton during the latter’s 1951 concert tour, heads Kenton's recently established New York office.

Emard, who was with Horace Heidt prior to joining the Kenton organization, will concentrate mainly on record promotion.
"Ferguson, Manne, Pepper, Others Exit Kenton Band." Down Beat. 21 March 1952: 3.
Hollywood—Stan Kenton left on a brief tour prior to his Feb. 25 opening at the Oasis with a band from which many of his erstwhile star sidemen were missing, hut which contained in their places many Kentonites of other days and a flock of promising newcomers.

Most notable among the missing were Maynard Ferguson, trumpet; Art Pepper, alto; Bob Cooper, tenor; Dick Kenney, trombone, and Shelly Manne, drums.

Childers Back

Most notable among the returns was Buddy Childers, trumpet.

The two French horns Kenton said recently he was planning to add to his dance unit were not present.

Bob Gioga, the “old faithful” on baritone sax, the only musician who has been with Kenton continuously in every band since he formed his first here in 1941, is still with him.

Complete lineup of the Kenton band as it left here on the short tour, and as it was expected to be at the Oasis, follows:

Trumpets–Jack Millman, Clyde Reasinger, Buddy Childers, Conte Candoli, and Reuben McFall; trombones Bill Russo, Harold Branch, Bob Fitzpatrick, Gerald Finch, and George Roberts.

Saxes–Dick Meldonian and Leonard Niehaus, altos; Lee Elliot and Bill Holman, tenors; Bob Gioga, baritone.

Rhythm–Kenton, piano; Frankie Capp, drums; Don Bagley, bass, and Ralph Blaze, guitar.

Jerri Winters, Chicago girl signed by Kenton last month, is in the vocal spot.
"Kenton Says Bands on the Way Back." Down Beat. 3 November 1966. 11.
Stan Kenton, who not too long ago foresaw the demise of jazz, has come up with a prediction that big-band jazz is headed toward a resurgence.

Kenton's prophecy came during a recent impromptu speech at the Gold Nugget in Oakland, Calif., on the occasion of the Don Piestrup Orchestra's farewell concert.

Piestrup, a onetime University of California football star whose primary interest has been orchestral jazz and who organized an exceptional workshop band in Oakland to play it, now has moved to Los Angeles to become a staff composer for the Buddy Rich Orchestra. In the past, Piestrup has written for Kenton on a freelance basis.

At the Nugget, a club widely known as the “Kenton shrine,” the white-maned maestro noted that ever since the swing era's demise, diehards have been hoping for a restoration of that orchestral period.

“Every time you hear someone say ‘bands are coming back,’ you hear people gripped with nostalgia,” Kenton said. 'For years the answer to ‘when?' has been the next time the circus comes to town or the next football season.

“But this last year our band—and it was a good one—was given a reception such as I haven't seen in years.”

Particularly heartening was the applause and interest expressed by young people. Kenton said of his summer tour.

“I’m fully convinced that in not more than three years, this whole field of big band music will explode again—and it’s due to young guys like Don Piestrup,” the veteran leader declared.

As Kenton sees it, the big-band jazz that wiII attain popular will not be a re-creation of what has gone before but will be new. He did not say, however, in what manner it would be new.