International Musician

Official Journal of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
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"Cover. Stan Kenton's Innovations." International Musician. May 1950. 15.
"Stan Kenton's Innovations." International Musician. May 1950. 15.
Stan Kenton’s three-month tour, opening at Seattle February 9th, and winding up back at Los Angeles May 19th, has been something of a novelty in the band business: he has played no dance dates. It has been all straight concerts. He worked his way down the Pacific Coast to San Jose, through the Rocky Mountain states to the Midwest…with a side-jump from Detroit for Canadian dates…down to Boston, New York and Philadelphia for the only two-night stands…then through the South and Southwest…and he goes from Denver back to his starting point in Los Angeles. Nothing unique about the itinerary, just one-night stands all the way, except that he played his two-night dates in Boston’s Symphony Hall, Carnegie in New York, and the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The choice of those highbrow hangouts gives the clue to his purpose. It’s been a concert tour, first, last and all the time, with the program billing “Innovations in Modern Music 1950.” And the program title is no misnomer.

Plus Strings and French Horns

Kenton’s first innovation: he added strings and two French horns to the usual brasses, woodwinds and rhythm sections that he used for his progressive jazz in the late forties. And the additions were not niggardly. He picked up in Hollywood ten violinists, three violists, and three cellists, as well as two French horns. Paul Weston, after reading the list of Stan’s string section, headed by George Kast as concert master, said, “Where’d Stan get these men? They’re among Hollywood’s best. He must be paying them a lot of money.” And considering the difficulty of the scores they have to play, it’s lucky these men had been used to playing Dmitri Tiomkin’s and Miklos Rozsa’s movie scores.

The general verdict is that the new recruits bow and pluck with superb tone, and that they caught on remarkably well to the phrasing used by the veteran sections of the band. Just before the enlarged aggregation started on the tour they recorded sixteen masters for Capitol. Two sides have been released: “Blues in Riff,” and “Mardi Gras.” The rest will comprise Capitol’s Stan Kenton Album,
Innovations, Volume I, including part of the tour repertory.

Jazz Plus Modern Neo-Classic Idiom

There’s never been anything like Stan’s repertory on this tour. Except for a few of the song numbers traditional for June Christy (who rejoined for the tour), and some of Maynard Ferguson’s trumpet solos in the old manner, the whole program has been made up of new instrumental compositions written to order by Stan and eleven other arrangers, each of whom had carte blanche to produce his most original and striking work. In the serious music field, the program would be called rigorous…like a session of the Composers’ Forum. And that’s not so far off the mark. What Kenton has aimed at is nothing less than a marriage between jazz and the modern neo-classic idiom. You hear Debussy’s harmonies, including the elevenths and fourteenths…Stravinsky’s staggered beats…Chavez’ rhythms…Haba’s quarter-tones…Shostakovitch’s tricks with melody…Varese’s percussive sonorities…along with some bop phrasing and echoes of Stan’s progressive jazz. The modernist touches are no accident. Pete Rugolo, Kenton’s right bower, studied with Darius Milhaud, who, it will be remembered, was a pioneer, along with Auric and Eric Satie, in incorporating jazz idiom into the modernist grammar of music; another of Stan’s arrangers, George Russell, is an admirer of Bartok; while Manny Albam is a Hindemith devotee.

Program Notes

Since all the numbers by these varied talents were new, Kenton at every concert explained each composition briefly, crediting composer-arranger and featured instrumentalists. Here are program notes which give our staff critics’ ideas of what was attempted and what was achieved in some of the best compositions:

Trajectories, by Frank Marks, a Schillinger system man. A brilliant piece of musical pyrotechnics, with a strong Latin beat. It gave the string section a chance to show their finesse and unity; they played with gusto and loud bravura, as if to make sure they could be heard above the brasses.

Soliloquy,·by Johnny Richards, expresses a musician’s mood after the hubbub of a concert is over…there’s a filigree flute passage and a lush trumpet [sic] solo for Bernhart…a near- bolero beat…and some pensive echoes from the triangle.

Amazonia, by Laurinda Almeida, a display piece contrasting the Cuban guitar rhythm with the free playing of George Kast’s violin backed by the whole string section…mood music which called for the amplified electronic guitar because, says Kenton, Almeida could not otherwise have been heard above the brass.

Mirage, by Pete Rugolo, is a study in orchestral dynamics which evokes the appearance, horrible mockery, and finally the vanishing of a mirage…fine shadings with Manne’s tympani in the background deepening the tension, trumpets playing light rips, to indicate perhaps the gurgling of the traveler at the sight of imaginary water.

Saluta, also by Rugolo, is a powerful blend of Afro-Cuban rhythm with modernistic harmonies…these pieces of Pete’s were perhaps the most interesting technically to the highbrow modernists who heard Stan’s concerts.

Theme for Sunday, by Kenton, is a simple piece which Stan rightly guessed would sound like Hollywood film background stuff. His long potpourri, Montage, reminiscences of his earlier hits, is more of the same…each item pleasing melodically, but the whole not adding up to much, orchestrally speaking.

Jazz critics, particularly the devotees of the new ”cool” style, felt that Stan played his numbers all at the top of the band’s voice, without any preparation leading up to the triple fortissimi. They felt, too, that he might give the ears of the audience a chance to rest now and then by mixing in soft passages. But the audiences for the most part seemed to relish the bold attack and great authority of the new music.

Some of the string men, newcomers to the organization, observed wryly that the audiences applauded most loudly for Milt Bernhart’s solos, and June Christy’s husky singing of the band’s old favorites—“Get Happy,” “Lonesome Road,” “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm,” “I’ll Remember April,” and ”How High the Moon.”

Naturally enough, the chance to come to rest comfortably on the familiar was welcomed by listeners after the strenuous diet of new and difficult music.

Certainly Kenton has nailed his colors to the masthead in carrying through this tour. He has taken his forty-piece orchestra (his manager growled that he’d have pulled just as well with twenty) across the continent, playing new and creative numbers, making no concessions to the popular and traditional.

That’s a challenge to fate and fortune by a leader with real and rigorous standards of perfection.
"In the Music News. Stan Kenton." International Musician. December 1951. 27.
Stan Kenton and his orchestra presented Innovations in Modern Music II at the Minneapolis Auditorium Concert Bowl and at the St. Paul Auditorium Theatre in November. The orchestra has been marked by Kenton’s efforts to dedicate himself to the development of an American style in musical expression. Kenton feels that today cultural music in America is European dominated, even though American music must, of necessity, be the partial accumulation of the best that has gone before. Composers whose music has been played by Kenton are Peter Rugolo, Bob Graettinger, Shorty Rogers, and Bill Russo.
"Stan Kenton Clinic Receives $1000 From AFofM." International Musician. October 1960. 7, 16.
One thousand dollars was presented by President Herman Kenin on behalf of the American Federation of Musicians to the Stan Kenton Clinic Scholarship Fund shortly after it concluded its second annual, and amazingly successful, seminar this year at the University of Indiana, August 7-21.

“Out of such clinics,” President Kenin said, ”will come the great dance band musicians of tomorrow. Interest in dance and stage bands suddenly has been growing by leaps and bounds all over the country. I earnestly hope that this foreshadows a real awakening of the American public to the sublime pleasure of listening and dancing to live music.”

Band leader Stan Kenton organized the first clinic in 1959 at the University of Indiana where a one-week seminar was conducted. Don Jacoby, special West Coast representative for President Kenin, was one of the instructors. It was so successful, he reports, that plans immediately were made to expand the program.

Accordingly, this year’s seminar was lengthened and broadened to accommodate 276 students. Meanwhile, the faculty of Indiana University was so impressed by the enthusiasm and seriousness of the students, it has initiated three elective courses of similar musical study for its regular student body.

Plans for next summer include one-week clinics at the University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University, and a two-week course again at the University of Indiana. Courses of study include complete band rehearsals, section rehearsals, arranging, composing, interpretation and improvisation.

In addition to Stan Kenton, faculty members have included such distinguished names in the dance band field as Johnny Richards, Russ Garcia, Johnny La Porta, Jimmy Campbell and Conti Candoli.

Although most of the students arrive separately from widely scattered locales, the entire dance band of a Philadelphia high school arrived at the clinic en masse, its members determined to learn all they could so that the following year they could win the City of Brotherly Love’s high school dance band championship instead of being awarded third place.

“Our only problem with the students,” one instructor reports, “is seeing that they get enough sleep. They start class at eight o’clock in the morning and almost literally have to be forced to put down their instruments at midnight. Their enthusiasm .is so intense they hang on to every last word of advice they can get on music and techniques. It is a pleasure and a rewarding privilege for us professional musician faculty members to draw on our stores of musical lore to teach them all we can.”

Picture caption:
President Kenin and Treasurer Clancy present Stan Kenton with a $1,000 check on behalf of the American Federation of Musicians, to go toward the Stan Kenton Scholarship Fund.
Stan Kenton. "Why the Band Clinic." International Musician. March 1961. 24.
Leonard G Feather. "Stan Kenton." International Musician. July 1961. 18-19.

Last Memorial Day Stan Kenton celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the date when, at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California, he made his first appearance as a bandleader.

Since his 1941 debut Kenton has built and maintained a unique reputation, not simply as a leader, pianist or composer-arranger, but as a dynamic personality and possibly the most controversial figure in jazz history. His turbulent and catalytic career has been followed by fans whose intensity and devotion is extraordinary. In 1953, when the band was playing its first European tour but was unable to work in England, the London Melody Maker arranged for the chartering of a dozen planes, as well as a special Kenton boat excursion across the Irish sea, that took jazz-starved enthusiasts to Dublin. More than half the audience of seven thousand that jammed the Royal Theatre there had come over from England, at a cost to many of them of two or three weeks’ salary.

The strong emotions that Kenton inspires in those who admire his music as well as in those who reject it can be attributed in large part to the forceful character of the man himself. Though he spent several years jobbing around the West Coast as a sideman with various bands, it was inevitable that he would establish himself as a leader.

Kenton’s first band, a relatively small one by his later standards (five saxophones, three trumpets, two trombones and four rhythm) was a more direct reflection of its leader than the subsequent groups, since he himself was responsible for a large proportion of the arrangements. Their dominant characteristic was a choppy, staccato manner of phrasing that was especially noticeable in the writing for the reed section. In retrospect this emerges as one of the most readily identifiable of all the Kenton ensembles. (A Decca LP by this band is still available; all the subsequent groups are on Capitol.)

A study of that early group, and of all the later ventures provides a complex, many-sided answer to the question: What does the Kenton name mean in the annals of modern music?

Superficially, for those who have examined his work cursorily or read about it in the lay press, Kenton is primarily a symbol of ambitious big-band jazz, a man on whom the label of ”progressive jazz” was still pinned many years after he had dropped the slogan. To others Kenton has been a pioneer in the incorporation of Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms into jazz contexts. Not long after the dissolution of his original band in the spring of 1947, Kenton began recording with a group that included maracas, bongo and conga drums, and the unique finger-style Spanish guitar of the Brazilian-born Laurindo Almeida. Kenton’s intermittent romance with South America has produced some of his most colorful and durable music, notably the album Cuban Fire, written by Johnny Richards in 1956.

Still other Kenton followers identify him principally with the attempt to incorporate into his library a body of ”classical” concert music, composed and brilliantly orchestrated by writers well qualified to blend the European classical and American jazz elements. This sort of fusion has become a relatively common phenomenon in the past two or three years. Paradoxically the experts who have spent much of their time dissecting the recent efforts along these lines, by such talented writers as John Lewis and Gunther Schuller, rarely acknowledge that more than a decade ago Kenton was engaged in just such a series of amalgamations, recording classical and semi-classical compositions by Franklyn Marks, Pete Rugolo, the late Robert Graettinger and others. These works, performed by a forty-piece orchestra with a large string sec- tion, were heard in a concert tour undertaken by Kenton in 1950 under the banner ”Innovations in Modern Music.” The orchestra and its tour marked a vital phase in the Kenton career.

Though nothing he has done since that period is the equal of the ”Innovations” in terms of instrumentation or of experimentation, there have been several ventures during the past ten years that are, in the opinion of many observers, closer to the core of jazz, and represent Kenton’s most swinging efforts. It is with the 1953-8 period, when his band was concerned more with the beat than with breaking new ground, that many of his younger followers associate him most closely.

In addition to the four phases outlined above (the original band, the Latin period, the Innovations and the modern swinging band) there were, simultaneously with some of the later undertakings, a series of commercially geared recordings with which Kenton was heard with a vocal group: playing lush arrangements with a string ensemble; and trying out novelty numbers for the single-record market. Obviously, then, for anyone who has followed his career observantly through all these stages, these greatly varied divagations, it is illogical to state that there is any such firm entity as ”the Stan Kenton style.” The Kenton musical identity has changed according to the particular objective he was seeking at any given juncture, the size and shape of the orchestra and, most important, the style of the arranger working for him.

Recently, after a brief period of inactivity, Kenton embarked on a fifth major phase. Discounting all the danger signals, unwilling to write off big band jazz as a spent force, he organized a new orchestra with no less than fourteen men in the brass section alone. This brass team included four exponents of a new instrument designed to his specifications and known as the mellophonium. Its range is a fifth below that of the trumpet and Kenton feels that it fills the gap between trumpets and trombones. With the addition of five saxophones, and a rhythm section that includes a second percussionist, Kenton now has a twenty-two-piece orchestra. His courage in embarking on an undertaking of this kind, at a period when big bands are encountering so many problems, has been applauded by his colleagues in the profession. It is perhaps symbolic of his stubborn refusal to concede defeat that his twentieth anniversary as a leader was spent, not at home celebrating, but at Crystal Beach, Ontario, playing a one-night stand.

An extraordinary aspect of the Kenton story is the continuous stream of talents for which the band has served as a proving-ground. In this space it is possible only to give a random sampling. Among the most distinguished Kenton alumni and alumnae are such arrangers as Pete Rugolo, Shorty Rogers and Bill Holman; singers Anita O’Day, June Christy, Chris Connor and Ann Richards (Mrs. Kenton); trumpeters Maynard Ferguson, Ernie Royal, Conte Candoli; trombonists Milt Bernhart, Frank Rosolino, Jimmy Knepper; alto saxophonists Bud Shank, Charlie Mariano, Lee Konitz, Boots Mussulli; tenor saxophonists Bob Cooper, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Vido Musso; bassists Ed Safranski, Howard Rusey [sic], Don Bagley; drummers Shelly Manne, Stan Levey.

No less remarkable has been Kenton’s ability to achieve his objectives with little or no help from the critics. Most of the leading so-called experts, including this writer, have taken issue with him at one time or another on musical or other matters; yet the jazz public has ignored the critics and supported him loyally. Certainly the best measure of Kenton’s contribution can be found in the comments of those who have worked for him and have thus seen at first hand his strength and determination of purpose.

”Stan’s most important contribution,” says Johnny Richards, ”is his constant devotion to music and support of young talent. And the most amazing thing about him personally is his tirelessness. I tried to keep up with him once on the road and I had to quit—it made a wreck out of me. He can travel eight hundred miles by bus in two days, and then, in- stead of resting in a hotel room, he’ll rush right out to appear on three radio shows before the job starts. His energy is endless.”

”Stan has had several different kinds of fine bands,” recalls Shelly Manne. ”The ’Innovations’ one was great, but not as significant to me as a 1948 concert band I played in for which Rugolo and Graettinger were writing. And his best jazz band ever, several years after I left, was the ’Contemporary Concepts’ one in 1955.”

Several former Kenton sidemen agree with Manne that this was the best band. Others, including Stan Levey, vote for the 1953 orchestra band that toured Europe, with Candoli, Rosolino, Konitz and Levey in the cast.
(None of those questioned had yet heard Kenton’s new band; its first Capitol LP was due out at press time.)

Perhaps the most eloquent summation of his graduates’ feelings toward him were expressed by Bill Holman, the composer-arranger who, like so many during the past two decades, has progressed from the Kenton band to individual recognition and the direction of his own recording groups.

”Stan Kenton has improved the image of jazz and its musicians,” said Holman. ”He was one of the first big band leaders to utilize the concert approach; he was able, through a dramatic musical presentation and, through his forceful personality and eagerness to discuss jazz, to reach many new listeners and remove some of the stigma from the word itself.”

With the big-jazz-band scene reduced to a point at which he has only two permanently active contemporaries, Ellington and Basie, one can only add the hope that Stan Kenton and his orchestra will continue the pattern of experiment, contention and catalysis that have marked their past twenty tumultuous years.
"Cover. Stan Kenton." International Musician. July 1961. cover.
"Pace-Setters in the World of Jazz. Stan Kenton." International Musician. January 1962. 10.
With his birthplace in Wichita, Kansas (February 19, 1912), Stan Kenton wrote his first arrangement at the age of sixteen in his boyhood home, Los Angeles. He won experience with bands of Everett Hoagland, Gus Arnheim, Vido Musso and Johnny Davis. In 1941 he first led his own band. The release of his ’’Artistry in Rhythm’’ led toward national reputation. In January, 1950, his forty-piece orchestra with a large string section went on tour, under the banner of ’’Innovations in Modern Music.’’ In 1953, when the band was on its first European tour, the London Melody Maker saw to the chartering of a dozen planes as well as a special Kenton boat excursion across to Dublin, so that his fans–English and Irish–could hear him.

Recently he has organized a new orchestra with fourteen men in the brass section alone.

Not only has Kenton been a symbol of big-band jazz and a pioneer in the incorporation of Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms, but also he has provided a proving ground for an extraordinary number of jazz talents. Those who have him to thank for widening of opportunities in this field are arrangers Pete Rugolo, Shorty Rogers and Bill Holman; singers Anita O’Day, June Christy, Chris Connor and Ann Richards; trumpeters Maynard Ferguson, Ernie Royal, Conte Candoli; trombonists Milt Bernhart, Frank Rosolino, Jimmy Knepper; alto saxophonists Bud Shank, Charlie Mariano, Lee Konitz, Boots Mussulli; tenor saxophonists Bob Cooper, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Vido Musso; bassists Ed Safranski, Howard Rusey [sic], Don Bagley; drummers Shelly Manne, Stan Levey.

Says composer-arranger Bill Holman, ’’Stan Kenton has improved the image of jazz and its musicians. He was one of the first big band leaders to utilize the concert approach; he was able, through a dramatic musical presentation and, through his forceful personality and eagerness to discuss jazz, to reach many new listeners and remove some of the stigma from the word itself.’’

In recent years one of Kenton’s chief interests has been his workshop, the Stan Kenton Band Clinic, which presents courses during the summer months at the University of Indiana, Bloomington; Michigan State University, East Lansing; and at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.
"Jazz Notes. Kenton." International Musician. July 1965. 18.
Harvey Siders. "Stan Kenton: Artistry in Sterling." International Musician. January 1967. 8, 24.
Burt Korall. "The Pop and Jazz Scene. Kenton Teaches." International Musician. January 1972. 9.
"Bandleader & Jazz Music Innovator Stan Kenton Dies." International Musician. September 1979. 8.
"A Fan Remembers—Stan Kenton Jazz Giant." International Musician. November 1979. 9.
Reminiscing about the late jazz pioneer, Stan Kenton, Rick Lundquist, an associate professor at the State University College at Fredonia, New York, states that Kenton’s band was the first jazz aggregation ”I became aware of when I was a high school trumpet player in the early 1950s. Kenton and all his musicians were my idols.”

Some twenty years later, Dr. Lundquist was to meet the man he so admired . The Fredonia Jazz Ensemble had invited the famed musician to participate in one of its clinics. He was also asked to address Dr. Lundquist’s marketing class on the merchandising and marketing of music. ”Kenton,” Dr. Lundquist observed, ”was a man of enormous artistic and personal integrity” who was ”surviving without being customer oriented and seemed content satisfying his own musical objectives…

”Stan and I had a chance to chat several times after that when he visited the area. He was always gracious,” Dr. Lundquist is quick to point out. ”I remember how impressed he was with the caliber of the college musicians. Shaking his head in disbelief, he noted that the young performers are much more capable today than when he was starting his band.”

Unfortunately, Stan Kenton suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1977 and was incapacitated for many months. After regaining his strength and reorganizing his band, he brought his musicians to the Chautauqua (New York) Institution where he played to a capacity audience.

“When Stan entered the stage,” Dr. Lundquist remembers, “he was helped over to the piano where he sat down for the whole concert. I missed the towering, dominant figure of Stan Kenton, the leader.

“The band sat very quietly watching his every subtle direction…and then went on and played just super. It seemed apparent that Stan was not himself, but I thought that this kind of therapy, this music therapy, was probably the best thing in the world for him…”

After the concert, a feeling of anger came over Dr. Lundquist as he watched hundreds of people walking away unaware of the tremendous influence Stan Kenton had on big band jazz or of the marvelous opportunities he gave to young musicians . Nor did they realize what a nice human being he was and how he was adored by his musicians.

“Inside,” Dr. Lundquist said, “I felt thrilled with the band’s textures and tightness as well as with its arrangements and solos. How good the band sounded, how exciting! But, on the outside, the tears rolled down my cheeks because I knew I would never experience that unique Kenton sound again.”