Letters to the Editors
Just because kenton has ”the loudest band in captivity” is no reason why he will not hit the top. The sax section led by Ordean, who by the way is the greatest alto man in the U.S. today including Hodges, W. and T. Smith, Mondello, and the rest of the inferiors, has more guts and drive than any section vet discovered in any band. The sax voicings would not be half as thrilling or effective if they were quieted. The same holds true with the other two sections. kenton’s arrangements have got to be played loud, for if they weren’t they wouldn’t sound right. That band is a powerhouse that really sends one, why cut it down?
From the commercial point of view Kenton doesn’t need to add softer numbers to his books. His arrangements of St. Louis Blues, St. James Infirmary, Lamento Gitano, Two Moods, Intermezzo, Day Dream, Body and Soul, Taboo, Two Guitars, and many others are exactly why his five-month-old band is going to open at the Palladium Nov. 25 for a five-week engagement, and I’ll stick my neck out and say that he’ll break all records. The proportion of icky ballads to original and jump tunes must not be changed. I may be in the minority in preferring an evening of solid swing such as Kenton dishes out to an evening of sweet slush so typified by Miller and most other name bands, but this minority that I am in was just big enough to smash the record set by a very commercial band, C. Thornhill’s, just a year before Kenton came to Balboa.
And finally, I don’t think that kenton’s actions on the band-stand should be changed with the exception that he should pound the piano more. When Kenton fronts the band and is “gesticulating for brass figures by extending his long fingers, and calling for sax shadings via a huge spread of his arms,” he literally draws out the music from each member of the band. Those that don’t like Kenton’s enthusiasms and proclaim that he is a show off usually don’t like his music anyway, so nuts to them. His actions on the stand give a slights shows effect and that makes the band hold the onlooker’s eye almost as well as his ear.
This Kenton-Ordean fan, and many others like myself, think that this new band should not be changed in any way, and I can’t see why, that within a few more months, the Stanley Kenton organization will not be number one swing band in the nation.
Thanks again for an almost A4 article about an A4 band.
P.S. I’ll make a bet with anyone that ”Jake” Ordean will be in the 1942 Metronome All-Star Band.
In the Sept. issue this cube-shaped individualist (shades of the black-stick solo on High Society!) refers to Frank Humphreys of the fine Millinder aggregation and lauds him for his ability to play well-known Roy Eldridge solos note-for-not, and to sing in precisely the same manner.
What kind of inspired feeling can be injected into a "take off" that follows a pattern as precise and absolute as tho it were put down on a draughtsman’s blue print?
As to the review of Kenton—his band is definitely not as good as it was a year ago. It may be more polished and commercially attractive today, but it in no way reaches its former jazz standards.
When Kenton first played Hollywood’s “Palladium” he had a fresh, young, enthusiastic crew—and his music was exciting because his men were inspired themselves. It was rough, yes—and it was loud! In fact, it practically blasted you off the dance floor. But there was never a let-down. From 8:30 to closing time.
Don’t get the idea I'm all-out for Stan's former line-up and way of playing—I’m not. There’s nothing particularly original or spectacular about the music he was putting out a year ago. Lunceford has been doing it as long as I can remember—dig his Rainin' on Vocalion for proof.
I'm just sayin’ his band is not better than it was when it left California to come East—and it isn’t.
Pvt. Jack Schultheis
Keesler Field, Miss.
All this is a paradox. Good music wins the awards. The trip makes the money. The radio is now filled with hill-billies (now known as folk singers by the sophisticates), tenor hands, and the crummier type of music. When no other job exists for the radio announcer he is placed on a record show where he happily shouts out titles he knows little-or-nothing about, and, when a good side comes up, he very groovily interrupts it with whistling, humming and shouts of “Hey man.” All this shows off the disc-jockey’s overflowing talents, ruins the music, and disgusts the listeners; also the requests records shows receive show the true musical pulse of the nation. You've heard request shows. You know what comes from them.
And so the Lombardos, Monroes, Spivaks, and Kayes go on and on, while the Hermans, Aulds, and sooner or later, the Kentons, Raeburns, and Gillespies give up and fade out. Record shows which continually dish out nowhere trash to the requesting masses gain renewed popularity, while the Dave Garroways are pushed into the leftover, obscured positions on the networks.
But I'm not bitter. I’ll learn how to play the banjo and make a fortune playing square-dances.
According to the January issue, the Band of the Year was Stan Kenton. Congratulations to him. Mind you, I think that Stan has a very fine band, but the other night I sat down and played his new album, after which I played some Herman sides. I drew the conclusion that for me at least, Woody is the greatest, the most dynamic, and any other superlatives you may care to add. It is indeed quite gloomy to think these great musicians may never again record together under this wonderful person known as Woody. It was also a shock to learn of the passing of Sonny Berman. a truly wonderful musician, whose worth was too much underrated in favor of more well-known trumpet players.
No, gentlemen, there will never he another band quite like the late Herman Herd. All that one has to remember them by is the wonderful batch of records they left behind, and the ones still to come. Perhaps the jazz fans of years to come will wonder if the music public of today wasn't a little too harsh in condemning perhaps the finest exponent of modern music at such an early date. We shall wait and see.
Now Bob Cooper has taken over the jazz tenor chair. So what happens? The reviewers who rave ecstatically over Kenton's progressive music cut off their nose to spite their undoubtedly ugly faces. They compare Musso, who is blowing today the same notes he was with Goodman on Sing, Sing, Sing, with Bob Cooper, who has combined the respective merits of Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, and Allen Eager into a compact, modern style which fits in perfectly with Kenton. Not since the days of Stanley Getz has the band had such an excellent tenor soloist.
I can understand how Musso would be a good commercial asset to a band. His "moo-cow" tone smacks of the farm, thus bringing back sentimental memories. Let's hope that Musso goes back with Goodman. They can talk over old times and play that way too. Let'1 hope, also, that there be no more bad reviews of Bob Cooper. Here'a a new voice in a great band that should be heard, not compared.
Many have taken their time and effort in judging who they felt was the Band of the Year, and without a single doubt Stan Kenton definitely was chosen. I think honor should be given where honor is due and most certainly wasn’t since it was given to Dizzy Gillespie.
I think everyone will feel just as I did when I read your magazine this month. I thought a poll was for the expressed ideas of the public, but can see now it isn’t, for it’s just your opinion that counts, and this year you happen to have felt Dizzy deserved the recognition.
I would just like to say great music such as the Kenton Band plays has been recognized, as has been plainly stated by the calculation of the votes. No matter what you or your magazine may think, Stan kenton is the greatest Band of the Year and will be for some time to come in the eyes of his public and that is really what counts…
Beaucoup plaudits to your January issue for managing to squeeze in a small picture of Kenton in an inconspicuous lower right-hand corner. Although the man somehow garnered 671 points to cop first place in the poll, this obviously must be dismissed as a failing of the voters’ vision, lamentable oversight…
Marshall R. Weeks
It seems strange that the editors of METRONOME go through the trouble of holding their annual poll and then minimize the results so completely. Stan kenton’s band wins the big band poll by a decisive margin, but all he gets out of it is a small photo and his name mentioned once. Dizzy’s band, while placing a poor fourth, happens to be METRONOME’s choice and so gets a big buildup and a two page spread…
We all love him out here but your magazine is about to lose one of its best readers if you don't stop comparing his band with the atom bomb.
T. J. Ryan
Los Angeles, Calif.
I just read your article in METRONOME on Kenton. I agree with all of it. 'The best I could say about the concert was that it was interesting…
The basic idea of his progressive jazz was the injection of the Latin jazz beat into American jazz. Just where does any Latin music fit into jazz? Have missed this somewhere in the history of jazz?…
Why doesn't Stan or somebody work one of those bongo drummers into some real jazz? It gives a terrific beat.
Upon receiving your January issue I wrote you a letter complaining about the lack of technical, but not too technical, articles concerning jazz being printed in your magazine. I had no sooner stuffed said letter in the mailbox when I was looking at the head of your Kenton article. I didn’t read it however, until I heard Kenton’s concert here in Pittsburgh a few days ago. I did that for the purpose of comparing my firsthand opinion with yours. I tip my hat to you for an article that was interesting, well written in a good even flow of thought, and one that clearly shows your deep concern and liking for music. As for my opinion, just for there record, it agrees with yours.
Lynn C. Mitchell
…After reading the article you wrote on Stan Kenton, i.e. What’s Wrong With Kenton, I was ready to take METRONOME right back where I got it. It just plain made me mad. I thoroughly believe that in that article you are doing a great injustice to the finest band in the country.
You say that the Kenton band hasn’t got a beat. You’re all wrong, all wrong. Kenton has the greatest rhythm section in any band anywhere…
You also state the arrangements are just so many notes. Kenton’s and Rugolo’s arrangements are terrific; I don’t believe anyone can come near them.
And as for kenton shying away from ballrooms and going in for the concert halls, it’s what he should have done long ago. In a concert hall you can sit there and relax and really take in all of Stan’s music…
Drexel Hill, Pa
I am losing no time in sending a double order of back pats to Editors Simon and Ulanov for their excellent articles on Stan kenton and bebop in the February issue…
There was, as i see it, a most definite relationship between the aforementioned articles; for although the kenton crew and the bebop boys represent a new era in music, that hardly means that it should be inflicted upon ready, willing and eager listeners such as myself, to a point where it no longer has any rhyme or reason. I am willing to give an open ear to any artist and any music, providing they don’t insult the appreciation I might have for it to begin with…
I have been a constant reader of METRONOME for several years now, but have refrained from entering the Kenton fracas for several reasons. The sharper the criticism and the louder the retaliations, the greater the controversy becomes and the more popular Stan Kenton becomes. Most publicity men will agree with that. Besides, the man is a Texan! [sic]
Kenton's attitude toward criticism is reflected by the masses of his adolescent fans. He states (MET., Apr.) that he will have nothing to do with the magazine because of its critical attitude. If he carries that same attitude toward all those who dislike or criticize him, he undoubtedly has few friends in the music business. I have followed his career with great interest and have found few people who sounded as though they knew what they were talking about who were genuinely or emotionally satisfied by Kentoinism.
The mass of Kenton fans, knowing little of the complexities of music, its theory and technicalities, damn all who are anti-Kenton as Moldy Figs, unprogressive schmaltz lovers, and just plain conservative diehards. Not a very tolerant or American attitude for the future inheritors of capitalistic democracy.
Granted, Stan has some of the best, if not the best, sidemen in the business; but all the beautiful colors of the spectrum combine to produce but a drab grey. They may be great in their own right, but when mixed up in the emotional and musical mess that surrounds Kenton they are frequently lost. And how!
Arthur E Uhl
University of Tulsa
Anne De Franco
…There’s nothing wrong with Kenton—the fault lies in the listener. Mr. Ulanov makes the same mistake as others are making. He tries to classify Kenton in the jazz category. Kenton does not play jazz, but has developed a completely new TYPE of music. Old fogeys have always resented newness in anything. I'm afraid that they might as well quietly take poison, because Kenton is good and he’s here to stay…
Ft. Worth, Tex.
I have asked this question of numerous Kentonites and they look as me with an expression of stupidity and surprise. To this day, I have found not one single soul who can honestly say why he likes this stuff. Some say “it moves” or it has “a beat”…but does it? It is certainly far from danceable and it would never urge one to sit up and tap out a little rhythm along with it. Perhaps for most of these fans, it is merely a matter of being in style. Rather than run the risk of being considered out-of-date by expressing a like for the type of stuff of pre-war vintage (or some of that of this date) they have thought themselves into possessing a taste for this recorded commercial noise…
True, that these past two or three years have been consumed in a state of confusion of one kind or another by most of us. Perhaps it is in these arrangements and recordings of the kenton performances that these fans find an expression of their inward feelings—CONFUSION. I will agree with all upon the point that Kenton has done a better job of putting confusion into mere musical notes and then placing it on recordings than has anyone else. For most of these fans (they are merely fans and that’s all) it appears that they are actually looking for something new, perhaps a little different, but have they convinced themselves that Stan is that something? I hardly think so.
For the Kentonites it seems apparently the best policy to let them have their rope to the very end. Where will they go from there? Maybe back to Lombardo—he has a “beat” such as it is) and “rhythm” (of its kind). As a mere suggestion to those lovers of this Progressive Jazz, in your search for this beat and rhythm, did you ever think of listening to good, down-to-earth dance music?
In closing, to METRONOME, may I just say thatI think you have been extremely fair in this matter.
Gerald K. Willis
I’ve put a question to quite a few people myself concerning Kenton. It was, “Why don't you like Kenton?” The only answer they have to offer me is, “He’s too loud,” or “Too much noise.” Are these people speaking of volume of the band or musical content? You can always turn the volume down on your phonograph or radio.
Mr. Gerald K. “Moldy Fig” also speaks of confusion in the Kenton music. It seems to me he's the one that's confused; he must be to compare Stan Kenton's band with Guy Lombardo's dance band…
In the October issue of METRONOME there was a letter called Department of Utter Confusion. However, I feel that the confusion is on the part of its writer. In the first place the writer says, “Being a non-Kenton fan, I can appreciate both arguments.” The whole letter showed that he was anti-Kenton and therefore his opinion was prejudiced against Kenton. I don't pretend to be unbiased, for I am definitely pro-Kenton…
Now the writer of the letter can say that he has found a person who “really likes the stuff…” I sincerely and avidly love the music.
It’s not a matter of being in style or considered out-of-date. I like Kenton and his type of music because it expresses a special emotion. Some people say emotion can’t be expressed in music. I believe the theory has been disproved…
Rae D Kramstad
To the editors of METRONOME—to one of its Letters to the Editors fans, Gerald K. Willis of Bloomington, Indiana, let me say this: Go to any general practitioner and have him check you for these possible physical defects: either no ear drums are to be found or the circulatory system is pumping some other fluid.
Edmund B Orleanski
Bayonne, N. J.
It seems to me that the main deficiency in what may be termed the serious modern jazz compositions, especially those of Pete Rugolo and Stan Kenton, lies in the area of melody. This school relies for the interest in its compositions on chords in varying volume (usually loud), on simple melodies as written by the composer-arranger, and on the soloists for any interesting provocative melodic expression.
In the first place, probably 95% of soloists aren’t capable of conceiving such melodies. In session after session soloist after soloist will play the same meaningless notes, usually displaying astounding technique but getting nothing but boredom and shrieks. In the second place, melody is not nearly as effective alone or in “conflict” with its background as it is when intelligently and purposively integrated with counterpoint.
In other words, as painful as the thought may be, I believe that composition of intricate, interesting melodies can be accomplished by expert composers, whether it be Sauter and Rugolo or Dizzy and Lennie. I do not oppose jam sessions for kicks, but if we are lo create serious progressive compositions, they must have as an integral part melodies far superior to those offered by soloists today or by composers as filling between solos. In short, we must have players who as soloists and section men am capable of reading intricate bop or other passages as written into a composition by a top-notch composer-arranger.
In my opinion the man who has advanced furthest along this line is Eddie Sauter in Hanover Square and Sand Storm. Things to Come also is a move in the right direction but is marred by spotty solos which are not in proper relation to the piece and usually by sloppy performance in the sections. When we can hear the best melodic ideas of Lennie, Dizzy, Bird, and others, without chaff, and in their proper setting, written with care and performed by technically expert players, the millennium will be pressing upon us.
Least that’s my opinion.
Also, it was about time Stan Kenton and band received the high recognition and praise they deserve. Certainly, to non-Kentonians it was proof that his is fine music and not “screaming noises.” This idea of disbanding in order to get the right jazz played at the proper place, at a decent admission and under decent conditions, is just what the music world certainly needs. I know, myself, when Kenton presented his concert here last year, many a comment produced afterwards proved that such fine music shouldn't he drowned out by jabbering and the scuffling of feet. Instead, as Kenton wants, jazz should be stepped up to a much more decent level where it can be thoroughly enjoyed. I'm sure I speak for many others on this point. I only wish Stan has the best of luck on his idea. Too bad all the “greats" can't get together on this thing. It would certainly make for the best music.
R. L. Davis
As we told you last month, for the present Stan has given up his efforts to bring about the desired change in the presentation of his and all other jazz, but we know that this letter expresses the sentiments of the average jazz fan on the subject and may give encouragement, if not to Kenton. to other name bandleaders who might continue the project. —EDS
I have been reading your magazine since 1943 and have found it good, although you have had your high and low spots. I’m because your critics are excellent…
Ernie Edwards, Jr.
Los Angeles, Calif.
If your memory is as sharp as your pen, you will have noted that The Bob Martins have switched stations. I don't know how you’ll look upon this: a dirty trick to play on a magazine editor who said we were at WPOR or you are glad that I have made a change for the better…I am happy here at WNTW and have brought the audience with us.
Stanley Newcomb Kenton dug the Jumping Jockeys in the January issue but felt slighted ‘cause I didn’t mention him. If you could find room in some obscure corner, let my fans and Stan know that I really did say he was the greatest. I have had calls and calls here from the followers of our shows who put me me down for not giving Stan the Man a mention in the quotes of the article. Again, hear my faint voice from the hinterlands. I dig Stan Kenton and his music the most…
It was clean…had color…tone control…and the most sensitive precision. Shelly drove the crew with a tremendous beat. Al Cohn was sitting in for the vacationing Bob Cooper and despite the fact that Cooper’s coat is too big for Al…he fills out the chair. He flipped the cool wigs in the crowd when he came on with his sound. Shorty Rogers…Chico…Pepper…Shank…Betts and Bernhart were the greatest…
He looks like the best bet to make dancing a real crowd drawing sport. He told me that if the world situation gets acute, he might go into the service as a band leader and play his same stuff for the guys in the suits…
I did not receive Kenton's music with the great enthusiasm that I do now. At the time, Woody Herman, I thought, was the greatest in music, but then I heard on a disc jockey show a letter similar to Robby's, asking people not to discredit Stan without first giving his music a great deal of thought. So, I began to listen to his records and now I have all his records in my collection. I hope more people will try what Robby and I did. I am sure they will find that not only Woody and James are great.
It seems to me that we're fighting against our own cause when we talk down the merits of Stan's Innovations music. Jazz has to progress and go forward in order to live, and the concert stage is the only practical answer in sight. We don't want to see it retreat back into the smoke filled dives and BOdorized ballrooms. Jazz has had perhaps its biggest days in those places and the resource of sounds that two or twenty-two musicians can produce has just about been exhausted. Agreed? I believe that the mind of 1951 has to have new sounds periodically to keep it interested and that the plentiful resource for these sounds lies in the field of forty musicians.
Artistry In Rhythm is great but where is it putting S.K.—right back in those ballrooms. There must be a happy medium…
Thomas W Mills, Jr.
…Maynard Ferguson is the most amazing trumpet man of the age. In fact I didn't expect anything like him in the 20th Century. And Art Pepper!
Stan's music is out of this world…please, just once, give him a break.
And since the last year when l knew by means of some friends that your magazine was sold in Mexico, I'm buying "Metronome" every month, and also the year books. That is why I write to you.
In “Jazz 1951” I've seen several things, someones that pleased me, another that discouse me, and the last that I wish.
What pleasured me was the Triumph of Stanley Newcomb in the comeback of the year, and also the triumph of his side men Art Pepper (what a saxophone) and Shorty Rogers that specially delight me.
The grief was cause by your neglect to Doris Day; in many Metronomes, Barry Ulanov always not like her, but now in the year book she was just forgiven, you name all the ballad singers, and only remember her in the movies review—as if she were just an artist nor a singer.
Without that, I congratulate to you for the presentation, information, etc. of the year book, and of course of the magazine every month.
What cause my wish is that I don't know many of your best musicians because here in Mexico we don't have many records. And I like to know them.
I only know by name: Tristano, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz, The Bird, Miles Davis, to call someone, but I haven't hear yet a record of them, and many records of guys like Kenton, because here we only received a few records. I wish to know how can I buy those many records, and I'll appreciate your kindness in this.
Just at least: How can I organize the New Jazz-Society branch in Mexico? Because here there are many jazz fans. I shall be very happy having the answer.
Since this I repeat me your friend, sincerely
Jesus Branas Camargo
“The Rest Is Silence
The sounds of the earth are varied and vast. A soft heartbeat, a sigh, a wink of an eye; A screaming trumpet, a lie, death passing by. But the voice that cries loudest in my world of sound
Is the silence only Kenton can create.”
New Orleans, La.
I'm in perfect agreement with what you said about Rosolino, Konitz and Childers. I wonder why you didn't mention the fine work Vinnie Dean is doing on lead alto and that you didn't mention that, for the first time, Kenton has two altoists, both of whom are technically able to blow lead, and both blow fine jazz too! And how about Bill Holman and Dick Kamuca? A fine pair of tenors.
In the last eleven months, I've caught the band five times plus being a regular listener to its broadcasts. Last March, the band wanted us (KSDB in Manhattan, Kansas) to tape the broadcasts they did for critical purposes. After the date, three of us from the station visited Leo Curran's hotel room to play back the tapes. About half the band was present…
The musicians, I thought, were overly critical of each other. But, then came Conte Candoli's solo on Round Robin. Easily, that was the highlight of the hour and a half of tapes. Conte exercised almost letter perfect control of his trumpet. He has fine range, excellent tone and, to me, the technical facility to blow fine solos. And, in this case, he outdid himself! The other musicians (remember, I said they were over-critical) were unanimous in their praise of Conte. And Conte, himself, was tickled to death over the solo. And after hearing Conte as many times as I have heard him in the last year that he “doesn't possess the necessary command of his instrument.” Nuts!
Now, about Maynard. For me, Ferguson has improved considerably. (Or, maybe, these ears are getting used to those supersonic shenanigans.) How about Maynard's work on Prologue? The best he has done so far! Now the kid isn't as bad as you and Barry claim. Quite a few trumpeters can get up into Maynard's range, but the results are pretty appalling. Maynard doesn't screech between high C and double high C, he plays notes. As far as I remember, only Sonny Berman and Al Killian were able to blow notes in that high register.
“Strictly on the negative side was the rhythm section.” George, please! Being a frustrated bassist, I think I should know a good bassist when I hear one! You should too. Could that he the reason you couldn't “hear” Don Bagley?
And as for Stan Levy, I was under the impression that for the past decade we've been trying to get away from the monotonous 4/4 rhythm that has hampered rhythm sections in the past. If I'm mistaken, then all the fine work of people such as Don Lamond, Louie Bellson, Oscar Pettiford, Billy Bauer and others has been in vain.
One more thing. The band can (and does) jump. How about arrangements such as Limelight, Bill’s Blues and Young Blood?
Now, to be perfectly honest, I will admit a few deficiencies. Most important, the band doesn't work together as well as the 1946-47 crew did. The last time I caught the band in Kansas City, last November, I dropped over to see Earle Spencer (who, you remember, led a fine band on the coast a few years ago). Earle feels, and I concur, the biggest fault is that the band doesn't work together as well as it should.
I'll admit the rhythm section falls short of the “ideal.” (The only rhythm section I ever considered “the most” was the Burns-Jackson-Bauer·Norvo-Lamond section in the first Herd, but no one, including Stan, has a band that good today.) I just can't agree that the rhythm section in Stan’s band is as bad as you say it is…I think this protest is mild compared to what the so-called Kenton “fanatics” will say. (Ed. Note: see next letter)…
2nd Lt John L Lewis
Camp Atterbury, Ind.
Obviously, one can immediately detect the tone of prejudice you have for Kenton…As for that paragraph on Conte Candoli, all I can say is that you need a hearing aid. It just so happens that I think, as so many others, that Mr. Candoli has his own technique and certainly blows it to perfection. I was very irked by your article, but I take the opinion from its source.
I’d advise you to take a few lessons in music and a few in manners before you make another feeble attempt to judge a musical group…
New York City
But to end this Herman-Kenton argument. It's a tie…the reason so many fans feel Stan is the stronger is that the new Woody records have not been distributed or played by disc jockeys enough. If the fans would just listen (to all the great sides) on Mars records, they'd appreciate the enthusiasm and quality of the wonderful Herd. Yes, it's a tie—Woody and Stan are both tops—so let's quit1 arguing and enjoy them both—and MET—you keep us posted on their doings…
Certainly hope you can use this particular letter—here’s my guess as to the percentage of your readers…Kenton fans, 40%; Herman fans, 30%; Brown fans 9%; small group fans, 7%; Anthony-Flanagan-May fans, 5%; Bob-Extremist fans, 5%; George Simon common-sense-fans, 3%; Barry Ulinov deep-stuff-fans, 1%; Basie-Ellington fans, 5%; Grand total equals 105%—oops.
I cannot but feel sorry for people who, being as musically inhibited as they are, have to resort to sounds that went out in the swing age. It is my candid opinion that Barry Ulanov is one of the people who was unfortunate enough to leave his mind far behind the present trend of modern sounds (namely Stan).
For a man who professes to know and appreciate good jazz, Mr. Ulanov is certainly in an antiquated frame of mind. When a critic runs down such a great innovator as Kenton he is saying that progress is bad for jazz. After all Stan could well be called the father of progressive jazz.
I suggest that METRONOME get on the ball and listen to New Concepts by Stan, and judge it from a musically sound standpoint and not from a Doggie in the Window standpoint. It's not commercial music so, please, don't review it as such.
…I believe that it is a tremendous new step toward progression…Come on METRONOME, let's dig!
John R. Farley
Despite the fact that you know in your hearts that the Kenton band packs more excitement, more variety and more color than any other musical aggregation in history (with apologies to Woody), a writer never dares go off the deep end and tell the truth about Kenton’s magnificent group.
Does it go over the heads of your scribes? I doubt it—they probably like it just as well as my family—but they dare not bear the ridicule of their fellow scriviners. Now we can add Bill Coss to the multitude of writers who must peck at Stan.
But the real value of Stan Kenton’s records, I think, as my wife and I pour over a collection of styles, is that his records become better with replaying, that one does not grow tired of them as they become too familiar. There is always something new to be found in the arrangements and the discs become more valuable as time passes on…
As a journalist in another field, I seldom venture into the music field, preferring to let more capable folks like George Simon and Barry Ulanov steer the wheel, but now that your rival publication has changed its format you have no competition, for the other sheet is now a bore and METRONOME stands as a lighthouse in the sea of corn. Thus I feel an occasional comment is necessary.
Why do you good folks allow so much space in record reviews to these horrible vocal recordings. Why should a great and superior intelligence like George Simon have to write about such junk? The space and praise inn the past issues should have gone to Neal Hefti for his simple but wonderfully arranged and swinging LP (Swinging on a Coral Reef), to Stan’s splendid arrangement of Begin the Beguine and the rest of the album, to Woody’s fine new things like Moten Swing and Wooftie, etc.
But I have discoursed too long and I suppose that this letter will wind up in the circular file. Nevertheless METRONOME I love you. Keep fighting the battle for the only true American music.
In a previous article in your magazine, Simon wrote an article onStan, which, although he didn’t agree with Mr. Kenton on some musical points, didn't let personal preference interfere: a quality admirable in a critic. Let’s see some more of this kind of observation from a critic.
So maybe Stanley's loud—so what? So are Les Brown and Hal McIntyre and the swingin’ Third Herd and Count and Duke and many other bands.
I agree with you that there’s too much brass, especially on the ballads. Your qualification of the trombone section is silly. I think it’s the “most” sound in the music business today.
Bob Burgess is my favorite trombonist in the Kenton crew, so I'm prejudiced here and your “criticism” bothered me. levy’s good, but not very, and who…is Art Bagely—boy you’re sure goofed. Sal is a wonderful guitarist just like you said. I had to look up “anachronistic,” and I suppose so did a lot of other Kenton Fans. Oh, about that brass. The funny thing is (oh, I'm not saying that it's good) that it grows on you. You begin to expect it after you've heard that band often (as you would have to, to know the bass player’s name is not Art)…But any way it was a nice review Mr. John Cross (Ed. Note: Guess who’s having trouble with spelling now), and you deserve a gold star.
Mario's Music Shop
(Ed. Note: apparently many of our readers share this opinion, though few of them used this initial approach. The enthusiasm was unprecedented. This is, for example, the first month that anyone has been the subject of more letters than the controversial Stanley Kenton—the first month on over one year).
In the December issue, I ran across an excerpt from a letter that was written to you by a Mr. Mike Cavallaro of California…(who)…states that Stan Kenton has, for many years, fooled many “so called hep-cats” by playing classical music in various styles.
As I am a very ardent fan of Stan Kenton, and a true listener to what is called progressive jazz, I would like, in some way, for Mr. Cavallarao to see the following statement…I can’t write to him personally…
Mr. Cavallaro, all music, modern or otherwise, if you trace it back far enough originates from classical music. I agree with you that Lennie Tristano is really terrific, but you cannot, however, compare a group of five musicians with group of seventeen and expect the same results. Tristano, having a smaller group than kenton, can improvise more freely and regularly that the latter…
You seem to forget that even the very best of musicians need good results…he (Kenton) has that kind of leadership. It is purely remarkable how a man can get such organized sound from a large group like the one that Kenton has…
Newness? Yes, for what other musician can present music like Kenton?…Each record represents a different mood, a different phase in modern music. freshness? I must again point out to you that each record…that is given that Kenton touch comes alive with a new vibrating freshness that thrills all who hear it. Progressiveness? When Kenton first played his progressive jazz…many could not understand it. Today, however, through the work of the Kenton organization, a new and exciting world has opened for music lovers all over the world.
Tristano is terrific…but he should not be compared with a man who presents the greatest progressive jazz of all, and this man is Stan Kenton…He is a pioneer…All I can do is wish Tristano luck to achieve the goal that Kenton has already achieved.
Back in 1946…I doubt if there was another Kenton fanatic in the state as fanatic as I was over his music…But, after I had heard eight of his records, I began to tire over hearing the same stilted arrangements. Each record did not represent a different sound or phase in modern jazz.
The only time Kenton ever has played modern jazz of any sorts was when Shorty Rogers arranged for him…Kenton himself said that he wished he could get the sound and spontaneous jazz feeling that Woody got (and gets). And that coming from a man who is supposed to be modern jazz personified!
If my opinion doesn't mean much Miss Kelly, then I'd like to quote a man who I'm sure knew what he was talking about. This statement is from the book Schonberg, edited by Merle Armitage: “There is no such distinction as old and modern music, but only good music and bad. All music insofar as it is the product of a truly creative mind is new…Beauty is the result of intuition; when one ceases to be the other ceases also.
“The other form of beauty that one can have, which consists of fixed rules and fixed forms, is merely the yearning of one who is unproductive.” (Ed. Note: Mr. Cavallaro goes on to say here that he feels that Tristano has the first kind of beauty; Kenton the second.)
I'd suggest Miss Kelly that you put your musical ear closer to the jazz earth. Don't just be an ardent Kenton and progressive jazz fan, but an ardent jazz lover…
San Jose, Calif.
I will have to admit that up to a short time ago I had never actually read your magazine…But now I’ve read your Anniversary issue and gotten hold of a regular issue, and think your magazine is tremendous…I was under the impression yours was a…behind the times music mag, but that certainly isn't true. Rather, it's ahead of the times more than any other…Thanks a lot for any words of credit or good you have given to my boy Stan Kenton…
Harold F. Havens, Jr.
A few weeks back I read an article in the Air Force Times, which mirrors some opinions that I've read in many of the music magazines: “Kenton's music is neurotic, pretentious, overbearing, bombastic, etc.”
Could anyone listen to Stravinsky's early music and feel peaceful and in repose? Most of the "serious" music written by Stravinsky, Hindemith, Ives, Milhaud, Bartok, Schoenberg, et al. has definite dashes of sound, moody and sometimes frantic excursions into emotion.
It is doubtful that Kenton will take his place alongside J. S. Bach in future years, but Stan does speak for our age and society. It's true that many of the devices used by Stan have long before been exploited by Debussy, Bartok, etc., but there is a flavor in Stan's music that is inimical to a great segment of American society today.
l think the key emotional content of Kenton's music is intensity. He bursts forth, explodes at you and, sometimes, is longwinded. But isn’t that characteristic of Wagner's music and two of America's greatest writers: Walt Whitman and Thomas Wolfe? Can we dismiss them as being just “pretentious, bombastic and longwinded?”
Many of the fans and critics overlook Stan’s great contribution, of his band being the incubator for some of the greatest jazz soloists of our times…He encourages new talent and presents it whenever he can…
Albert B. Close
Fort Worth, Texas
In jazz, as in anything else in life, there is a main stream. It is heartbreaking to see so many capable musicians lost or at the end of a dead-end tributary without enough strength and courage to find their way back. I feel strongly that Stan will never find himself in that position…having his own band, playing his own kind of music has not been the be-all and end-all for him as it is for most other musicians and leaders.
The objective for Stan is something much greater…and more important to our cultural heritage than the average person will try to apprehend. Stan has always praised the ability of any deserving composer, arranger or musician over his own ability—he does this because without recognizing the talent of others there would be no purpose to his being.
Every constructive, creative musician, no matter how obscure, is a part of this jig-saw puzzle which Stan took the responsibility of putting together. Every minute detail is a part of what Stan is doing and stands for…the most comforting thought is that Stan will continue to work, no matter what, the odds are…Stan is the guiding light of progressive jazz..
Thanks for making METRONOME something to look forward to each month.