Great news for lovers of modern music! With his recently formed concert orchestra of 40 musicians (including a 16-man string section), Stan Kenton makes musical history…stirs controversy wherever he performs his “Innovations in Modern Music.”
Collected h ere are eight new compositions and arrangements chosen for recording by a preview audience of 2700 music students, reviewers, music critics and fans at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium. Here is an important portion of the program music which is thrilling concert-hall audiences in 77 cities throughout the United States and Canada.
TRAJECTORIES by Franklyn Marks
Many modern composers are attempting to break down the traditional restrictions of classical music. One—Joseph Schillinger—devoted his life to this endeavor. “Trajectories” is the creation of one of his moot brilliant pupils, Franklyn Marks.
The composer begins by describing his impressions as he watches a galaxy of falling stars. Then, in a crescendo of excitement, he depicts a fantasy in which the entire heavens break loo,e, resulting in astronomical chaos. Such a calamitous event might terrify many, but Marks finds it fascinating, spectacular, thoroughly enjoyable. He leaves us with the impression that the magnificence of the display is thrilling and pleasurable enough to subdue any vague feeling of worry or anxiety.
THEME FOR SUNDAY by Stan Kenton
Featuring the composer on the piano
The primary purpose of this composition is to introduce the new Kenton orchestra’s full string section. A mood creation not unlike a sonata, it provides a pleasant change of pace from the tense, brash excitement so typical of most Kenton selections.
The outstanding appeal of this melodic, harmonious work lies in its utter simplicity. The full string section (with Kenton at the piano) is featured throughout, with the heavy body of the orchestra—brass and woodwind—utilized only to create a choral effect in the background.
CONFLICT by Pete Rugolo
Vocal by June Christy
This tone poem musically depicts the abstract feelings of happiness and anxiety which constantly vie for position in our subconscious thoughts. One moment, we are enjoying complete peace…the next, our contentment gives way to uneasiness.
We often think we know the reasons for these feeling. But psychiatrists tell us that we can rarely analyze our inner disturbances correctly. “Conflict,” therefore, does not attempt to offer reasons; it merely sets to music the abstract feelings that vie within us for recognition.
From beginning to end, this work reminds the listener of the constant contradictions that take place in our inner thoughts. Peace (depicted in the soft passages) and uneasiness (described in the loud passages) are in constant conflict.
INCIDENT IN JAZZ by Bob Graettinger
Striking inventiveness keynotes the work of this young composer, regarded by many as a daring musical creator. Here he achieves exciting pulsation throughout the various brass developments. Starting very simply, his lines are quickly developed and interwoven into massive sounds that seem, at times. to have no limitation. Complementing the atonal quality of his music is the excellence of its counterpoint.
Vocal by June Christy
Arrangement by Pete Rugolo
Kenton fans will remember June Christy when she first joined the band…a young, inexperienced singer of lighter songs. She has since matured into an artist of great warmth and understanding.
“Lonesome Road” was chosen for this album because it is a perfect vehicle for displaying Miss Christy’s true artistry as a jazz singer.
In the introductory passage, she employs pure vocal sounds without the embellishment of lyrics. The first chorus is completely devoted to a mood—both in the singing and in the orchestral blending. This gives way to rhythm and brass excitement which sets the scene for dramatic singing with a beat in the second chorus. Finally, the arrangement returns to its original mood, finishing on a note of open vocal sound.
MIRAGE by Pete Rugolo
Here, the Kenton orchestra gives musical expression to the visual fantasies created by a mirage. The composition recalls the experience of “seeing,” upon a desert or country highway, an extremely realistic yet nonexistent body of water. At first, there appear mere scattered splotches of water. These eventually run to ether to form a large body that reflects cloud, mountains, trees.
Kenton’s deft employment of the various instruments create the illusion of the mirage’s quickly changing character, and the fast-moving colors which it reflects. At the climax. the full orchestra is utilized to depict the expanse and splendor of the full mirage. Then, just as it first appeared and grew, the mirage begins to fade until, at the end, one realizes it was only a vision.
SOLITAIRE by Bill Russo
Trombone solo by Milt Bernhart
Equally impressive here are the creative and arranging talents of Bill Russo, and Milt Bernhart’s gift for expressing emotion with a trombone.
In the Kenton performance of this work, the warmth and teamwork of a full string section are admirably combined with the individuality of a jazz musician. Each complements the other, in a thoroughly intriguing manner.
CUBAN EPISODE by Chico O’Farrill
Conga drum and vocal by Carlos Vidal
Afro-Cuban rhythm has long intrigued Stan Kenton. Because of its influence on American jazz, this music, he felt, should be included among his “Innovations in Modern Music.” Accordingly, he commissioned Cuban-born Chico O’Farrill—whom he considers the outstanding creator in this field—to provide a truly representative selection.
In “Cuban Episode,” O’Farrill starts with the moot primitive sounds with expert interpretative rhythm on the conga drum by internationally famous Carlos Vidal. Gradually, O’Farrill elaborates upon his theme, combining his native rhythms with the thrilling excitement of American brass sounds. The composition relates the whole growth and influence of Afro-Cuban rhythm on American jazz.
Michael Levin. "Record Review. Innovations in Modern Music (Capitol)." Down Beat. 2 June 1950: 14-15.
Theme for Sunday
Incident in Jazz
Album rating — ♪ ♪ ♪
Most of these numbers are scores that Kenton has been playing on his recent concert tour, are therefore interesting samples of what his innovational band is putting down.
These sides make it obvious that Stan has much to learn to be a conductor of a large aggregation. The old Kenton problem of monotonous dynamics is still here, as well as problems in phrasing and conception.
The mere presence of added numbers does not make for more varied music. It indeed can make a fine stew into sloppy pottage unless perfectly handled.
Sometimes, too, Stan's enthusiasm for the sonorousness of his own words runs away with him. He introduced Trajectories at the New York concert by saying that as a disciple of the late Schillinger, Marks had introduced some completely unique sounds in this composition.
Unique to Kenton, yes. Unique? No. For all Marks has done here is to take an attractive theme and to present it split between several sections, as a round and canon, and with the rhythm section constantly accenting theme elements. This device, common to symphonic orchestration for more than half a century, has been for a long time the color property of a brilliant young man named Eddie Sauter, who started doing it with Red Norvo in 1936, went on to further heights with Goodman and other bands. Listen to Eddie's Superman for Goodman, done in 1940, and the 1946 score of Borderline for Ray McKinley, and see if you feel this side, while attractive, is an innovation.
Theme for Sunday is the familiar grandiose arpeggio piano style of Kenton, with the Louis Alteresque theme developed in expected manner. The piece fares better here than in concert, since the strings are well-balanced with respect to the band and the general lack of attention to dynamics can be controlled by the recording engineers. Careful listeners to Stan's piano sections will hear many of the same ideas he has used before on other recordings.
Conflict introduces the familiar Rugolo horns in half-tone chromatic agony, modified in this case by strings used in quarter tones for a brief section before Miss Christy steps in a la Kay Davis. My great complaint to this sort of is writing of Pete's is that while it may depict the kind of agonized neuroticism that Stan programaticaily feels is necessary (commercially? ), it is pretentious musically. As a result, a little of it is a strong diet for quite a while. Not only that, but if you analyze closely the writing of this kind that the Kenton organization has displayed in the last three or four years, you will hear a considerable recurrence of the same elements. Not just the style itself, but actual idea elements. Incident, by Bob Graettinger is more familiar beat-conscious Kenton jazz.
In his remarks about his band Kenton made the very valid comment that you don't need a driving rhythm section to get a great beat or great jazz. However, it requires a unity of musical conception and leadership which too often these grooves do not show.
Road is another June Christy vocal taken at extravagantly slow tempo. At least her intonation is much superior to five years ago, her phrasing freer. A later jump vocal chorus reminds one of a similar effort some years ago by Mildred Bailey. Listen to it (Vocalion) should you care to hear what we mean by unified conception between musicians and singer.
Mirage is impressionistic tonal painting of the kind utilized by Ferde Grofe in some of his older scores. Granted that Rugolo's use of orchestra here is more skillful—nevertheless the traditional objection to this kind of music has been that it was a mere palette of effects, not really an organized esthetic whole of music. And effects, no matter how clever, cannot be justified in the long run for themselves alone. Bill Russo's Solitaire, designed as a showcase for trombonist Milt Bernhart, has some of the most thematic writing, with interesting use of strings. Chico O'Farrell's Cuban Episode gives Carlos Vidal chance to display his conga virtuosity. Still wish someone would design a knee strap for conga drums, so that on a tune of this kind the drummer doesn't end half the time in a football crouch trying to play and hold onto his drum at the same time.
This is an interesting album as a Kenton effort. From jazz or concert standpoint, however, it reproduces the same difficulties as were found with Kenton's actual concert work. Too often the music is pretentious, bombastic, not possessed of enough real thematic and technical worth to justify the panoply of effects laid on it. It’s to be hoped that both in person and on records, Stan's next effort will not merit this judgment. (Capitol P 189.)
"Record Review: Innovations in Modern Music." Billboard. 25 March 1950: 41.
INNOVATIONS IN MODERN MUSIC—Stan Kenton Orchestra (4-12")
Lonesome Road; Incident In Jazz; Mirage; Theme for Sunday; Cuban Episode; Trajectories; Solitaire; Conflict.
The confusion ls gradually disappearing. Stan Kenton finally beginning to emerge Into the musical maturity which he long, has been striving to find. His work as a big jazz band leader has oft been described as fanatical, crazy, impossible—but he proved everyone wrong with his box-office results. This album serves as an introduction to his most radical attempt to date. Herein he comes as close to merging the essence of jazz with a potpourri of modem classic Ideas as anyone has ever managed to do. In fact, it would be proper to treat parts of this package as long-hair. Here Kenton uses 20 strings to go with his usual complement and June Christy. The writing bears strong traces of Villa-Lobos, Richard Strauss, Bartok, Ives as well as Lennie Trlstano, Kenton, Rugolo, Ralph Burns. Since Kenton's market is basically a youthful, popular one, this must be considered a most provocative effort. He's bringIng his market face to face with thought music. Instead of stuff for the tapping foot. It's commendable. What's more important, it's likely to self plenty of albums.
1. Trajectories (Franklyn Marks)
arr. by Franklyn Marks
2. Theme For Sunday (Stan Kenton)
arr. by Stan Kenton
solo: Kenton (p)
3. Conflict (Pete Rugolo)
arr. by Pete Rugolo
vocal: June Christy
4. Incident In Jazz (Bob Graettinger)
arr. by Bob Graettinger
5. Lonesome Road (Nat Shilkrit)
arr. by Pete Rugolo
vocal: June Christy
6. Mirage (Pete Rugolo)
arr. by Pete Rugolo
7. Solitaire (Falstaff) (Bill Russo)
arr. by Bill Russo
solo: Bernhart (tb)
8. Cuban Episode (Cuban Fantasy)
arr. by Chico O’Farrill
solo: Vidal (conga & vocal)
Additional Capitol versions
KDM 189 — four 45rpm 7” records
EDL 189 — four 78rpm 12” records
CDP 7243 8 59965 2 8 — CD
Creative World reissue — ST-1009 — 12” LP
Bud Shank (+ fl)
Art Pepper (+ cl)
Bob Cooper (+ oboe, eng horn)
Bart Caldarell (+ bassoon)
Bob Gioga (+ bs cl)
Bart Varsalona (b-tb)
June Christy (tr. 3, 5)
Carlos Vidal (tr. 8)