Saturday, 15 December 2012
Stan Kenton born 15 December 1911
Stanley Newcomb Kenton (December 15, 1911 – August 25, 1979) (pianist) led a highly innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. In later years he was widely active as an educator.
Stanley Newcomb Kenton was born in Wichita, Kansas, on December 15, 1911**, and grew up in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from high school, he played in several small groups in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas.**(Other sources give Kenton’s birth date as February 19, 1912)
He studied piano and composition, first with his mother, Stella, who sparked his profound interest in the
impressionists; then with Frank Hurst, a theater organist; and with Earl "Fatha" Hines, whose piano lessons were often conducted in Hines's hotel room, using a cane-backed chair with a Masonite seat for a keyboard.
In 1933 Everett Hoagland offered Stan the piano chair in his band, which played at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, California, and whose book included charts by another youngster, Gil Evans.
After piano jobs with Gus Arnheim, Vido Musso, the NBC house band, and the orchestra for Earl Carroll's "Vanities", he decided the only way to realize his creative ambitions was to start his own band. In 1941 he holed up in a cabin in Idyllwild in the San Jacinto mountains with his wife Violet, and wrote the arrangements and compositions (including the song that would become his band's theme, "Artistry in Rhythm") that became the core of the book for his own band.
Kenton's bands, or orchestras, as he perferred to present them to the public (privately, they were always "The Band"), produced a string of alumni whose influence on jazz is incalculable, from folks everyone knows as alumni (June
Christy, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Maynard Ferguson, Kai Winding) to folks who you'd never associate with Stan Kenton's music (Stan Getz and Laurindo Almeida).
Indeed, Kenton is so well known for his alumni and for the arrangers who wrote for the band that it's often forgotten that his own compositions and arrangements were the cornerstone on which all his arrangers built. As Noel Wedder remarked, "At no time could any of the material written for the Band in the 60s & 70s be attributed to any other group than Kenton's." And, though the very best musicians in the world sat in his band, Kenton's playing was good enough that he could have easily won the audition for his chair. His modesty and desire to show off the other musicians in the band seldom permitted him to play up to his abilities, but every now and then he let it slip out, and we pianists treasure those moments.
It's significant that Stan's music is found in the jazz section and not the "big band" section of most record shops even today. By constantly pushing audiences to accept more challenging music, and by hiring the very best musicians and pushing them even harder, Kenton made it clear that his heart was always in the future of jazz, not in its nostalgic past. And in the process, he reaffirmed something too few musical directors, from rock through classical music, understand: audiences like good music.
During the 1970s Kenton, who toyed briefly with rock music, continued leading his orchestra and began to make the college lecture and teaching circuit, feeling that the future of progressive jazz lay in the school setting rather than in the commercial world. His health, though, began to deteriorate in the latter part of the decade. He underwent a serious operation in 1977 after a fall caused an aneurysm. In 1979 Stan Kenton passed away, suffering from a massive stroke. (info mainly from kenton.crispen.org)
Here's Stan Kenton and his Orchestra with "Intermission Riff" recorded in London 6 February 1972.
Stan Kenton, Mike Vax, Dennis Noday, Jay Saunders, Ray Brown, Joe Marcinkiewicz, Dick Shearer, Mike Jamieson, Fred Carter, Mike Wallace, Phil Herring, Quin Davis, Richard Torres, Kim Frizell, Willie Maiden, Chuck Carter, Ramon Lopez, John Worster, John Von Ohlen.