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Old May 18, 2012, 11:57 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Jazz Feature for May 21:"The Stan Kenton Orchestra at The Tropicana"

Stanley Newcomb Kenton (December 15,1911-August 25, 1979) was one of those rare individuals: the leader of a big band that prevailed long after the "big band era" was over. Kenton, Woody Herman, Count Basie and Duke Ellington all kept their bands relevant and fresh even though the big band days were history. Stan Kenton began his career in the 1930's as a pianist with bands led by Gus Arnheim and Vido Musso but it was soon apparent that he would be a bandleader. He formed his first big band in 1941 and called it "Stan Kenton's Artistry in Rhythm". During the 1940's he had some major hits and lucrative long term gigs and a recording contract with Capital Records. Kenton wanted and achieved a sound that not only was danceable and appealing but he also presented more "concert-style" selections designed for serious listening. He loved a deep sounding rich saxophone section, sonorous trombones and powerful trumpets that could whisper and scream in the high register for dramatic effects. He loved Latin music and frequently added timbales, bongos and congas to augment the rhythm section. In the late 40's he called his music "progressive Jazz" and it was obvious that he was moving further and further away from being a dance band. He took a year out in 1949 and came back in 1950 with his "Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra". This was a 39 piece behemoth with a string section and a huge horn section that put the accent on colourful serious orchestral virtuosity rather than straight swinging. It couldn't last as it was too big so Stan pared the band down to 19 pieces and hired writers like Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Bill Russo, Gene Roland and others to spice up the sound. The band featured a whole variety of wonderful soloists like Lee Konitz, Charlie Mariano, Bill Perkins, Sam Noto, Conte Candoli, Sal Salvador and the list goes on. Kenton survived in the club and concert circuit right up until his demise and led one of the most innovative and distinctive bands in Jazz history. His repertoire was rivaled only by his close friend, Duke Ellington. Kenton's band in the 70's became a training ground for young players coming out of colleges. Stan also formed his own record company and contributed mightily to the music education system. His death brought an end to a "one of a kind" human being.

Tonight's Jazz Feature is an in-person recording of a great (there's that overused word again) edition of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. It was done in February 1959 in Las Vegas at The Tropicana. Las Vegas was in those years full of wonderful music played in a variety of styles for a ready-made audience. This Kenton edition boasted the talents of Jack Sheldon and Bud Brisbois as two of the five trumpets and Archie LeCoque (great name) and Kent Larsen as two of the five trombonists. Lennie Niehaus(alto) and Richie Kamuca and Bill Trujillo (tenors) and Billy Root (baritone) were four of the five saxophone players. Kenton used two bass trombones and two baritone saxophones to add power and depth to the sections. The mighty Red Kelly is on bass and he also does a funny vocal on a novelty tune that breaks up the set. Jerry McKenzie pushes and swings the band from behind his drumkit. Then there is Mr. Kenton who not only plays piano and conducts but introduces the tunes in a sometimes humerous and ironic way that is very appealing. Many of the arrangements are by the unheralded Gene Roland, who was one of the very best writers for this band. This is a set that I would use to introduce a younger listener to the world of Stan Kenton!

The Kenton Jazz Feature will begin at 11pm and I'll be introducing it at around 10:50pm. Please come by at 9pm and wrap up your Victoria Day long-weekend with some Jazz. See you then.......................
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