Stan Kenton

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Stan Kenton (1973)

Stanley Newcomb "Stan" Kenton (born December 15, 1911 in Wichita , Kansas , † August 25, 1979 in Los Angeles , California ) was an American jazz pianist , composer , orchestra conductor and music teacher. With his sonic experiments in progressive jazz , which were controversial, he wrote jazz history in the post-war years. His large-format bands (sometimes even three times the size of a big band) were also an important pass-through station for many musicians of West Coast jazz who were later known ; With his clinics at universities, he was an important promoter of music education in jazz.


Stan Kenton grew up in Los Angeles and played the piano at the age of ten. He learned to play the piano from his mother, Frank Hurst and Earl 'Father' Hines, among others . In 1930 he played in San Diego , in 1934 he went to Everett Hoagland as a pianist and arranger, then to Gus Arnheim , Vido Musso and Johnny Davis. In 1941 he founded his first big band with his own compositions and arrangements still in the swing style , which had its debut in the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach. The band's founding members included Chico Alvarez , Bob Gioga and Howard Rumsey . The first recordings were made in December 1941; however, it was not until the release of Artistry in Rhythm on Capitol Records that the Kenton orchestra gained national recognition. The hallmark of the orchestra influenced by Jimmie Lunceford was the staccato playing of the wind section . Typical pieces of this time were Eager Beaver , Painted Rhythm and Artistry Rhythm , which already clearly showed Kenton's “personal concept of harmony and orchestration”.

In March 1944 he entered the national charts with the Ellington composition Do Nothing till You Hear from Me . In 1946, Kenton hired an arranger , Milhaud's student Pete Rugolo , who wrote experimental pieces such as Artistry in Percussion and Safranski for five trumpets, four (later five) trombones and five saxophones, which had already provoked the name Progressive Jazz and turned in 1947 to Afro Cuban Jazz with titles like Peanut Vendor or Cuban Carnival found their preliminary conclusion.

Kenton broke up his big band in 1947. Under the heading Innovations in Modern Music , a 40-man orchestra with horns, woodwinds, strings and Latin American rhythm instruments followed until 1951, when he was on the one hand interested in "symphonic jazz" (e.g. compositions by Robert Graettinger ), but also had Latin American pieces (by Chico O'Farrill among others ) played alongside more conventional jazz compositions. In his orchestra at this time worked z. B. Chico Alvarez , Kai Winding , Art Pepper , Eddie Safranski , Maynard Ferguson , Stan Getz , Shelly Manne , Conte Candoli , Lennie Niehaus , Frank Rosolino , Lee Konitz , Zoot Sims and the jazz singers June Christy and Anita O'Day . Kenton became famous for the unusually arranged jazz pieces; his music became "even more powerful and more elaborate with a massed abundance of powerful chords and layered masses of sound," wrote Joachim-Ernst Berendt .

Stan Kenton on September 25, 1973 in Munich

In 1952/53, Kenton's music became more jazz-oriented again through the involvement of other well-known arrangers, such as Pete Rugolo, Gerry Mulligan , Bill Russo and Bill Holman , for example for the album New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm . Kenton's records were also successful in Europe, where he introduced his band in 1953. He toured Europe extensively around 1953. In the 1950s he made a number of recordings for Capitol ( Stan Kenton Presents ) in which he introduced Sidemen.

In the second half of the 1950s he could not maintain the level reached in his band for economic reasons and played in television shows. Kenton also accompanied Nat King Cole on his Orange Colored Sky and Jam-Bo recordings.

In October 1955, Kenton married nineteen-year-old band singer Ann Richards . Kenton and Richards, who also recorded some albums together, separated in 1961; the marriage had two children, Dana and Lance.

For tours with his wife Ann Richards as a singer, he repeatedly put together smaller ensembles and in the 1960s began again to experiment with sounds, a. a. 1961–63 in a 27-man line-up with four mellophones under the slogan Adventures in Jazz ; the LP of the same name was awarded a Grammy. From 1965 he performed with his Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra ; In 1966 he was guest conductor of the Danish Radio Orchestra . Around 1965 his endeavors with the Neophonic Orchestra went towards Third Stream and he performed works by composers of this direction. In the following years he built up his music education clinics system from Redland University and founded the publishing house Creative World , which published didactic material, produced films and from 1971 reissued old Kenton recordings. The company was innovative through the mail order process.

In an accident in 1977 he suffered a fractured skull. Not yet recovered, he continued his work a little later and had to end his career for good in 1978; he died on August 25, 1979 in Los Angeles as a result of years of alcohol abuse. In 2010 it became known that Kenton allegedly sexually abused his daughter Leslie for years. In his will he prohibited the continuation of his orchestra as a ghost band ; he bequeathed his scores and writings to North Texas State University . The Association of Jazz educators established a Stan Kenton Education Fund in 1980.


Kenton won several elections for Down Beat (1947, 1950-54), Metronome (1947-49, 1954, 1956) and Playboy (1957-60); In 1954 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Down Beat Readers Poll . He received two Grammys , for West Side Story (1962) and Adventures in Jazz (1963). His recording of City of Glass was included on The Wire's 100 Records That Set the World on Fire (While No One Was Listening) .

Musical meaning

Stan Kenton and Pete Rugolo, Capitol Studio, circa January 1947. Photo: William P. Gottlieb .

Kenton emancipated the big band from existence as a dance orchestra and expanded their repertoire towards symphonic music and third stream . In doing so, he paved the way for a reception of jazz in the concert halls. Bill Russo found that "his errors were more important for jazz than the great successes of other musicians".

In the judgment of Martin Kunzler in 1952/53 Kenton had "the most important, stylistically most influential and probably also the most swinging band" with Richie Kamuca , Lee Konitz, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli and Frank Rosolino as main soloists, as well as Shorty Rogers , Gerry Mulligan and Bill Holman entertain as arrangers. “Stan Kenton seemed to have forgotten all of his past,” wrote Joachim-Ernst Berendt about this phase of his work, “and made swinging music that was perhaps not under the direct influence of Count Basie , but which nevertheless fit impressively into a time when Basie's spirit was alive […]. In this band it was all about swinging solo improvisations like never before in the Kenton career. "

According to Carlo Bohländer , "Kenton's great merit is to have given the young composers and arrangers every opportunity for free development." This has had an impact on the musicians who have passed through his orchestras in large numbers over the years and received them Passing on suggestions.

Scott Yanow considers Kenton to be a cult figure like Chet Baker and Sun Ra , who received similarly controversial audience viewing. Despised by purists, he was revered by many others. "He led a number of bands that emphasized power, emotion and demanding harmonies rather than swing, which, however, outraged the listeners who believed that all big bands should sound like the Count Basie Orchestra ".

Discographic notes

For Capitol Records he recorded a variety of "progressive" jazz tracks. The best-known pieces that were published by Capitol are: "Artistry in Rhythm" (1943), "Concerto to End All Concertos" (1946), "Intermission Riff" (1946), "Artistry in Boogie" (1946), " Safranski "(with Eddie Safranski, 1946)," Across the Alley from the Alamo "(with June Christy, 1947)," The Peanut Vendor "(1947)," Artistry in Tango "(1951)," Blues in Burlesque "( 1951), “Mambo Rhapsody” (1952), “Thermopolae” (1952), “Delicado” (1952), “Taboo” (1953), “ Jeepers Creepers ” (1953) and Bob Graettinger's “City of Glass” “This Modern World ”and many others.

Stan Kenton's Big Band, Munich 1973
  • The Innovations Orchestra (Capitol, 1950/51) with Maynard Ferguson, Shorty Rogers, Conte Candoli, Bud Shank, Eddie Bert (contains the albums Innovations in Modern Music and Stan Kenton Presents )
  • New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm (Capitol, 1952) with Conte Candoli, Buddy Childers, Frank Rosolini, Lee Konitz, Richie Kamuca, Sal Salvador
  • City of Glass (Capitol, 1947-53)
  • Kenton in Hi-Fi (Capitol, 1956–58) with Lennie Niehaus, Bill Perkins, Richie Kamuca, Pepper Adams, Mel Lewis
  • Fire, Fury & Fun (Creative World, 1974)

Band staff

  • Instrumentalists:

Sam Aleccia - Laurindo Almeida - Chico Alvarez - Jim Amlotte - Buddy Arnold - Don Bagley - Gabe Baltazar - Michael Bard - Dave Barduhn - Gary Barone - Dee Barton - Tim Bell - Milt Bernhart - Bud Brisbois - Ray Brown - Bob Burgess - Tony Campise - Frank Capp - Conte Candoli - Pete Candoli - Fred Carter - Billy Catalano - Bill Chase - Buddy Childers - Bob Cooper - Jack Costanzo - Vinnie Dean - Don Dennis - Sam Donahue - Peter Erskine - Maynard Ferguson - Mary Fettig - Bob Fitzpatrick - Carl Fontana - Stan Getz - Bob Gioga - John Graas - John Harner - Dennis Hayslett - Skeets Herfurt - Bill Holman - Marv "Doc" Holladay - Clay Jenkins - Richie Kamuca - Red Kelly - Jimmy Knepper - Lee Konitz - Jack Lake - Kent Larsen - Skip Layton - Archie LeCoque - Ed Leddy - Stan Levey - Mel Lewis - Willie Maiden - Shelly Manne - Charlie Mariano - Al Mattaliano - Jerry McKenzie - Dick Meldonian - Vido Musso - Boots Mussulli - Lennie Niehaus - Dennis Noday - Sam Noto - Lloyd Otto - John Park - Kim Park - A rt Pepper - Bill Perkins - Al Porcino - Douglas Purviance - Ray Reed - Clyde Reisinger - George Roberts - Gene Roland - Frank Rosolino - Shorty Rogers - Ernie Royal - Howard Rumsey - Bill Russo - Eddie Safranski - Sal Salvador - Carl Saunders - Jay Saunders - Dave Schildkraut - Bud Shank - Dick Shearer - Jack Sheldon - Kenny Shroyer - Gene Siegel - Zoot Sims - Dalton Smith - Ed Soph - Lloyd Spoon - Marvin Stamm - Ray Starling - Bill Trujillo - Jeff Uusitalo - David van Kriedt - Bart Varsalona - Mike Vax - John Von Ohlen - Ray Wetzel - Rick Whethersby - Jiggs Whigham - Stu Williamson - Kai Winding

  • Composers and arrangers:

Manny Albam - Dave Barduhn - Dee Barton - Joe Coccia - Bob Curnow - Dennis Farnon - Bob Graettinger - Ken Hanna - Neal Hefti - Hank Levy - Franklyn Marks - Bill Mathieu - Gerry Mulligan - Chico O'Farrill - Marty Paich - Johnny Richards - Gene Roland - Pete Rugolo - Ray Wetzel

  • Vocalists:

Anita O'Day - June Christy - Chris Connor - Ann Richards


  • Dietrich Schulz-Köhn : Stan Kenton. Pegasus, Jazz-Bücherei , Wetzlar 1961.
  • Carol Easton: Straight Ahead. Story of Stan Kenton. 1973. Da Capo 1981.
  • William Lee, Audree Coke: Stan Kenton. Artistry in Rhythm. Creative Press, Los Angeles 1980, 1994.
  • Lillian Arganian: Stan Kenton. The Man and His Music. Artistry Press, 1989.
  • Michael Sparke: Stan Kenton. This Is an Orchestra! North Texas Lives of Musician Series. University of North Texas Press, Denton 2010.
  • Michael Sparke, Pete Venudor: Stan Kenton: The Studio Sessions. A discography. 1994.

Web links

Commons : Stan Kenton  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Numerous encyclopedias give 1912 as the date of birth or it is undecided whether 1911 or 1912 is correct. According to the biography Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra! , Michael Sparke's year of birth 1911 is officially guaranteed.
  2. ^ A b c d Leonard Feather , Ira Gitler : The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz. Oxford University Press, New York 1999, ISBN 0-19-532000-X , p. 381 ff.
  3. a b c d Carlo Bohländer, Reclams Jazzführer. Stuttgart / Leipzig, Reclam / Edition Peters 1980, p. 354 f.
  4. a b Berendt / Huesmann, Das Jazzbuch, Frankfurt / M., Fischer, 1991, p. 513 f.
  5. Ann Richards at Allmusic (English)
  6. Grudens, Richard. Jukebox Saturday Night: More Memories of the Big Band and Beyond . 58. Celebrity Profiles Publishing, 1999.
  7. a b c d Martin Kunzler, Jazz-Lexikon, Reinbek, Rowohlt, 1988, p. 617 ff.
  8. Günther Huesmann: Preference for giant big bands 100 years ago the American jazz pianist Stan Kenton was born . Website of Deutschlandradio Kultur. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
  9. Stan Kenton at Allmusic (English)
  10. The selection of the albums was based on The Penguin Guide to Jazz by Richard Cook and Brian Morton.


  1. Joachim-Ernst Berendt mentions in the first edition of his jazz book (1955) that the real model for Kenton would have been Boyd Raeburn's big band , in which Shelly Manne , Don Lamond , Oscar Pettiford , Serge Chaloff and Dizzy Gillespie played, and the main ones Characteristics of the music of Canton modeled, "but in a more musical and improvisational form than later with Stan [Kenton] ".