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His mother had tried to give him piano lessons earlier but he was not interested until hearing jazz records. During this time in high school at about the age of 15, the pianist and arranger Ralph Yaw introduced him to the music of Louis Armstong and Earl Hines. At the age of 16 he was already playing a regular solo piano gig at a local hamburger eatery for 50 cents a night plus tips; during that time he had his own performing group named "The Bell-Tones. While still in his late teens Stan Kenton toured as a member of several local groups from Southern California; his first professional work came for a trip to San Diego.

He first got his notable professional work during the s, first with in the dance band of Everett Hoagland in Kenton would later compliment Hoagland on his leadership skills and what he had learned from being his band. In April of Gus Arnheim was reorganizing his band into the style of Benny Goodman 's groups and Kenton was to take to piano chair.

This is where Kenton would make his first recordings when Arnheim made 14 sides for the Brunswick label in Summer of Once he departed from Gus Arnheim 's group, Kenton went back to study with private teachers on both the piano and in composition.


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In Kenton would join Vido Musso in a short lived band but a very educational experience for him. From the core of this group come the line up of the first Stan Kenton groups of the s. Kenton started to get the idea of running his own band from this experience; he created a rehearsal band of his own which eventually become his groups in the s. In June , Kenton formed his first orchestra, which later he named after his theme song "Artistry in Rhythm". Kenton worked in the early days with his own groups as much more of an arranger than a mainstay, featured pianist.

Although there were no name musicians in his first band with the possible exception of bassist Howard Rumsey and trumpeter Chico Alvarez , Kenton spent the summer of playing regularly before an audience at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, CA. Influenced by Jimmie Lunceford who, like Kenton, featured high-note trumpeters and thick-toned tenors , the Stan Kenton Orchestra struggled for a time after its initial success.

Its Decca recordings were not big sellers and a stint as Bob Hope's backup radio band during the —44 season was an unhappy experience; Les Brown permanently took Kenton's place.

Kenton's first appearance in New York was in February at the Roseland Ballroom, with the marquee featuring an endorsement by Fred Astaire. By , the band had evolved. A popular recording of "Laura" was made, the theme song from the film Laura , and featured the voices of the band. In the mids, Kenton's band and style became known as the "wall of sound" [7] or "wall of brass". By Kai Winding was greatly influencing the sound of Kenton's trombonists, the trumpet section included such performers as Buddy Childers , Ray Wetzel, and Al Porcino , Jack Costanzo 's bongos were bringing Latin rhythms into Kenton's sound, and a riotous version of "The Peanut Vendor" contrasted with the somber "Elegy for Alto".

Kenton had succeeded in forming a radical and very original band that gained its own audience. This overall period of the Kenton orchestra starting in — , was the most innovative and fertile in terms of purely artistic output. Stan Kenton had reformed his orchestra in September with the avowed intention of playing "progressive" jazz designed specifically for the concert hall.

Those Innovations in Modern Music Capitol Records recording sessions become a logical step for Kenton, like with band leaders such as James Reese Europe , Paul Whiteman , and others earlier attempting to elevate the art form of jazz beyond just "hot jazz" and jam session playing. There is a very clear connection to be made in the progress and innovation of large ensemble music in both classical and jazz music fit into and would not just 'appear out of nowhere. After a year hiatus, In Kenton finally put together the large, piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns.

The music was an extension of the works composed and recorded since in by Bob Graettinger, Manny Albam , Franklyn Marks and others. The groups managed two tours during —, from a commercial standpoint it would be Stan Kenton's first major failure. Kenton soon reverted back to a more standardl piece lineup. In order to be more commercially viable, Kenton reformed the band in to a much more standard instrumentation: 5 saxes, 5 trombones, 5 trumpets, piano, guitar, bass, drums.

The music was written to better reflect the style of cutting edge, be-bop oriented big bands; like those of Dizzy Gillespie or Woody Herman. Young, talented players and outstanding jazz soloists such as Maynard Ferguson , Lee Konitz , Conte Candoli , Sal Salvador , and Frank Rosolino made strong contributions to the level of the '53 band. The music composed and arranged during this time was far more tailor made to contemporary jazz tastes; the album New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm is noted as one of the high points in Kenton's career as band leader.

Though the band was to have a very strong 'concert book,' Kenton also made sure the dance book was made new, fresh and contemporary. The album Sketches on Standards from is an excellent example of Kenton appealing to a wider audience while using the band and Bill Russo 's arranging skills to their fullest potential. Even though the personnel changed rather rapidly, Kenton's focus was very clear on where he would lead thing musical.

By this time producer Lee Gillette worked well in concert with Kenton to create balanced set of recordings that were both commercially viable and cutting edge musically. Arguably the most 'swinging' band Kenton was to field came when legendary drummer Mel Lewis joined the orchestra in Kenton's Contemporary Concepts and Kenton in Hi-Fi albums during this time are very impressive as a be-bop recording and then a standard dance recording respectively.

The album climbed all the way up to 22 on the Billboard album charts and provided much needed revenue at a time when Rock n Roll had started to become the dominant pop music in the United States. One of the standout projects and recordings for the mid's band is the Cuban Fire!

At one point, Kenton faced a controversy in with comments he made when the band returned from a European tour. The Kenton band was playing in Ontario, Canada, at the time and Kenton dispatched a telegram which lamented "a new minority, white jazz musicians," and stated his "disgust [with the so-called] literary geniuses of jazz. Feather implied that Kenton's failure to win the Critics Poll was probably the real reason for the complaint, and wondered if racial prejudice was involved.

In hindsight the record shows Kenton's biggest sin is to have hastily fired off the comments. By the end of the decade Kenton was with the last incarnation of a 19 piece, '50's style' Kenton orchestras. Many bands have been called a leader's "best," this last Kenton incarnation of the s bands may very well be the best. The group would pull off one of Kenton's most artistic, subtle and introspective recordings, Standards in Silhouette.

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As trombonist Archie LeCoque recalled of this album of very slow ballads, " One of the great triumphs of the Standards in Silhouette album is the mature writing, the combination of the room used, a live group with very few overdubs, and the recording being in full stereo fidelity and later remastered to digital. Mathieu adds, "Stan and producer Lee Gillette were absolutley right: the band sounds alive and awake which is not easy when recording many hours of slow-tempo music in a studio , and most importantly, the players could hear themselves well in the live room.

The end result is the band sounds strong and cohesive, and the album is well recorded. The Kenton orchestra had been on a slow decline in sales and popularity in the late s with having to compete with newer, popular music artists such as Elvis Presley , Bobby Darin and The Platters. The nadir of this decline was around and coincided with a recession that was effecting the entire country. The band would end beaten up by poor attendance at concerts and having to rely far more on dance halls than real jazz concerts. Stan Kenton's leadership and music vision was clear to marshal the forces of such a diverse set of players and arrangers over this long period of time; Kenton stands alone in the respect.

Kenton was born on December 15, , according to his birth certificate, according to British biographer Michael Sparke. Kenton was conceived out of wedlock, and his parents told him that he was born two months later than the actual date, February 19, , to obscure this fact. Kenton believed well into adulthood that the February date was his birthday, and recorded the Birthday In Britain concert album on February 19, The true date remained a closely held secret, and his grave marker shows the incorrect February birthdate. Kenton was married three times.

Three children were produced from the first two marriages. His first marriage was to Violet Rhoda Peters in and lasted for 15 years. The couple had a daughter in , Leslie.

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In her memoir Love Affair , Leslie Kenton wrote that, from to , when she was between the ages of 11 and 13, her father sexually molested and raped her. The relationship produced two children: daughter Dana Lynn and son Lance. In , Richards posed for a nude layout in Playboy magazine's June issue. Kenton filed for divorce in August and it was finalized in , he would retain custody of their two children.

Stan Kenton

This also ended in a separation in with the divorce following in In his later years he lived with his public relations secretary and last business manager, Audree Coke Kenton, though they never formally married. Kenton's heavy consumption of alcohol contributed to the physical difficulties he encountered during the last 10 years of his life.

Kenton's son Lance became a member of the controversial Synanon new-age community in California, and served as one of its "Imperial Marines," a group entrusted with committing violence against former members and others considered enemies of the community. In he was arrested for helping to put a rattlesnake in the mailbox of an anti-Synanon lawyer, and was sentenced to a year in prison. Kenton had two accidental falls, one in the early s and one in the autumn of while on tour in Reading, Pennsylvania. The second fall was very serious as he fractured his skull.

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The last two years of his life became far more physically challenging for Kenton from the effects of the two accidents. On August 17, , he was admitted to Midway Hospital near his home in Los Angeles after a stroke; he died eight days later, on August At the time of his death he had three grandchildren. Between and , Stan Kenton had numerous hits on Billboard's charts.

Although several compositions are co-credited to Stan Kenton and Pete Rugolo, Rugolo was the primary composer, with Kenton oftentimes merely offering verbal suggestions.


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Compositions that were true collaborations include "Artistry in Boogie," "Collaboration," and "Theme to the West. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American musician. I loved playing Johnny's music, and so did Stan. West Side Story was probably the toughest album I ever recorded See templates for discussion to help reach a consensus.