Alon Marcus

Stan Kenton - City of Glass

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I've now listened as hard as I can to the versions of Ebony Concerto I have -- the Columbia Herman studio recording from 1946, Stravinsky's with Benny Goodman on Columbia from about 1970, and Boulez's with the Ensemble Intercontemporain from 1980 on DG. All three are available on CD. First, I disagree that Ebony Concerto is minor Stravinsky if that's meant to mean that the score had less than his full attention; seems to me that it's built like the proverbial brick shithouse -- remarkably potent in the meaningful gestures per unit of time, bang for the buck sense. Second, while the Columbia Herman gets some timbral moments just right (more about that later on), it's very slack and untogether at times. In that respect, the Boulez is just amazing -- by contrast with the Columbia Herman and Stravinsky-Goodman recordings (which suffers from a too-wide stereo spread, and sound that is at times too-highlighted and too-juicy), the Boulez gives us an utterly knit-together Ebony Concerto in which one seems to hear about 30 percent more music at any moment. For example, listen in the first movement of the Boulez to the clearly (and crucially, for the meaning of the piece) differentiated guitar and harp parts. In the Columbia Herman, you get some harp but no guitar; in the Stravinsky-Goodman you get much more harp but in such a swimmy acoustic that the guitar is virtually swallowed up inside the harp. On the other hand, I'm sad to say, Boulez shies away at a few points, one of them crucial, from the timbres that Stravinsky clearly had in mind. Listen, for example, to the terrific leering first trumpet interacting with the sleazy trombone in the con moto episode of the final movement on the Goodman-Stravinsky and the way that same fine trumpet player (who is he? anyone know?) handles his solo in the first movement. In the Boulez, the trumpeter is pretty good in the first movement solo but quite reined-in in the trumpet-trombone passage in movement three -- no lears or blares for Boulez, it seems, but that's what Stravinsky wanted. (Pete Candoli, on the Herman Columbia either has no clue or was too caught up in getting the part right note-wise to go for the colors here.) More important, there's the piece's final chords -- in which, to quote Eric Walter White's "Stravinsky," "the saxophones and trombones [move] slowly through a barrage of sound produced by the French horn playing flutter-tongued and the five muted trumpets playing harmonics tremolo...." These timbres are just as White describes them on the Herman Columbia and the Stravinsky-Goodman versions (and with S. conducting both times, I think we can assume that this is what he wanted to hear), and the effect, at once scary-weird and oddly healing (and perhaps related to the brass "raspberries" on one of the Herman recordings that S. supposedly had heard, "Bijou") is, as several commentators on the work have said, that of an "apotheosis." On the Boulez recording, though, one hears no such thing -- the trumpets are down in the mix compared to the saxophones, and I hear virtually no harmonics from them played tremolo at all; at that point it's all clean, no dirt. What a drag. What the hell was Boulez thinking? But I'll still hold on to the Boulez for all its virtues (haven't mentioned his clarinetist, Michel Arrignon, who is superb) and then play the Goodman-Herman right afterwards each time in the hope that I can mentally cobble them together.

BTW, in Ira Gitler's "Swing To Bop," pp. 192-3, there's a contrarian account from Neal Hefti of how Ebony Concerto came to be commissioned and written. Hefti says that he and Pete Candoli were big Stravinsky fans, and that when Hefti had left the band to spend six months in California and then returned to the band, Candoli asked him if he had met Stravinsky while he was out there. Hefti said "sure" (he hadn't though) and added, "I played him the [Herman band's] records,and he thinks they're great." That, Hefti continues, "got back to Woody, and Woody went to Lou Levy [a music publisher, not the pianist] who was the publisher then of a lot of Stravinsky's works and a lot of Woody Herman's works, and that led it in.... [stravinsky] probably never even heard the band until Lou Levy got in touch with him."

Finally, Stravinsky's use of the flugelhorn in Threni came about because he had heard Shorty Rogers play the instrument, either on record or in an L.A. club, and been drawn to the sound because (says E. W. White) "it remainded him of the keyed bugles he had wanted to write for in Les Noces.

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Paul and Mike: The Stoltzman/Herd "Ebony" was reissued in another collection with the personnel listing. (I remember this because I saw Paul's name there.) Will post it when I get back home.

Larry: I think I have the personnel for the Stravinsky/Goodman "Ebony" too. Will check when I get home. That's the version I grew up with. I played the "Octet" on that LP to death.

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Spontooneous -- I like that recording of the Octet too (it's one of my favorite Stravinsky works -- he says it came to him, in part, in a dream, and I can believe it), but if you can, check out the 1954 recording that's on "Stravinsky Conducts, The Mono Years, 1952-1955," with Robert Nagel and Ted Weis on trumpet, Erwin Price and Richard Hixson on trombone, Julius Baker on flute, David Oppenheim on clarinet, and Loren Glickman and Sylvia Deutscher on bassoon. It's almost the same lineup as the stereo recording (which has a new flutist, trombonist and bassoonist), but IMO the mono version is light's out.

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I've now listened as hard as I can to the versions of Ebony Concerto I have -- the Columbia Herman studio recording from 1946, Stravinsky's with Benny Goodman on Columbia from about 1970, and Boulez's with the Ensemble Intercontemporain from 1980 on DG. All three are available on CD. First, I disagree that Ebony Concerto is minor Stravinsky if that's meant to mean that the score had less than his full attention; seems to me that it's built like the proverbial brick shithouse -- remarkably potent in the meaningful gestures per unit of time, bang for the buck sense. Second, while the Columbia Herman gets some timbral moments just right (more about that later on), it's very slack and untogether at times. In that respect, the Boulez is just amazing -- by contrast with the Columbia Herman and Stravinsky-Goodman recordings (which suffers from a too-wide stereo spread, and sound that is at times too-highlighted and too-juicy), the Boulez gives us an utterly knit-together Ebony Concerto in which one seems to hear about 30 percent more music  at any moment. For example, listen in the first movement of the Boulez to the clearly (and crucially, for the meaning of the piece) differentiated guitar and harp parts. In the Columbia Herman, you get some harp but no guitar; in the Stravinsky-Goodman you get much more harp but in such a swimmy acoustic that the guitar is virtually swallowed up inside the harp. On the other hand, I'm sad to say, Boulez shies away at a few points, one of them crucial, from the timbres that Stravinsky clearly had in mind. Listen, for example, to the terrific leering first trumpet interacting with the sleazy trombone in the con moto episode of the final movement on the Goodman-Stravinsky and the way that same fine trumpet player (who is he? anyone know?) handles his solo in the first movement. In the Boulez, the trumpeter is pretty good in the first movement solo but quite reined-in in the trumpet-trombone passage in movement three -- no lears or blares for Boulez, it seems, but that's what Stravinsky wanted. (Pete Candoli, on the Herman Columbia either has no clue or was too caught up in getting the part right note-wise to go for the colors here.) More important, there's the piece's final chords -- in which, to quote Eric Walter White's "Stravinsky," "the saxophones and trombones [move] slowly through a barrage of sound produced by the French horn playing flutter-tongued and the five muted trumpets playing harmonics tremolo...." These timbres are just as White describes them on the Herman Columbia and the Stravinsky-Goodman versions (and with S. conducting both times, I think we can assume that this is what he wanted to hear), and the effect, at once scary-weird and oddly healing (and perhaps related to the brass "raspberries" on one of the Herman recordings that S. supposedly had heard, "Bijou") is, as several commentators on the work have said, that of an "apotheosis." On the Boulez recording, though, one hears no such thing -- the trumpets are down in the mix compared to the saxophones, and I hear virtually no harmonics from them played tremolo at all; at that point it's all clean, no dirt. What a drag. What the hell was Boulez thinking? But I'll still hold on to the Boulez for all its virtues (haven't mentioned his clarinetist, Michel Arrignon, who is superb) and then play the Goodman-Herman right afterwards each time in the hope that I can mentally cobble them together.

BTW, in Ira Gitler's "Swing To Bop," pp. 192-3, there's a contrarian account from Neal Hefti of how Ebony Concerto came to be commissioned and written. Hefti says that he and Pete Candoli were big Stravinsky fans, and that when Hefti had left the band to spend six months in California and then returned to the band, Candoli asked him if he had met Stravinsky while he was out there. Hefti said "sure" (he hadn't though) and added, "I played him the [Herman band's] records,and he thinks they're great." That, Hefti continues, "got back to Woody, and Woody went to Lou Levy [a music publisher, not the pianist] who was the publisher then of a lot of Stravinsky's works and a lot of Woody Herman's works, and that led it in.... [stravinsky] probably never even heard the band until Lou Levy got in touch with him."

Finally, Stravinsky's use of the flugelhorn in Threni came about because he had heard Shorty Rogers play the instrument, either on record or in an L.A. club, and been drawn to the sound  because (says E. W. White) "it remainded him of the keyed bugles he had wanted to write for in Les Noces.

Another stellar example of why the Organissimo forums beat just about any other music-oriented publication or source, be it magazine, website, etc.

I'm almost inspired to take up a collection for Larry. I still need to buy his book -- moving that one to the front burner now. Can I buy it from you, Larry?

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Kalo -- I'd recommend Amazon or Barnes & Noble online, whichever is cheaper, because that way it gets recorded in the publisher's coffers as a book sold, but if that's inconvenient, I still have a few copies, and you can buy one from me, for the same price you could at Amazon or Barnes & Noble online, whichever is cheaper, plus shipping. If you want to go that route, send me a personal message with your address, and we can work out the particulars.

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I disagree that Ebony Concerto is minor Stravinsky if that's meant to mean that the score had less than his full attention; seems to me that it's built like the proverbial brick shithouse -- remarkably potent in the meaningful gestures per unit of time, bang for the buck sense.

I was just speculating- you're absolutely right, Larry, I'm sure an artist like Stravinsky would take pride in anything with his name on it. I also have been listening to it (to refresh my memory) and it is certainly a structurally sound piece with much fantastic detail- it just has always seemed (to me) that it kind of rushed through its narration. But that's just my take.

I also think that in many performances (including the one in which I participated) an expressive interpretation was perhaps not fully realized- the players were trying to get the notes right without really understanding the meaning of it all. Of course it always helps to have guidance/direction from someone who has an understanding of the piece.

I do love pretty much everything Stravinsky did- he certainly developed his own language. If I were to select his "jazz equivalents" I'd choose Gil Evans and Monk.

Thanks for all the great info Larry!

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OK, here's the info on the Stoltman "Ebony," as given on his "The Essential Clarinet" CD, RCA/BMG 09026-61360-2, copyright 1992:

The Thundering Herd: Frank Tiberi, Dave Riekenberg, Jerry Pinter, Mike Brignola, reeds; Roger Ingram, Diane White, Greg Gisbert, Ron Stout, Bill Byrne, trumpets; John Fedchock, Paul McKee, Joe Barati, trombones; Joel Weiskopf, keyboards (that's what it says); Dave Carpenter, bass; Dave Miller, percussion; with Alex Brofsky, french horn; Sarah Voinow, harp; Howard Alden, guitar; Richard Stoltzman, conductor. May 11 & 12, 1987, RCA Studio A, NYC.

Can't find the personnel for the Stravinsky/Goodman "Ebony" after all. Sorry.

I promise to atone for this thread hijack by hauling out "City of Glass" ASAP.

Edited by Spontooneous

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Many thanks for the personnel!

The Ebony Concerto was in the repertoire of Orchestra U.S.A. - they performed it at least twice (1963 & 1964, the second time with Bill Smith on clarinet). I haven't discovered tapes yet, but it would be great to hear those interpretations as the band was a blend of jazz and classical players.

Mike

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just enjoyed city of glass - and the wonderful june christy rendition of everything happens to me!

:excited:

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this was never cut up onto 78s was it? i have the original (?) 10" capitol lp

I think I have that same 10" Capitol LP. Belonged to my mom, actually. (Seriously!)

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I remember reading that the thing sold less than ten thousand copies, so it couldn't have been a huge money-maker for Capitol.

Amazing that there was a time that the sales of an experimental, avant-garde jazz album could have been measured in the tens of thousands.

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I remember reading that the thing sold less than ten thousand copies, so it couldn't have been a huge money-maker for Capitol.

Amazing that there was a time that the sales of an experimental, avant-garde jazz album could have been measured in the tens of thousands.

Less than 10,000; probably closer to 5,000. Kenton's name was big in the early 50's. Likely a bunch were sold just on his popularity.

True story. Overheard at Mole Jazz in London. A guy goes with a pile of used LP's to sell. As the clerk goes through them he comes to City of Glass, and the guy says, "That one's only been played once." Clerk replies, "Never seen one any other way."

Edited by John Tapscott

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Less than 10,000; probably closer to 5,000.

Amazing that there was a time when the sales of an experimental, avant-garde jazz album could have been measured in the fives of thousands.

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This album is out of print, by the way. I hope when it's reissued, they use the original 10" cover art. The ugly cover art on the previous CD prevented me from buying it. Happy to have the original 10" though.

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I remember reading that the thing sold less than ten thousand copies, so it couldn't have been a huge money-maker for Capitol.

Amazing that there was a time that the sales of an experimental, avant-garde jazz album could have been measured in the tens of thousands.

Didn't Pharoah Sanders's Karma sell something like 50K? And of course Bitches Brew and A Love Supreme were huge sellers.

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This album is out of print, by the way. I hope when it's reissued, they use the original 10" cover art. The ugly cover art on the previous CD prevented me from buying it. Happy to have the original 10" though.

I very much doubt if Capitol (or their current owners, I can't keep track) would re-issue City of Glass. Japan would be the only hope.

But check out Kenton Presents from Japan with the original cover art. More accessible than COG and sounds great, too.

http://www.dustygroove.com/item.php?id=35cr4g9myt&ref=browse.php&refQ=incl_oos%3D1%26amp%3Bincl_cs%3D1%26amp%3Bkwfilter%3DStan%2Bkenton%26amp%3Bgo_x%3D17%26amp%3Bgo_y%3D15

Edited by John Tapscott

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True story. Overheard at Mole Jazz in London. A guy goes with a pile of used LP's to sell. As the clerk goes through them he comes to City of Glass, and the guy says, "That one's only been played once." Clerk replies, "Never seen one any other way."

:lol:

Ed Dipple?

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Less than 10,000; probably closer to 5,000.

Amazing that there was a time when the sales of an experimental, avant-garde jazz album could have been measured in the fives of thousands.

City of Glass is not an "experimental avant garde jazz" album. Ib fact, it is not at all to be regarded as any form of jazz, according to Stan Kenton. When I interviewed him in 1959, he said that he was dismayed when he saw the industry trade magazines (like Billboard) list the album as jazz. He believed that such mislabeling hurt an album.

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The 10-inch of City of Glass that my mom had (the one I still have), is the one below on the left (with the expanded globe).

But I just noticed this different cover (the one on the right) on-line (with the cool, translucent buildings!).

What's the story of two different covers? - for such an crazy work that it would be hard to imagine there being two different covers for.

I kinda wish I had the other one with the buildings (here it is even bigger). That's a pretty cool cover!

post-171-0-25176800-1305227044_thumb.jpg

post-171-0-57409000-1305227063_thumb.jpg

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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The one on the left was used for the 12 inch version I had.

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And those things that look like punch holes are supposed to be actual examples of the Graettinger's notation.

The on on the left is "City of Glass" and "This Modern World". The one on the right is just "City of Glass".

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The on on the left is "City of Glass" and "This Modern World". The one on the right is just "City of Glass".

The image I uploaded might not be the exact same as the cover of one I have, but I'm pretty sure it's that same globe wire-frame superimposed over Kenton's face. (It's in DC at the moment, or I'd check.)

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I mean the contents. One has both, the other just City of Glass. Maybe they changed covers on the 10" before adding TMW to the 12" and then kept that cover?

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The 10-inch of City of Glass that my mom had (the one I still have), is the one below on the left (with the expanded globe).

But I just noticed this different cover (the one on the right) on-line (with the cool, translucent buildings!).

What's the story of two different covers? - for such an crazy work that it would be hard to imagine there being two different covers for.

I kinda wish I had the other one with the buildings (here it is even bigger). That's a pretty cool cover!

I have the one with the "expanded globe" cover as a 10" U.S. pressing (Capitol H 460) that ONLY has "This modern World" on it.

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