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alocispepraluger102

remembering the monstrous stan kenton

88 posts in this topic

just didn't have that much of interest to offer musically (for my tastes, anyway)

We can differ on the relative meaning of words such as "good" and "great". This is just splitting hairs. While I don't lean in the direction of Kenton's world very often these days, I still hold him in pretty high regard for the enjoyment his music provided me in my formative years. I still think that "New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm" and "Contemporary Concepts", to name two, are GREAT albums. The disciplines of musicianship that he stressed are still important today, and should always be, in my opinion. As much as "third stream" music may be out of fashion these days, Kenton can be cited as one of its founding fathers, and the idea that written music in the jazz idiom is valid still holds true for me.

I'll agree that we can agree to disagree on the relative meanings, but not that it's splitting hairs. "Great", like "awesome", is just one of those words that doesn't really mean anything any more, so often has it been used without thought. I was actually greeted with a semi-orgasmic "AWESOME!!!" last night after giving the last four of my SS# to a mail-order pharmacy rep over the phone. The Grand Canyon is awesome. Me knowing the last four of my SS# is pretty damn mundane.

But I digress...

"New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm" and "Contemporary Concepts"...just listened to them both last night, actually, in reflection of this thread, and...eh...I can hear what they're trying to do, and may actually be doing, but it just doesn't grab me. It's too heavy texturally, ensemble-wise (I mean, the whole 5-5-5 thing serves a very specific purpose, and unison ensembles swing is not one of them, nor is providing delicate shading...), and the tonal character of the band does not appeal to me that much. Russo's Cuban thing grabs me really hard at first (I can certainly understand why Ran Blake covered it) but then lets go...too much buildup, not enough payoff, unless Maynard beeping those punches at the end is supposed to be a climax. Fussy for the sake of fussy, writing for the sake of writing...trying to damn hard to be more than it is. Butt the good parts are definitely good. So for me, good, but not at all great. But again, file that under "different strokes".

"Disciplines of musicianship", eh? I'd like to think that those were in place long before Kenton, as was the idea that written music in the jazz idiom is valid. Last time I checked, they still were valid.

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"New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm" and "Contemporary Concepts"...just listened to them both last night, actually, in reflection of this thread, and...eh...I can hear what they're trying to do, and may actually be doing, but it just doesn't grab me.

This only tells us about you and your preferences, not about the music. It's all subjective, anyway.

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Of course it does and of course it is, but that instrumentation and those charts are only sometime fully compatible, in my opinion. If everything is heavy, then there's no chance for light. If everything is thick, there's no room for thin. Etc. At some point, too much is too much and you get diminishing returns.

For a probably wholly irrelevant yet nevertheless instructive comparison, consider Gil Evans, who always balanced elements. If there was tuba, there was flute. If there was dark, there was light. If there was coma, there was hyper. There was always room to breathe, room to think, room for options. Kenton seemed to get off on claustrophobia. The more crowded the sound, the more "intense" it seemed to him, and therefore the more "modern" it was.

Of course, Kenton did not want his band to sound like Gil Evans, nor should he have. But there's still the matter of palate, and how much variation there is within it (variation within the palate, not of the palate). I find Kenton's band's music, even the very best of it , to ultimately be limited in this regard (except for Mathieu, who I swear was "tuned into a higher power" when he wrote those charts and managed to get them played that way). Even the "soft" is still "loud" due to the sheer density that results from the number of instruments playing.

Or take the Buddy Rich bands of the 70s onward, the classic Higher/Faster/Louder big band of our times. Buddy's bands were always...driving and intense, with charts that pretty much demanded In Your Faceness. But Buddy's band didn't have so many damn instruments to not be able to be nimble when needed. And of course, Buddy himself was about as dense as the rest of his band combined! Kenton's bands were like having each section as dense as a Buddy Rich, and yeah, that was something you could use, but only for certain things, and even then, for only a limited amount of time before it got to be...too much. Just too damn much.

Maynard's bands...all the noise of Kenton, but none of the claustrophobia. And significantly fewer instruments. 5-5-5 vs 3 (or 4)-2-4.

I've no doubt that Kenton had a vision. I've no doubt that he was sincere, and I've no doubt that he inspired a lot of people with both his vision and his sincerity. But at root, he seemed to be neurotic and impositional. Of such things great music can be made, but he also seemed to allow for only a few possible outcomes, and that doesn't result in great music nearly as much as it does a never-ending loop of catharsis without liberation, trying to free yourself from your prison by building bigger rooms inside it, or even worse, painting its walls to get the illusion of a change of scenery instead of tearing them down and actually getting one.

Subjective indeed, but there's been so much music, even "bad music" that is....better than that in terms of what it presents as options. Monstrous, no, probably not. But a little creepy? Uh...yeah. And not necessarily in a healthily "disturbing" fashion like Graettinger. Just creepy, like a kid eating his own boogers, or something like that.

Let's just say that I have no problem with "liking" Kenton. I do have a problem with anybody trying to make him into some kind of a Giant Of Jazz, neglected or otherwise, for anybody other than themselves. It gives me the willies to think of a world where The Creative World Stan Kenton is The Best Possible Outcome, or even One Of The Best.

I also don't like Heavy Metal music, and for just about the exact same reasons.

Edited by JSngry

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kenton discussion was very heated back in the day, but was decidedly more negative, as i recall, particularly in the late 50s.

i would like to think that these recent thoughts are more enlightened (through the prisms of time, serious listening and reflection) and enlightening.

thanks to each of you.

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Johnny Richards was a "buffoon"? I'd say, instead, that he had an often maniacal sense of humor, though I do vastly prefer his writing for his own bands to anything he did for Kenton, even to the movement of "Cuban Fire" that has that lovely Lucky Thompson solo.

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Johnny Richards was a "buffoon"? I'd say, instead, that he had an often maniacal sense of humor, though I do vastly prefer his writing for his own bands to anything he did for Kenton, even to the movement of "Cuban Fire" that has that lovely Lucky Thompson solo.

Not just a buffoon, but a highly skilled one!

It's not an insult, just an impression.

And I cannot seriously listen to Cuban Fire. Believe me, I've tried many, many times. It shouldn't take that many instruments and that many decibels to say so (relatively) little.

Maybe the problem is with me...I came to it after getting into real Cuban music & I failed to hear any connection, literally, figuratively, and/or spiritually.

Same thing with the much-vaunted West Side Story album he arranged for Kenton. Can't listen to it without praying for it to be over, not so much because it's "bad" as because it resembles noise torture much more than it does loud music.

Sorry, but I can't handle Johnny Richards at all.

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My probably-not-very-interesting two cents:

After having an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Kenton for years, I actually started to listen to his recordings more carefully. It was a good lesson for me that things are seldom black and white - in jazz or any other field. There is much bombast among recorded Kenton, but also lots of excellent music - I don't care whether you call it good or great. Not too hard to pass over (or chuckle at) the bombastic stuff and enjoy the good stuff.

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things are seldom black and white - in jazz or any other field.

That's a metaphor, right? ;)

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Been revisiting the Kenton, just to make sure my ears/head/opinion/etc. haven't changed, just to keep it current, and by and large they haven't. If anything, they're moreso than before.

However...

Adventures In Jazz is still sounding pretty good to me, even better than it used to. Everything, the writing, the playing, the soloing, is engaged and engaging. The Kenton Stiffness is noticeably absent here and I'll credit drummer Jerry McKenzie, who returned to the fold once or twice in the 70s when I saw the band, and brought then what he brings here, the ability to get up inside this beast's ass and actually swing it...Peter Erskine did that too.

But truthfully, I think it was just a better band, period, one that understood how to make the sound musical and not just massive. And this, the "Mellophonium Orchestra" was Kenton's most massive band, maybe not in numbers, but in terms of bombast available. On a lot of their other albums, the delivered all the bombast at their disposal and then some, but here, geez, it sounds like a real BAND playing real MUSIC, not some freak show. Marvin Stamm was just a kid here, and Sam Donahue a veteran of The Days That Kenton Vowed To Never Return To, and that's kinda how the whole band's playing in a nutshell - a newer creative spirit mixed with older interpretive sensibilities

I'd earlier mentioned Bill Holman's chart on "Malaguena", and this, THIS, Ladies & Gentlemen, is what makes me sometimes (such as today) scream out loud. GODDAMN IT, WHY ISN'T IT ALL THIS GOOD? Or even most of it? It's Higher Faster Louder at its very best, bold as hell yet never less than fully musical. HOLY SHIT!!! The fact (imo) that it's very very very seldom this good otherwise just makes me more prone to be pissed off at all the other nonsense propagated by this organization that wants us to think that it's all this good. It's not. Not even a little.

To a somewhat lesser extent, that's true of this whole album. I'll go ahead and recommend it, in fact, if only for "Malaguena" and the kick of hearing Sam Donahue doing whatever the hell beautiful crazyass thing it is he's doing here. But the rest of it takes care of business quite nicely as well.

Adventures In Jazz - ask for it by name, demand it in real life!

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how can you not like a guy who had Lee Konitz and Dave Schildkraut in the same sax section (though Triglia told me he preferred Konitz)? And at least Kenton did his own hiring, got on the phone and called everybody himself.

that's admirably hands-on.

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Yeah, here we go. Bill Holman delivers!

Edited by JSngry

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how can you not like a guy who had Lee Konitz and Dave Schildkraut in the same sax section (though Triglia told me he preferred Konitz)? And at least Kenton did his own hiring, got on the phone and called everybody himself.

that's admirably hands-on.

It's not about liking him, it's about liking the music of the band. And that gets pretty hard sometimes...often...usually...

I do know that Konitz has been open in his thankfulness for the gig and the financial needs it met for him and his family at the time, probably the same for Schildkraut.. So, yeah, nice guy, don't know of anybody who disliked him as a leader and no doubt he was quite the hands-on type!

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As for the "Mellophonium orchestra", I can only recommend a listen to the 1962 transcriptions of that band released in the "The Uncollected" series ("Stan Kenton Vol. 6") on the Hindsight label. Pleasantly swinging, straightforward and non-bombastic within the framework of the brass-heavy big bands of that era.

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how can you not like a guy who had Lee Konitz and Dave Schildkraut in the same sax section (though Triglia told me he preferred Konitz)? And at least Kenton did his own hiring, got on the phone and called everybody himself.

that's admirably hands-on.

It's not about liking him, it's about liking the music of the band. And that gets pretty hard sometimes...often...usually...

I do know that Konitz has been open in his thankfulness for the gig and the financial needs it met for him and his family at the time, probably the same for Schildkraut.. So, yeah, nice guy, don't know of anybody who disliked him as a leader and no doubt he was quite the hands-on type!

As more and more recordings of the live dates become available from that period (I have about 8, and there are more) it's obvious how well Lee adapted to the Kenton environment, resulting in some of the greatest alto features for big band that I have had the pleasure of hearing. I'm extremely grateful to Stanley for that.

Q

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also, according to Triglia, Kenton ultimately did not like Schildkraut's playing and preferred Konitz; if one listens to a some of the "live" stuff from the '53 tour (which had Bird on it), through some kind of weird osmosis, Konitz clearly sounds like some of Dave's rhythm stuff is rubbing off.

according to Schildkraut's wife, he didn't want to do that tour (Dave turned down everybody, including Norman Granz and Dizzy Gillespie); when Kenton called, she got on the extension (because they were broke) and said, "Mr. Kenton, he'll be there." Davey obeyed her.

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lesser known (?), later Kenton masterpiece: Plays The Compositions of Dee Barton--

http://www.amazon.com/Jazz-Compositions-Barton-Stan-Kenton/dp/B000RPCEQQ

I can't speak on the alleged differences between vinyl and cd masters but the latter sounds fine; I knew Barton's work with Eastwood but not really followed it back.

Q: how many accomplished trombonist/drummer/composers are there?

Also, the great importance and achievement of Kenton + X, Y, Z is his insistence on the potentialities of jazz composition + musicianship: that Braxton could get endless inspiration from Kenton is plain; that listeners experienced in 20th c. classical idioms are more likely to be interested in this than pop/rock people is also self-evident. Villa Lobos lives!

Also, re: the great Johnny Richards, Adventures In Time is a mind-fuck, still

http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Time-Orchestra-Stan-Kenton/dp/B000005H8M

Is it still LOUD also? Sometimes. It's a climax!

also, according to Triglia, Kenton ultimately did not like Schildkraut's playing and preferred Konitz; if one listens to a some of the "live" stuff from the '53 tour (which had Bird on it), through some kind of weird osmosis, Konitz clearly sounds like some of Dave's rhythm stuff is rubbing off.

according to Schildkraut's wife, he didn't want to do that tour (Dave turned down everybody, including Norman Granz and Dizzy Gillespie); when Kenton called, she got on the extension (because they were broke) and said, "Mr. Kenton, he'll be there." Davey obeyed her.

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lesser known (?), later Kenton masterpiece: Plays The Compositions of Dee Barton--

Masterpiece? Really? I've had that one for about 40 years now, and it's pretty much the same handful of somewhat slight ideas over and over. He makes it all "sound good", but there's a not a whole helluva lot of filling in that pie.

Q: how many accomplished trombonist/drummer/composers are there?

As many as there need to be. Maybe more!

also, according to Triglia, Kenton ultimately did not like Schildkraut's playing and preferred Konitz; if one listens to a some of the "live" stuff from the '53 tour (which had Bird on it), through some kind of weird osmosis, Konitz clearly sounds like some of Dave's rhythm stuff is rubbing off.

Also, as Konitz' time with the band goes on, you can hear the changes in his tone...it gets harder and brighter. Don't know if that was by choice, out of necessity, or a bit of both.

Lennie said it (Konitz' tone) was "ruined", and I can see why he would think that, but hell, Lee would go on to play with the Varitone, so, so much for that!

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Maybe I'm an idiot -- no, don't answer that -- but I find Kenton's own charts on the 1958 album "The Ballad Style of Stan Kenton" (if they are indeed his charts, as billed) to be seductive and intriguing, though one of the chief points of interest for me, the flowing, slow-motion writing for sax section, may owe or may not a debt to the Ralph Burns of "Summer Sequence" and "Early Autumn."

Not a masterpiece, but the work of a significant and AFAIK individual voice. The Kenton "sensibility," if you will, counts for something -- however disparate (bombast-aggression, pretentiousness, Graettinger, ballroom 'tenderness," Holman-esque swing, et al.) its various parts may be. Take away Kenton from his time, and it wouldn't have been that time. The cultural historian in me takes account of that.

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I find those charts clumsy, repetitive, formulaic, and stultifying. Definitely Kenton's charts. That's another record I listen to praying that it be over as soon as possible. If that's "romance", gee, no wonder nobody falls in love any more!

Far better is Sophisticated Approach arranged by Niehaus. Still formulaic (as are all/most post-Swing Era "jazz" bands overtly "dance band" albums, Ellington's Indigos being the exception that mor or less proves the rule), but flowing and actually "romantic" in a significantly less....creepy way than Kenton's. Plus, you get some Sam Donahue playing with even more air in his tone than Ben Webster!

The cultural historian in me has to deal with all varieties of unpleasant things I'd rather not have in my own world. That's why I keep it on a strict curfew. Cultural history has neither taste nor conscience, nor should it.

People, on the other hand...

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within certain bounds-- '60s big band-- yes, it's continually inventive, superbly realized; go back to "Dilemma" especially.

which i'll rate that as hot as any Jones/Lewis chart (say) even without Billy Harper present to elevate it. Ray Reed (alto) and Jay Daversa are themselves especially impressive.

whether or not certain ideas repeated-- but isn't that "style" too? how many Riddle/May/Paich/Nelson charts could we cut/paste on different tunes?

who says we need "go" anywhere? this goes back to classical dialectic of "thematic development" versus "sound" btw.

if it's a hair pie, YOU are the filling!

lesser known (?), later Kenton masterpiece: Plays The Compositions of Dee Barton--

Masterpiece? Really? I've had that one for about 40 years now, and it's pretty much the same handful of somewhat slight ideas over and over. He makes it all "sound good", but there's a not a whole helluva lot of filling in that pie.

Q: how many accomplished trombonist/drummer/composers are there?

As many as there need to be. Maybe more!

also, according to Triglia, Kenton ultimately did not like Schildkraut's playing and preferred Konitz; if one listens to a some of the "live" stuff from the '53 tour (which had Bird on it), through some kind of weird osmosis, Konitz clearly sounds like some of Dave's rhythm stuff is rubbing off.

Also, as Konitz' time with the band goes on, you can hear the changes in his tone...it gets harder and brighter. Don't know if that was by choice, out of necessity, or a bit of both.

Lennie said it (Konitz' tone) was "ruined", and I can see why he would think that, but hell, Lee would go on to play with the Varitone, so, so much for that!

Edited by MomsMobley

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I find those charts clumsy, repetitive, formulaic, and stultifying. Definitely Kenton's charts. That's another record I listen to praying that it be over as soon as possible. If that's "romance", gee, no wonder nobody falls in love any more!

Formulaic, yes, but I like the formula, in part because it speaks to me so clearly of its time. How old where you in 1958? I was 16. Sounded romantic to me then.

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How old was I in 1958?

2 or 3, depending on the month.

Plenty of other stuff from then sounds romantic to me today. This does not. This sounds creepy.

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How old was I in 1958?

2 or 3, depending on the month.

Plenty of other stuff from then sounds romantic to me today. This does not. This sounds creepy.

And why do you think that romance and creepiness are mutually exclusive?

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Because romance can grow. Creepiness can only intensify.

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Because romance can grow. Creepiness can only intensify.

Nicely put, but one man's creepiness in another man's... But then there's the story that someone recently told us. :ph34r:

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