Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Gheorghe

Stan Kenton´s piano style

24 posts in this topic

I must admit I have not been really familiar with Stan Kenton´s work, my fault. 

Now, for Chrismas my wife bought me a CD "Stuttgart Experience" 1972 live, that´s really fanscinating.

Besides the great Arrangements and the very much Percussion input, great soloists etc , I noticed the way Mr. Kenton plays the piano : 

He doesn´t seem to play much during the big band sections, at least he does not solo, maybe he´s conducting ? 

But he does some incredible intros in what I might say is a kind of arpeggio style . I never heard anything like that. It seems very virtuoso-like, Incredible. I couldn´t do that even if I´d practice. 

And they are kind of mood intros, out of time until the band starts. 

And the only "in time" intro seems to be his intro on the swinging like hell "Intermission Riff" . He´s focussed on the deepest bass keys the piano has, I only heard something like that done by Monk on "Jacky-ing" , that´s were Monk at one point plays lays similar to this Kenton intro …..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Capitol issued an LP (T-656) in 1955 featuring June Christy backed by Stan Kenton. This LP, also available on CD, gives a good sample of his solo piano style for American songbook tunes.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

His original inspiration was Earl Hines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Stonewall15 said:

Capitol issued an LP (T-656) in 1955 featuring June Christy backed by Stan Kenton. This LP, also available on CD, gives a good sample of his solo piano style for American songbook tunes.   

Unless I'm misremembering, he sounds to me on this album like he is trying very hard to be self-consciously "modern."  I guess one could say that about his entire output.  Every chord is a huge, fat, dissonant chord with lots of extensions.  He doesn't vary his approach enough for my taste.  Maybe I should give it another listen.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Teasing the Korean said:

Unless I'm misremembering, he sounds to me on this album like he is trying very hard to be self-consciously "modern."  I guess one could say that about his entire output.  Every chord is a huge, fat, dissonant chord with lots of extensions.  He doesn't vary his approach enough for my taste.  Maybe I should give it another listen.  

He was during his  complete life "the restless searcher" as you can read in Down Beat.

Nevertheless he could direct the orchestra via piano like the Duke with his phantastic Intros

Edited by jazzcorner
typos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, jazzcorner said:

He was during his  complete life "the restless searcher" as you can read in Down Beat.

Nevertheless he copuld direct the orchestra via piano löike the Duke with his phantastic Intros

I don't doubt any of that, but knowing this does not make the June Christy album any easier to listen to.  But as I said, I'll be happy to revisit it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, Teasing the Korean said:

I don't doubt any of that, but knowing this does not make the June Christy album any easier to listen to.  But as I said, I'll be happy to revisit it.

Yes in this special context this is true. Have the album myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

solo.jpg

Kenton did this solo album for Creative World in late 1973.I find it sincere but ultimately (immediately?) shallow (and if you think that the duet album is a bore/drag, by all means forget you ever heard tell of this one). The guy was not exactly an endless font of ideas, if you know what I mean. As far as being an "endless searcher", what he was endlessly searching for was arrangers who could realize his "vision" (such as it was). Many of them did so with wonderful results, and I've come to appreciate Kenton's own role as organizer/facilitator on an organizational/corporate model, but as an individual talent - especially as a pianist - he was, again, sincere but ultimately shallow. Not that he couldn't play, just that it was always/only going to be what it was going to be. Always.

Those intros, interesting as they sometimes are, never really changed that much. Not that they needed to, but again, this was a guy where "different" really came from within his organization, not his own intrinsic self. Sincere, but...

Now having said that, those 70s bands of his, what they lacked in distinctive solo talent, they made up for with a distinct ensemble approach. What Ramon Lopez contributed was significant and more than made up for Kenton's lack of, as the OP described it, He doesn´t seem to play much during the big band sections, at least he does not solo, maybe he´s conducting ?  I saw that band a good number of times during this period, and no, he usually wasn't conducting, he was stitting at the piano listening to his band. And it was a good listen. I don't blame him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your great answers. Really interesting points, especially  that he didn´t have distinct solo talent, more talent in organization. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, JSngry said:

Those intros, interesting as they sometimes are, never really changed that much. Not that they needed to, but again, this was a guy where "different" really came from within his organization, not his own intrinsic self. Sincere, but...

Well you missed  referring to one important aspect or two IMO

a) He had a talent to select artists for his band which became great names in the West Coast jazz style

b) he had always great arrangers (beeing a good one himself btw) for his Ideas

If you will submit that too under "organization" its fine with me.

I have & read the M. Sparke book "Stan Kenton - This is an orchestra" . There is more about this man to say than the slightly negative aspects we  can read in this thread  about him not beeing the great soloist. No jazz artist is perfect and our personal preferences may differ a lot.

 

 

37584938hs.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't at all think he was a "great" arranger, or even a "good" one, really, not in any traditional sense of being able to adapt to different bands' requirements. He was pretty limited in that regard, actually. He could do what he could do, period. One can make the case that he set the template for his bands with his arrangements and then everybody else built off of that, and that's a fair point indeed (but only up to a point. But - his arrangements never (and I've by now listened to pretty much the entirety of the bands chronology in reasonable depth, so I can say "never" with confidence) moved past his own basic format/formula. I've said this elsewhere and it bears repeating - left entirely to his own musical devices (as arranger and as pianist), he'd probably not made it too much past Balboa and a few Swing Era novelty hits.

This is not a criticism, it's simply an observation based on empirical data. Attempts to defend Kenton as if it were a criticism only lead us back into the land of hype, hyperbole, and insular inanity that surrounded the band in its time. That does a severe disservice to all involved, because, yes, Kenton was a mover and a shaker as a corporate leader, and yes, there was a lot of talent in his corporation, and yes, he had some very good bands to represent his corporate brand. And often enough, the actual music had merit too!

But by god, let's appreciate it for what it was, and not try to twist it into something it wasn't (I've heard Kenton equated with Ellington several hundred times in my lifetime, and that represents such a perversely skewed perspective about damn near everything that it frightens me, seriously, it frightens me). That's what killed it for me back in the day, and it's taken me decades to rebuild what for me is an accurate perspective of enjoyment and appreciation about the whole thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jazzcorner said:

a) He had a talent to select artists for his band which became great names in the West Coast jazz style

b) he had always great arrangers (beeing a good one himself btw) for his Ideas

Yep ....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, soulpope said:

Yep ....

I agree.  One of his early compositions/arrangements pretty much set the template for the band's sound for the ensuing decades. "Concerto to End All Concertos (terrible title, I know), but still sounds pretty good today (written in '42; recorded in '46).  And those early Kenton reed section charts, "Opus in Pastels"; "Reed Rapture," "Etude for Saxophones" were pretty darn good; almost unique saxophone voicings for the day. I still enjoy listening to them.

I think the demands of band leading and the music business pretty much overwhelmed Kenton and kept him away from doing a whole lot of writing himself as time went by. Besides, when  you've got Rugolo, Holman, Richards, Russo, Roland, Niehaus etc. you might as well leave it to those guys.  But a couple of later Kenton charts were good - "Opus for Tympani" and "Gloomy Sunday" to name two.     

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Gloomy Sunday" was very effective indeed.

From that same album..."Girl Talk" continues to fascinate, it's like Ahmad Jamal if Amahd Jamal had been Stan Kenton.

The whole Artistry In Bossa Nova album is a chill listen, I like that one a good bit, actually.

My only point is that these arrangements all follow the same conventions in the writing as ever, there's not any real variety or evolution. That's ok, but just saying, I don't think he could have done just that for 30+ years. It's to his credit that he appears to have realized that very early on, and then proceeded accordingly.

But I don't know that that makes him a "restless searcher" or whatever as much as it does a good businessman and a smart bandleader. Basie took the same approach, really, just in a different idiom - get a certain sound, and then find guys who would each put their spin on it. Woody Herman too. Hell Boyd Raeburn didn't write anything. The Tommy Dorsey band, hell, that pretty much WAS a corporation, they had staff this and staff that, one guy wrote these things, another guy wrote those things...

There are people who were dedicated to actual writing, learning and expanding both the craft and the art, and who actually were "restless searchers" or the like. Stan Kenton was not one of them.

Just saying - credit for the business, credit - where due - for the music, but 100% calling bullshit on the "mystique".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, John Tapscott said:

I think the demands of band leading and the music business pretty much overwhelmed Kenton and kept him away from doing a whole lot of writing himself as time went by. Besides, when  you've got Rugolo, Holman, Richards, Russo, Roland, Niehaus etc. you might as well leave it to those guys.  But a couple of later Kenton charts were good - "Opus for Tympani" and "Gloomy Sunday" to name two.   

Agreed & correct

;-]]

 

10 minutes ago, JSngry said:

"Gloomy Sunday" was very effective indeed.

From that same album..."Girl Talk" continues to fascinate, it's like Ahmad Jamal if Amahd Jamal had been Stan Kenton.

The whole Artistry In Bossa Nova album is a chill listen, I like that one a good bit, actually.

Just saying - credit for the business, credit - where due - for the music, but 100% calling bullshit on the "mystique".

All I can comment additionally: When  Stan's  "Neophonic" period begun he lost me.  And thats the end of the Kenton story and me.

But  some great albums get very often a spinning:

- Contemporary Concepts

- New Concepts of artistry in rhythm

- The Bill Holman & Bill Russo arrangemets

- the compilation "Those Kenton Days" with Pepper & Rogers

and the 2 "dancable" albums  "Portraits & Sketches on Standards + Cuban Fire (Richards arr.)

Call them my favorites.

Edited by jazzcorner

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, jazzcorner said:

 When  Stan's  "Neophonic" period begun he lost me.  And thats the end of the Kenton story and me.

All I can say is that there were some excellent Kenton albums made after that, the Dee Barton album in particular and then the Redlands & Brigham Young albums on Creative World. The story of how Kenton semi-retired and then put bands together for very limited "tours" and gradually built up from that is a genuinely inspiring tale. I'm sure he perceived himself as wandering in the wilderness searching for redemption (or a water hole...), and for once (maybe the only time), his self-mythologizing was fully accurate.

That was the beginning of what I call the "True Believer" era, when none of the players were stragglers in from other bands and other gigs, but were all people who truly believed in The Kenton Concept as The One True Way. When they were in full throttle (and not getting hung up in Hank Levy silliness), their belief was justified. Any band who is "all in" is a wonderful thing.

Dick Shearer, you are not forgotten.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

One of my favorite things about Stan Kenton is the liner notes for his Capitol albums.  For about 20 years, Capitol's copy writers had to keep coming up with bold, new, innovative ways of saying how bold, new, and innovative Kenton's music was - even though Kenton never really deviated from his original 1940s approach, i.e., bigger + louder + more dissonant = better.   It's as if he arrived at the apex of "modern" and just stayed there.

Edited by Teasing the Korean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really like the notes to the Hair album in that regard (almost as I like the good parts of the record).

R-12707260-1540697888-5014.jpeg.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I really like the notes to the Hair album in that regard (almost as I like the good parts of the record).

R-12707260-1540697888-5014.jpeg.jpg

The notes to the Wagner album were pretty funny IIRC, but that is one that I re-imprisoned at the thrift store after briefly liberating it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, jazzcorner said:

 

 

All I can comment additionally: When  Stan's  "Neophonic" period begun he lost me.  And thats the end of the Kenton story and me.

 

That's too bad, because the "Neophonic" was almost a footnote to his main career, and never really caught on as Kenton intended (and cost him a boatload of money).  And as Jim indicated there were some good albums that came afterwards with regular band personnel - the Barton thing and the 3 Live University albums. 

I personally think the two live Neophonic releases are quite good (esp. Vol. 1). 

  R-7087083-1433416750-4943.jpeg.jpg R-7087233-1433443845-7888.jpeg.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Wagner album, nice as it is (sic) was a bit of a scam in a lot of ways. All Kenton did was copy from the score, literally. No real "adaptation" at all, just a transcription from one orchestral score onto another one. And the liner notes tell of his big encounter with Ravel, like they had a meaningful conversation and shit. Well, a decade or so later, Kenton cops that they didn't really talk, that it was just an introduction, a greeting, and that was all there was to it, over in the blink of an eye.

That's the kind of bullshithypepropaganda that I've had to work to get away (because, yeah, in the beginning I bought into a lot of that, and finding out that it was all lies was a jolt, to put it mildly)  from when looking at the body of music released under the name of "Stan Kenton". There was a HUGE buttload of hype and propaganda in real time that turned really vile in the early days of the "lab/stage band" movement, and...if one got mired in all that (and getting you to step into it all sure seemed to be the goal), getting the distance to be objective about the music itself has been, for me anyway, a bit of a journey.

And yet, YET, in the middle of all that nonsense, Willie Maiden, telling the truth (when nobody's looking):

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have the Butler U album only for the Four Freshmen (my top vocal group) and some others  mentioned above. The Wagner is really not my cup of tea and  they all do rest in the racks. 

But dont miss this one because it has many different concepts &  sounds and soloists. Was also reissued on the  PAUSA label

My favorite is  the Art Pepper" track.37588088bp.jpg

37588087qq.jpg

 

37588089cu.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

but does it have a good DVD bonus track?

of THIS?!?!?!?!?!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just learned that Duane Tatro, who scored the Quinn Martin series The Invaders, was a Kenton alum.  Who knew?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.