Saturday, October 16, 2010


© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Discographies [listings of recordings by an artist] usually appear at the conclusion of retrospectives about a musician’s career, which is why the editorial staff at JazzProfiles debated about including one at this point in our visit with Stan Kenton and his music.

Because the Kenton oeuvre is so extensive, we decided that it might be more practical as well as helpful to make available an attenuated list of recommended recordings by the Kenton Orchestra.

We may choose to populate the columnar side of the blog at a later time with a formal discography courtesy of Messrs. Michael Sparke and Peter Venudor, both of whom are recognized authorities in such matters.

And although we have had our favorites Kenton recordings over the years, certain periods or eras of his music are more pleasing to us than others.

So as a way of working around our own biases, we put out a call to some internet friends for their suggestions.

Amongst the many enumerations that we received, we thought the following recommendations from Wes Pfarner and John Tapscott would be both comprehensive and manageable for those wishing to put together a basic collection of Stan’s recorded music. Our thanks to Wes and John for allowing us to use their lists.

“Hi Steven --

I won't pick CDs from all eras, but here are my selections for certain time periods.

No. 1 for an "All-Time Best CD" from the Kenton band is "Contemporary Concepts" on Capitol 42310.  It represents the absolute peak of the organization's efforts. [Mid-1955 to late 1956]

No. 2 from the Innovations era is "The Innovations Orchestra", Capitol 59965.  There's way too much music for a single CD, so this one takes two to present it all.
[early 1950 to late 1951]

No. 3 is "Easy Go" Capitol 24553, which presents a wide spectrum of Kenton's band playing charts by Kenton, Roland.  Very mainstream Kenton. [Mid-1950 to early 1952]

No. 4 is "New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm", Capitol 92865, with the Kenton band playing Mulligan, Russo and Holman charts.  [September, 1952]

Of course, one could always go with "The Kenton Era" on Sounds of Yester Year DSOS723 which reprises the original four-LP set from Capitol on two CDs.

Or with Capitols' 4 CD set, "Retrospective" #97350 which touches on all eras of the Kenton band. The Kenton band of the early to mid-1950s had it all - the
best writers and arrangers, the most memorable soloists and a direction in music that made everyone want to be part of this group.

My opinion, others may judge differently.

Cheers, Wes Pfarner


“Steve: No "expert", but let me put in my 2 cents worth, since I enjoy these kinds of challenges.

The first choice for me would be  the "New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm" CD because it includes Richards  "This Is An Orchestra" from which the book derives it's name.  In any case, I would rank it among my top six.

The hardest era in a way is the '40's, since I don't know what Cd's are in print that really have the band's major works from the 40's. The 7 CD Mosaic set is out of print, and impractical for this purpose anyway.

So perhaps "
Kenton in Hi-Fi" from '56 which has re-makes in good sound of many of the band's major 40's successes. 

From the 60's mellophonium era - "Adventures in Blues"  in order to get Roland in, but with "Adventures in Jazz" a very close runner-up.

From the 70's there are a few good possibilities.  Probably "Live at
Butler University" 1972 is the overall best representative with major works from Levy, Hanna and Maiden.

Now this is where is gets tricky, but  I think my final two would be "Cuban Fire" (Richards' magnum opus)  and "Contemporary Concepts" (in order to get a good example of Holman's brilliant writing and to showcase the really swinging side of
Kenton). It pains me greatly to leave off "Adventures in Jazz" and  "Kenton Showcase", both of which are equal to the ones I've listed.

To recap:

New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm (1952)
Contemporary Concepts  (1955)
Kenton in Hi-Fi (1956)
Cuban Fire (1956)
Adventures in Blues (1961)
Live at Butler University (1972)

These six will not steer anyone wrong regarding Stan
Kenton, and yes, I'd be satisfied with these six on a desert island.

John Tapscott”