Monday, June 17, 2019
Posted by Steven Cerra at 10:02 AM
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"Gerry Mulligan's writing for Kenton bespoke of relaxed swing and intimacy in tune with the baritone saxophonist cool aesthetic; Bob Graettinger's contributions to the band's repertoire were at the other extreme; these dense, dissonant explorations - most notable among his magnum opus City of Glass - are exquisitely disturbing. No jazz composer of his day anticipated the later advent of free jazz with more gritty determination. ... Graettinger's writings for the Kenton Band ... were uncompromising works that defied the conventions of existing jazz harmonic and melodic techniques."
- Ted Gioia, The History of Jazz
“Bob Graettinger's radical polystylistic soundworld, with its polyphonic density and bracing atonality, while drawing on ideas previously explored by the likes of Ives, Stravinsky, Copland and Schoenberg, still remains truly distinctive. It also anticipates the radical polyphonic density of jazz influenced big bands like Globe Unity Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, and the various eclectic ensembles of Simon H Fell, though Graettinger's music favours notation over improvisation. He died aged only 34, a brilliant young composer tragically robbed of revealing his full potential, but who left some exhilarating compositions.”
- Chris Blackford
This feature takes as its theme from the following statement about Bob Graettinger by Chris Blackford:
“Given the striking originality of Bob Graettinger's work, one would expect him to be a much celebrated figure in the annals of jazz. Sadly, not so. In fact, I've yet to find a jazz encyclopedia that even allocates him an entry.”
While gathering its many essays and narratives, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles looked at the preparation of this piece as a kind of rescue mission; a way of doing its part to reclaim Bob Graettinger from total obscurity while, at the same time, acknowledging the work of others who have contributed greatly to our knowledge of Graettinger and his work.
The various Graettinger pieces have been cobbled together with an eye toward further editing, but until that is accomplished, the reader will likely find some repetition between these pieces,
But at least they are all in one place.
Of course, as is often the case, the starting point for anything to do with Stan Kenton is Terry Vosbein’s site - All Things Kenton - which offers this audio file with Kenton sharing his recollections of Graettinger’s time on the Kenton Band which you can sample via this link.
While you are on Terry’s site, you will also see a reference Robert Morgan’s doctoral dissertation entitled The Music and Life of Robert Graettinger which was submitted in 1974 to the Department of Music at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. You can click on each of the chapters in Professor Morgan’s dissertation and read about Graettinger in greater detail.
For the purposes of this compilation, let’s begin with this overview of Graettinger and his music by Chris Blackford.
Above The Timberline: The Music Of Bob Graettinger - by Chris Blackford
“During the mid-40s, leading US big band conductor, composer and arranger, Stan Kenton, was promoting his own and Pete Rugolo's "progressive jazz". The huge success of this accessible large-scale Swing with elements from the romantic region of European classical music - see The Very Best Of Stan Kenton (Empress RAJCD 906 CD) - paved the way for his more ambitious late 40s/early 50s "Innovations in Modern Music", mostly realised by a massive 40-piece jazz orchestra with sizeable string section. For this project, Kenton championed the work of US jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger Robert (Bob) F. Graettinger (1923-1957), and in doing so unleashed upon his audiences some of the most advanced and original jazz influenced pieces ever to see the light of day. Needless to say, Kenton quickly lost the support of most fans, while attracting the scorn of the conservative jazz critics.
Graettinger's work for Kenton's orchestra is collected on City Of Glass (Capitol Jazz 7243 8 32084 2 5 CD). Where Copland's Music For A Great City (1964) suite is primarily a eulogy to New York, scattered with jazz inspired rhythms and brass to suggest its bustling, frenetic ambience, Graettinger's City Of Glass suite (here performed in its 1951 version) evokes a more troubled vision of an unspecified metropolis - much in keeping with the brooding, frequently violent, urban underworld of Hollywood films noir of the time. 'Entrance Into The City' and 'The Structures', its two-part first movement, is a turbulent fanfare of searing strings and piercing brass, where swing time makes sudden appearances and vigorous pizzicato seamlessly becomes a delicately plucked guitar. Swing rhythms maintain a lasting presence in 'Dance Before The Mirror', driving the swirl and blaze of mutated big band horns. 'Reflections', the closing movement, signals a neoclassical lyricism, its strings and woodwinds swarm then explode into a final densely textured fanfare with the brass, before melting slowly into an urban darkness.
Each movement of City Of Glass is not much longer than a pop single, though brevity requires that each piece quickly attains symphonic proportions. This Modern World (not titled as such, and re-ordered here), the other work in short movements, reads like a mini-concerto ('A Horn') plus several intricate pieces for predominantly brass and woodwind ensembles; the adventurous contrapuntal and harmonic scoring still seems remarkably modern - 'Some Saxophones', 'A Trumpet' and 'A Thought', while for larger forces, wouldn't sound out of place on a Rova Saxophone Quartet CD.
Perhaps the most surprising track on the disc is Graettinger's subversive arrangement of the Matt Dennis & Tom Adair ballad 'Everything Happens To Me'. The charming, comic-romantic lyrics, sung beautifully by June Christy, are given an almost surreal tweak by audacious, yet subtly judged, juxtapositions of neoclassical strings, chamber jazz romanticism and splendidly jarring woodwinds. Another song, 'You Go To My Head', presented in an instrumental version here, finds its trombone theme competing against a tense siren-like brass and woodwind figure, until the latter falls away sharply and the melody emerges in all its delightful, luxuriant warmth.
'Thermopylae', Graettinger's earliest piece (1947) for Kenton, adopts a similar tension and release structure where a wistful theme soars over a formidably dense trumpets and trombones dominated texture; 'Incident In Jazz' unites toe-tapping big band Swing with swooning, stratospheric strings. Then the orchestra's 16-strong string section gathers for the short but powerful 'House Of Strings', its bleak, post-romantic melodic sweep and savage atonality recall Bernard Herrmann's later strings-only score for Psycho (1960). It's the only piece here making no reference to jazz.
Given the striking originality of Bob Graettinger's work, one would expect him to be a much celebrated figure in the annals of jazz. Sadly, not so. In fact, I've yet to find a jazz encyclopedia that even allocates him an entry. It seems that the work of this former student of composition at Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles has nowadays become merely an obscure adjunct to the career of Stan Kenton. Although Kenton was the prime champion of Graettinger's music, and Graettinger composed and arranged these pieces with the playing styles of Kenton's band members in mind, it really is time to recognise Graettinger in his own right as one of the most important composers in post-war jazz. He certainly deserves to be as highly regarded as say, George Russell.
In June 1993, composer, arranger and conductor Gunther Schuller (inventor of the term "third stream" in the 50s to describe the meeting of jazz and classical music) and Ebony Band presented a programme of Graettinger, Pete Rugolo and Franklyn Marks pieces at Muziekcentrum Vredenberg in Utrecht and Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. Recordings from these concerts were issued as Robert F. Graettinger: City Of Glass (Channel Crossings CCS 6394 CD, 1994) and feature the previously unperformed (and possibly unfinished) Graettinger pieces 'Graettinger #3' (1950) and 'Untitled' (1948): the first a work for strings akin to 'House Of Strings' in its whorl of biting modernist dissonance and post-romantic melodic gestures; the second, minus strings, has a Stravinsky-like polyrhythmic vitality that culminates in a blaze of big band jazz. The disc also contains City Of Glass I (1947), an earlier version of his ambitious suite, later recorded in 1951 by Kenton's aforementioned 40-piece Innovations In Modern Music orchestra, as well as the 1951 version itself, here titled City Of Glass II; the 1951 version is nearly twice the length of the 1947 version with the result that its tempestuous peaks can be arrived at after lengthier labyrinthine development. Also present are 'Incident In Jazz' and 'Thermopylae'; plus Graettinger's splendid arrangements of Vernon Duke's 'April In Paris' (1947) and D. Raksin's 'Laura' (1948), both of which showcase Graettinger's audacious, angular treatment of thematic material. Sadly, his other important suite, This Modern World, is not included in this collection.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the Kenton and Schuller readings is the fiercer attack of the former, though it must be said the compressed, rather trebly sound quality of the old Kenton recordings does add a harsher edge to the density of the music. A piece like 'Incident In Jazz', with its dramatic shifts in tempo, points up the differences in approach with Kenton's band achieving a more piercing potency in the brass and reeds and a dizzying swirl in the passages for strings. Likewise the Kenton recordings of City Of Glass possess a congested, nightmarish ambience less evident in the Ebony Band performances. Of course, Kenton's band featured jazz musicians of the calibre of Maynard Ferguson, Shorty Rogers, Art Pepper and Shelly Manne, whereas Ebony Band, although supplemented here by guest "classically trained" jazz wind players, essentially comprises members of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, who arguably don't possess quite the same wild gleam in the eye as the seasoned jazzer. In other words, while Schuller's band certainly convey a sense of idiomatic collision, in their pursuit of technical accuracy they sometimes take things a touch too respectfully. The difference is best summed up by Art Pepper, who in describing a performance of City Of Glass concluded: "we'd played the shit out of this thing. . ." Interestingly, it's on the Rugolo piece 'Conflict' where Ebony Band deliver the sharp dynamic contrasts with the greatest impact. These minor quibbles apart, this is a fine disc and a laudable tribute to the work of Bob Graettinger in particular. A real treat to at last hear these challenging pieces, brimming with timbral interest, recorded in good quality stereo.
Bob Graettinger's radical polystylistic soundworld, with its polyphonic density and bracing atonality, while drawing on ideas previously explored by the likes of Ives, Stravinsky, Copland and Schoenberg, still remains truly distinctive. It also anticipates the radical polyphonic density of jazz influenced big bands like Globe Unity Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, and the various eclectic ensembles of Simon H Fell, though Graettinger's music favours notation over improvisation. He died aged only 34, a brilliant young composer tragically robbed of revealing his full potential, but who left some exhilarating compositions. R”
This piece is taken from an article first published in Rubberneck 30, December 1999, and is presented here with additional material (January 2000). Text copyright © Rubberneck; photo © Kenton Archives
Chapter Eight: City of Glass, Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz, Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960.
dance before the mirror
“In a ramshackle room above a garage, a pale, vampirish figure pounds out a succession of dissonant chords on a tiny upright piano that seems both too big for the smallish room and too small for the reverberating harmonies that come out of the instrument's sounding board. The room is sparsely furnished: a single card table, a few apple crates, a mattress lying on the floor, a frying pan, a few odd kitchen utensils, assorted bottles of vitamins. Ten dollars a month does not buy much in the rental market, even in 1948 dollars. But this tenant seems scarcely bothered by the meager surroundings. Lifting himself from his reverie in the music, he picks up a pad of paper and begins to draw small figures in bright colors on the page. It seems he has gone from the realm of music to that of visual art in an instant, but closer examination shows that the paper contains some strange hybrid work. It appears part sketch pad, part musical manuscript, part poetic notebook, all done up in striking, multiple colors. After a moment, he puts down the paper and starts again on the piano.
It could well be a scene from a Hollywood movie: tormented genius at work. But though the neighborhood is, in fact, Hollywood, California, the scene is real life, not cinema. Sequestered in a series of spartan garrets, Bob Graettinger struggled day after day for over a year on what he felt would be his magnum opus: a four-part work he called City of Glass. Graettinger worked at the piano as many as twelve to fourteen hours each day, seven days a week, stopping reluctantly only to sleep and eat. An aesthetic ascetic, Graettinger viewed food and rest as evils to be partaken of only as necessary; one would get plenty of sleep, he often remarked, in the grave. As for food, Graettinger lived primarily on fried eggs and milk (the key, he felt, was to maintain a high level of protein) supplemented by vitamins. Whenever Kenton tried to raise his salary, he protested that he could not take any more than $25 a week. Graettinger occasionally allowed the bandleader to buy him a new suit — but only after Kenton insisted that the current one was not presentable attire for meeting the public; band members recall Graettinger's long attachment to a single blue suit. When he didn't have a belt, a piece of rope sufficed.
His musical script was as nonconformist as everything else about him. Instead of using musical manuscript paper, he wrote on graph paper — the kind with the smallest grids. Instead of using pencil or pen, he worked with multiple colors — blue, orange, red, violet, green. The instrumental parts were written with the highest range at the top of the page, with descending registers following accordingly. Graettinger's meticulously crafted drawings were integral to the manuscript; they formed diverse figures and hieroglyphs — a private argot whose Rosetta stone we still lack. More decipherable comments dotted the margins: "RIPPLES THEN WAVES . . . DESERT SOUNDS . . . THOSE FOOL BIRDS AGAIN" are typical examples.'
Stumpy Brown recalls the musicians' "look of disbelief" when they saw the City of Glass score. "This music was way ahead of our time."2
Born on Halloween in 1923, Graettinger had started on saxophone at age nine. He began working professionally, as a writer and player, with Bobby Sherwood at sixteen. He later worked with Benny Carter, Johnny Richards, Alvino Rey, and Jon Savin before retiring from performance to focus on composition. This decision to abandon his career as a saxophonist took place shortly after he was given a medical discharge from the armed forces for alcoholism — a recurring problem for Graettinger— toward the close of World War II. Graettinger's education as a composer took place at the Westlake School of Music, an institution more suited to churning out studio musicians than disciples of Stravinsky or Hindemith.
By all accounts, his skills as an arranger developed slowly, his pre-Kenton work showing little of the dramatic flair of his mature pieces. When he had first approached Kenton at the Hollywood Palladium in 1941, the charts Gracttinger offered the bandleader were clumsy efforts that gave only a hint of the composer's messianic vision. Kenton encouraged the young writer to persevere but soon put the encounter out of mind. Six years later, when Kenton was back in Hollywood for a rehearsal of the Progressive Jazz orchestra, Graettinger reappeared with another arrangement for the bandleader's inspection. This time the music, a Graettinger piece called "Thermopylae," made a powerful impact on Kenton. Privately he admitted to friends that he didn't know if the piece was "genius or a bunch of crap," but he decided it was provocative enough to demand a hearing.3 Within months Kenton had recorded the work, and Graettinger was added to the band's payroll.
The reaction of others in the band to the newcomer was, for the most part, apprehensive reservation. Various comments, culled by Kenton historian Carol Easton, capture the general sense of discomfort at Graettinger's arrival.4 "Bob Graettinger was frightening," Gene Howard said. "He was a very weird person" was Jan Rugolo's verdict. "He had this terrible coloring — sick. He looked like he was just out of the picture all of the time. Just very weird." To Shelly Manne he was simply an enigma: "Graettinger was the kind of guy you don't know what to say about him! Even though we were on the road with him, spent time with him, we never really knew him." Bill Holman was equally mystified: "We were kind of in awe of him. None of us understood his music."
The most sympathetic appreciation of Graettinger given to Easton came from, of all people. Art Pepper. Pepper, a street-wise, hard-blowing altoist with movie-star looks, would seem to be an unlikely companion for this consumptive Kentonian composer of atonal jazz. But Pepper, despite the accolades, always saw himself as something of a loner, misunderstood and rejected by the insiders. Given this self-image, strikingly at odds with the way others viewed him, it is little wonder that the altoist felt a deep affinity for the outcast Graettinger. "I was one of the few people who would spend time with him," Pepper recalled. "We'd smoke pot together and just talk. When he died I was very unhappy, because I always had the feeling that if he had lived he would've been someone I could've went to and talked to and possibly gotten some direction or understanding or sympathy or whatever it is that you need." There is clearly some heavy psychology hidden in this depiction of Graettinger, the "weird, frightening loner" who turned off everyone else in the band, as the one person whose advice Pepper would seek in a time of need. About Graettinger's music Pepper had no reservations. "He was a genius."
It was to Pepper that Graettinger explained in the greatest detail the story represented in City of Glass. The opening section depicts the approach to the city, with the colors and activity slowly building as the city gates draw near. Images of trees or signs on the graph paper would be converted into musical notation, with the range of instruments reflecting the intensity of the image. A bright tree would be translated into music in the higher register with bright-sounding instruments, while a gloomy tree would fall into the lower register with trombones or bass.
Graettinger strived to capture not just the character of each instrument but the personality of each Kenton player. Pepper recalls that Graettinger saw the altoist as having a tragic and lonely sound — this before Pepper's fall from grace, and when, for example, writers like Shorty Rogers would invariably feature Pepper as a player of pretty and dreamy ballads. But Graettinger's much-different characterization was, as Pepper saw it, an uncanny prophecy — "The way he described my sound is exactly the way my life went," Pepper said. Graettinger's ability to combine individual sounds into a musical whole was crucial to his compositions — much as was the case with the very different work of Duke Ellington. Also like Ellington, Graettinger was never held back by the conventional section-writing techniques in which brass, reeds, and rhythm serve as the basic building blocks, rather than the individual sounds of specific horns. The opening of City of Glass is atomistic, analytic; it breaks down the sections into individual parts, isolated sounds.
The second section takes the place within the city and consists of a walking tour of the precincts. Different families of instruments—brass, strings, reeds—are used to represent the various buildings encountered during this stroll. The third part, the most dramatic section of the work, is entitled "Dance Before the Mirror." Graettinger described it as a view of the surrounding structures as "though one were viewing them while whirling around in a spirited dance before a huge mirror. There is a frenzied climax and then abrupt silence."5 Here Graettinger combines his flair for flamboyant orchestral colors and spine-tingling dissonances with a powerful jazz rhythmic drive. This section of the work is wholly successful as a fusion of avant-garde classical techniques with a jazz band idiom; as such it compares favorably with the much more celebrated Ebony Concerto, which Stravinsky crafted for the Herman band during the same period. The final movement, "Reflections," creates a musical vantage point from which the city can again be viewed as a whole. It is comparatively soothing, at least by comparison with what comes before. The work ends with a flaming sunset over the city of glass and a final plunge into the darkness of night.
The City of Glass premiere was as unusual as the work itself. Kenton took the opportunity of a concert at the Chicago Civic Opera in 1948 to launch the piece and assigned Graettinger the rare opportunity of conducting the band. A capacity crowd showed up for the Progressive Jazz Concert, as it was billed, with little idea of quite how progressive the proceedings would be. After the band completed the grueling four-movement work, Graettinger and the band members nervously awaited some response for several moments while a stunned silence continued—the audience could well have been turned into glass for all their reaction. Then Kenton seized the initiative by literally leaping in front of the band and, with a dramatic gesture, signaling the group to take a bow. The audience responded with an enormous ovation. Then they stood and began cheering. Perhaps befuddled, they knew nonetheless that they had witnessed, on that night, something quite out of the ordinary.
Graettinger's output for Kenton was always slow in coming, and he only produced one or two pieces a year during his tenure with the group. In the mid-1950s, Graettinger grew even more reclusive, and his writing activities became ever more sporadic. He died in the spring of 1957, shortly after undergoing surgery for lung cancer.”
Along with Terry Vosbein, Michael Sparke is a long-time chronicler of Stan Kenton and his music and has this to say about Bob Graettinger in his book, Stan Kenton: This Is An Orchestra:
If we are all losers from the Petrillo recording ban, no one's career suffered more than that of Bob Graettinger, who had joined as staff arranger in the fall of 1947 [James C. Petrillo, head of the American Federation of Musicians instituted two recording bans over royalty payments: one that lasted from 1942-44 and the other that lasted 11.5 months in 1948]. Because of Graettinger's non-conformist lifestyle and the unconventional nature of his music, a mystique has grown around him that almost defies rational explanation. One thing is clear: Kenton and Graettinger stuck together like limpets, Kenton because he was so smitten by Bob's writing; Graettinger because no one but Stan would have dared to play his music in public.
Kenton himself was a man of strong feelings and emotions, and I believe he heard in Graettinger's work an intensity and passion—a SOUND—that gratified his senses. Bob's writing was hard, crisp, skillfully constructed, energetic and LOUD—all the "masculine" attributes that Kenton most admired. Above all, Graettinger elevated Progressive fazz to its final, logical conclusion—totally different, truly original, often incomprehensible. Better than any other writer, he fulfilled Kenton's aspirations to establish a New American Music.
Bob first burst upon the scene with his 1947 recording of "Thermopylae" (mis-spelt "Thermopolae" by Capitol), presumably named in honor of the Spartans who died defending this narrow Greek pass against the invading Persian army in 480 BC. The somber composition is bereft of solos, or even relief from the repetitive theme and clashing panoply of brass fanfares, and it is hard to deny the opinion of Robert Morgan, Graettinger's biographer, that the work is "Totally depressive, and in the final analysis a weak piece of music."3 Nevertheless, Kenton told me, "I fell in love with this thing Bob had sent me called 'Thermopylae,'"4 and Eddie Bert (not noted for his promotion of non-swinging styles) commented, "I was at the rehearsal when Thermopylae' was auditioned. We started playing, and I got chills from listening to the trumpets and what they were playing in back of me. It was a good piece of music."5
With Stan's encouragement, Graettinger set about writing his magnum opus, which he called "City of Glass." Premiered at Chicago's Civic Opera House on April 20, 1948, the story told by Art Pepper in his autobiography Straight Life has become part of Kenton folklore: "It was a miracle we got through 'City of Glass,’ an incredibly hard musical experience. Bob conducted it, a tall, thin guy about 6 foot 4. He looked like a living skeleton conducting, like a dead man with sunken eyes, a musical zombie. He took us through it, and he finished and he turned around to the people and he nodded, and the people didn't do nothin'. The place was packed, we'd played the shit out of this thing, and now there wasn't a sound. The audience didn't know what to do."6
Some nine minutes long, discordant, cacophonous, and without any discernible melodies, "City of Glass" left a majority in the audience stunned and bewildered. Seeing their discomfort, Kenton leapt center-stage while gesturing to the band to rise, and by spreading his arms wide to the audience indicated that what they had just heard was great, and it was over. The dutiful but polite applause that followed was far from the standing ovation Pepper recalled in his memoirs.
The musicians were as unimpressed as the fans. Eddie Bert related: "It wasn't like a trumpet section and a trombone section, everybody was playing different parts. You just had to follow the music as best you could—I didn't know what the heck I was playing, you just played what was written. I don't know if anybody could figure it out, but it wasn't jazz as I understand it."7 Milt Bernhart was of a similar opinion: "'City of Glass' didn't belong in a jazz band, because it didn't resemble jazz in any manner, shape or form. It was writing for a symphonic orchestra, but it would have to compete with Samuel Barber or Alban Berg, and anyone else who wrote in a linear, non-melodic, polytonal style. But I don't think Stan had ever heard these guys, because as far as he was concerned, Graettinger was the first." After this inauspicious reception, "City of Glass" was duly mothballed, and never repeated for the rest of the year.
Instead, Bob concentrated on arranging standard ballads for the dance library—except that in Graettinger's hands the arrangements were far from standard! Milt Bernhart again: "One was 'Autumn in New York,' and another was 'You Go to My Head.' Stan and everybody in the band felt very highly about them, they were very enthusiastic. Bob's scores certainly were different, we didn't have anything in the book that resembled these arrangements. Bob took those songs, and he created a new slant on the melodies. We were playing them at dances, but I don't know what the dancers thought. They could hear the melody I suppose, but Graettinger's way with a melody was very advanced, and the arrangements took strange turns and were full of surprises. But not nonsense—it was new and original, but it all seemed to hang together and make sense."8
But Bob will never be accorded the proper acclaim for this most prolific period of his career, for the simple reason that unlike Rugolo (with Kenton), Ralph Burns (Herman), George Handy (Boyd Raeburn) and Gil Evans (Claude Thornhill), the contemporary recordings aren't there to establish his reputation. Graettinger had the misfortune to thrive during the one year of that wretched recording ban, and his sounds died on the ballroom walls that absorbed his music. In most cases, all we have are live recordings revived in the 1990s by the Dutch Ebony Big Band, which professional as it is, cannot compete with the incomparable Ken-ton band of 1948.
Graettinger's daring harmonic and melodic complexity is literally breathtaking. One of Bob's techniques was to have a soloist play the melody very straight, almost deadpan, while the orchestra ran riot around him. On "I'm in the Mood for Love" it was George Weidler playing the straight man, a difficult role in view of so much accompanying dissonance, in one of Bob's most audacious arrangements. The turbulent introduction is a mini-composition in itself, but Graettinger also creates moments of beauty: at the end the trombones rise out of the crescendo with a really lovely choral voicing.
Such contrast (largely missing from Bob's originals like "Thermopylae") adds greatly to the success of these "dance" arrangements. There's tension and release on "I Only Have Eyes for You," as Graettinger piles layer upon layer of sound until the orchestra seems about to implode upon itself, until relieved by the melodic solo trombone (played in 1948 by Harry Betts). The one title revived and recorded by Kenton in 1952 was "You Go to My Head," with Bob Burgess in Berts' original role. By no means the most daring of these charts, even so the opening dissonance, which provides the arrangement with much of its distinction and originality, proved unacceptable to 1950s audiences, and this feature was often dropped from live performances.
"Graettinger was kind of a strange boy," recalled Pete Rugolo. "Bob wrote some great things, but he didn't care what people thought. He was just living with some strange gal [Gale Madden], and smoking it up with the weed and stuff. His arrangements were so different, and really far-out, much more modern than my writing. Bob just wrote anything he felt like. Every so often he'd bring something in, like his arrangement of 'You Go to My Head,' and it was very difficult at first, because it was so unusual. But when we got it together it was good, and Stan loved it."9
In addition to Michael Sparke’s book on Kenton and his music, Dr. William Lee’s Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm only references Graettinger in its discography while Carol Easton in Straight-Ahead: The Story of Stan Kenton contains this narrative about Bob:
“During the band's first engagement at the Hollywood Palladium in 1941, Howard Rumsey spotted a tall, gaunt, intense teen-ager with disproportionately large hands and dark, deep-set eyes, hanging around the bandstand night after night. During one intermission, he shyly introduced himself. His name was Bob Graettinger, he told Rumsey, and he had these arrangements. . . . Did Rumsey think Stan might take a look at them?
The arrangements were amateurish, but ambitious. Stan encouraged the boy to keep writing, and forgot him.
Six years later, during a rehearsal of the Progressive Jazz orchestra in Hollywood, Graettinger turned up again—taller, thinner, and with a haunted look in his eyes that betrayed the fact that, at twenty-four, he was already wasted. He wore an ill-fitting suit and carried an arrangement under his arm.
Graettinger had by this time played alto saxophone for Vido Musso, Alvino Key, Benny Carter and Bobby Sherwood, for whom lie had also done some competent but unexceptional dance arrangements. Drafted toward the end of the war, he had quickly received a medical discharge—for alcoholism.
Shortly thereafter, during a period of sobriety (some lasted as long as a year), he announced to a friend, "I have more to say than I can say with one horn," and gave away his alto, never to play again. He enrolled in Westlake School of Music, in Los Angeles. Westlake was oriented toward scoring for films, rather than the classics, and had a fine reputation. But Graettinger's ambitions were neither classical nor commercial. To him, music was a vehicle — the only one available to him — of expression for the conflagration that raged inside him and would, before his thirty-fifth birthday, destroy him.
SHELLY MANNE: "Graettinger was the kind of guy that, you don't know what to say about him! Even though we were on the road with him, spent time with him, we really never knew him."
BILL HOLMAN: "I felt that Graettinger had a goal with his music, the same as I did with my rhythm and warmness, but I never did find out what it was. His music came out kind of cold, but I never felt that he was like that. I never had a conversation with him. When he came out on the road, he would hang out with management, and I was labor; I think he might have been more pro-labor than management, but he always wound up there. We were kind of in awe of him; none of us understood his music."
VIOLET FOSTER: "He was a loner—very introspective, preoccupied. I suppose he saw all those notes goin' by all the time."
STEVE PERLOW, saxophone: "When we socialized, we talked about music."
CLINTON HOMER: "As long as he ate and had his cigarettes and his music, that was all he wanted. He lived like the novel or motion picture version of the starving composer living in the garret. Every time you were around him, it was like a chapter out of a book or out of a movie."
JAN RUGULO: "He was a very weird person. He had this terrible coloring—sick. He looked like he was just out of the picture all of the time. Just very weird. We didn't really have a lot of weird characters on the band, but he was really very strange."
GENE HOWARD: "Bob Graettinger was frightening! Probably the world's first hippie. Completely and utterly a nonconformist. He wrote things that I still don't understand, and I think that if Stan would be completely honest with himself, he doesn't understand them either!"
STAN KENTON: "His music is great! I know it's great! No doubt in my mind!"
Graettinger lived like a derelict, in a succession of ten-dollar-a-month rooms over garages or in tiny Hollywood "courts." His possessions consisted of a card table; a couple of apple boxes; a mattress that lay, bedsteadless, on the floor and, except for the bleakest periods, a little upright piano. He had one glass, one cup, one saucer and a frying pan in which he scrambled thousands of eggs. He believed that if he ate enough high-protein food and drank enough milk and took vitamins, his body would withstand any amount of abuse, including lack of sleep. Graettinger literally hated sleep. "Sleep in the grave," he'd say. He was shabby and untidy, but clean—obsessively so. He never had more than one suit, a blue one; when his belt wore out or couldn't be found, he simply substituted a length of rope.
While Graettinger's poverty was not, as some suspected, a pose, something in him must have perversely relished it, for in all the years he was on the Kenton payroll, he refused to accept more than twenty-five dollars a week. "I'd try to force more on him, but he'd say, 'No, I'm straight, I get all my vitamins, I'm all right.' I'd say, 'Graettinger, come on, you're not living right! You're too God damn skinny!' He'd say, 'No, I'm straight, don't you worry about me. Twenty-five dollars a week is all I need.'
"Once in a while we'd have to go somewhere where he was going to be introduced, and I'd say, 'What clothes have you got to wear?' And he'd say, 'This.' And I'd say, 'That's not good enough, Graettinger, Come on, I'm gonna buy you a suit. I'd pick out the material, and tell the tailor how to cut it, and Graettinger would wear the suit."
Graettinger's relationships with women illustrate the peculiarly elliptical romantic entanglements of many musicians. From 1947 to '49, Graettinger lived with Gale Madden, who had appropriated her last name from another saxophone player, Dave Madden, who had also lived with, but never married her. Gale was a frustrated pianist; she saw herself as the woman behind the genius (whomever he might be at the moment). She looked even freakier than Graettinger, in mismatched shoes, men's clothes, whatever took her fancy. She shared Graettinger's oblique perspective on life and was one of the few people who could make him laugh. But she was volatile and erratic, if not downright psychotic; Graettinger came home one day to find everything dyed pink — bedspread, towels, curtains, clothes, shoes, everything. Sexually, the relationship was bizarre. Gale had a reputation for being, to use one musician's phrase, "a sexual circus," and Graettinger was impotent; the implications can scarcely be imagined.
When Gale left Graettinger, it was for still another saxophone player — Gerry Mulligan—and there were others after him. Graettinger subsequently became involved, platonically but closely, with Lois Madden, who had married Dave Madden after Gale's departure from his life.
"I live above the timberline," Graettinger told Lois, "where nothing grows." Truly, that landscape is the visual counterpart of his music: desolate, stark, chilling, terrifying. The influences on Graettinger's music ranged from Beethoven's Eroica to Stravinsky, but the notes he made to himself on his incredibly intricate worksheets reveal that the strongest influence was nature. Bars and phrases are described as DESERT SOUNDS . . . RIPPLES, THEN WAVES . . . THE OPEN SEA AND WOODS AND HILLTOPS. PERHAPS A BIG WAVE, THEN BACKWASH DURING WHICH THE CELLO ENTERS . . . THE RAW CHORUSES ARE LIKE BEING THROWN AROUND IN WAVES. And, poignantly, THOSE FOOL BIRDS AGAIN.
Other notes, scribbled in other margins, pinpoint the solitary spot where Bob Graettinger lived. SOME FAMILIAR AND
DYNAMICALLY JOYOUS SOUND . . . ALL KINDS OF INNER THINGS POKING THROUGH . . . THINK OF THE BEAUTY OF THE ACTUAL INSTRUMENT ... A WOODWIND SOARING OVER MIDDLE STRING SOUNDS . . . THIS BUILD UP MUST HAVE ITS JOYOUS ASPECTS. IT IS LIKE SOME FANTASTIC EVENT ... IN THE OBLIVION, USE THE MIDDLE FLUTE VERY TENDERLY . . . CLIMAX IS AFTER THE PEAK IS REACHED, THEN MAKE IT TO THE OBLIVION THAT YOU SO SELDOM ACHIEVE, THEN GRADUALLY COME DOWN FROM IT ... BE ADVENTURESOME WITH MELODY; SHOW IT IS LIKE A DAM BREAKING WITH A SHOWER OF ALL THE OTHER THEMES, TOO. . . . And ill
bright green ink, underlined: WHAT DO YOU HEAR?
Then . . . CLEAN ALL OF THIS SHIT UP TODAY! THE PRESSURE IS ON—RIGHT NOw! RELAX!
And finally, in the middle of a fragment of a score:
The chart Graettinger handed Stan at that afternoon rehearsal was "Thermopylae." It was dramatic, daring, different; Stan was impressed, and recorded the piece before the year ended. He put Graettinger on the payroll, even while confessing to friends that "I don't know whether his music is genius or a bunch of crap!" Most of Graettinger's work was unsuited to regular engagements of the Progressive Jazz orchestra and was performed only rarely, during concert dates. The musicians were mystified by his music and his method of working.
ART PEPPER: "Graettinger didn't write just for a band, or for sections; he wrote for each individual person, more or less like Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn did. It was so very difficult to play, because you were independent of the guy next to you. If you got lost, you were dead, because there was no way to figure out where you were at. But in order to do this, he spent a long, long time just traveling with the band. We played one-nighters, mostly, and we'd be on the bandstand playing, and he was very tall, and he looked sort of like a ghoul or a vampire or something; he had these strange, haunting eyes, and he stood out. All you'd have to do was look out in the crowd and you could see him immediately, even in the balcony! He would just stand and listen to the band. Then on the next set, he'd be in another spot. He would block everything out, if he could, and listen to just one particular person, and get that person's sound, the way that person played; because even though together it sounds the same, everybody has their own little personal connotations of playing the same thing. He wrote for each person, like as far as the projection of their sound, how the sound carried, what it reminded him of, and he spent months just doing that, just standing and listening to the band."
Circa 1950, the Innovations period, Art Pepper had no way of knowing that his career as a brilliant alto soloist had already peaked, and that what then seemed a harmless flirtation with drugs would lead him to addiction and nine years in San Quentin, In hindsight, however, he recalls wonderingly,
"Graettinger perceived my sound as being very mournful and very sad. Very introverted. Very unhappy. Very tragic, very lonely, very unhappy, very turbulent. And he told me this at a time when I was still young and everything was going great. And the way he described my sound is exactly the way my life went.
"It seemed to me that he knew that he didn't have long. He never wasted any time. He was a true existentialist. He was God. There was nothing outside of himself. People were nothing more than things to be used to further his art. He spoke of himself as a genius; he was a self-admitted genius. But he was a genius.
"I was one of the few people that would spend time with him. We'd smoke pot together and just talk. When he died, I was very unhappy because I always had the feeling that if he had lived he would've been someone that I could've went to and talked to and possibly gotten some direction or understanding or sympathy or whatever it is that you need. . . ."
Instead of composing on conventional score paper, Graettinger used large sheets of graph paper with the tiniest squares available — one hundred to the square inch. In many of the squares, with delicate precision, he drew infinitesimal numbers, letters, circles, squares and hieroglyphics decipherable only by himself. But the bulk of the squares reflected his lifelong preoccupation with color; varying intensities of blue, orange, red, violet, green and yellow formed abstract pictures of sounds. The top line of the graph indicated the notes. The left side, from top to bottom, represented all the instruments in the orchestra, from the highest possible sound—Maynard Ferguson's trumpet—down to the lowest register of Bob Gioga's baritone. And each instrument had its own color. When copyist Clinton Romer transposed the music to score paper, the notes corresponded to the patterns on the graphs. Graettinger explained the process to Art Pepper after completing his major work, a four-part suite called City of Glass.
"He drew a city, coming into the city, with colors, on the graph paper. As you would approach the city, there wouldn't be much, occasionally a little sign or something, and the sign would be just so many squares of color, condensed, like a block of sound. Then as you approached the city, more and more things would happen—more notes, more colors. When it was daytime, it would be bright colors, depicting a whole city-buildings and trees and sidewalks and people. A tree would be like a tree in the picture, and when you saw the score, there would be all kinds of notes that would look like a tree. If it was a bright tree, then it would be bright instruments, like trumpets, that had a high, bright tonality. If it was dull and dark and dreary, he would use lower sounds, dreary, subtle sounds—trombones, or bass. For the solos, he used each person's particular sound, depending on what he wanted—a sad sound or a bright sound, or dull, or morbid. If you knew the format, you could actually see the pictures of what was happening."
Graettinger worked on City of Glass for over a year, sitting at the piano twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. It was premiered by the Progressive Jazz orchestra in the summer of 1948, to a capacity audience at the Chicago Civic Opera House, with the composer nervously conducting. In Stan's view, "The way to listen to City of Glass is to sit alone or with someone you have an especially good rapport with, and have a few tastes first. You're not supposed to understand it. It's fantasy. You experience it with your subconscious." But the audience at the Chicago Civic that night was without benefit of this advice. When the last dissonant, nerve-jangling notes died away, they sat as though turned to stone — baffled, confused, silent. After a long, frozen moment, Stan jumped up from the piano, gesturing for the musicians to take a bow, and turned to the audience with both arms high in the air, indicating that what they'd heard was something great, and it was over. Obediently, they stood and cheered.
The Innovations repertoire included a substantial sampling of Graettinger's music, from the comparatively swinging "Incident in Jazz" to the haunting "House of Strings." City of Glass was scored to include the string section, and in December of 1952, Capitol reluctantly recorded that version. Lee Gillette produced the album.
"As Stan's producer, I was his representative, so I'm the one that had the big battle with the people upstairs. Nobody understood City of Glass. What were we trying to do? Why were we going to pour money down the drain to promote something like this? My arguments always were, I think Stan has proven himself up to now; I don't think we should stand in his way! He may not have had all million record sellers, true, but he certainly was making a big dent in the music industry.' And they would admit that and they'd go along, but they'd always try to slow us down."
When Gillette was arguing for City of Glass, he had not yet heard the piece performed. Stan, the flimflam man, had pre sold him. When the time came to record it, "The engineer and I had a rough time with the scores because of that graph system Graettinger used. It was unquestionably the hardest album that was ever made with Stan. The night that we completed the album, I took the dubs home. We lived out in Van Nuys, in an orchard, more or less, and I had a record building off from the house. I went out there about one o'clock in the morning and played this whole album, and when I got through and opened the door, I was afraid to walk to the house!
"Some of the branches [of Capitol] thought we were out of our minds to record it. Others raved about it. And it didn't sell that much. I don't think we sold ten thousand alburns." Downbeat gave the album four stars; Rob Darrell's review of January 28, 1953, verged on hysteria:
If your nerves are still raw and twitchin' from New Year's ... If a kitten daintily padding across an inch-deep rug-nap sets you groanin' "Pul-lease quit that stompin' around!" . . . Then you're in no fitten shape for such rackety-rax aural calisthenics as I'm prescribing today. I've got a rugged workout for ya, man, and no softies or kids are gonna stand the gaff.
But if you've got tough ears and constitutions, I can promise you an adventure in new sound you'll never forget. . . .
You'll be feeling no pane either when Stan Kenton gets through with Bob Graettinger's City of Glass — probably the most exciting, maybe one of the most vital, and certainly the noisiest symphonic experiment yet achieved by a jazz composer and conductor.
Actually, there's no jazz in it (except for an echo or two in the Dance Before A Mirror third movement) but it sure is as "modern" as you can get. It's out of Schoenbergian and Bartokian blood-lines, perhaps, as far as the music itself goes, but all dolled up with the very latest in Graettinger and Kenton-style innovations where the frenzied but dazzling interplay of sonorities is concerned.
It's almost intolerably harsh and shrill in stretches. Some of the stunts are beaten to exhaustion, a few are thrown away before they really get going, and oftentimes the use of too many effects at once tends to cancel out much of their impact. I wish Graettinger were as clever a dramatic psychologist as he is a sound-pattern weaver, for his work needs more astute editing and organization. Yet, for all that, he's got something here that's brashly alive and at its best tremendously exciting.
. . . Graettinger is a genuine pioneer. . . .”
Equal time to critic Barry McRae:
“The sheer pomposity of arrangements provided by Graettinger marked a nadir in the band's life. Even his scores for 32-bar popular songs were uncomfortably formal and, in spite of his brilliant use of dissonance, they tended to become flaccid performances. There was a certain air of detachment about much of his work, and City of Glass confirmed that his true talent lay outside the field of jazz.”
Nobody has ever claimed to understand City of Glass. It was as difficult to play as it was to listen to. Bill Russo remembers, "A lot of those chords hurt your teeth. Especially your fillings!" Shelly Manne, attempting to describe what Bob Graettinger's music was all about, says, "He tried to write electronically, with conventional instruments. His whole concept of writing was tension and release — to create terrible tension in a person's ear through dissonance, and then release it." But the music reflected the man; and always, the tension exceeded the release.
Graettinger was amused by the pretensions of the critics, who in turn called his music pretentious. He claimed to use Downbeat for toilet paper. His music, he said, was a diary of his life, his emotional autobiography. Unable to relate to people, he sought relief in the mountains, at the seashore, at the zoo. And, when all else failed, from a bottle.”
To listen to City of Glass and its sequel, This Modern World, is to experience the isolation, the exposed nerve ends, the exquisite anguish of Bob Graettinger. His music defies time, space and value judgments. But for Stan Kenton, it might never have been heard.”
The complete Stan Kenton Plays Bob Graettinger was issued by Capitol Jazz on CD in 1995 with Michael Cuscuna as the producer [CDP 7243 8 32084 2 5]. Richard Cook and Brian Morton offered the following annotation in The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
The 16 pieces arranged by Bob Graettinger which make up this CD number among the most exacting works Kenton was ever responsible for. Graettinger's two major pieces, 'City Of Glass' and 'This Modern World'.are extraordinary works- Ellingtonian in their concentration on individuals within the band, yet using the bigger resources of the orchestra to create its own sound-world. All of his 14 originals (there are two arrangements on standards) create their own kind of jazz, and its suitability to Kenton's orchestra might almost be likened to Strayhorn's music for Ellington - except Graettinger was by far the more original thinker. Splendidly remastered, this is an important memorial to a man often forgotten in the annals of jazz composition, and Max Harrison's typically elegant sleeve-note supplies the fine context.
Here are Max Harrison’s sleeve notes:
“Robert Graettinger:A World Apart
Though Stan Kenton was seen as a proponent of "modern" or "progressive" orchestral jazz, his output followed several directions. Not all of them were compatible, for he recorded a huge body of work that was extremely diverse in musical achievement and aesthetic intention. Perhaps in the eye of history Kenton's greatest significance may after all prove to be that during its earlier times his band was the vehicle for several composers exploring what then were seen as the frontiers of jazz. And certainly the passing of recent years has made it apparent that Robert Graettinger was the most powerfully original of these.
His first contribution was "Thermopylae," and this, after nearly half a century, still offers the listener a mysterious, even disquieting, experience with roots in some unseen dimension. The shifting relationships between reeds and brass subvert the common practice of swing band writing and result in a polyphony which generates this music's chief impact. Indeed the somber, almost overheated, turbulence indicated that a challenging new personality had appeared on the horizon.
But there he initially remained because "Thermopylae" was the sole piece of his that Kenton recorded for several years, although Graettinger did score "Everything Happens To Me" for June Christy. This was never put on disc by the full band and it is fortunate she left a scaled-down version of the arrangement, done with a smallish Kentonite ensemble under Bob Cooper's leadership. An independent approach is again evident, for instead of receiving conventional support the singer is placed in a contrapuntal web, and already we can recognize the brief instrumental passages as characteristics of Graettinger. Even if it replaces the human voice with a trombone, the later "You Go To My Head" confirms his oblique response to the popular song, and ensemble textures here persistently recall the first movement of "City Of Glass."
All these pieces, including the initial version of "City Of Glass," heard in 1948, employed a conventionally instrumented band, whereas most of Graettinger's other Kenton pieces were associated with the exceptionally large Innovations In Modern Music ensemble. To compose for this he needed to know more than he had learned studying composition at Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles and arranging for, and playing the alto saxophone in the bands of Alvino Rey, Bobby Sherwood, Jan Savitt and Benny Carter in the years immediately before "Thermopylae." According to Art Pepper, "Graettinger didn't just write for a band, or for sections; he wrote for each individual person, more or less as Ellington did. It was so difficult to play because you were independent of the guy next to you." And Graettinger took his time. Pepper and others recalled that he spent months traveling with the band, making an intensive study of each musician's playing, and the result was the rest of the music on this CD.
The idea of treating a large ensemble as a group of individuals comes immediately to life with "Incident In Jazz." Here is an elaboration of texture which then had few jazz precedents, especially as each strand is both different and musically essential. Just as remarkable is the wild energy, the compressed force of expression which rises to a climax that is a vortex-like gathering together of harshly contoured yet strongly related fragments. By a typical Graettinger paradox, however, a piece using only the ensemble's strings is still more searching, and "House Of Strings" is enough to efface most previous jazz attempts to employ such instruments. Here spectral, there abrupt, now incandescent, elsewhere bleak in its actual sound, this music is full of shimmering activity, ablaze with layer upon layer of counterpoints, although overall clarity of design is never obscured by this inner wealth of invention. Less outlandish in instrumentation, "Modern Opus" is just as unconventional in gesture. From modest polyphonic beginnings it rises to a dense-textured, still contrapuntal, resolution, then to a brief falling away.
Graettinger's other works for Kenton both had several movements. In one of these, "This Modern World," he took six selections that are presented here separately, in the order in which they were recorded, and reorders them in a new sequence ("A Horn," "Some Saxophones," "A Cello." "A Thought," "A Trumpet" and "An Orchestra") in which the three solo vehicles are each followed by ensemble pieces and the latter show a rise of intensity. Graas's line in "A Horn" is not a real solo but simply the most prominent element in the texture. A fairly austere lyricism boils up into concentrated drama, the multiplicity of invention affecting constant shifts of musical emphasis. "Some Saxophones" is less anxiety-ridden, has a more directly sensuous appeal, and is a study in saxophone tone-colors. "A Cello" is a miniature concerto for [Gregory] Bemko, who is always the main focus, although the band provides an enhancing commentary. Sometimes this is full of mournful agitation, at others of ghostly delicacy; here the music is drily tense, there it is thrust forward with minatory rhythms: an exceptional five minutes.
"A Thought" is an amplification of impulses expressed in "Some Saxophones," with more diverse and quicker-moving colors, a greater variety of phrase-shapes. Halfway between "A Horn" and "A Cello" in emphasis is "A Trumpet," Ferguson's line often being, again, only the most conspicuous thread in an elaborate tapestry while at other points unequivocal use is made of his stratospheric capabilities. "An Orchestra" is spontaneous in sound yet enigmatic in meaning and marks a further intensification of the processes shaping "A Thought," which raised the bid made by "Some Saxophones." There are still richer and more volatile colors here, replete with fervent musical excitement and barbed subtleties. Particularly memorable is the way the central section's violence is dissipated by the time the interrogative close is reached.
Whereas the movements of "This Modern World" might conceivably have been an arbitrary assemblage, the parts of "City Of Glass" are indissolubly linked. They make up, in other words, a work that is larger, not merely longer, than was then usual for jazz; and hence this is almost of necessity a more complex organism. This is especially so in the version recorded here, for Graettinger did not simply add strings to his 1948 score but thoroughly recomposed the whole. With all their stormy restlessness, the textures of this music can at first seem as crowded, alien and ferocious as a drop of pond water viewed under a microscope. Much listening is required if the flood of incident, allusion, illusion, of expected pursuits and fleeting vistas is to be recognized, let alone grasped, most of all understood. There is a ceaseless interplay of swift-changing instrumental groupings and fugitive solo lines, with starkly dramatic string writing for "Entrance Into The City," hocketed pyramids of arpeggios, ominous timpani and a shower of pizzicato in "The Structures." A steady but quite unmetronomed thresh informs the eventually organistic "Dance Before The Mirror" as it approaches a distorted evocation of fleeting jazz echoes — not least of Ellington's "Harlem Airshaft" — with the saxophones in a devious variation of some Benny Carter variation. During the finale, given a doubly ambiguous title in "Reflections," which takes still further the tendencies which shaped "An Orchestra," consonant strands contrast with shifting hues, and questioning strings are answered by desperate convocations of brass to build a tension which finds resolution in a shared uncertainty.
After all this, is the city really there? Conjured out of the symbolic geometry of Graettinger's graphic notation, it seems to dissolve, reappear, and vanish again amid its own glassy reflections of—and on—itself. Are the thronging paradoxes of City Of Glass perhaps akin to the magical paradox of Tennyson's Camelot: "...built to music, and therefore never built at all, and therefore built forever?"
— Max Harrison London, April 1995
A final note in summary on Graettinger and the significance of his music and Kenton relationship to it is contained in the following observations by Gunther Schuller:
“What I find fascinating about Graettinger—even startling as a discovery (for me and perhaps all of us)—is the striking originality of his music. To really appreciate that, we must remember that the bulk of his music was written in the late '40s and early '50s, when the reigning influential composers were Stravinsky, Schonberg and Bartok. Yet none of his music sounds even remotely like any of these composers. It Graettinger sounds like anybody, it is Ives—in the music's multi-layered complexity, textural density and non-tonal language (especially City Of Glass)—anticipating (not following) many of the European and American avant-garde experiments of the '50s and '60s.
Much of the same can be said of his jazz-oriented works and arrangements. Pieces like "Laura," "Autumn In New York" or "Incident In Jazz" are radically new in relation to the jazz canon of those post-war years, neither bowing to the influence of Ellington nor the beboppers. It is to Kenton's eternal credit that he discovered and supported this young, at that time totally unknown, talent.”
- Gunther Schuller, March, 1995