Sunday, October 31, 2010
The editorial staff at JazzProfiles has always been quite fond of pianist Cedar Walton's original composition Bolivia. In March 2002, Mike Abene arranged Cedar's tune for Holland's Metropole Orchestra, hence the title of this piece. The piano solo is by Hans Vromans, Leo Janssen does the honors on tenor saxophone and Mike conducts the orchestra which, once again, demonstrates how talented its strings players are at Jazz phrasing. With his arrangement, Mike essentially captures all the moods, human sensibilities and vistas reflected in th images of Bolivia as contained in the video. Mike and Cedar are in Bolivia in that their music complements and compliments these graphic representations of the country and its people.
Posted by Steven Cerra at 3:37 PM
Saturday, October 30, 2010
One might be hard-pressed to find more virtuoso and heartfelt alto sax playing than that displayed by Charlie Mariano on this Bill Holman arrangement for the Kenton Orchestra of Stella by Starlight. In addition to his marvelous statement of the melody at the outset, checkout what Charlie puts together as an ending from 4:09 minutes including his cadenza at 4:52 minutes.
Posted by Steven Cerra at 1:45 PM
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“There can be little doubt Stan Kenton saw himself as a musical visionary—a questing, exploratory spirit—and it's a tribute to his strength of purpose no less than his charisma that he was able to impose his vision on, and carry with him so many others on his quest.
Then too, despite whatever one might think of his music, particularly as it has held up in light of all that has transpired in jazz since he first appeared on the scene, it's clear that he succeeded in his major goals. It is partially as a result of his efforts that jazz is now accorded respect as a serious music, perhaps America's major contribution to world music; that the locus of the music has shifted from the nightclub to the concert hall and festival stage; that the synthesis with European concert music he envisioned has been enabled to take place in the work of others who followed in his wake; and that the music has had its horizons widened through various of the concepts he pioneered and set in motion. That he enriched the vocabulary of jazz and changed the character of the jazz orchestra are undeniable; one simply has to listen to those that came into being after him to have this confirmed. …
If he was nothing else, Kenton surely was a catalyst who drew to himself large numbers of gifted artists and, through his example, inspired them to give of their best.”
- Pete Welding
Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
This is where I came into Stan Kenton “World,” although at the time I had no idea that it was the New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm era or that there were such periodizations of Stan’s music.
Having heard many of the earlier hits by the band -Concerto to End All Concertos, Collaboration, and Intermission Riff – to name a few, I was certainly ready for more when I encountered Stan’s Contemporary Concepts [Capitol, 1955] and Back to Balboa [Capitol, 1957] albums.
These were the Kenton albums that introduced me to Sam Noto’s beautiful sound in the “Jazz” trumpet chair and the power and precision of the lead trumpet work of Al Porcino and Ed Leddy.
The trademark, vibrato-less Kenton trombone sound was, by now, well-developed and in the capable hands of the likes of Bob Fitzpatrick, Kent Larson and Kenny Shroyer.
Richie Kamuca and particularly Bill Perkins took Lester Young’s hollow sound to new levels on tenor sax while Charlie Mariano’s poignant wail and Lennie Niehaus’ beautifully constructed long lines on alto saxophone made my heart sing and leap, respectively.
These were the albums that introduced me to the slash and bash style of Mel Lewis’ big band drumming; has any big band drum ever played better fills or dropped more well-placed bombs?
But the music on these albums and on the other recordings that were a part of the New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm period [roughly 1952-1958/59] was different than the 78s I had listen to from the 1940s in that it was arranged more linearly and the sound from these arrangements flowed more smoothly to the ear.
All of the usual Kenton “fireworks” – the screaming, high register trumpets, the huge, fat trombone sound anchored by two bass ‘bones, the big cymbal splashes – were still all there, but now you could pop your fingers and tap your foot to the charts on Contemporary Concepts and Back to Balboa in a way that was more characteristic of the big bands led by Woody Herman and Count Basie.
As I came to later understand, the reasons for this change in the sound of the Kenton band had everything to do with the arrangers that Stan chose to work with at this time: people like Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman and Marty Paich. To some extent Bill Russo, Gene Roland and Johnny Richards also belong to this group although they along with Stan and Pete Rugolo would continue to contribute the band’s more customary, orchestral arrangements.
Stan’s music began to move; it acquired more of a metronomic “feel” to it. The arrangements by Mulligan, Holman and Paich had a lighter sound with more of a middle texture that brought the saxophone section more prominently into the band’s arrangements.
To my ears, Bill Russo’s compositions and arrangements represented a transitional style between the Concert Kenton [what Will Friedwald refers to as “… Kenton’s obsession with artmusik”] and the less grandiose looser feel particularly of the Contemporary Concepts album which would largely be made up of the arrangements of Bill Holman [with a tip-of-the-hat to Gerry Mulligan and Marty Paich].
Pete Welding in his insert notes to the CD reissue of New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm offers these thoughts on Kenton’s music at this time:
“To place things in perspective, this particular edition of the Kenton orchestra followed on the heels of the ambitious 40-piece "Innovations In Modern Music" concert ensemble Stan had mounted in early 1950 after a year's sabbatical during which he had completely rethought his musical philosophy. He viewed the larger orchestra, …, as the best means of reestablishing his primacy in vanguard musical thinking. A corollary aim was that by playing only concert engagements, the band's previous ties with dance music would be clearly and finally severed and Kenton would be freed to concentrate on the "serious" concert music he wished to pursue to the exclusion of all else.
While he might have been successful in putting dance music behind him, Kenton soon found the "Innovations" orchestra to be a mixed blessing. He persevered with it on and off for much of the ensuing two years but ultimately the formidable logistics and financial burdens involved in maintaining such a large ensemble proved much too daunting even for him, and the orchestra was disbanded after only two moderately successful concert tours were concluded and a third, of Europe, was canceled.
A return to the "Progressive Jazz" format led ultimately to the group and approach heard here and an abandonment of the grandiose designs of the "Innovations" orchestra in favor of the lighter textures, greater rhythmic resilience and more conventional—but far more deeply creative and ultimately more satisfying —orchestral approaches followed with such happy distinction by Mulligan, Holman and Russo. Their writing for the band clearly showed that when approached with imagination, wit and resourceful creativity such as they possessed, and a solid, informed knowledge of the conventions of big band jazz, which they also had, the music was anything but moribund or played-out but could course with a plenitude of freshness, invention, vitality and bristling contemporaneity. Certainly these charts do, sounding just as spirited and invigorating today as when they created such a furor of excitement on their release 36 years ago.”
Given the preponderant number of arrangements that Bill Russo and Bill Holman wrote for the band during the New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm era, not surprisingly,
Mosaic Records elected to label the boxed set it issued of this music as simply Stan Kenton: The Holman and Russo Charts[MD4-136].
In order to keep this piece from getting a bit too unwieldy, we have divided Mosiac and Will’s notes into a Part 1 focus on Bill Russo while covering their thoughts on Bill Holman in a following Part 2. Please keep in mind that the influences on the writing of both Russo and Holman were not strictly chronological.
Mosaic Records and Will Friedwald. Used with permission, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Most of us who've come along since the '50s read our first objective and usuable appraisal of Kenton in Feather's original Encyclopedia of Jazz, which described his music as operating on three levels. On the bottom level there are lowbrow pieces designed to attract the general public. The middle level contains the Kenton band's straight jazz pieces, written by men who also established reputations as major jazz orchestrators before (Gerry Mulligan), during (Shorty
Rogers) and after (Bill Holman) their tenures with Kenton - of these, only Pete Rugolo did virtually all of his most significant work as an instrumental jazz orchestrator during his Kenton period (Rugolo's best work as a consistently-inspired arranger for the great vocalists came later).
In Kenton's own point of view, moving up the ladder landed one on the third and highest rung, that of his most deliberate and, in John S. Wilson's term - "arty art" music - compositions that both challenged one's ears in terms of tonality one's watches in terms of length, the most famous and infamous being Bob Graettinger's City of Glass. Even the title was imposing enough to scare the hell out of you.
Most of what we read about Kenton tells us that the man himself only really loved his music at that third, highest-browed level, but he produced so much good pop, jazz and dance music that it must have held a strong attraction for him.
With the possible exception of the years when Pete Rugolo served as the band's musical director, the music written for Kenton by Bill Holman and Bill Russo, represents the best that Kenton ever recorded from every possible angle - the three levels of low, high and middle brow as well as the distinction between Kenton's rules and the exceptions to same. They're also Kenton's best ravioli - delectably tasty combinations of the band's familiar starchy pasta sound but containing real meat in the middle!
It's generally oversimplified that Russo wrote mainly serious works and Holman was responsible for the band's swingers; Russo also did "lighter vein" pieces like Bill Blues and Holman also came up with the pompously-titled Theme and Variations (both also arranged standards and vocal features for the band). However, the two Bills do exemplify the two approaches towards appreciating Kenton: Russo wrote music that, to use a fittingly Wagnerian term, represents the ne-plus-ultra of Kenton; Holman took Kenton to the limits of un-Kenton.
Wagner's extra-musical angles - leaving aside the radical misinterpretation of the composer's intentions through a racial point of view by certain 20th-century political regimes -parallel Kenton's in that "Artistry in Rhythm" represents the ultimate expression of the American jazz-pop aesthetic in terms of an Anglo-Saxon patriarchal point of view. There's a further theoretical similarity with many a heavy metal rock band of the '70s and '80s, British or otherwise, which use Nordic icons as part of their visual presentations (stage props and album cover art); not in the sound, since Kenton, even at his worst, always at least made music, but in the complete absence of black or ethnic elements.
Performers from the American east, from Benny Goodman to Frank Sinatra or even Kenton's own Vido Musso, brought their Jewish or Italian backgrounds to this Afro-American music no less than the black players of Southern ancestry brought their own collective heritage. The kind of Kenton sound that Bill Russo brought to its highest point, "Kenton-Kenton" suggests not an Aryan arrogance but pride - posing that this is no less the stuff of music for both the head and the feet than the music created by the descendants of those who arrived on American shores after 1700.
The second Bill Russo piece to be recorded by Kenton, Halls of Brass, serves as a striking an example of pure "high Kenton" as any in the band's history. An amazingly together piece to come from a 22-year-old (neither Kenton nor Rugolo created anything comparable until their '30s), we can forgive its young composer his attempts to rocket in so many directions at once since his four years with Kenton would give him a remarkable opportunity to adjust his focus. But far more than Kenton's later direct assault on The Ring and Tannheuser et al, Halls of Brass constitutes a far more successful attempt to bring Wagner and Germanic-period Stravinsky into Kentonian terms. And that's mainly because it has such a strong undercurrent of teutonic masculinity - a symphony whose primary color is testosterone, it might well be called Balls of Brass.
… Russo's works for the band are thoroughly Kentonian right down to their 'bones (pun), as they continued the Kenton trombone tradition. Of the 40 or so pieces of Russo's (who stayed in the trombone section until 1953) recorded by the band, virtually all use the instrument extensively, in solos and sections. Solitare (Milt Bernhardt), Ennui (Harry Belts), Frank Speaking, I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues and I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good (all Frank Rosolino), Over the Rainbow (Bob Burgess), A Theme of Four Values and Thisbe (both Bob Fitzpatrick) and the unrecorded Kenton arrangement of Aesthete on Clark Street are all trombone features, whereas by contrast he only penned perhaps one or two specialty features apiece for any of the other horns.
On both features for trombones and other instruments, and other multi-solo pieces too, Russo digs juxtaposing the soloist with birds of a feather - the way in Portrait of a Count, hot trumpeter Conte Candoli is accompanied by a section of blaringly open horns, like Fred Astaire in top hat in TOP HAT surrounded by a chorus line of slender, light-footed dancing men in top hats. And on the solo features as well as other kinds of pieces, besides getting more than one tempo going, he often starts several melodies rolling at once, sometimes in a carefully-controlled cacophonic chaos, sometimes in a simple setting of one theme atop another - and, to return to the space opera ideal, he's especially into the "twinkling stars" sort of backdrop, prominent in Halls of Brass, I Got It Bad and especially Edgon Heath, which plays with notions of foreground and background.
The features for instrumental stars, as written by both Russo and Holman (especially in the "St-St-Starry" masterpieces Stella by Starlight and Stairway to the Stars) come out of the Kenton vocabulary as recently defined by Rugolo, Shorty
Rogers and the leader. 'They were slow and kind of fast in the middle," said Holman, "going back to the things Shorty had done like Art Pepper and Maynard Ferguson, you can use a beautiful song, and let the guy get hot in the middle and finish up the same way." Their slow-fast-slow set-up grows out of Jimmy Dorsey's earlier and more light-hearted three-tempo pop pieces like Tangerine, and, more directly, Dizzy Gillespie's multi-tempo Lover Come Back to Me.
"Stan was right about one thing," Holman added. "On ballads, it was better to feature a solo horn rather than trying to make the whole band sound warm on a ballad melody. It's much better to let a soloist do it because he can put so much more into it than a section playing a written out thing. So, we extended that to some of the hot pieces too, just to give a focus for the chart, to build it around one guy." Whether Russo's solo-spotlight features modulate from dirge to flagwaver or just from slow to stately, in a way that must have really turned Kenton on, they tend to get serious just at the point when another arranger would get sentimental.
Many of the Russo-Kenton concerti affect their speed changes dramatically, sometimes using an a capella pause as the point of tempo modulation, which becomes even more appropriate in the Latinate pieces, as the Latin-jazz orchestra enjoys a healthy tradition of pausing (or in the annals of Perez Prado, pausing and then grunting, though the Kenton-Russo trombones grunt with far greater grating grunginess than even the most road weary of human voices). 23 Degrees North – 82 Degrees West, that cacophonies cackling of the coordinates of Cuba for lascivious lovers of Latin latitudes, represents Russo's masterpiece of poly-everything, being polyrhythmic and polyphonic;, contrasting different time signatures, different sections, different melodies on top of each, both at once and after more of those band-stopping rests.
Writing in Time Magazine in July, 1953, Kenton commented … 'The orchestra as it stands today is the greatest we've had in the twelve years of its existence. With the addition of men like Lee Konitz, Bill Holman, Frank Rosolino and Stan Levey, the band seems to have more drive than ever before - plus the fact that it's 'swinging.' (…) Even Whitney Balliett, the most articulate of anti-Kentonites, conceded in 1953 that the orchestra, ‘reveal(s) a much clearer jazz feeling than ever before.’
The new band used many of Kenton's '40s arrangers at first, including Johnny Richards, Shorty
Rogers, Bob Graettinger and the leader, but as it got deeper into its own touring schedule, Kenton, ever anxious to break new ground, relied more and more on Russo. By this time, the aforementioned established arrangers mainly wrote for Kenton as for a certain, very specialized kind of art kick while workaday studio gigs paid their Bel Air mortgages, but Russo, who remained in the trombone section, grew closer to both the man and the band as his own talents blossomed, and became the first to develop a new, post-Innovations style for the Kenton Orchestra.
In fact, both Russo's "low" and "high" brow pieces brought Kenton closer to what he had striven for with Innovations than he was ever able to do with the really big band. Johnny Richards may have landed the plum chore of explaining to the fans that this new group was in the best Kenton tradition in his Prologue [This is an Orchestra], a latter day equivalent of Benny Goodman's Ooh,Boom wherein B.G. showed he still had a great band (including Lester Young) despite the recent departure of Gene Krupa. But Russo dominated this particular Kenton era, writing virtually all four of Kenton's first original LPs, which included two collections of standards and the first Kenton collection to spotlight a name other than his own – The Music of Bill Russo. Russo also wrote almost all of the album which titled this entire period of the band's development, New Concepts, with the following phrase in much smaller letters near the bottom of the front cover, ‘Of Artistry In Rhythm.’
In his highly-concentrated Kenton career, Russo delved so deep into the essence of Kentonia that he was bound to dig clear through to
. To explain, let's go three degrees backwards and two degrees to the left: Kenton maintained his uniqueness by never going 100% into the mode of any era; only Woody Herman trusted his audiences enough to completely go native with every worthwhile new trend. Whether Kenton played bop or semi-classical pieces they always sounded like Kenton first and whatever other style they happened to be in second. China
And that includes the "cool" movement, of which, quite literally, every major writer and player had been part of the Orchestra at some time (and, as Russo pointed out, "'colonized'
because that was Stan's home base when they worked for him"). They had comparatively little effect on the Kenton sound, mainly because he filtered those cool and contrapuntal ideas through his intrinsic heaviness. Even Shorty 'Twinkletoes" Los Angeles - with Gerry Mulligan the major "cool" arranger - sounds comparatively heavy in his Kenton pieces. Only Russo, in pieces like Fascinatin’ Rhythm, gives the weighty Kenton aggregation the true bottomless bounce of "cool" at its best, without removing any of the elements that let you know in two shakes of a monkey's tail exactly whose band you're listening to. Said Russo, "a Kenton band is almost instinctively recognizable because of its distinctive sound, personality and flair for the unusual." Rogers
On some of his settings of standard ballads as well, Russo finds in the Kenton sound something no other arranger had ever been able to bring out: lightness and elegance - a discovery as potent as Bill Holman's demonstration that the Kenton sound, in and of itself, could swing. Gerry Mulligan, briefly a Kenton arranger but for a long time one of his most astute commentators, has often expressed his preference for Claude Thornhill's great band (especially in the years after the war and before the second ban, when Gil Evans wrote the bulk of its arrangements), explaining that Thornhill's impressionistic tone-poem-like tableaux contained more beauty than Kenton's muscle-heavy machinations.
However, Russo, in these 1953 homages to the greater glories of Tin Pan Alley, brings a Thornhillian gentleness (most directly on There’s a Small Hotel) to the Kenton pallette, again, without taking away anything from what the boss expected. This Sophisticated Lady, for instance, even betrays lipstick traces of authentic femininity - the trumpet is muted rather than blaring through your brains - even if said lady does insist on running her jungle-red fingernails across the chalkboard of your heart, whereas You and the Night and the Music deftly shows that Astaire might have made a better dancing partner for this band than Tex Ritter. April in Paris, in Kenton style, threatens to become "December in Dresden," but its comparative featheriness and muted trumpet part point to the slightly later hit Basic version. How High the Moon retreats to its pre-jazz ballad tempo, with the characteristic blasting very nearly shooting higher than said satellite.
Having finished the two ten-inch albums of his re-thinkings of standards, Russo's final four "mood" pieces for Kenton, A Theme of Four Values, Dusk, Edgon Heath and Thisbe, show that the composer had completed a remarkable evolution since his initial works for the Innovations band only four years earlier. These are the kind of pieces that must have thoroughly thrilled and frustrated Kenton at the same time. Just as Kenton felt that Pete Rugolo captured what he wanted in 1945 better than he could, in 1954 Bill Russo is using every element of the Kenton sound - the Chopinesque piano, the brass demolition crew, the wild fluctuations in volume and dynamics - in a way that Kenton never really trusted himself to.
Russo creates truly serious and very heavy compositions that are not at all pretentious (because it achieves everything it sets out to do). Contrastingly, Kenton, especially after the commercial success of peanut vendor and the creep, only trusted his own abilities in terms of jukebox-oriented singles. In sponsoring and then conducting the more "serious" works of Graettinger and Russo (and, to another extent, the full swing pieces of Holman) Kenton must have been getting his thrills vicariously.
The key was to explore elements in keeping with the Kenton character yet which previous arrangers had not yet fully exploited. Ultimately, Russo prefers to polythematically play two riffs against each other at once, while Bill Holman would rather take one irresistible riff and bounce it along until it gradually leads into solos and subsequent phrases; the various melodies generally come one at a time, not simultaneously.”
To be continued in … New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm – Part 1
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Horace Silver was the subject of an earlier feature on JazzProfiles which you can locate via this link.
My favorite among Horace’s many Blue Note albums is Finger Poppin’ which contains his original composition – Cookin’ at the Continental.
Mike Abene, the renown Jazz composer-arranger, scored Cookin’ at the Continental for the
GRP All-Star Big Band, and we have used this version as the audio track for the following video tribute to Horace.
The first time I heard Mike’s arrangement of the tune, I was surprised by the fact the he took Horace’s solo from the original recording and arranged it for the entire band – no mean feat!
As Mike explains: “It’s a great solo that he plays on that, so I had a couple of friends, Bill Kirchner and Andy Boehmke, transcribe Horace’s solo and I used it for the ensemble. By using the solo as an ensemble line and kind of expanding the harmony a little, it puts the song in a new perspective. The hardest part for me was trying to orchestrate Horace’s solo, because since it’s a piano solo, it covers six octaves.”
Arturo Sandoval takes the trumpet solo, followed by Tom Scott’s tenor solo; Mike’s orchestration of Horace’s piano solo begins at and ends at minutes.
Posted by Steven Cerra at 2:59 PM
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
"Change the rhythm and you change the music."
- Wynton Marsalis
"There exists in all people, either consciously or unconsciously, a tendency toward rhythm ... the whole mechanism of the universe is based on rhythm."
- Hazrat Inayat Khan
"Rhythm is probably the most visceral element of music. We feel rhythm as much as we hear it; our reaction to strong rhythm is primal."
- Eric Nisenson
See how you feel about RHYTHM while listening to the audio track on the following video tribute to some of Jazz's Immortals.
The tune is entitled Red Hot and it is performed by Flavio Boltro on trumpet, Daniele Scannapieco on tenor saxophone, Julian O. Mazzariello on piano, Dario Rosciglione on base and Andre' Ceccarelli on drums. Can you pick out Dede' Ceccarelli's use of "jingle bell" drumsticks on the ride cymbal during each of the solos?
Posted by Steven Cerra at 4:00 PM
Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Some professional athletes dream of getting the home run in the bottom of the 9th inning that wins baseball’s World Series for their team while others may dream of throwing the touchdown pass that wins the football Super Bowl.
Actors and actresses dream of winning Academy Awards, Emmys and Tonys; authors may dream of being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature; artists may dream of having their paintings shown in prestigious museums and galleries.
One might consider a Grammy award to be comparable dream for a Jazz musician, although judging by the company they would be keeping by doing so, I doubt that many Jazz musicians would think so.
For a Jazz musician, perhaps a far better dream scenario might be to walk into a prestigious Jazz club as a virtual unknown while just happening to have your horn with you, being asked by the band leader to sit-in and then proceeding to blow the house down, thus becoming an overnight sensation and the-talk-of-the-town.
In the case of Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, the alto saxophonist had no need for such a dream because he actually lived such an experience; hence the play-on-words title of this piece.
Here’s the story as quoted in Kenny Mathieson’s Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz, 1954-1965 [p. 127]:
Julian 'Cannonball’ Adderley made his
debut at the Cafe Bohemia in June, 1955, a moment which has gone down in jazz legend. It is a much told tale, but one that bears repeating. Julian and his brother, trumpeter Nat Adderley, had journeyed from their home in New York to Florida to spend some time in the city soaking up the jazz scene. At the time, the trumpeter had worked briefly with Lionel Hampton, but the saxophonist was a total stranger on the New York stage. They made their way directly to Cafe New York , where bassist Oscar Pettiford held the residency. His current saxophonist, Jerome Richardson, was absent, and the band began without him. As Nat Adderley patiently explained for doubtless the millionth time when I spoke to him in 1997, what happened next has taken up permanent residence in jazz lore. Bohemia
Julian and myself had our horns with us, not because we expected to play, but we didn't want to leave them in the car - this was
, right? So what happened then was that Charlie Rouse came into the club, and when Oscar saw him come in, he called him over to sit in for Jerome. Charlie didn't have his horn, but Oscar had seen that we had our cases, so he sent Charlie over to borrow the horn. That was Oscar for you, I guess. But the thing was, Charlie knew Julian - he had met him in New York , and knew that he could play. So Charlie said to Oscar that Julian didn't want anybody else to be blowing his horn, but he would sit in instead. Now, Oscar wasn't real happy about that, but he let him come up, then he called I’ll Remember April at a real fast tempo. I'm talking murderous, man. And Julian just flew across the top, and left everybody with their mouths hanging open. Florida
Our good friend,
Jack Tracy, produced the 1959 Cannonball and Coltrane album for Emarcy from which the audio track on the following video is taken. The tune is Grand Central by John Coltrane. Jack wished at the time that he had thought to call the album ‘Ball and ‘Trane. Although Jack didn't realize his wish, he made a lot of other wishes come through with this album because, aside from their work with Miles Davis, this is the only time these two Giants of Jazz recorded together.
Posted by Steven Cerra at 11:42 AM
Friday, October 22, 2010
We’ve been having great fun following the careers of two of
’s young, tenor saxophonists – Daniele Scannapieco and Max Ionata. Italy
Recently, Sergio Gimigliano of Picanto Records decided to put Daniele and Max together with the pulsating bassist Reuben
Rogers and the drumming propulsion of Clarence Penn.
The result is the Tenor Legacy CD [
PIC014] from which the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has selected Max’s composition New York Dream to serve as the audio track to the following YouTube.
If you listen closely, you may be able to discern strains of Sonny Rollins’ Airegin, which serves as the song structure for Max’s tune, hence the CD’s title. Max takes the first, tenor solo.
Posted by Steven Cerra at 3:52 PM
© - Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“In every time there are men whose special role it is to give expression to the spirit of their day. The become its symbols, each in his own field of art.
Stan Kenton is such a man, the symbol of a vibrant world that finds its voice today in Jazz. His story is, in many ways, the story of modern Jazz, and this musical era is his.
Much of the era is revealed in a portrait of the man, where he came from, what he felt ….”
The title of this piece is based on the original mono 4-LP Capitol recordings which the label released as a limited numbered edition [WDX 569] in 1955. The series included a 48 page insert booklet with a narrative by Bud Freeman who is described as “… a newspaperman, publicist, and free-lance writer who has worked with many notables in the world of popular music.” The notes go on to state that: “Extensive interviews and intensive study have given him a penetrating insight into the complex personality of the subject.”
“The Kenton Era” Capitol compilation encompasses the first 15 years or so of the Kenton band’s existence from 1941 – 1954.
In addition to the music from Stan’s early orchestras, the LPs, which were re-issued as a double CD by Sounds of Yesteryear, also include a 12-minute Prologue, in which Stan talks about the development of his music.
The 48-page booklet is absolutely gorgeous and contains a large number of illustrations and photographs of Stan and members of the band.
Given its rarity, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought that visitors to the site might enjoy reviewing the following excerpts and images from the LP booklet.
© -Bud Freeman and Capitol Records copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Now, after ten years of mounting international tensions, the prelude to World War II had already begun. An artist had to wonder if what he was working to express mattered at all. Would another band be even a small contribution to the evolution of the jazz form? Why bother? Maybe music itself was just an idle accompaniment to a world blowing itself out the back.
These matters of ultimate importance seemed of immediate concern to Stan. He needed to believe in something, and he wanted the reasons for believing — otherwise it was all futile to him. He had under his fingers command of so many kinds of commercial music that he could be secure. It was logical and it was easy to ask, "What's the point? When there may not even be a world tomorrow, why not just take yours?"
Stan never could answer the questions. Just the same he began the band project. In irregular alternations of enthusiasm and hesitation the work grew to a sizeable collection of arrangements, promises, plans and dreams. He motivated the project and then was in turn motivated by it. In a sense the band, all those to whom he felt he was now responsible, trapped him into doing what he probably wanted to do.
He finally found reasons, but basically he came to understand that he wanted something from his audience just as the man who feels compelled to speak out to the one woman, just as the man who is compelled to threaten, to plead, or to preach.
Stan felt a personalized sympathy toward jazz. Even in this small band, he believed he could make a serious musical contribution. Even within the scope of the popular song, he felt he could create a kind of depth which would be more complete than what had been done before.
This was the beginning of his own music.
In October of 1940, Stan decided to cut some test records which he could use for audition purposes. The thirteen sidemen who had been rehearsing with Stan had, in addition to their loyalty and enthusiasm for jazz, two conditions in common: they were all unemployed and, with the exception of Marvin George, the drummer, they were all under 21. Marvin was 28. He was able to help Stan with some of the administrative details.
Crowded into the tiny recording room of a
Hollywood music store the band cut, among others, two originals — Etude for Saxophones and Reed Rapture— numbers which became fixtures in the Kenton book. On them Stan was able to demonstrate an unique voicing for the saxes, and the talents of an outstanding musician, altoist Jack Ordean.
The recording difficulties seemed insurmountable. Stan felt that the arrangements only became alive when the band played "out." Certainly the enthusiasm and spirit were not apparent on the records when the volume was brought down to the relatively pianissimo level the engineers demanded. In the end the band hit hard —the engineer tried to get as much on the disc as he could.
The band was good. Stan knew it. He was too much of a musician to deceive himself. Men like Bob Gioga, Harry Forbes, and Frank Beach had invested their time for three months. They believed more strongly than ever. Violet's enthusiasm had not lagged. He played the dubs again and again. He knew he was right. The sound was strong. It had depth. It was different. That, he told himself, was what everyone was looking for — something different.
To sell the band, the best of the audition discs were arranged in a presentation. Stan had a general idea of the sales pitch. He didn't commit anything to memory. It was always better, he found, if he spoke from a generalized outline. That way he didn't lose the spontaneity which, at least, convinced others that he believed in what he was selling.
One advantage in having a band - there were not many doors to try. Only a few agencies handled bands. And Stan was well enough known in
music circles to have entrée to all of them. Los Angeles
Stan was received politely. He was heard. His records were heard — hesitantly, without enthusiasm, but no one was in a hurry to turn him down. It could take months to milk a "sorry, can't use it," from one of the agencies.
Stan was inclined to abstract the more encouraging aspects from his interviews. It cost the agency boys nothing to spread a little happiness. (Stan later learned that often the art of agency was not to sell talent but to keep it dangling, content, until a buyer happened along.)
Stan was continually faced with the request, "Why don't you leave the dubs with us for a few days?" After the few days passed he would then have tp open negotiations to have the agency search for the dubs, to have the dubs heard, and finally to have the dubs returned.
Armistice Day and Thanksgiving passed. When the New Year came Stan decided he had better try to find his own jobs.
In February the band auditioned for an engagement at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. The ballroom operators had a choice between Stan Kenton's organization and that of John Costello. The emphasis on original material and jazz was a little too radical for the operator. He picked Costello for the engagement. But circumstance forced a cancellation and on Memorial Day, 1941, Stan opened at the Balboa ballroom.
With the college and high school crowd that colonized the little resort town on weekends, holidays, and vacations, the young Kenton band was an immediate success. Red Dorris, tenor saxist and vocalist, became a local idol within a few weeks. Howard Rumsey, who played amplified bass with spastic abandon, was known by his first name to every jazz enthusiast in the area. The attention and the adulation that the young audience heaped on Stan and the young musicians kept them playing with unflagging enthusiasm. New arrangements had to be added. By this time Stan found himself working continuously on the endless ravel of details.
Ralph Yaw, a talented musician with a feeling for what Stan wanted, made some excellent contributions to the Kenton book — such as Two Moods, which starred Chico Alvarez, trumpet, Jack Ordean, and Red Dorris.
Stan himself continued to arrange. He added Arkansas Traveler and La Cumparsita to comply with the professional advice which consistently suggested that he play less original material in favor of standard or currently popular music.
Whatever the criticism, it was tempered by one fact: the Kenton band interested people. The youngsters turned out; business was healthy. Stan was booked for the summer at the Balboa ballroom. Three times a week the Mutual Network broadcast Stan Kenton's music.
Stan, Bob Gioga, and Marvin George tried to gauge their success. It appeared to them that they had found an enthusiastic group of local boosters. The same faces seemed to be at the ballroom every night. Only after the summer had passed and the band played a one-night stand at the Glendale Civic Auditorium in suburban
, did Stan see how well the band had begun to be established. At more than 2000 people jammed the hall. There were nearly twice that number lined up outside. Los Angeles
Prospects were impressive. Finances were low. The band was booked in
and, Stan thought, on a string of one-nighters. From a sound engineer he borrowed $300 which he rationed, $20 per man. Portland
When the band arrived in the northwest, bookings turned out to be for weekends only. The take of the side-men was not more than $30 weekly — a thin slice for a man on the road, particularly if he had to support a wife back in
. Los Angeles
Pinned down by a Friday and Saturday engagement which wouldn't pay for the past week's expenses, Stan and the men were restless and discouraged. There was talk of giving up the project.
The band was saved by one of those circumstances which occur so regularly in success stories as to be almost a prerequisite of success itself. There was an open date in the booking of the huge
Hollywood dance hall, the Palladium. The owner, Maury Cohen, it happened, had gone to the Glendale Civic Auditorium to hear Stan's band. While Cohen was not particularly taken with Stan's music, the crowd outside and inside was the kind of evidence which forced an operator to overcome his taste.
When Cohen couldn't find a name band for the Palladium, he wired Stan. The homecoming engagement saved the band. The young crowd swarmed to the Palladium, and Stan was in a position to command national attention through nightly broadcasts. Variety and The Billboard passed the word on to the trade that an "attraction" had been born on the West Coast. The youngsters jammed around the bandstand and called for St. James Infirmary or Lamento Gitano—and all the musical and satirical productions which the band played for listening. The enthusiasm of the audience and the personality of the band came over the air. By the end of the engagement the word was that Kenton was going to be important. A
date was waiting. Stan had an eight-week engagement at Rose-land, the nation's most famous dime-a-dance hall. New York
It was a happy time. Band morale was high, and Stan wanted to keep it that way. On the trip back East, Stan took Violet and his young daughter. He invited the men to bring their families. With eight wives, five children, and several household pets, the band left for
. New York
The appearance of the Kenton organization at the Roseland Ballroom was an event in the music world. The jazz intellects wanted to know what, if anything, Stan Kenton had "to say." The business end of music — agents, hookers, and location owners—could make money from Kenton if he proved to be a bona fide attraction. The publishers might find a fresh voice to sell new songs or re-sell their old ones. Arrangers and musicians were curious to see if Stan could really push himself to a commercial success on the type of music he had been broadcasting.
Stan had been on the air too often to expect that his music would shock or even surprise anyone. In person, however, the band did jolt the critics, operators, and the dancers. Personally Stan won the friendship of the eastern music columnists. They were sympathetic but, for the most part, didn't care for the music. Strangely enough, nearly all the criticism was qualified with prophecies of success.
With the regular patrons of Roseland, the Kenton band was a dismal failure. There were only two serious reasons for attending the ballroom: to dance or to socialize with the hostesses. The tempos that kept the
jitterbugs happy did not prove suitable for interpreting the California or the tango and Stan's band played too loud for any subtle exchanges between the hostesses and guests. They couldn't hear themselves talk. Peabody
By mutual agreement Stan and the Roseland management terminated their agreement in three weeks instead of the contracted eight.
Though the band was kept working immediately afterwards, the engagement at Roseland was regarded as a failure. Stan was swamped with advice. In and out of the organization, for all kinds of reasons — even disinterested — Stan's acquaintances were afraid he would miss his opportunity for the big money. There were still many complaints that the band played too much original music. Stan began to add pop tunes and standards. He tried to tone the band down, tried to compromise on some of the arrangements. He tried to please everyone.
In September of 1942, Stan played the
in Summit . The complaints and the advice were as ominous, as varied, and as frequent as ever. Looking back over six months he found the band had achieved a string of commercial successes in clubs, theatres, and dance halls. Whether he had done so well because or in spite of the advice, he couldn't tell, but he saw that continual changes in approach were obstructing the growth of the band, providing an irritant to the men and to himself. It would be simpler, he decided, to stand or fall on his original convictions — jazz as he heard and felt it. Baltimore
the first of a series of personnel changes began which continued throughout the war. Marvin George, Jack Ordean, and Howard Rumsey left the band. Baltimore
Stan had added Ted Repay, piano, some time earlier. At the
engagement vocalist Dolly Mitchell joined the band and quickly succeeded in identifying herself with the Kenton organization. Summit
Critical acceptance improved gradually. Theatre engagements were consistently successful both with audiences and reviewers. The band played the shows well, and were an entertainment entity in themselves —for much of the Kenton material was designed primarily for listening.
Stan continued to do some arranging. A young writer, Joe Rizzo, proved particularly adept at arranging standards for Stan. He contributed Russian Lullaby, Ol'
, and I Know That You Know. Man River
Though Stan had a personal manager and an agency handling the business, he asked to be consulted on all details. Finding time to write was a continual problem. Finally it became necessary for Stan to search for outside arrangers who understood what he wanted. As Dolly Mitchell became more important, Stan sought writers who could create interesting vocal backgrounds for her without losing the essential quality of the band. Charles Shirley brought
to Stan. It was incorporated in the book along with other Shirley works including Liza, which featured a Red Dorris solo. (For his singing Red had been given consistently uninspired reviews. But as an instrumentalist, he continued to improve until he was drawing critical acclaim.) Salt Lake City
In 1944 Dolly Mitchell left the band and Anita O'Day, widely known for her work with Gene Krupa, joined Stan along with a young male vocalist and arranger, Gene Howard.
A considerable quantity of material was mailed or brought in to the Kenton organization. After rehearsal one afternoon in a
theatre Stan saw a young soldier waiting. It was Pfc. Pete Rugolo, a student of Darius Milhaud at San Francisco . Rugolo had written an original composition and arrangement which he thought would be fine for the Kenton band. The name of the selection was Opus a Dollar Three Eighty. Mills College
It was three months before Stan found time to read down the arrangement. As soon as he did Stan began to search for Private Rugolo. Three days later he located him. On the long distance phone Stan offered Rugolo a job as soon as he was discharged from service.
ARTISTRY IN RHYTHM
In four years Stan had become famous. These were war years. The quality of continual movement, arrival, and departure common to the band was shared with the whole country. People were dignified by direction, a journey from which, eventually, they would all hope to find their way home again.
The pressure of the times and of success itself kept Stan moving. Even back home he could spend little time with Violet and the child. He had signed with Capitol Records, a company whose main offices were in
. As soon as he hit town Stan would begin to prepare for recording sessions. Then there were the commercial engagements, broadcasts, rehearsals, auditions and the performances for men and women in the Armed Services. Hollywood
There was, too, a constant turnover in personnel. Of all those who started at Balboa in 1941 only Bob Gioga and Stan were deferred from service. Once at the Paramount Theatre in
the Kenton band opened with nine new men. Many musicians who became famous in jazz joined Stan during the war years: Eddie Safranski, Vido Musso, Buddy Childers, Boots Mussulli,Ray Wetzel. Anita O'Day left the band, and in New York a school girl named Shirley Luster auditioned for Stan. He signed her, and changed her name to June Christy. Chicago
By 1945 the band was a strange mixture of personalities: returned veterans, youngsters of sixteen, young men classified and waiting to be called, older men being re-culled and reclassified. The personalities and peculiarities of the sidemen were as diverse as their ages.
One of the sixteen year olds had come to Stan after two years with a well known jazz group. He was a lover — with five unfortunate experiences to prove it. An older man was a professional Milquetoast. He carried the spending money he allowed himself in a compartmentalized change purse with sections for food, incidental, and entertainment money. Sticking religiously to his discipline, he would refuse to join the others at a motion picture if he had, for the week, run out of cash for entertainment.
There was one known as "wigless." The others said of him, "all talent — no brains." He was continually leaving his possessions, including his instrument, at the previous engagement. Faced with his delinquencies he would shout angrily at the men in the band, "Why did you let me do it? You know I'm not responsible!"
Some squandered. A few found business opportunities everywhere. There was the "operator." If he had nothing else to do he'd find himself a pawn shop and haggle with the owner. In four years with the band the operator never bought anything he didn't turn over for a profit.
There were solid citizens. There were touchy and temperamental ones. A soloist, nearly thirty, was disturbed almost to the point of quitting when one of the other side-men said, 'Thanks, old man." He felt it was a reflection on his advancing years.
There were the clowns and the practical jokers. One night in
, Stan, at the mike, announced the first number of the evening, I've Got the World on a String. He walked to the piano which had, since rehearsal, been placed on a shallow platform. Before he could give the downbeat, Stan tripped and fell, disappearing completely from sight. The audience gasped. There was complete silence. Bob Gioga immediately stepped to the mike and announced, "Our next number will be Tea for Two." Minneapolis
Beyond the petty irritations of living together there were very few personality conflicts. To the younger men who joined the band, Stan was an institution. The older men knew Stan's reputation for treating his sidemen fairly and courteously.
After the war ended, some of the former members of the band returned. By early 1946 the personnel and business side of the organization had become stabilized. The appeal of the band was at its height. The annual polls named "Artistry in Rhythm" the most popular music of the year. Financially the Kenton organization could not have done any better.
More than a third of the sidemen, the core of the band, had been traveling almost continually for two years. The men were worn physically. Stan himself found it increasingly difficult to drive himself. It had been five years since he and Violet had, for any period of time, a life together.
On the bandstand at
playing a Tuscaloosa dance, Stan looked at the men, listened to the music, felt his own weary loneliness. University of Alabama
After the dance, Stan announced that he was disbanding. The men were given three weeks1 salary and their fares. Stan wired Violet that he was on his way home.
There were peaceful months of recuperation. Stan, Violet, and little Leslie (now seven years old) vacationed in
South America. Stan began to see that should he continue the tours it would ultimately force him to make a choice between the band and his family. Quite un-dramatically, he discussed it with Violet. Their life together had been reduced to six weeks a year. The arrangement was far from satisfactory. It could not continue.
But the alternatives were not as drastic as "music or the family." Recording, arranging, conducting, composing provided many situations in which Stan's talents were welcome. Though it would mean giving up the band, Stan could stay in
and continue working in music at any number of interesting and well-paying jobs. California
Too, there were opportunities outside of music which, from the standpoint of money, were attractive. Stan tried to evaluate each of the different prospects. Violet listened and — to the best of her ability — allowed Stan complete freedom in choosing his direction.
At home Stan continually played back the recordings of all his bands. In the work he found much of which he was proud. It was incomplete, but it was, Stan felt, a beginning.
He was rested. He felt full, fat, and lazy. At times he grew lonesome to hear the sounds again, the pulse of the band — even to feel the airy, nervous clarity which came from too much coffee, too many cigarettes, and too little sleep.
By the middle of summer the pressures, external and internal, began to increase. He was a musician, a traveler, and he was a money-maker. Someone was always after him.
There had to be another year on the road. There was a possibility that a concert attraction would be the solution. If concerts were successful it would not be necessary, Stan believed, to stay on tour more than four months a year. He discussed the idea with arrangers Pete Rugolo and Ken Hanna. They were eager to try. Violet, too, was enthusiastic about the project.
They all agreed that the most logical approach would be to use the nineteen piece "Artistry" band. The personnel had, since the war, become stable. Boots Mussulli, Vido Musso, Shelly Manne, Kai Winding, Eddie Safranski, and Milt Bernhart were, in themselves, attractions. If, with them, the Kenton band could not draw the young crowd into halls, make them sit and listen, then, Stan and Violet believed, the concert idea would never work.
Some of the dance items were kept in the repertoire: If I Could Be With You, Artistry in
Harlem Swing, and By the River St. Marie. Numbers which had proven successful in theatres, on records, and at the colleges were shuffled back and forth in the program. With this small band Stan did not believe he had the scope to offer a full concert of modern music.
Though the instrumentation, except for the addition of Jack Costanzo on bongos, would be the same as the "Artistry" band, Stan decided to try the title, "Progressive Jazz," a banner he felt was truly descriptive. The concerts would be essentially a test. If they were successful Stan hoped in the future to develop the idea with a large orchestra.
Rehearsals were called.
The Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa agreed to go along with Stan's experiment. They rented 3000 camp chairs, released advertising and publicity for a Sunday afternoon concert late in September. Two days after tickets went on sale all seats were gone.
The Kenton management decided to book a series of sixteen dates at such established concert halls as the
, Academy of Music , the Civic Opera, Philadelphia , Symphony Hall, Chicago , and Boston . Carnegie Hall, New York
The concerts were fitted between regular bookings. Nothing Stan ever did proved more successful. Variety headlined, "Kenton’s Carnegie Hall Concert a Killer Both Artistically and at B.O." In its story, the show business "bible" stated: "Kenton's success is based on his constant striving for new paths in music, his band's excellent understanding of it... His music, filled with dissonant and atonal chords, barrels of percussion and blaring, but tremendously precise, brass, could probably be compared in the jazz field to the music of Stravinsky and Shostakovich."
George Simon in Metronome was less ecstatic. "It [the band] has, in Stan and Pete, two intense, enthusiastic musicians who are firmly convinced they are making for progress in jazz. Unfortunately, I think, Stan and Pete and the men who play their music so well are deeply shrouded under a neurotic conception of jazz if not of all music. Their stuff is not mellow, but megalomaniacal, constructed mechanically of some of the familiar sounds and effects of modern composers, from Bartok to Bongo Drums, with little apparent feeling for the jazz medium and none at all for the subtleties of idea and emotion which support every roar ever heard in music." And in conclusion Simon added, "Lurking behind this sad musical tale is a personal one, for me, at least, sadder still. Stan and Pete and June and the band and its manager Carlos Gastel are among the very nicest people this business has ever seduced. But their collective effort, mighty as it is, is not making it. It couldn't have not happened to a nicer bunch of people."
Stan continued touring the dance circuit. The influence of the "Progressive" aspect modified all the music the band played. Even Sophisticated Lady and June Christy's Over the Rainbow were progressively shaded.
Playing concerts and dance engagements, the band worked its way West.
June 12, 1948, Stan Kenton, his band, and June Christy packed 15,000 people into the Hollywood Bowl for a concert in "Progressive Jazz." All the hopes and effort that had gone into Stan's music were, to him, justified by this acceptance. The entire program, but particularly the originals, Machito, Interlude, and George Weidler interpreting Elegy for Alto, were received with towering applause.
Throughout July and August, Stan had accepted scattered concert bookings. He had only a few days here and there for the family after traveling time and the press of business arrangements. Early in June he had come to a parting of the ways with his long time manager, Carlos Gastel. Gastel felt the concerts would ultimately destroy Stan's wider appeal. Stan believed he had to press the concert idea. The separation was amicable. Stan and Carlos had worked together for seven years with only a handshake between them.
In September the band headed east again, fulfilling concert dates and one-nighters. The schism between the dance and the progressive side of the music was exuberantly demonstrated at one college dance. A group began to chant for the concert pieces. Those who wished to dance were disturbed. The discussion became an argument, the argument a brawl.
The last of the concert engagements had been scheduled for December. At that time, Stan decided, he would conclude his "Progressive Jazz." The men were weary. Physically and emotionally he had driven himself one fatiguing day after another to the point of exhaustion.
It seemed to him that he had lived enough music. At last, he believed, he could turn to something else. The concerts had given him not more time at home, but less.
When Stan concluded the last "Progressive" concert the Kenton organization was, according to the theatrical trades, the biggest box office aggregation in the country.”
The booklet then moves on to the 1950-51 Innovations Orchestra, which we have covered in a previous piece, and concludes with The New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm bands, which we will profile in a future feature.
Posted by Steven Cerra at 11:36 AM