November 13, 2011

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Stan Kenton - big band's last best hope.


I've run a couple of other Stan Kenton appearances at Birdland in New York over the past several months. This was all part of a month long stay at the club that NBC Radio ran on their All-Star Parade Of Bands series in 1953. They're all different concerts and there's little or no duplication.

But in all fairness, Stan Kenton got a lot of airplay in the 1950's. He was, after all, the last big gasp in the big band lineup - a format that became just too expensive and unwieldy to pull off. Especially since the advent of Television and it's mass popularity forced many movie theaters (where big bands were a mainstay) to close, thus making large venues harder to find. Also, after the war Jazz was evolving into smaller units; trios, quartets and quintets. And the intimate nightclub atmosphere was perfect.

But Kenton persisted and criss-crossed the country repeatedly during the 1950's. At one point, NBC Radio ran a weekly live broadcast from any one of the hundreds of small towns and university campuses the band played. A fascinating series of recordings (which I will be putting up over the coming months) and a grueling schedule of performance dates. Further evidence being on the road is not much fun.

But tonight's concert/club date is from Birdland in New York - recorded on June 27, 1953 with Kenton holding forth as always. New concepts In rhythm notwithstanding.

Enjoy.

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