June 5, 2011

Stan Kenton - took the Big Band concept in a whole different direction.

Although somewhat distant in history, Stan Kenton was a pretty controversial figure in the Jazz world of the 1950's. There was a contingent of ardent followers who swore up and down it was the way of the future and Kenton was taking the Big Band idea to new and interesting places. And there was an equally large contingent of people who swore it was all hype and that Kenton was just being as noisy and soul-less as possible.

What ever the consensus of opinion was, Stan Kenton came along at a time when the Big Band was dwindling and being replaced by the small unit; the Trio, Quartet and Quintet. He did inject a lot of much needed energy into the form and Kenton gave the musical world a band you listened to, and not at. In short, there wasn't a whole pile of dancing at Stan Kenton concerts; people sat and listened. And on that score, that was a good thing and Kenton breathed a fresh new life into the idea of the Big Band, even if some considered it radical.

Tonight's installment of the Downbeat takes place at Birdland in New York City on July 11, 1955 and it's pretty much typical of what Stan Kenton was up to at this period of time.

Looking at it now, it's hard to see what all the fuss was about. I'm sure there was a measure of hype that may have been unnecessary at the time. But how else do you get noticed when the field, which was once crowded with people saying the same thing, is now pretty much abandoned for greener pastures and the people left are looking for something different?

And it worked for a long time.

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