Personalities | Stan Kenton | Forties | Jazz & Blues
(Piano, arranger, composer, 1911–79)
Stan Kenton pushed big-band jazz in new directions throughout his career, and in the process divided critical opinion more radically than any other bandleader. He formed his first band in 1940, which became the Artistry in Rhythm Orchestra in 1942. Imaginative arrangements and excellent soloists ensured the band’s success. It gave way to the more ambitious Progressive Jazz Orchestra in 1947 and the even more overblown, 43-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra in 1950.
The latter band often featured startling arrangements (notably those by the iconoclastic Bob Graettinger), but fell foul of economic feasibility. Kenton led more standard-sized big bands throughout the 1950s, featuring a galaxy of star players. His expanded groups of the 1960s included the symphonically conceived Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra. Although uneven in their output, Kenton’s bands made a unique contribution to big-band history, and he was also influential as a jazz educator.
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