Gene Roland played many instruments during his career but was most significant as an arranger/composer and for his association with Stan Kenton. Roland, who gained a degree in music from North Texas State Teacher's College, first hooked up with Kenton in 1944, playing fifth trumpet and contributing arrangements. He worked briefly with Lionel Hampton and Lucky Millinder and then rejoined Kenton in 1945, this time as a trombonist and writer (he arranged the hit "Tampico"). He played piano and wrote for a group in 1946 that included Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Giuffre and Herbie Steward and would lead to Woody Herman's Four Brothers Second Herd. In the late 1940s, Roland played trombone with Georgie Auld, trumpet with Count Basie, Charlie Barnet and Millinder and contributed charts for the big bands of Claude Thornhill and Artie Shaw. After leading a giant rehearsal band in 1950 that included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Roland wrote for Kenton 1951 and Woody Herman from 1956-58, for whom he contributed 65 arrangements. Roland was a major force in Kenton's mellophonium band of the early 1960s, not only writing for the ensemble but performing as one of the mellophoniums; he also occasionally doubled on soprano sax with the orchestra. Roland remained active as a writer in the 1960s and 70s, working with the Radiohus Orchestra in Copenhagen (1967) and contributing charts to Kenton; he also played trumpet, piano and tenor with his own groups. In addition to writing an entire album for Kenton, Roland led his 1950 rehearsal band on a Spotlite release (Parker is one of his sidemen), led half of an album (recorded in 1957 and 1959) for Dawn in which he plays trumpet and arranged a 1963 octet record for Brunswick. Roland was an unusually versatile and talented jazz performer whose work deserves to be rediscovered.
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