Stan Kenton

1940-1944

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AllMusic Review by

Stan Kenton's earliest recordings as a leader make this first volume in the Classics Kenton chronology the logical starting point for anyone seeking to comprehend his life and work. Beginning with a long lost "Etude for Saxophones" and plowing through nine Decca sides from late 1941 and early 1942, the producers of this compilation shed light on Kenton's pre-Capitol period. With the exception of "This Love of Mine" (sung by tenor saxophonist Red Dorris), all of the Decca recordings are instrumentals that contain premonitions of Kenton's eventual obsession with stylized modernity. Parallels could be drawn with the music of Claude Thornhill, Larry Clinton and Raymond Scott. Frankly speaking, however, some of these early Kenton routines come across as rather self-consciously put together; the band goes through the motions but the overall approach to rhythm and swing feels rather forced. "Lamento Gitano" transcends these limitations, and the catchy "Concerto for Doghouse" is built around Howard Rumsey's excellent sung-and-plucked bass solo. By the time "El Choclo" was recorded, the band was clearly beginning to find itself and was ready for its next phase of stylistic evolution. The session that took place in Los Angeles on November 19, 1943 was Kenton's inaugural involvement with Capitol Records, an exclusive business arrangement that would continue for many years, superseded only by the occasional date for the United States Armed Forces V-Disc label. Kenton always listened carefully to other bands and learned his best lessons from African-American archetypes and innovators. His signature stamp of originality begins to materialize during the second half of this compilation, betwixt and between various well-chosen covers. Red Dorris does surprisingly well with Duke Ellington's "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," and after two years of experimentation the overall sound of the band has improved noticeably. The very first recorded version of "Artistry in Rhythm" signals the true inception of the Kenton sound. Seasoned early modern jazz heads will want to listen carefully to the reed section as Kenton was already beginning to employ great saxophonists like Art Pepper, Boots Mussulli and Stan Getz. Admirers of Anita O'Day will appreciate an opportunity to savor four of the six songs she is known to have recorded with the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:12
2 2:59
3 2:50
4 2:44
5 2:40
6 4:24
7 3:20
8 2:30
9 3:10
10 3:11
11 3:06
12 3:06
13 2:16
14 3:15
15 3:09
16 3:05
17 3:03
18 3:00
19 2:42
20 2:54
21 2:34
22 2:38
blue highlight denotes track pick