Stan Kenton

Artistry in Progressive Jazz

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While many radio broadcasts from the big-band era are redundant exercises in nostalgia, this one -- a compilation from three different locales -- is defiantly, pungently out of that class. It covers a period where Kenton's ensembles were stretching the boundaries of where big bands were allowed to go, beginning in 1946 at the Meadowbrook Gardens in Culver City, CA. The set then skips to the Hotel Commodore in New York City circa fall 1947, when Kenton became the first major jazz bandleader to jump headfirst into Afro-Cuban rhythms (weeks ahead of Dizzy Gillespie), and concludes with excerpts from the first ever televised jazz concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 1948. Most of the tracks reflect the forward-thrusting side of the Kenton band, just beginning to experiment with dissonance, Afro-Cuban influences, and concert works not meant to be danced to. There is a rare live recording of "Abstraction," which formed Part III of the Kenton-Rugolo extended work "Prologue Suite" (not to be confused with the later Prologue: This Is An Orchestra): a fascinating, dissonant, march-like work with a distinct Latin touch and a revolving bass ostinato anchoring the whole thing (alas, the acetate cuts off before it ends). You also hear the original uncut conception of the famous, rocking chart of "The Peanut Vendor," which here begins with an Art Pepper feature and then moves on to the familiar Milt Bernhart trombone intro on the record. The sound is serviceable, sometimes surprisingly good: the performances often startling.

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