No mean pianist, Stan Kenton is remembered in Jazz circles as ground-breaking, genre-hopping band leader and soundscape creator. He died today in 1979.
Jazz band leader and musical innovator Stan Kenton died following a stroke at the age of 67, brought on by his alcoholism.
Forming his first group in Los Angeles during World War Two, Kenton gained popularity thanks to tunes such as “Artistry in Rhythm” and utilised vocalists including Anita O’Day and June Christy. Teaming up in 1945 with Sicilian-born arranger Pete Rugolo, Stan’s work become ever more adventurous – something that didn’t always meet with the approval of Jazz critics.
His ensembles would vary greatly both in terms of personnel and style over the following four decades – encompassing big band jazz, latin music and even opera and country. Crucially remaining on the road in the 1960s when big bands were experiencing a decline, his experimental outlook continued via projects such as the Neophonic Orchestra (although that proved to be an expensive adventure.
Focusing increasingly on his own Creative World label in the 1970s, Kenton playing his final live show a year before his death – a reunion of former band members at the University of California.
Stan’s life and legacy continues to be tinged with controversy however: his second wife committing suicide in 1981 and his son convicted of conspiracy to murder. And 2010 saw the publication of a book by his daughter that levelled charges of child abuse against Kenton.
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And here’s some footage of Stan in action: