Stan Kenton (1911-1979) was one of the premier jazz composers and pianists
of the 20th century, composing more than 2500 scores. He fused the spicy
sounds of Latin America with the Big Band sound that was so popular in the
USA. A musical prodigy, he composed many pieces before even graduating
from high school, mostly in the classical styles of Debussy and Ravel.
After his graduation, he continued to compose while working a wide range of
gigs--from dance halls to stage shows. Eventually he assembled his own
14-piece orchestra in 1941, performing mostly original songs.
Kenton's music was very dissonant, staccato, fast, unexpected, off-beat,
and upbeat, integrating the sounds of Latin music, African music, and jazz.
Kenton went through several distinct periods, which he named: "Artistry
in Rhythm", "Progressive Jazz", "New Era In Modern
Music", "Artistry in Jazz". Each new period brought a
new style, a revamped orchestral section balance, and a steadfast refusal to
play songs from any prior period. Stan would frequently tell his band
"Never look back--it's lost energy," and his only surviving songs from
period to period were his theme, "Artistry In Rhythm", "Peanut
Vendor", and "Intermission Riff".
Critics had a love-hate relationship with Kenton. His odd time
signatures became a hallmark of his style--7/4's and 13/8's were not
uncommon, and would constantly change from measure to measure, causing directors
to pull their hair out in fury.
Kenton also invented the mellophonium, a bell-front version of the
French horn. He felt that the French horn's range between trumpet and
trombone was critical, but that the French horn itself was not powerful
enough. This instrument is still used by most marching bands.
Shortly before Kenton died of an aneurysm, he and fellow composer Bill
Holman were hard at work on the "hidden note concept"--a method of
writing chord sequences such that a "silent note" would be felt deep
within the primary chord.
(There are too many compilations to list here--this is everything he released