The Golden Age of Big Bands was rapidly becoming a thing of the past, but there were still stalwarts criss-crossing the country in 1956. One of those bands was Stan Kenton‘s, who persevered at a time when venues supporting such a large aggregate were getting fewer and farther between. Kenton sought to introduce, and hopefully revive, the flagging popularity of Big Bands by promoting his New Directions In Music. But the problem was, there were a handful of places capable to sustaining such a large group, and paying for a full touring band was becoming impossible. It was said that most of the Kenton tours during this time were huge money losers, and even support from his label (Capitol) and a weekly radio program via NBC couldn’t stem the staggering cash outlay.
But the idea of a Big Band was still appealing. And as a form, in this new incarnation, was still very popular among musicians. As Jazz evolved, so did the uses of a large organization. But it was primarily in the studio that many of these big ensembles flourished. On the road, as many noted bandleaders at the time did, they hired pickup musicians in each town as to defray the expense of keeping a large group together. And in that respect the concept of the Big Band was still alive. It was just not the same as it was in the 1940s. Kenton was an influential figure in the progression of Jazz during the 1950’s, and it even had some unexpected supporters. Namely Phil Spector, who once said it was Kenton’s overpowering sound that gave him the idea to create a “Wall of Sound” for his own projects.
So here is the Stan Kenton Band, playing a gig at the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant in Hollywood on June 4, 1956 for the NBC Radio series All-Star Parade of Bands. Announced by future Ray Charles manager Joe Adams, with the entire band crammed on to the small stage, Kenton delivered his signature New Directions In Music to an appreciative crowd, intent on listening and not on dancing – which was a new turn in the fortunes of Jazz.
Over to the World of Big Bands this weekend with a concert by The Stan Kenton Orchestra, recorded outside of Dayton Ohio on September 16, 1952.
Kenton was riding high on the crest of a very popular wave – one that virtually turned around, at least for a while, the rapidly vanishing Big Band from the Jazz Scene. There were a lot of reasons for the drop in popularity of the Big Band. Biggest was the economic factor – it was just getting too expensive to maintain a band of 20 musicians and keep it booked for any extended period of time. Venues were closing, being turned into supermarkets or being bulldozed to make way for other things. TV was making people stay at home. Small groups were easier to book, cheaper to keep working and didn’t need a huge ballroom or theater to perform in. Small was just looking better.
So Kenton came along at a good time – with his “new concepts in Jazz”, and became a hit on college campuses.
To capitalize on the popularity, NBC Radio began a series of weekly broadcasts featuring the Kenton Orchestra, at various locations around the country. Billed as A Stan Kenton Mini-Concert, it became a popular calling card for a band criss-crossing the U.S. and it added to the popularity of the Kenton mystique, and it lasted for a few years.
Here is one of those concerts, as it was recorded outside Dayton Ohio on September 16, 1952.
T-Bone Walker was probably one of the most influential and pioneering artists to straddle the worlds of Jazz and Blues in the 1940’s all the way to the 1970’s. Part of that pivotal genre known as Jump-Blues, that rare common ground which existed just post-World War 2 into the dawn of Rock n’ Roll, where the influence of Big-Bands was fading and the small group experiments were happening all over the place. T-Bone Walker was right in the middle of it.
A legendary figure to those-in-the-know, Walker didn’t get the mass mainstream recognition many of his contemporaries got. But he had more than his fair share of champions, and listening to this excerpt from the full concert gives you some indication why.
Jumping back into Big Band territory, after an extended hiatus (for no good reason). Tonight it’s the legendary Fran Warren with the equally legendary Claude Thornhill in a 1947 track cut for the Lang-Worth Transcription company, As Long As I’m Dreaming.
Fran Warren made several sides for the Thornhill aggregation before heading into solo territory in 1948. Her most famous song during this period was the 1947 hit, A Sunday Kind Of Love.After leaving the Thornhill band she wound up on several labels, including RCA Victor and MGM and had a string of hits during the early 1950’s.
These sessions cut for Lang-Worth are interesting as they didn’t get that much circulation at the time (being for radio programming and all, and not for commercial release) and often feature music that wasn’t recorded in any other form.
Always something new to discover or look at what you might have missed or overlooked.
Since the Studio/Past Daily Nerve Center has been undergoing renovations this past week, I’ve been stumbling over buried shelves of old 78’s – some I haven’t played since they arrived. And since Nights At The Roundtable is an eclectic mish-mash of music most nights anyway, why not end the week/start the new one, with something I usually don’t play; 1920’s Big Band.
This one comes from one of the more popular Dance bands of the 1920’s, a band in heavy competition with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. They both recorded for the same label (Victor), and both bands had a massive catalog to their credit and both were huge throughout the 20’s and into the 1930’s.
So rather than try and make something profound out of this entry from a historic standpoint, I thought I would just grab at random, and I chose this one – Sugar Plumb, recorded in 1925 and certainly one of the more danceable numbers the kids in the above photo probably cut a few rugs to.
There has always been Pop Music and Pop Culture – it just sounds and looks different over the years. The sentiment is the exact same.
This post was originally put up several months ago on my old site (Newstalgia), but a system crash occurred and all the files from that period were wiped out. Several of you asked what happened and if it was possible to re-post this memorable concert.
So here it is – Duke Ellington, live at Basin Street in New York City, broadcast on April 16, 1956. The inimitable Duke Ellington with vocals by Jimmy Grissom.
Tyree Glenn – A short, but swinging session at The Embers
If you happened to listen to yesterdays Pop Chronicles Post, and still have that fresh in your mind, hold that thought and hit the “play” button on this one. Because, if you were around on this particular June 22nd in 1955, that’s exactly what you’d hear, and you’d get a pretty good idea of just how eclectic mainstream radio was some fifty years ago.
On this segment (remember you just finished listening to The Grand Ole Opry), you’d go straight from Nashville to Basin Street in New York for a set by Woody Herman’s Third Herd, featuring a guest shot by keyboard legend Erroll Garner. And right after that, you’d head over to The Embers in New York, for a set by Tyree Glenn and his group.
It doesn’t get too much more eclectic or off-the-wall than that. But if you stayed with it, you’d start noticing some similarities. Not saying there’s a huge common ground between Erroll Garner and Del Wood, but there’s more similar than dissimilar between what Chet Atkins was doing on guitar and what Tyree Glenn was doing on vibes than you might imagine.
Not saying you’re going to become a Jazz/Country-Western aficionado anytime soon, but you will get a broader idea of what’s out there. Just sayin’.
Here are two club dates from the same night – first is Woody Herman and his 3rd Herd with Erroll Garner at Basin Street and second up is Tyree Glenn and his group, live at The Embers.