Something of an uphill climb.
Click on the link here for Audio Player – All-Star Parade of Bands – Stan Kenton, live At Sardi’s, Hollywood – June 4, 1956 – NBC Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
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.
Things, they are always changing.
Stan Kenton – resuscitated the flagging Big Band genre in the early 1950s.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: Stan Kenton Concert – Sept. 16, 1952
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.
And the next week they would be somewhere else.
Boyd Raeburn – one of that crop of 1940’s upstarts who laid the foundations for Modern Jazz.
Click on the link here for Audio Player: Boyd Raeburn – Two Spoos In An Igloo – 1944
Listening to this now, it certainly doesn’t sound like a piece of radical music-making, but in 1944 the music of Boyd Raeburn (and several others including Stan Kenton) were the writing on the creative wall that something was afoot.
Largely relegated to recording for small independent labels, the music of Boyd Raeburn was pretty much ignored by mainstream media. And it wasn’t until after World War 2 that the audience and the economics changed and became accepting of “this new music”.
Raeburn recorded a lot for the radio transcription companies because they were available and the companies weren’t all that choosy; they just needed material and a lot of it.
Of the several sessions Boyd Raeburn cut for Lang-Worth, tonight’s track comes from a 1944 session. Two Spoos In An Igloo has all the makings of early Bop, and it wouldn’t be for another year or two that the audience would start to take notice.
Sometimes it’s a drag being the first kid on your block.