sábado, 10 de outubro de 2009

Stan Kenton - Standards In Silhouette

  1. Willow Weep For Me
  2. The Thrill Is Gone
  3. The Meaning Of The Blues
  4. When Sunny Gets Blue
  5. Ill Wind
  6. Django
  7. I Get Along Without Very Well
  8. Lonely Woman
  9. Lazer Afternoon
Standards in Silhouette

From the time he was 14 years old, Bill Mathieu knew he was going to write for Stan Kenton, a leader whose music he idolized with a fervor few ordinary fans could envisage. It wasn't an easy path to Kenton's door, and there were many setbacks along the way, but Bill Russo proved an effective teacher, with invaluable advice based on his experiences of the Kenton psyche. It says much of Mathieu's persistence that in January 1959, at 21 years of age and still something of an idealist, Bill Mathieu entered the real world as staff arranger for the Kenton band.

None of his first arrangements caught the Kenton imagination, until the time Bill discovered San Francisco. "Separated from the band and on my own in an enchanted city, an innate joy broke the surface like a gulping fish. Music poured through. I wrote an arrangement of "The Thrill Is Gone" that I knew was good. We rehearsed it one afternoon in Chicago, and Stan's ears perked up. "That's a beautiful thing, Bill", he said. "What's next?"

Mathieu's talent had enabled him to come up with the near-impossible, an original and especially beautiful slant on writing concert arrangements of popular ballads, that made them sound fresh and different. Kenton was genuinely impressed and eager for more, and as "Willow Weep For Me", "Lazy Afternoon" and others entered the book, suggested to Bill he should start thinking in terms of his own album - at just 22, the youngest Kenton arranger ever to be so honored.

Mathieu's special skill lay in almost recomposing standard melodies with his own additional themes, an art aspired to by many writers, but rarely accomplished with the flair and ingenuity that Mathieu achieves. Bill explained to me how he approached the task: "The trick is to locate the aspects of the original song that give you special pleasure, or that seem especially rewarding, and keep reworking them until a hybrid appears that is your own concept, but nevertheless allows your ear to keep track of the source material. The 'aspects' might be a melodic phrase, a couple of chords, a characteristic rhythm, or even something in the lyrics, like the suppressed bitterness in "The Thrill Is Gone", the loss in "Willow Weep For Me", or the lethargy in "Lazy Afternoon". These are clues, and you run and spiral with them until your own ideas are braided with those of the composer and lyricist. Then you begin!"

There is a consistency, a unity of style about the orchestrations that give the music its own identity, so that is almost resembles a suite. Stan allowed Mathieu almost unfettered creative freedom, and together they decided the proper tempo for each piece, the appropriate soloists, and useful cuts and additions, right down to which titles actually belonged on the record and which should be omitted. At first Bill was doubtful about recording in a cavernous ballroom, as opposed to the intimacy and control of a studio, but he concluded:"Stan and producer Lee Gillette were absolutely right: the band sounds alive and awake (not always easy when recording many hours of slow-tempo music in a studio), and most importantly, the players could hear themselves well in the live room. The end result is that the band sounds strong and cohesive, and the album is well recorded".

Mathieu is well-served by his soloists, as he is quick to acknowledge: "To observe the guys endure the stress of recording with such a high degree of skill and accuracy made me feel very lucky. Their attitude to the music was quite positive as far as I could tell, and I was especially happy with the soloits, Roger, Rolf and most especially Archie. As for Charlie (Mariano), his playing, especially on "Django", provided the spark and authenticity the album needed". According to LeCoque (at his finest on "I Get Along Without You Very Well"): "I think my solos on the 'Silhouette' album were the best work I did with Kenton. Bill wrote such beautiful charts that you didn't really have to stretch out too much, you just stuck close to the melody, and the arrangements took care of everything else". There isn't a weak solo throughout, but note especially the trumpet cameo on "The Thrill Is Gone" by Roger Middleton, discribed by lead trumpet Bud Brisbois as: "The only solo Roger ever recorded with Stan. Roger was a very good jazz player, but he never got much of a chance with Rolf Ericson in the band".

In later years, Stan believed he had come up with the album title, but Bill remembers exactly how the name arose: "I had been walking the boardwalk in Atlantic City, trying to think of a title for the new album, something that carried forward the visual metaphor of 'Sketches on Standards' and 'Portraits on Standards', when I paused to watch an attractive girl having her profile magically cut out of black paper by a silhouette artist. The title 'Standards in Silhouette' occured to me at that moment, and I suggested it to Stan in the well of the bus. 'That's a great title, Bill', he said, genuinely pleased. 'Did you think of it yourself?' But it's OK with me that Stan recollects it as his own - that's an easy thing to do after many decades and uncountable miles".

Some hear a hint of Gil Evans in Mathieu's work, and Bill admits to an admiration for Gil's writing, among other composers who were striving to enrich the intellectual content of jazz without thinning its blood. Any Evans influence is tempered by Mathieu's highly inventive and scholarly orchestrations, and Bill has learned his Kenton lessons well; there is a wonderful contrast between the darkly brooding, low-keyed passages, and the high-powered trumpet climaxes. I certainly wish Mathieu had remained longer in the Kenton orbit, but instead he moved on to write for Duke Ellington, and then, such were Bill's intellectual abilities and interests, away from the jazz idiom into classical and other styles of music. But is was Kenton's judgement that gave Mathieu his first chance, the legacy of this recording, as Bill recalls with gratitude: "I was a young, unknown and untested writer, and with 'Standards in Silhouette', Stan granted my truest wish: to bring my best work of 'concert' ballad arrangements into the public eye".

(By Michael Sparke)

Arranged by Bill Mathieu
Produced by Lee Gillette
Recorded at the Riverside Plaza Hotel Studio, New York City on September 21 and September 22, 1959


Bud Brisbois, Clyde Reasinger, Dalton Smith, Bill Chase, Rolf Ericson and Roger Middleton, trumpets;
Archie Lecoque, Don Sebesky and Kent Larson, trombones;
Jim Amlotte and Bob Knight, bass trombones;
Charlie Mariano, alto saxophone;
Bill Trujillo and John Bonnie, tenor saxophones;
Jack Nimitz and Marvin Holladay, baritone saxophones;
Stan Kenton, piano;
Pete Chivily, bass;
Jimmy Campbell, drums; and
Mike Pacheco, bongos

Stanley Newcomb Kenton (December 15, 1911 – August 25, 1979) was a pianist who led a highly innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. In later years he was widely active as an educator.

Stan Kenton was born in Wichita, Kansas, and raised first in Colorado and then in California. He learned piano as a child, and while still a teenager toured with various bands. He attended Bell High School, in Bell, California, where he graduated in 1930. In June 1941 he formed his own band, which developed into one of the best-known West Coast ensembles of the Forties. In the Mid 40's Kenton's Band and style became known as "The Wall of Sound", a tag later used by Phil Spector.

Kenton played in the 1930s in the dance bands of Vido Musso and Gus Arnheim, but his natural inclination was as a band leader. In 1941 he formed his first orchestra, which later was named after his theme song "Artistry in Rhythm". As a competent pianist, influenced by Earl Hines, Kenton was much more important in the early days as an arranger and inspiration for his loyal sidemen. Although there were no major names in his first band (bassist Howard Rumsey and trumpeter Chico Alvarez come the closest), Kenton spent the summer of 1941 playing regularly before a very appreciative audience at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, CA. Influenced by Jimmie Lunceford (who, like Kenton, enjoyed high-note trumpeters and thick-toned tenors), the Stan Kenton Orchestra struggled a bit after its initial success. Its Decca recordings were not big sellers and a stint as Bob Hope's backup radio band was an unhappy experience; Les Brown permanently took Kenton's place.

By late 1943 with a Capitol Records contract, a popular record in "Eager Beaver", and growing recognition, the Stan Kenton Orchestra was gradually catching on. Its soloists during the war years included Art Pepper, briefly Stan Getz, altoist Boots Mussulli, and singer Anita O'Day. By 1945 the band had evolved quite a bit. Pete Rugolo became the chief arranger (extending Kenton's ideas), Bob Cooper and Vido Musso offered very different tenor styles, and June Christy was Kenton's new singer; her hits (including "Tampico" and "Across the Alley From the Alamo") made it possible for Kenton to finance his more ambitious projects. A popular recording of "Laura" was made, the theme song from the film Laura (starring actress Gene Tierney), and featured the voices of the band.

Calling his music "progressive jazz," Kenton sought to lead a concert orchestra as opposed to a dance band at a time when most big bands were starting to break up. By 1947 Kai Winding was greatly influencing the sound of Kenton's trombonists, the trumpet section included such screamers as Buddy Childers, Ray Wetzel, and Al Porcino, Jack Costanzo's bongos were bringing Latin rhythms into Kenton's sound, and a riotous version of "The Peanut Vendor" contrasted with the somber "Elegy for Alto". Kenton had succeeded in forming a radical and very original band that gained its own audience.

In 1949 Kenton took a year off. In 1950 he put together his most advanced band, the 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns. Its music ranged from the unique and very dense modern classical charts of Bob Graettinger to works that somehow swung despite the weight. Such major players as Maynard Ferguson (whose high-note acrobatics set new standards), Shorty Rogers, Milt Bernhart, John Graas, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Laurindo Almeida, Shelly Manne, and June Christy were part of this remarkable project, but from a commercial standpoint, it was really impossible. Kenton managed two tours during 1950-1951 but soon reverted to his usual 19-piece lineup.

Then quite unexpectedly, Kenton went through a swinging period. The charts of such arrangers as Shorty Rogers, Gene Roland Gerry Mulligan, Lennie Niehaus, Marty Paich, Johnny Richards, and particularly Bill Holman and Bill Russo began to dominate the repertoire. Such talented players (in addition to the ones already named) as Lee Konitz, Conte Candoli, Sal Salvador, Stan Levey, Frank Rosolino, Richie Kamuca, Zoot Sims, Sam Noto, Bill Perkins, Charlie Mariano, Mel Lewis, Pete Candoli, Lucky Thompson, Carl Fontana, Pepper Adams, and Jack Sheldon made strong contributions. The music was never predictable and could get quite bombastic, but it managed to swing while still keeping the Kenton sound.

Kenton's last successful experiment was his mellophonium band of 1960-1963. Despite the difficulties in keeping the four mellophoniums (which formed their own separate section) in tune, this particular Kenton orchestra had its exciting moments; the albums "Adventures in Jazz" and "West Side Story" each won Grammy awards in 1962 and 1963. However from 1963 on, the flavor of the Kenton big band began to change. Rather than using talented soloists, Kenton emphasized relatively inexpensive youth at the cost of originality. While the arrangements (including those of Hank Levy) continued to be quite challenging, after Gabe Baltazar's "graduation" in 1965, there were few new important Kenton alumni (other than Peter Erskine and Dick Shearer). For many of the young players, touring with Kenton would be the high point of their careers rather than just an important early step. Kenton Plays Wagner (1964) was an important project, but by then Kenton was expending much energy on jazz education and by encouraging big band music in high schools and colleges, by instructing what he called "progressive jazz." In the early 1970s Kenton split from his long-time association with Capitol Records and formed his own label, "The Creative World of Stan Kenton". Recordings produced during the 1970s on this new label included several "live" concerts at various universities and are a testament to his devotion to education. In addition, Kenton made his charts available to college and high-school stage bands.

Jack Sandmeier, Road Manager during these years, tells the story of an unusual meeting in a hotel lobby between Woody Herman and Kenton. Unusual because they both toured more than fifty (50) weeks a year "one-nighters," in order to keep their respective bands on the road, they hardly ever met. In discussing a chronically late band member, Herman said to Kenton..."Fire his ass, there's thousands of them and only two of us."

He had a skull fracture from a fall in 1977. He entered Midway Hospital on August 17, 1979 after a stroke and later died.

In 1956, when the band returned from its European trip, the Critics Poll in Down Beat reflected victories by African-American musicians in virtually every category. The Kenton band was playing in Ontario, Canada, at the time, and Kenton dispatched a telegram which lamented "a new minority, white jazz musicians," and stated his "disgust [with the so-called] literary geniuses of jazz." Jazz critic Leonard Feather, alone of all the critics, responded in the October 3, 1956, issue with an open letter which questioned Kenton's racial views. Feather implied that Kenton's failure to win the Critics Poll was probably the real reason for the complaint, and wondered if racial prejudice was involved; however, accusations of prejudice, and particularly that Kenton had not hired enough African-American musicians over the years, have been proven patently false.

Many writers have heaped scorn on Feather over the years for his out-of-the-box statements. Fellow DownBeat critic Ralph J. Gleason wrote that Feather's verdict was passed on Kenton “. . without, unfortunately, any real forethought or public statement from the only musicians really in a position to know.” Jazz writer Jack McKinney points out that the night Kenton wrote the telegram, there were two African-Americans trombonists touring with him.Previous to Feather's letter, in the December 16, 1953, issue of Down Beat, critic Nat Hentoff had written that ". . . Stan is as free from prejudice of any kind as any man I know."

Feather's allegation of prejudice ignored Kenton's well-known close friendships with Duke Ellington and Count Basie. In July to September, 1955, the year before Feather's letter, Kenton hosted the CBS summer replacement, Music 55, for which he invited Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway, and many other African-American artists to participate. He toured with the Basie and his Orchestra in Fall, 1960, and released an album with the Nat King Cole Trio in 1962.

McKinney wrote further, in 1965, that "All points [of the Feather letter] except the last were based on conjecture, and events preceding and following Feather's complaint have shown how ridiculous they were." He further pointed out that many budding African-American jazz musicians, such as Art Tatum and Charlie Parker, were given more exposure on Kenton-sponsored tours than elsewhere. One Kenton band member, trumpeter Donald Byrd, in discussing Kenton's hands-on college and university music program, said, "My experience with the Stan Kenton clinic at the National Band Camp has left me in complete ecstasy ... The camp was interracial, both in the teaching faculty and the student body..."

Feather himself realized his error, and in August, 1960, apologized for the letter he then claimed was a "result of sorrow." Kenton later lamented of Feather's apology, "I think it was on the back page of the Pittsburg Inquirer." Kenton reportedly felt that Feather had created a great ill feeling toward him by African-American musicians, and no matter how apologetic Feather would be, much of that "prejudice-in-reverse" would remain.

Kenton was a salient figure on the American musical scene and made an indelible mark on the arranged type of big band jazz. Kenton's music evolved with the times throughout the 1960s and 70s, and although he was no longer considered a contemporary innovator, he promoted jazz and jazz improvisation through his service as an educator. The "Kenton Style" continues to permeate big bands at the high school and collegiate level, and the framework he designed for the "jazz clinic" is still widely in use today.

His music has experienced a resurgence in interest, with later critical "rediscovery" of his music and many reissues of his recordings. An alumni band tours to this day, led by lead trumpeter Mike Vax, which performs not only classic Kenton arrangements, but also new music written and performed in the Kenton style.

Kenton continued leading and touring with his big band up to his final performance in August, 1979, a week before he suffered a stroke while on tour in Reading, PA. Kenton did not recover and died on August 25, 1979. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Los Angeles.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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