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Stan Kenton Orchestra

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Before there were Dead Heads, Trekkies and even Beatlemaniacs, there were Kentonites. It’s difficult to believe that people like your father or uncle could have such unadulterated devotion to a leader, a band and an attitude about music, but it’s true. Sixty years ago, Stan Kenton put the musical world on notice that he was going to add his signature sound to American popular music, and pop/jazz fans have been rabidly divided on his merits, akin to the Tories and Loyalists. Only the likes of Chet Baker or Sun Ra have as strong a cult following as Kenton, born in Wichita, Kansas in 1911. On Google.com, there are over 64,000 sites for Kenton; in comparison, only a little over 300 sites are for Ludwig Van Beethoven.

There is no neutrality on Kenton; people either can’t stop talking about his band, or simply dismiss it. Why is there such a devoted following to this band? “I haven’t the slightest idea,” states Kenton arranger Bill Holman. “The same people keep showing up at the Kenton (reunion) concerts. I know half of them by name now. There’s also a big contingent of Kenton fans in England and Europe.” “It’s an abstract thing,” adds trumpeter Tim Hagans. “Stan had a different type of fan following him. These people wanted Kenton’s music. They were more loyal and devoted than any other fan. We’d have people come to us that were not jazz fans, not big band fans, but they just loved Stan.”

Peter Erskine has insight as well, “Stan, like his music, had a bigger than life presence. Stan’s music was not afraid to be big, emotionally and sonically. I actually don’t intellectually understand why his music still has such a powerful effect on me, but I’m grateful for the feeling every time I listen to one of his albums.

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