Essay Stan Kenton

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Stan Kenton: Progressive Concepts in Jazz

Stanley Newcomb Kenton is one of the most influential figures to be found in all of jazz history, even being called "the most significant figure of the Modern Jazz age" by Frank Sinatra (Agostinelli, 6). Kenton's progressive concepts of how music is written and performed greatly affected the genre of jazz, and created something new and unique. Always under controversy, Kenton and his band always strove to do something different, never settling into a niche for long periods of time. Even today, when hearing modern jazz performers (particularly big bands) one can often hear the influence from Kenton's music.

Kenton was born in Wichita, Kansas on December 11, 1911, although he spent most of his
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The standard big band sound of the late 1940s and 1950s was very laid back. Rhythmically, it was normal to play just behind the beat to create this relaxed feel, with a definite emphasis on the "swing" style. Swing music was usually composed of one melody played by one section of the band, and other sections, if playing at all, would play chord hits in different places. The function of the rhythm section is mostly to comp and stay out of the way. These bands usually stayed within either 3/4, 4/4, 2/2, or 2/4 time signatures. Kenton altered this system in many ways to create something fresh and progressive.

Kenton's sound was more aggressive and even occasionally more abrasive than of other bands. The saxophones played strongly, with screaming trumpets, and a lush, rich trombone sound. One aspect that made the Kenton charts different from others was the layering techniques used within the band. This would involve one section of the band playing a melody. Then another section would play a different melody over top of the first one. Both would compliment each other rhythmically and harmonically. This process could then continue, adding more lines. When extracted, each line is still interesting by itself. The best example of layering in the Kenton library is "Artistry in Rhythm." This tune begins with the rhythm section playing a riff over which the sax section plays the main melody
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