Stan Kenton

Picture of Stan Kenton

Stan Kenton was among the most influential pianists and band leaders of the Big Band Era. He led an innovative jazz orchestra for almost four decades and even though Kenton had several pop hits in the 1940's, his music was always progressive. Kenton was also a pioneer in the field of jazz education. 

In April of 1936, Gus Arnheim was reorganizing his band into the style of Benny Goodman's groups and Kenton was to take the piano chair. This is where Kenton would make his first recordings when Arnheim made 14 recordings in the summer of 1937. Once he departed from Gus Arnheim's group, Kenton went back to study with private teachers on both the piano and in composition. 

In 1940, Kenton formed his first orchestra. Kenton worked in the early days with his own groups as more of an arranger than a featured pianist. His first band was primarily a collection of studio musicians. Kenton spent the summer of 1941 playing regularly in front of audiences at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach, CA. The Stan Kenton Orchestra struggled for a time after its initial success. Its recordings were not big sellers and a stint as Bob Hope's backup radio band during the 1943–44 season was an unhappy experience.


Listen to the song "Eager Beaver" by Stan Kenton

By late 1943, with a contract with Capitol Records, a popular record in "Eager Beaver", and growing recognition, the Stan Kenton Orchestra was gradually catching on. It soon developed into one of the best-known West Coast ensembles of the 1940's. Its soloists during the war years included Art Pepper, Stan Getz, Boots Mussulli, and singer Anita O'Day. 


Listen to the song "Artistry in Rhythm" by Stan Kenton

By 1945, the band had evolved. June Christy was Kenton's new singer and her hits "Tampico" and "Across the Alley from the Alamo" made it possible for Kenton to finance his more ambitious projects. His ensemble entitled Artistry in Rhythm and Stan Kenton's other musical projects helped shaped Jazz Music deep into the 1960's.

Listen to the brilliant music of Stan Kenton right here on Swing City Radio.

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