- Category : Musician - Jazz
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Eden 4
American musician, composer and bandleader whose progressive influence in music made him a controversial figure in jazz for nearly 40 years.
Born in Wichita, KS, Kenton moved with his family to Huntingdon Park in Southern California at age five. When his deadbeat Dad eventually left for good, Kenton helped his mother care for his two sisters. At age ten he began taking piano lessons at his mother's urging, but it was not until four years later that he was introduced to jazz by to cousins who were working musicians. "From the time I was 14 years old I was all music. Nothing else entered my mind." Forming a band with three other students in Bell High School, he played for dances and parties.
At age 18, lacking an income and unable to attend college, he played the piano in the speakeasies of San Diego and Las Vegas. Over the following ten years he played with six different orchestras in the Southwest when, in 1940, determined to form his own band with its own style, he spent two months in a rented cabin writing musical arrangements.
The Stan Kenton Orchestra opened months later at the renowned Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, California, consisting mostly of musicians under age 21. An overnight sensation, crowds of high school and college students packed the ballroom nightly, with radio broadcasts soon bringing fame to individual musicians in the orchestra. Success escalated with an East Coast engagement at the famed Meadowbrook in New Jersey. The orchestra's hits included "Eager Beaver," "Harlem Folk Dance" and "Intermission Riff."
The draft during WW II along with the pressure of wartime travel produced personnel turnovers coupled with prolonged gaps between engagements. Many of the young musicians returned home to California. In 1944, Kenton hired top jazz vocalist Anita O'Day and with the hit song "And Her Tears Rolled Like Wine," the orchestra was named Look Magazine Band of The Year."
In the late '40s, when big bands began their demise, Kenton formed his Progressive Jazz Orchestra followed by the creation of his Innovations Orchestra in 1950. Kenton's drive for continual change led him in the early '60s to build his entire orchestra around the mellophonium and other non-jazz instruments and in 1965, to launching the Neophonic Orchestra, the band in three-year residence at the Los Angeles Music Center. Turning his back on his own early days of packed dance floors and hit singles, critics panned his new sound as flashy and pretentious. "I have a problem with myself," Kenton once told an interviewer, "I'm just not much for the past. When guys come around to talk about the good old days, I'm not much interested. I'm more concerned with what's happening next." In his later years, Kenton held week-long jazz clinics at Redlands University and Orange Coast College.
Kenton's youthful marriage to a woman named Violet ended in divorce. They had a daughter Leslie. His second marriage, to Ann Richards, singer with the band for six years, produced a daughter Dana and a son Lance. He later made third marriage to Jo Ann.
He died of a stroke on 8/25/79 at 4:45 PM in Hollywood, CA.