Stan Kenton and His Orchestra – NBC Radio – Concert In Miniature -August 12, 1952 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Stan Kenton: A name synonymous with the revolution in Modern Jazz by taking it from the dance hall to the concert hall and achieving mixed results in the process.
The Post World War 2 period probably experienced the biggest upheaval and change in music and direction of any time before and possibly since. Jazz, which had been largely confined to dancing and Popular entertainment, was experiencing some changes as early as the late 1930s when icons such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman took to the concert hall (i.e. Carnegie Hall) in order to create a broader appeal for a genre of music that had much more going for it than tapping out something to dance to. The seeds were already planted by the time Kenton arrived – but what Kenton did was take a form which relied on impulse and improvisation and put it in intellectual terms – taking it from the heart and translating it to the head, so to speak. And even though it was new and it experienced considerable appeal, especially to High School and College students, the mass audience; those people who relied on something with a consistent beat and a tune to go along with it, were left largely cold by the experience.
And for that reason, this broadcast, part of a series put together by NBC Radio called Stan Kenton’s Concert in Miniature tried to get the message across via Network radio. And as you’ll hear peppered through this half-hour, both Kenton and the announcer go to great lengths to prompt the audience to “keep an open mind” over what they were about to hear, as if to apologize for their insistence the music be listened to, not at.
In retrospect this is all pretty tame stuff and even at the time, during the 40’s and 50’s, smaller ensembles and the revolutionary changes in Jazz were being well-documented. NBC as well as the other major networks were regularly airing club dates with such soon-to-be-legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, The MJQ, to name just a few.
Kenton had fans, but he also had detractors – everything from racial makeup of the band (critics said it was too “white’ to be relevant) to reliance on musical pyrotechnics to get the point across came under fire from many journalistic corners. The bottom line was the audience – it was Youth Culture at the time where his fan base was, not the mainstream.
But in 1952, the Youth Culture was not as potent or influential as it was to become – the older generation still held sway over the tastes of society. But even that would change as the decade wore on.
To get an idea of what was being tried, here is one episode in that weekly series Stan Kenton’s Concert In Miniature, as it was broadcast on August 12, 1952 over NBC Radio.