Behold the might and power of Stan Kenton: Back in the 1940s and '50s, no Big Band matched the swaggering brass, ear-blasting volume, and pretension to innovation of Stan Kenton and his orchestra. Make no mistake: On my crackling LPs, Basie's band grooved harder, with the precision of an atomic clock; Ellington swung with unmatched honey-hued timbres and crafted exquisite suites; but Kenton took the biggest risks.

Kenton not only augmented his group with a string section (and lost piles of money on tour) but also quixotically championed one of the unsung giants of 20th-century music, Robert Graettinger, whose suite, City of Glass (reissued on the Capitol CD Kenton Plays Graettinger), transformed Kenton's group into a venomous-voiced banshee spewing sandblasting shrieks of an imminent apocalypse.

But did Kenton swing? Was it jazz? Those questions riddle my 1950s-era collection (thanks, Pop!) of Downbeat magazines. Truth is, Kenton did swing when so inclined. The recently reissued mid-1950s session Contemporary Concepts (Capitol Jazz) finds Kenton's men in full swing on tracks like "Sunset Tower," "Cherokee," "Stompin' at the Savoy," and a cool, chin-nodding rendition of "What's New."

To highlight the swinging side of Kenton and his crew, the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra has augmented its ranks to revive Kentonian classics, including "Artistry in Rhythm," "Opus in Pastels," "End of a Love Affair," and "Intermission Riff." Also featured is "Recuerdos" from Kenton's seminal Latin jazz LP Cuban Fire! CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI

Catch the SRJO's tribute to Stan Kenton Sat Jun 14 at 7:30 pm (Recital Hall at Benaroya, Third Ave & Union St, 215-4747) or Sun Jun 15 at 3 pm (Kirkland Performance Center, 350 Kirkland Ave, 425-893-9900). Tickets are $15-$31, but first-time ticket buyers should call the SRJO office at 523-6159 for a special half-price offer.

chris@delaurenti.net

Support The Stranger

Sponsored
Find Out How Seattle’s Westland Distillery Is Turning The World Of Whiskey Upside Down.
Get to know the world-renowned whiskey distillery in your own backyard.