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Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra!

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Stan Kenton (1911–1979) formed his first full orchestra in 1940 and soon drew record-breaking crowds to hear and dance to his exciting sound. He continued to tour and record unrelentingly for the next four decades. Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra! sums up the mesmerizing bandleader at the height of his powers, arms waving energetically, his face a study of concentration as he cajoled, coaxed, strained, and obtained the last ounce of energy from every musician under his ...

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Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra!

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Overview

Stan Kenton (1911–1979) formed his first full orchestra in 1940 and soon drew record-breaking crowds to hear and dance to his exciting sound. He continued to tour and record unrelentingly for the next four decades. Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra! sums up the mesmerizing bandleader at the height of his powers, arms waving energetically, his face a study of concentration as he cajoled, coaxed, strained, and obtained the last ounce of energy from every musician under his control.

Michael Sparke’s narrative captures that enthusiasm in words: a lucid account of the evolution of the Kenton Sound, and the first book to offer a critical evaluation of the role that Stan played in its creation. Insightful and thought-provoking throughout, and supported by liberal quotes from the musicians who made the magic, even at his most contentious the author’s high regard and admiration for his subject shines through. The most knowledgeable of Stan’s fans will learn new facts from this far-reaching biography of a man and his music. Stan Kenton will be essential reading for every Kenton devotee and jazz historian.

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Editorial Reviews

Jazz Journal

"Packed with fascinating anecdotes and exhaustive research this book will be welcomed not only by Stan Kenton devotees but by all aficionados of the big band era."
All About Jazz-New York

"Michael Sparke has written a detailed, fascinating chronicle of the Stan Kenton Orchestra that enjoyed a performing and recording career covering four decades ('40s-70s). . . . Sparke's devotion to his subject is evident in his attention to detail and in presenting Kenton both as a person and as a professional."
The Wall Street Journal

“Michael Sparke’s book, the first general history of the Kenton Orchestra, is the best evaluation yet of Kenton’s 40-year musical development.”
Library Journal
Stan Kenton (1911–79) was one of the most important jazz and big band musicians of the mid-20th century. Sparke, who has published several Kenton discographies (Stan Kenton, the Studio Sessions; Kenton on Capitol & Creative World), here tries his hand at a biography. Though skimpy on Kenton's life before 1941 (the years 1911–41 are contained in a brief prelude), this is an excellent account of Kenton's 35-plus-year professional career. Much of the material is based on numerous personal interviews, including one with Kenton in 1973. Sparke writes that "some quotes have been slightly adjusted to ensure accuracy and clarity" and that some have been "amalgamated." VERDICT This detailed and fascinating look at Kenton's long career is the best book on this musician and impresario since Carol Easton's Straight Ahead: The Story of Stan Kenton (1973). Recommended for all readers with an interest in Americana, jazz, or music generally.—Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781574412840
  • Publisher: University of North Texas Press
  • Publication date: 4/20/2010
  • Series: North Texas Lives of Musician Series , #5
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Sparke was born in Greater London, England, and continues to live there after retiring from teaching. He was first switched on to good music after hearing Woody Herman’s First Herd in 1945, and with Stan Kenton soon afterwards via Capitol shellac 78s from America sent by a pen-pal. Collaboration with the Dutch discographer Pete Venudor resulted in the discographies Kenton on Capitol and The Studio Sessions. Sparke has written liner notes for Kenton CDs on several labels, but this is his first full historical narrative about his favorite subject.

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