Album: Innovations in Modern Music
Artist: Stan Kenton
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Stan Kenton utilizes the full range of his big band “orchestra” like no other jazz musician before or since — from tone clusters that resemble the music of Charles Ives to off-kilter piano chords that predict the experiments of Eric Dolphy. Nowhere is this more evident than on “Theme for Sunday,” a haunting classical tone poem that hardly resembles traditional jazz at all. It’s safe to say that Innovations in Modern Music is a perfect title for this strange, strange album.
Ever since Kenton began his career in the 1940s, his progressive style of music was always pointing toward this direction. Yet despite the avant-garde experimentation, Kenton’s music is still firmly entrenched in big band tradition. Perhaps the energetic opener, “Trajectories,” is the best example of Kenton’s style. Imagine Count Basie mixed with Bela Bartok. Or, elsewhere, like on “Solitaire,” Charlie Parker and Bernard Herrmann.
However, Innovations in Modern Music isn’t just modernism for modernism’s sake; the album still retains a good amount of big band fun even when carrying on all the experimental baggage. The ghostly “Conflict,” another Ives-influenced number, uses fiery brass crescendos to perfectly counter the atonal string section and elegiac June Christy vocal.
Kenton is easily one of the most underrated jazz musicians of the entire 20th century. The settings of his music are familiar enough but what he does with them is entirely unique. Considering the era and the context, Innovations in Modern Music is one of the most daring jazz releases of all time.
Stan Kenton’s Innovations in Modern Music has received the following Colin’s Review accolades