Album: A Presentation of Progressive Jazz
Artist: Stan Kenton
Genre: Big Band
Stan Kenton’s A Presentation of Progressive Jazz topped the charts and was the best-selling album of 1948. His music resonated strongly with fans of the bygone Big Band era who were looking for exploratory sounds yet still apprehensive of the bebop underground. Kenton was the perfect cross-section: complex yet familiar — a brand of swing for listening rather than dancing.
Artistry in Rhythm had already established the Stan Kenton Orchestra as a supremely talented bunch. Progressive Jazz, as the title suggests, pushes the envelope further. The classical arrangements are even more advanced, and the rhythms take greater influence from exotic(a) sources.
Several of the songs contain a bit of Cuban fire and flare, which add an even more elusive element for Kenton: fun. Whether it’s Brazilian classical guitarist Laurindo Almeida making a surprise solo appearance on “Lament” or June Christy singing a flavorful rendition of “Lonely Woman,” Progressive Jazz is full of energy and excitement.
Throughout much of his career, Kenton’s main goal was to transcend jazz itself. A Presentation of Progressive Jazz is experimental and modernist and elaborate and intricate, but it is not abnormal. The album remains firmly rooted in jazz tradition despite its eclectic sounds. And that’s why it remains one of his best.