Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Don't throw stones

Pulled out "City of Glass: Stan Kenton Plays Bob Graettinger," Capitol, last week, after it crossed my mind for some reason, one of those CDs that didn't turn me on the first time I listened to it but keeps getting better every time I listen.

The "City of Glass" suite and the other compositions are large-ensemble music that I would call jazz. Not everyone would agree, certainly not on "City of Glass," although stuff like "Thermopylae" is pretty clearly jazz, albeit not the traditional variety heard from big bands, even most modern big bands. Scott Yanow on allmusic characterizes it as futuristic when it was recorded and still futuristic today and I guess that's about as good a way of putting it as any.

Abstract but structured also describes it, not free and yet employing free jazz elements like dissonance, tension and release, odd juxtapositions and surprising twists and turns which are, upon examination, quite logical. I think it's jazz, because of the soloing and the improvisation I believe I hear, among other things. But it also borrows from classical music, particularly modern impressionistic classical music. Stan Kenton was into bold, powerful music and Graettinger surely provided it. The cuts on this disk aren't so much swinging as imposing.

There are loads of big names in jazz among the small army of musicians Kenton employed for these recordings, Lee Konitz, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Frank Rosolino, Shelly Manne and Stan Levey among them. Some, like tenorman Bob Cooper, show their versatility by playing instruments you don't normally hear on a jazz recording. Cooper plays oboe and English horn besides his sax. The instrumental mix overall is diverse and interesting with cellos, bassoon, bass trombone and more. To me, it's important and fascinating music that any semi serious jazz fan needs to try, probably more than once to really appreciate it.

No comments: