Stan Kenton and the Internet

I love instrumental music. Not that I don’t like vocals, I just spent most all of my music-making experience (high school and college) in instrumental groups so it feels closer to me. I’ve been living vicariously through my children lately while their high school marching band has laid waste to most of its competition. They have come through the band program I wish I was in all those years ago. The genre has come a long, long way. These days, a band on a high school football field doesn’t do a bunch of geometric designs to a few pop 40 radio tunes, they put on 10-minute symphonic Broadway-style shows. Check out a high school game sometime and you might see what I mean.

Anyway, I digress. While browsing YouTube just out of curiosity for a few world champion DCI performances (Drum Corp International; they call themselves the “Marching Music’s Major League”), I stumbled on a couple of my favorite big band titles that had been chosen by the DCI groups for their competitions. That, in turn led me to something I had never considered. Live recordings of some of my jazz idols from decades gone by. I of course figured that I’d find videos of contemporary bands playing not so contemporary music online, but not the originals. Duh! Why wouldn’t they be there?

There he was, my favorite big band leader, Stan Kenton and his orchestra (complete with the mellophone section!) playing for a live audience in London. In fact, some of that music was from the very performances that haave been in my collection for years. It was incredible. I burned two hours listening to music that I thought I knew inside and out. But now I had discovered a thousand fresh nuances. I could see who was playing what, how they moved, and how the music moved them. It was awesome.

Kenton and his bands were always special to me. He showed a clear dedication to music education in his later years. During the 70’s his bands would appear at high school and college jazz band competitions around the country offering performance clinics to student musicians during the day and then a concert for the competing schools the end the night. I learned so much from the Kenton trumpet section as we rehearsed our charts the afternoon before the competition. I don’t even remember how well we did in our division. I just remember listening to a professional musician telling us about how he felt the music, felt the drumstick hitting the cymbal from across the stage, and felt the lead sax player taking his next breath. My dad said he was probably stoned.

I also learned that I needed a lot more practice.

Thanks YouTube, and thanks Stan.

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