|Visit Us On FB
THE INSTRUMENTS, THE SOUNDS, THE PERFORMERS
Among them were those of Les Brown, whose smooth and popular orchestra has been operating partly on a jazz level ever since its inception more than two decades ago; Elliot Lawrence, a pianist and arranger in whose band Gerry Mulligan wrote some of his early arrangements; and Claude Thornhill, also a pianist-arranger, whose dance orchestra was the first to be enriched by the timbre of French horns, and several of whose sidemen, as was pointed out in the combo CHAPTER, played an important role in the founding of the Miles Davis orchestral style.
The Savoy Ballroom tradition was carried on by a series of capable dance bands, none of any earth-shaking importance from the jazz standpoint, but all capable of stirring up the kind of excitement associated with the old Henderson band. Among the leaders of these groups were trumpeter Erskine Hawkins, a bandleader since 1935, whose hit record of Tuxedo Junction in 1939 became his theme; and the pianist, Buddy Johnson, a great favorite with rhythm-and-blues audiences since 1939.
Though we owe to Duke Ellington an incalculable debt for the work he and Billy Strayhorn contributed to make the Ellington orchestra the most successful and esthetically valuable of the 1940s, the greatest excitement among young jazz fans during those years was caused by the advent of a California-grounded orchestra led by Stan Kenton, a pianist and arranger who started his group at Balboa Beach in 1940 and had gone into high gear with the release of Artistry in Rhythm, the band's theme, recorded in 1943. The Kenton orchestra went through four main phases. During the first, Kenton himself and Ralph Yaw wrote the arrangements. The predominant style was the staccato phrasing of the saxophones. Keystones of the second phase of Kenton were a series of "artistry" motifs (Artistry in Bolero, Artistry Jumps, Artistry in Bass, etc.) and a number of attempts to crash the popular market through vocals by June Christy and others. In this period, from 1945-9, the band rose to become the most popular with American jazz fans, winning its first Down Beat poll in 1947 and making great use during the next year or two of the slogan "Progressive Jazz." Pete Rugolo was the chief arranger.
Kenton's third phase, after he had spent most of 1949 in retire-