Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Oct 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

His Man Stan

ae3 RayPianoCabrillo College jazz icon Ray Brown celebrates Stan Kenton’s centennial with a rare concert of Kenton arrangements

It was in the early 1970s that Cabrillo College music instructor Ray Brown—fresh off a stint in the U.S. Army’s touring jazz band during the Vietnam War—wound up playing fifth trumpet in the legendary Stan Kenton Orchestra, the last remnant of the so-called Big Band Era that forged a uniquely American sound in the years bookending the Second World War.

Brown, who was raised in a musical family on Long Island, had come of age during Kenton’s heyday, and the opportunity to play with one of his idols was a dream come true.

Kenton was known for his big blaring horn sections—his was the original “wall of sound” long before Phil Spector developed a similar concept in pop and rock—and the then 25-year-old Brown was a more tempered trumpeter than those high, strong players usually favored by Kenton. “I was more in the Art Farmer mode,” says Brown. He wasn’t sure if he was going to stick.

“Honestly, I don't think Stan much liked my playing at first,” Brown recalls, “but I grew on him, and we eventually became good friends—so much so that he had me rehearse the band for him numerous times.”

Brown spent 15 months with Kenton, performing around the world. “I spent those months continuously on the road with Stan,” Brown recalls. “At one point, we played 81 nights—and sometimes days—in a row. I think we had 18 days off the entire year-plus. A tour like that can never be repeated ever again.”

Now, four decades later—and during the centennial of Kenton’s birth—Brown is paying a final homage to his mentor’s legacy with a one-of-a-kind concert, entitled “My Man Stan,” which will take place on Nov. 19 at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater. The concert will feature Brown’s 19-piece Great Big Band (the same size as Kenton’s) playing a number of songs written and arranged by Kenton, along with a selection by Brown, a highly regarded performer, composer and arranger in his own right.

Although Kenton was an innovative—and controversial—jazz figure in his lifetime, Brown acknowledges that his moment has come and gone. “Most of my students have never heard of him,” he says. “He’s had a little bit of a rebirth during his centennial, but I believe he will pretty much disappear after this year. I wanted to program some of his songs in an authentic ensemble to bring back some recognition and understanding of the man and his music. Both were unique.”

Born in Wichita, Kan., in 1912, Kenton moved to Colorado and eventually to California in his youth, graduating from Bell High School, just outside Los Angeles, during the Depression. Influenced by Earl “Fatha” Hines, Kenton began performing—and composing—as a jazz pianist in his teens.

On the eve of World War II, Kenton formed his first orchestra, serving as the house band at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach. During the ensuing decades, Kenton signed with Capitol Records and forged a “progressive” jazz movement that linked big-band jazz with more classical elements. He was also one of the first big-band leaders in the U.S. to incorporate Afro-Cuban rhythmic coloration in his compositions. By the time of his death in the late 1970s, he was something of a musical anachronism. Yet his influence remained pervasive.

“Stan was clear he never wanted a ghost band after he died,” says Brown. “This is the only time I would do this—just for his centennial recognition. I know how his music was played, and I believe I have the guys to play it. I want it to be a special night for the audience. It certainly will be special for me.” 


“My Man Stan” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 19 at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Tickets are $20. Call  479-6218, or visit brownpapertickets.com. Photo: Paul Schraub

Comments (1)Add Comment
...
written by a guest, November 16, 2012
Nice article Dunn, I hope you do more Jazz type articles because you like history and those that really get the most out of jazz are those that enjoy its evolution. Ray will have a stellar performance and we are so lucky have it so near. Oh, Geoffrey, you could do a book on Kenton, you got friends. Bobby Z

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”