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8.120518 - KENTON, Stan: MacGregor Transcriptions, Vol. 2 (1941-1942)


The Complete McGregor Transcriptions

Vol. 2: Etude For Saxophones

"One of the greatest combinations of rhythm, harmony and melody that’s ever been assembled by one leader."

– George T. Simon, on the Kenton band in 1941

During the early phase of its career, the Kenton Orchestra repertoire was geared to the tastes of its dancing audiences, with equal emphasis given to big-band and Latin-American interspersed with vocals and numbers of a more intimate nature. However, even in these McGregor transcriptions Kenton’s eventual graduation from dance floor to concert hall is already audibly discernible insofar as the concept of ‘Artistry In Rhythm’ implies the dual subscription of "dancers" and jazz enthusiasts.

Stan was born Stanley Newcomb Kenton in Wichita, Kansas, on 19th February, 1912 and grew up in Los Angeles. From his youth he showed a strong liking for classical piano music which he was encouraged to study by his mother, his first piano teacher. By his middle teens he was already a seasoned improviser at the keyboard, especially in jazz, and had already played gigs in clubs and saloons in the L.A. district. He wrote his first arrangement in 1928 and, after further experience as an arranger in vaudeville in San Diego in 1930, made a name for himself in the ranks of commercial and society dancebands, including those of Gus Arnheim and Vido Musso. Always a skilled technician and a tasteful improviser with a keen commercial outlook, from his earliest professional years Stanley never allowed his penchant for the classical and esoteric to cloud his awareness of the kind of music the paying public expected.

After lessons in orchestration from Charles Dalmorès (1871-1939), Kenton found work in Hollywood as a film-score arranger, an experience perhaps detectable in some of his earliest compositions. By 1940, he was a respected arranger both in film and on radio and formed his own thirteen-piece orchestra (augmented ad hoc to fourteen) which made its debut at Balboa Beach, California, on Memorial Day 1941. At Hollywood’s Diana Ballroom he specialised in jive, jitterbug and Latin-American prior to the residence at the Balboa Rendezvous which, allied with various Glendale Civic galas and regular Palladium appearances, led to his short-lived contract with Decca Records.

By the close of 1941, Kenton was already in the vanguard of American popularity and an acknowledged pioneer of Progressive, although a further two years would elapse before his first Capitol date and the commercial recording of Artistry In Rhythm which, by 1945, made him a world-wide household name. His arrangements were principally executed by himself or by Ralph Yaw (born Enosburg Falls, Vermont, October 22, 1898). While the 1941-1942 McGregor radio transcriptions show a thematic kinship with the pre-1945 Capitol releases, they also indicate Kenton’s desire to balance his "distinctive new designs in modern music" with his keen commercial interest in wooing the dancing public. The October 1941 transcription opens with another bold proclamation of his program theme: Artisty In Rhythm (1), which is swiftly followed by Memphis Lament (2), "a Kenton lowdown original [pace W.C. Handy!] with Red on the moaning and instrumental improvisations by Stan, Jack and Chico." Trumpet Symphonette (3), airing the joint talents of the Kenton trumpet trio of Beach, Alvarez and Collier, precedes Love Turns Winter (4), a ballad interlude featuring Red Dorris, before Marvin’s Mumble (5), "a gusty rhythm special penned by Earl Collier for drummer Marvin George", concludes the October extract.

Our montages from the November transcriptions open with a new arrangement of Arkansas Traveler (6), "a new guest on the Stan Kenton bandwagon dressed in modern musical finery." Next, comes another vocal item – Summer Idyll (7), "a soft, lilting Mahlon Merrick composition with a deft Kenton arrangement", before we are transported "upstream with the Kenton crew on a primitive riverboat" for Congo Clambake (8), "one of those feverish Yaw jungle ditties." Then, "Chamber music time" arrives, featuring "the reed choir with another Stan Kenton original for woodwinds", in an Etude For Saxes (9) before we are treated to "some of that Fiery Kenton all-out surge music" with Ralph Yaw’s Let Her Go (10).

It Seems To Me (11), a laid-back Mel Walters ballad from Red and the orchestra, is followed "with that gusty rhythmic rhetoric that’s strictly Kenton" by Tempo di Joe (12), "a rocking jump affair" by Joe Rizzo. Next, Jack’s alto introduces Red’s version of Michael North’s Cloud Across The Moon (13), "a lacy bit of a melody [in ] a sparkling Kenton treatment", before Mine (14), another offering from the "Kenton bandwagon balladeer" Red Dorris. After Half A Heart (15), "a Stan Kenton offering from the pop circuit" featuring Red’s tenor-sax, "Stan, Jack and Chico make with the musical repartee" in Joe Rizzo’s Prelude To Nothing (16). Next, "from an arranger’s workshop comes Joe Rizzo’s neatlywrapped tune package, with Red handling the vocal script on Stop Your Teasing"(17), and Red again puts on his balladeer’s hat for If I Had Love (18), a "confidential …Stan Kenton rhythm concept", before the selection ends with Ralph Yaw’s Take Sixteen (19), "a Kenton rhythm ramble with accents on tenor-sax."

From the transcription of January 1942 come Hold Back The Dawn (20) – "another vocal review by Red Dorris set in a warm, romantic Stan Kenton arrangement"; Shufflin’ The Chords (21) – "a gusty bit of musical bioplay" in which "Kenton deals fourteen instrumental aces"; Quit Your Shovin’ (22) – "another rhythm special from the Kenton books" with Bill Lahey "doing the alto honours"; No Tears (23) – "a love song in the Stan Kenton manner, with vocal entry by Red Dorris" and, to finish, Ralph Yaw’s Blue Flare (24) – "a Stan Kenton bounce affair with action on rhythm."

Peter Dempsey, 2001



2. MEMPHIS LAMENT (Handy) 3:07

Red Dorris, vocal


4. LOVE TURNS WINTER TO SPRING (Dennis–Killduff) 2:52

Red Dorris, vocal

5. MARVIN’S MUMBLE (Earl Collier) 2:26

6. ARKANSAS TRAVELER (Traditional) 2:21

7. SUMMER IDYLL (Mahlon Merrick) 3:13

Red Dorris, vocal

8. CONGO CLAMBAKE (Yaw) 2:05


10. LET HER GO (Yaw) 1:46

11. IT SEEMS TO ME (Mel Walters) 3:09

12. TEMPO DI JOE (Joe Rizzo) 2:53

13. CLOUD ACROSS THE MOON (Michael North) 2:17

14. MINE (Unknown) 2:11

15. HALF A HEART (unknown) 3:04

16. PRELUDE TO NOTHING (Rizzo) 3:06

17. STOP YOUR TEASING (Rizzo) 2:39

Red Dorris, vocal

18. IF I HAD LOVE (unknown) 1:48

Red Dorris, vocal

19. TAKE SIXTEEN (Yaw) 1:33

20. HOLD BACK THE DAWN (Spielman–Berg–Jacobson) 3:26

Red Dorris, vocal

21. SHUFFLIN’ THE CHORDS (Yaw–Kenton) 2:25

22. QUIT YOUR SHOVIN’ (Yaw) 2:02

23. NO TEARS (Rizzo–Braude) 2:48

Red Dorris, vocal

24. BLUE FLARE (Yaw) 1:35


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