Kenton's Innovations

American pianist and composer Stan Kenton, who died in 1979, led various big bands with great success for almost forty years but stirred up controversy in 1950 when he formed his Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra, employing up to forty musicians. He commissioned composers such as Robert Graettinger, Shorty Rogers, Pete Rugolo and Bill Russo to write music specifically for the orchestra. In this four-part series, Max Harrison looks at this ambitious project and puts it in its historical context.


01Incident In Jazz1997120619971212

Numbers in the first programme include `Incident in Jazz', `Thermopylae' and `House of Strings'.


In this programme, he looks at the work of some of the composers other than Robert Graettinger who accepted the challenge to write for the 40-piece orchestra in 1950-1. They include Pete Rugolo (`Conflict'), Franklyn Marks (`Trajectories'), Johnny Richards (`Soliloquy') and Bill Russo (`Improvisation').

03The Modern World19971220

The most original composer to write for Kenton's orchestra was undoubtedly Robert Graettinger. Max Harrison introduces recordings of the six pieces that form Graettinger's suite `The Modern World'. The soloists are John Graas (French horn), Gregory Bemko (cello) and Maynard Ferguson (trumpet).

04 LASTCity Of Glass19971227

The most enigmatic of Kenton's composers, Robert Graettinger, wrote the first version of his `City of Glass' in 1947 and later recomposed it for the orchestra. Max Harrison introduces recordings of both versions of the suite. The early version comes from a 1993 disc by the Ebony Band of Holland, conductor Gunther Schuller, and the second by the Innovations Orchestra.