“This is an orchestra,” proclaims Stan Kenton, “a group of musicians gathered together because of a belief in a particular music. Like all orchestras,” he continues, barely pausing for punctuation, “this organization is unique in that the artistic ideal is far more important than personal differences.” What follows is more than a self-consciously declarative “Prologue” to Kenton’s 1953 Capitol album New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm-it’s a real-time taxonomy of his big band at the time, with personal introductions delivered in a voice at once confiding and stagy.
Hearing it now, you can’t help but picture the Old Man, as he identifies himself, leaning in toward a studio microphone: tie loosened, script in hand, drawing on a cigarette. There’s an antiquated charm to the exchange, as in an Edward R. Murrow broadcast, and it’s tempting to view the message itself in equally distant terms. But the basic definition of a big band, as Kenton outlines it, hasn’t really changed in all the years since.