Stan Kenton (1911—1979) formed his first full orchestra in 1940 and soon drew record-breaking crowds to hear and dance to his exciting sound. He continued to tour and record unrelentingly for the next four decades. Stan Kenton: This Is an Orchestra! sums up the mesmerizing bandleader at the height of his powers, arms waving energetically, his face a study of concentration as he cajoled, coaxed, strained, and obtained the last ounce of energy from every musician under his control.
Michael Sparke’s narrative captures that enthusiasm in words: a lucid account of the evolution of the Kenton Sound, and the first book to offer a critical evaluation of the role that Stan played in its creation. Insightful and thought-provoking throughout, and supported by liberal quotes from the musicians who made the magic, even at his most contentious the author’s high regard and admiration for his subject shines through. The most knowledgeable of Stan’s fans will learn new facts from this far-reaching biography of a man and his music. Stan Kenton will be essential reading for every Kenton devotee and jazz historian.
“A delightful read, start to finish. The inclusion of so much primary source material makes this the most authoritative account of Kenton’s story to date. He ‘gets’ the man and the music and tells it like it was.”—Terry Vosbein, Professor of Music, Washington and Lee University
“I read this book with mounting excitement and finished it confident that it is the best yet written on Kenton’s professional life. It is an irresistible volume that ought to be devoured in one sitting.”—Anthony Agostinelli, Kenton newsletter publisher
“Michael Sparke’s book, the first general history of the Kenton Orchestra, is the best evaluation yet of Kenton’s 40-year musical development.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Packed with fascinating anecdotes and exhaustive research this book will be welcomed not only by Stan Kenton devotees but by all aficionados of the big band era.”—Jazz Journal
“This detailed and fascinating look at Kenton's long career is the best book on this musician and impresario since Carol Easton's Straight Ahead: The Story of Stan Kenton (1973). Recommended for all readers with an interest in Americana, jazz, or music generally.”—Library Journal