Stan Kenton
This Is an Orchestra!
Performing Arts
6 x 9, 384 pp.
40 b&w illus. Notes.
Pub Date: 06/01/2011
North Texas Lives of Musician Series
  paper
Price:        $14.95

978-1-57441-325-0

Published by University of North Texas Press

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Stan Kenton

This Is an Orchestra!

Michael Sparke

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.

Michael Sparke was born in Greater London, England, and continues to live there after retiring from teaching. He was first switched on to good music after hearing Woody Herman’s First Herd in 1945, and with Stan Kenton soon afterwards via Capitol shellac 78s from America sent by a pen-pal. Collaboration with the Dutch discographer Pete Venudor resulted in the discographies Kenton on Capitol and The Studio Sessions. Sparke has written liner notes for Kenton CDs on several labels, but this is his first full historical narrative about his favorite subject.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Michael Sparke’s book, the first general history of the Kenton Orchestra, is the best evaluation yet of Kenton’s 40-year musical development.”


"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."


"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."


"Michael Sparke has written a detailed, fascinating chronicle of the Stan Kenton Orchestra that enjoyed a performing and recording career covering four decades ('40s-70s). . . . Sparke's devotion to his subject is evident in his attention to detail and in presenting Kenton both as a person and as a professional."


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