In the 1940s, when jazz was the most popular style of music in the nation, Stan Kenton was more interested in innovation and artistry than record sales.
Today, more than 25 years after the famed band leader's death, his emphasis on musical integrity has proved the test of time as his music continues to intrigue, delight, and entertain audiences around the world, including the annual spring showcase by the Toledo Jazz Orchestra.
This year's TJO tribute, "Kickin' It With Kenton," will be held at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College in Sylvania.
While Kenton's band showcased many top-notch players, its repertoire also was aided by the group's many skillful composers and arrangers, according to Russ Schmidt, director of the 18-piece jazz orchestra.
Among the famous songwriters who played in Kenton's band were Lennie Niehaus, Johnny Richards, and Bill Holman. Kenton also had a sharp eye for young talent, giving a first break to such future stars as Art Pepper, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and Zoot Sims.
Kenton, who played piano, was known for pushing the boundaries of big-band jazz, from the sheer size of the band to its musical adventures.
Unlike the typical big bands of the 1940s and '50s, which became famous for combining memorable melodies with easy dance beats, Kenton was intent on creating complex rhythms with piercing, high-powered brass sections.
He also expanded the size of his band from the standard 15 or 18 instrument lineup to 23 pieces in 1947 and, after taking 1950 off, created a 43-piece band he called the Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra. His musical achievements earned him invitations to perform in venues that up until then had allowed only classical artists.
The Toledo Jazz Orchestra will be in concert at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets are $25, or $5 for students, from the box office, 419-824-3999. Information: 419-241-5299.