Talent is a gift from above, and any number of entertainers have delighted millions and made very comfortable livings simply by exercising their talents. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, those who do so would tell us this is the natural order of things.
True artistry, perhaps, requires more than just relying on God given talent. A real artist is obligated to assume some risk. The results may not be popular, they may not even be good, but they will be art and worthy of respect, perhaps ever reverence.
Stan Kenton is credited with keeping the flame of Big Band Jazz burning through the Rock and Roll era of the Sixties and Seventies. Stan was born in Wichita, KSbut the family moved to Colorado when he was very young, and finally settled near Los Angeles. In 1930, Stan graduated from Bell High School. He played piano with a number of West Coast dance bands before starting his own band in 1941.
The Stan Kenton Orchestra was the early back up band for Bob Hope's radio program, but it was not a good fit and the job eventually went to Les Brown. Kenton's musical style was best known for its “Wall of Brass” sound, predating Phil Spector's Wall of Sound by a number of years. His theme song, “Artistry in Rhythm” was one of Capitol Record's earliest releases.
Believing that Jazz could be more than just music to dance to, Kenton made no apologies for his brand of “progressive Jazz”. A unique feature of Kenton's shows was a large gathering of fans standing as close as they could to the band stand, just listening to the music, not a single one dancing.
When the market for big band music began to dry up, Kenton took his outfit on the road, touring fifty weeks a year playing mostly one nighters. There is a story about a meeting between Kenton and Woody Herman who ran into each other one night in a hotel lobby. The two musician's busy schedule kept them from meeting other than a few chance encounters, and when Stan complained about a chronically late band member, Herman advised him to “Fire his ass, there's thousands of them and only two of us!”
When his road engagements finally did slow down, Stan dedicated himself to music education. Many of the current Jazzmen on the charts attended high school and college Jazz clinics hosted and taught by Stan Kenton.