September 27, 2021- Today's Topic: Stan Kenton and Pete Rugolo
Besides Dizzy Gillespie, the other American band to explore Afro-Cuban music was the Orchestra of Stan Kenton.
Kenton and his chief arranger Pete Rugolo heard the Noro Morales band at the Embassy Club in New York in early 1947. It was in a back room and the band was screaming and the people
were dancing and they were blown away by what they heard. One of the dancers told them if you think this is good you should hear Machito and His Afro Cubans. Later, they took the dancers advice and went and heard Machito at a club in Spanish Harlem. That experience had a major impact on both Kenton and Rugolo. Rugolo was so inspired that he immediately wrote an original and titled it “Machito”. They brought in authentic Latin percussionists for the recording and to this day it is one of Rugolo’s masterpieces.
Kenton disbanded his “Artistry in Rhythm” Orchestra not long after Machito was recorded but reformed a new band that premiered later that year. This time he called it “Progressive Jazz”
Kenton and Rugolo wanted to continue to explore the latin idiom and hired Jack Costanzo to play latin percussion. They also hired Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida. Rugolo wrote several Latin pieces for the Progressive Jazz Orchestra including Cuban Carnival, Bongo Riff and the four part Prologue Suite which included the titles Intro to a Latin Rhythm, Chorale for Brass Piano and Bongo, Abstraction and Journey to Brazil. They also put together an arrangement of The Peanut Vendor that became a staple in the band’s book up to the very end.
Kenton continued to incorporate latin pieces into the bands repertoire for the rest of his career, more so than any other American band.