City of Glass – Stan Kenton

City of Glass - Stan Kenton
City of Glass – Stan Kenton

 

By JACK COOPER

City of Glass is originally a 10″ LP by Stan Kenton, the album consists entirely of the music of Bob Graettinger. The original album has been reconstituted in different LP re-issues and the entire set of Kenton/Graettinger Capitol Records sessions are on the digital CD City of Glass.

The LP City of Glass and the whole body of work from the Stan Kenton orchestra and Robert Graettinger (1947–1953) is a direct product of the experimental American music scene of the post World War II era. Though overshadowed historically by other compositional endeavors in jazz at the time attributed to George Russell, Neal Hefti or Lennie Tristano, Graettinger and City of Glass is important in the progress that was to be part of Third stream jazz.

Graettinger’s Thermopylae is the first Graettinger work recorded by the Kenton Orchestra (December 1947); the title referring to the famous Battle of Thermopylae fought in 480 BC between the Greeks and Persians.  Venudor’s and Cox’s (Kenton biographers) comparison to Alexander Mosolov’s ”Iron Foundry” is not too far off but Thermopylae can better be compared to Italian Futurism music as well as larger more involved movements of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s suites of the time (George Antheil’s music would be another). Graettinger’s treatment of the sax section juxtaposed against the straight 8th note pulse with Weidler’s muscular ‘Hodgesesque’ lead alto playing places the work firmly in the camp of Ellington’s ‘Jungle Music,’ the influence of Benny Carter’s playing and writing is clearly evident also.

bob-graettinger
Bob Graettinger

Graettinger’s intention is far closer to jazz than to the modernism of Russians or any classical music of the time; this makes it no less innovative but merely assigns the lineage to a more accurate place. Second alto saxophonist/clarinetist Art Pepper sums up the comparison to Ellington this way, “…Graettinger didn’t just write for a band, or for sections; he wrote for each individual person, more or less as Ellington did. It was so difficult to play because you were independent of the guy next to you.”

The arrangement of Matt Dennis’s Everything Happens To Me (June Christy, vocal) was not done under Kenton’s aegis but with Christy’s later to be husband Bob Cooper as the leader just after the second AFM recording ban. This is added to the CD and shows the continuity of Graettinger’s writing and recorded works for Capitol; the chart had originally been done for the full Kenton instrumentation but was never recorded. The small 11 piece group (to include violin and cello) provides some real insight to the inner workings of Graettinger’s writing. The austere nature of his arrangement and use of pantonality (one might call it atonality in spots) makes one wonder how June Christy is able to pick off the 9th of the F minor chord at the top of the tune; there is basically no clue given by Graettinger as to what pitch is coming for the singer (the glue that holds this together is the Bb pedal point at the bottom). Interestingly, after first stating the entire tune there is a tutti ensemble section that gives way to the ‘last ‘A’ of the form’.   Also, his harmonic transitions between sections are key in their departure from the tune compared to the established harmony while June Christy sings.

Of the works recorded by Capitol Records. Incident in Jazz is probably the most compositionally unified of Graettinger’s and shows his full capabilities as an orchestral writer in progressive jazz or as a Third stream music composer (the work was originally entitled ”Incident in Sound”).  This is part of the new ‘Innovations in Modern Music’ orchestra that Stan Kenton had marshaled into the studio to record these groundbreaking sides. Kenton comments on the unprecedented conditions this orchestra operated under, “The Capitol people were with me all the way. There were tremendous sums of money involved in recording this orchestra and selling the music that was of such an unusual nature. I remember hour upon hour in the studio while we were recording, and there was no thought of how much it would cost: the thought was only to make the finest recordings that we knew how.”   The largesse of Capitol Records and Kenton himself would only last (roughly) six months until a more conventional, financially solvent Kenton ‘dance’ orchestra would be reformed to cut sides with the popular Capitol artist Nat King Cole. Graettinger’s “House of Strings” (Aug 24, 1950) is recorded on a split session with popular Les Baxter sides; the Kenton ‘Innovations Orchestra’ as a regular touring and studio unit had come and gone quickly due to financial failure.

The work itself spurns a sense of symmetry and order that the other composers on the Innovations in Modern Music release adhere to.  Graettinger’s lack of sequential pattern and deliberative asymmetry is never frivolous due to the atonal orchestration. The work ends on a tranquil note like many other of his works.  Incident in Jazz commented Holleck, “is modern music, heart deep.”

graettinger-kenton
Stan Kenton, Bob Graettinger, & Pete Rugalo — rehearsing City of Glass.

After a years hiatus from the recording of Graetinger’s works, both producer Lee Gilllette and Stan Kenton were able to cajole a reluctant Capitol Records management into assembling a 1951 version of the ‘Innovations Orchestra’ to record. The group’s studio time on December 5 and 7 was entirely devoted to Graettinger’s music; primarily the four movement City of Glass suite (add “A HORN” from ”This Modern World”). This was the rewritten version from the original premiered at the Civic Opera House in Chicago in 1947 (the reception of the premiere by public was quite indifferent). Olivier Messiaen’s Mode de Valeurs et Dintensites (1949) comes to mind with the first opening music of Graettinger’s Entrance Into The City (in two parts). The ‘jagged edges’ (akin to Anton Webern) and use of free dissonance by each composer while (simultaneously) writing across the Atlantic from one another are notable. In essence, the same effect was being achieved with little to no knowledge of one another’s work. The second movement (”The Structures”) is quite effective to the level of ”Incident in Jazz” recorded almost two years before. Both are well balanced works successfully set in jazz ‘grooves’ juxtaposed to tonal dissonance like George Russell’s groundbreaking 1949 A Bird in Igor’s Yard (also recorded by Capitol during that time). The third and last movement is much more romantic in approach; almost to the point of imagining it being a set of opera scenes from Richard Strauss’s Elektra or Alban Berg’s Wozzeck (Graettinger was long a fan of opera and ballet).  There is some notable lyrical playing by members of the Kenton orchestra in this final movement.

The remaining works on the CD primarily comprise the later released This Modern World. After City of Glass Stan Kenton would add in an odd Graettinger composition during recording sessions until there was enough to press a second 10 inch LP of new material. This Modern World is varied in scope but lacks greatly what would be real jazz sensibilities; the feature written for Maynard Ferguson entitled A Trumpet (Stan Kenton himself gave it that name) is the only exception on this recording.

Graettinger’s trombone feature on the standard You Go To My Head is included here and was aimed at the first release of New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm.   Each piece stands on its own and do not really comprise a unified theme or ‘set’ of concert works. Some of the works (“A Thought”, “Some Saxophones”) were not even supervised in the recording process by Stan Kenton himself in that he was out on tour with the orchestra. This would be Graettinger’s last tenure with the Stan Kenton recordings in the studio as composer, conductor, or supervisor.  After this recording Graettinger’s output dwindled and only one other piece is known of (“Suite for String Trio and Wind Quartet”) and was still unfinished at the time of his death in 1957.

While audiences of that time simply reacted with their feet to his music, a kind of romanticism grew up around Graettinger that had protected him from the criticism of his peers. His total lack of interest in material possessions leading to very primitive living conditions, his method of writing music colors to illustrate the different instruments (much like Duke Ellington), and his total dedication to his music above all else, insured the admiration of other musicians.  sax-icon


Track listing (CD reissue)

All writing by Robert Graettinger (except #2 and #12, Graettinger as arranger)

1) Thermopylae 2:53

2 ) Everything Happens To Me (Matt Dennis) 2:59

3) Incident In Jazz 3:26

4) House Of Strings  4:15

5) A Horn 4:04

6) City Of Glass (1st Movement-Part 1): Entrance Into The City 4:30

7) City Of Glass (1st Movement-Part 2): The Structures  3:46

8) City Of Glass (2nd Movement): Dance Before The Mirror 4:22

9) City Of Glass (3rd Movement): Reflections 3:53

10) Modern Opus 3:14

11) A Cello 4:59

12) You Go To My Head (Coots/Gillespie) 3:20

13) A Trumpet 4:46

14) An Orchestra 4:03

15) A Thought 4:52

16) Some Saxophones 3:13

* Track 1 is first issued on Capitol T-172, ”A Presentation of Progressive Jazz!” LP (1950)

* Track 2 was never issued

* Track 3 is first issued on Capitol T-189, ”Innovations In Modern Music” LP (1950)

* Track 4 is first issued on Capitol T-248, ”Stan Kenton Presents” LP (1951)

* Track 5, 11, 13-16 are first issued on Capitol H-460, ”This Modern World” 10″ LP (1953)

* Track 6-9 are first issued on Capitol H-353, ”City Of Glass” 10″ LP (1952)

* Track 10 and 12 are first issued on Capitol T-569, ”The Kenton Era” LP set (1954)

Recording sessions

* Dec. 6, 1947 in New York City at RKO-Pathe Studios :Track 1

* March 28, 1949 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios :Track 2

* February 4, 1950 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios :Track 3

* Aug. 24, 1950 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios :Track 4

* Dec. 5 and 7, 1951 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios :Tracks 5-9

* March 19 and 20, 1952 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios : Track 10-11

* September 15, 1952 in Chicago, Ill. at Universal Studios :Track 12

* February 11, 1953 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios :Tracks 13-14

* May 28, 1953 in Hollywood, CA. at Capitol Studios :Tracks 15-16

Musicians

====Dec. 6, 1947====

Conductor – Stan Kenton

Alto saxophone – George Weidler, Art Pepper

Tenor saxophone – Bob Cooper, Warner Weidler

Baritone saxophone – Bob Gioga

Trumpet – Buddy Childers, Al Porcino, Harry Betts, Chico Alvarez, Ken Hanna

Trombone – Milt Bernhart, Eddie Bert, Harry Betts, Harry Forbes, Bart Varsalona (bass)

Guitar – Laurindo Almeida

Bass – Eddie Safranski

Drums – Shelly Manne

Bongos – Jack Costanza

====March 28, 1949====

Vocal – June Christy

Violin – Jasper Hornyack

Alto saxophone – Art Pepper

Tenor saxophone – Bob Cooper

Baritone saxophone – Irv Roth

Trumpet – Buddy Childers

Bass Trumpet – Johnny Mandel

Trombone – Billy Byers

Cello – Casare Pascarella

Piano – Hal Schaeffer

Bass – Joe Mondragon

Drums – Don Lamond

====February 4, 1950====

Conductor – Stan Kenton

Alto saxophone – George Weidler, Art Pepper

Tenor saxophone – Bob Cooper, Warner Weidler

Baritone saxophone – Bob Gioga

Trumpet – Buddy Childers, Maynard Ferguson, Shorty Rogers, Chico Alvarez, Don Palandino

Trombone – Milt Bernhart, Eddie Bert, Harry Betts, Harry Forbes, Bart Varsalona (bass)

Guitar – Laurindo Almeida

Bass – Eddie Safranski

Drums –Shelly Manne

====Aug. 24, 1950====

Violin – George Kast, Lew Elias, Jim Cathcart, Earl Cornwell, Anthony Doria, Jim Holmes, Alex Law, Herbert Offner, Carl Ottobrino, Dave Schakne

Viola – Stan Harris, Leonard Selic, Sam Singer

Cello – Gregory Bemko, Zachary Bock, Jack Wulfe

Alto saxophone, flute – Bud Shank

Alto saxophone, clarinet – Art Pepper

Tenor saxophone, oboe, English horn – Bob Cooper

Tenor saxophone, bassoon – Bart Cardarell

Baritone saxophone, bass clarinet – Bob Gioga

Trumpet – Buddy Childers, Maynard Ferguson, Shorty Rogers, Chico Alvarez, John Copolla

Horn – John Graas, Lloyd Otto

Trombone – Milt Berhart, Harry Betts, Bob Fitzpatrick, Bill Russo, Bart Varsalona (bass)

Tuba – Gene Englund

Guitar – Laurindo Almeida

Piano – Stan Kenton

Bass – Don Bagley

Drums – Shelly Manne

Congas – Carlos Vidal

====Dec. 5 and 7, 1951====

Violin – Alex Law, Earl Cornwell, Phil Davidson, Barton Gray, Maurice Koukel, Seb Mercurio, Danny Napolitano, Dwight Muma, Charlie Scarle, Ben Zimberoff

Viola – Paul Israel, aaron Shpiro, Dave Smiley

Cello – Gregory Bemko, Zachary Bock, Gabe Jellen

Double Bass – Abe Luboff

Alto saxophone, flute – Bud Shank

Alto saxophone, clarinet – Art Pepper

Tenor saxophone, oboe, English horn – Bob Cooper

Tenor saxophone, bassoon – Bart Cardarell

Baritone saxophone, bass clarinet – Bob Gioga

Trumpet – John Howell, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Stu Williamson, John Copolla

Horn – John Graas, Lloyd Otto, George Price

Trombone – Harry Betts, Bob Fitzpatrick, Bill Russo, Dick Kenney, George Roberts (bass)

Tuba – Stan Fletcher

Guitar – Sal Salvador

Piano – Stan Kenton

Bass – Don Bagley

Drums – Stan Levey

====March 19, 1952====

Alto saxophone – Dick Meldonian, Lennie Niehaus

Tenor saxophone – Bill Holman, Lee Elliot

Baritone saxophone – Bob Gioga

Trumpet – Buddy Childers, Clyde Reasinger, Conte Candoli, Don Dennis, Ruben McFall

Horn – John Graas, Lloyd Otto

Trombone – Bob Fitzpatrick, Bill Russo, John Halliburton, Gerald Finch, George Roberts (bass)

Guitar – Ralph Blaze

Conductor – Stan Kenton

Bass – Don Bagley

Drums – Frank Capp

====March 20, 1952====

Cello – Gregory Bemko

Alto saxophone, clarinet – Dick Meldonian

Alto saxophone, oboe – Lennie Niehaus

Tenor saxophone, English horn – Bob Cooper

Tenor saxophone, bassoon – Bart Cardarell

Baritone saxophone, bass clarinet – Bob Gioga

Horn – John Graas, Lloyd Otto, Fred Fox

Bass – Don Bagley

Drums, tympani – Frank Capp

====September 15, 1952====

Conductor – Stan Kenton

Alto saxophone – Vinnie Dean, Lee Konitz

Tenor saxophone – Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca

Baritone saxophone – Bob Gioga

Trumpet – Buddy Childers, Maynard Ferguson, Conte Candoli, Don Dennis, Ruben McFall, Pete Candoli

Trombone – Bob Burgess, Frank Rosolino, Bill Russo, Keith Moon, George Roberts (bass)

Guitar – Sal Salvador

Piano – Stan Kenton

Bass – Don Bagley

Drums – Stan Levey

====February 11, 1953====

”Same as September 15, 1952 but add Pete Candoli to trumpets.”

====May 28, 1953====

Conductor – Robert Graettinger

Alto saxophone, flute – Bud Shank

Alto saxophone – Herb Geller

Tenor saxophone, oboe, English horn – Bob Cooper

Tenor saxophone, clarinet, bassoon – Bart Calderell

Baritone saxophone – John Rotella

Horn – John Graas (on 15 only)

===Production===

Producer: (1,3,4) Jim Conkling, (2) Bob Cooper, (5-16) Lee Gillette

Re-issue producer (CD): Michael Cuscuna

Digital transfers and mastering (CD): Malcolm Addey

CD design: Patrick Roques and Lisa Cuscuna

Liner notes: Max Harrison and Gunther Schuller

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Dave Gregg

A musician and writer in southern California.
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