There have been few jazz musicians as controversial as Stan Kenton. Dismissed by purists of various genres and loved by many others, Kenton ranks up as jazz's cult figure. He emphasized emotion, power, and advanced harmonies over swing.
Kenton was born on December 15, 1911, in Wichita, Kansas. A pianist since he was a child, and a touring musician as a teenager, Kenton formed his first band in 1941. This ensemble's bombastic style came to be known as the "Wall of Brass."
The Kenton family history contained a fair share of tragedy and controversy. The musician's second wife, a jazz singer, shot herself dead in 1981, leaving two children. Their son, Lance, was arrested for conspiracy to murder in 1978 after placing a rattlesnake in a lawyer's mailbox.
The Stan Kenton Orchestra was one of the most popular US big bands of the 1940s. Kenton continued leading and touring with his big band up until his death. He died on August 25, 1979, in Los Angeles, California.