Tuesday, March 10, 2009

City of Glass: Stan Kenton plays Bob Graettinger

As I was searching for Muhal Richard Abrams' Blu Blu Blu, I came across an interesting discussion of "heavily psychedelic big band jazz albums", whatever that means. Several of their suggestions appeared here before - Ghania with Pharoah Sanders, RRKirk's 3-sided Dream, just recently I posted Electric Bath, so I thought that other suggestions might be worth looking into. So, here's an interesting find: Bob Graettinger, a composer, arranger and sax player, and a bona fide mad genius if there ever was one. They call him the most radical arranger to ever work in jazz @.

An article about Bob Graettinger, Above the Timberline, worth reading in its entirety; and bio at AMG.

AMG review of This Modern World 10" LP:
The tragically short-lived, self-destructive Bob Graettinger could have been a matinee idol had he cared; some people who saw him on a Los Angeles bus one day mistook him for Elvis Presley. Instead, he devoted his last years to writing the most complex, atonal, uncompromising, potentially alienating music that even the iconoclastic Stan Kenton band ever played. This Modern World is Graettinger's reaction to the cold, driven, alien planet on which he lived, a natural sequel to the more famous City of Glass yet even more difficult and inward in expression. Comprised of six movements ("A Horn, Some Saxophones," "A Cello," "A Thought," "A Trumpet," and "An Orchestra"), This Modern World moves even further away from jazz into abstract contemporary classical music; undoubtedly, Mingus must have heard this music but it's almost impossible to name anything from which it derives. A jazz pulse occasionally surfaces but more often instruments drift in atonal clusters past each other in differing meters or blast dissonant fanfares, creating a feeling of unease as they converse quizzically. In our time, British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage's Blood on the Floor has picked up the torch where Graettinger left it upon his death in 1957, but it took 40 years, and it makes Kenton's decision to sponsor Graettinger's work seem all the more gutsy and courageous. The individual movements on this 10" LP can now be found on the City of Glass CD, along with the rest of Graettinger's small output.

On his personal life @ CRUD CRUD:
Born in Southern California, Graettinger played music for a while, before giving it up to write. He was in his early 20s when he gave Kenton some songs. Kenton didn't know if they were brilliant or bullshit, but he recorded them anyway... and then took Graettinger on as staff. Graettinger rarely spoke to anyone besides Kenton. Even when Kenton took him on the road, he sat by himself. His diet consisted of scrambled eggs, vitamin pills, cigarettes, and booze. He hated to sleep, saying he'd have enough time to do that in the grave. He lived by himself in a filthy apartment above a garage, which he rarely left. He was tall and skinny, had caved-in cheeks and was very very very pale. Many described him as "looking like death". He died of cancer at age 34. And he wrote some fascinatingly fucked up music.

More weird details about his life in this Bud Shank interview.

This CD collects his works that Stan Kenton Big Band recorded: suite This Modern World, City of Glass, and shorter pieces. This is from Kenton's period of flirtation with avant-garde, which Mort Sahl summed up with a joke: "A waiter accidentally dropped a tray and three couples got up to dance." @

City of Glass: Stan Kenton plays Bob Graettinger
256kbps, 117mb on 4shared
  • Thermopylae
  • Everything Happens to Me
  • Incident in Jazz
  • House of Strings
  • This Modern World, 1st mvt., A Horn
  • City of Glass, 1st mvt., part 1, Entrance into the City
  • City of Glass, 1st mvt., part 2, The Structures
  • City of Glass, 2nd mvt., Dance Before the Mirror
  • City of Glass, 3rd mvt., Reflections
  • Modern Opus
  • This Modern World, 3rd mvt., A Cello
  • You Go to My Head
  • This Modern World, 5th mvt., A Trumpet
  • This Modern World, 6th mvt., An Orchestra
  • This Modern World, 4th mvt., A Thought
  • This Modern World, 2nd mvt., Some Saxophones

    After Kenton's death, more Graettinger scores were found in the archive; in the 90's a jazz/modern classical big band under Gunther Schuller's guidance named Ebony Band recorded two CDs worth of this material.

    And by the way, I never found any Muhal Richard Abrams' recordings, so if anyone is willing to share, I'd appreciate!

    1. Hello,

      Here are some records of Muhal Richard Abrams:


      It's a Russian resource, so please just drop me a line in case you need any assistance.

    2. not exacttly my cup of tea, but here you are some Abrams & Braxton if you like



    3. Thank you, I'll check it out.
      I hear Blu Blu Blu is his best, though.

    4. This is fantastic! Thanks for posting this gem.

      Louisville Dan

    5. That's a hilarious Mort Sahl joke!

    6. thank for this one! recently located this on Lp and found it very difficult to sit through without wanting to rip the needle off the record several times... Genius stuff.

    7. yes, not an easy listening by any stretch...

    8. hi there LesTP, please provide a fresh link. thanks!

    9. You may want to see what I'm doing in video with City of Glass. I'm making a film noir called Bum Rap. Go to youtube to see a test...it's called Bum Rap Test XX. And say hello while you're there.

    10. Loved reading this. I'm Bob Graettinger's second cousin once removed. (His grandfather and my great grandfather were brothers.) The town of Graettinger, Iowa was named after his grandfather, Alois.

    11. Thanks for this. Had just remembered City of Glass -- wanting to hear it after being intrigued by bits of it I heard in early fifties. Prob. not the album to attract my readers to jazz and/or Kenton, so I best stick with more traditional.