Stan Kenton And His Orchestra - A Presentation Of Progressive Jazz (1948)

While the bebop revolution, led by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, was raging in New York at the end of World War II, in California bandleader and pianist, Stan Kenton, was also breaking new ground with what he called “progressive” jazz. Though the traditional big band swing sound was deemed passé and small groups seemed to represent the future of jazz, Kenton persisted with large ensembles. His concept, though, was radically different from the likes of Basie and Ellington, and he incorporated the advanced vocabulary of bebop with intricately-arranged Latin rhythms and avant-garde orchestration to create filmic soundscapes. But Kenton’s modernism didn’t appear to daunt the public and this 1948 LP, whose formal title suggested an academic dissertation, made No 1 in the US. Singer June Christy was spotlighted on some tracks (she contributes a spoken poetic narration on the compelling This Is My Theme), as well as Maynard Ferguson, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, and Art Pepper, all of whom would go on to be in the vanguard of west coast cool jazz and establish stellar solo careers. Kenton’s innovations would also be adopted by Hollywood film composers in the 50s, helping to create the noir jazz sound. Even today, the music sounds bold and daringly experimental. CW

Runners-up: Edith Piaf Chansons Des Café De Paris, Bing Crosby Merry Christmas.