Kenton, and my parents, I play the drums. My first real exposure to
I had just turned 7 years old and attended Stan's National Stage Band
held on the campus
University in Bloomington, Indiana in the summer of 1961. Other
at that camp included Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, Keith Jarrett and
a slight administrative mix-up: the Camp didn't realize that I was so
until I had arrived.
my family had driven me all the way from New Jersey to Indiana, however
(and this was before the days of a
Interstate Highway system), I was allowed to play personally for Stan
he kindly saw to my being able to attend the camp as a student. From
moment we met he was always 'Stan' to me . . . never 'Mr. Kenton.'
began a relationship
that had me 'sitting in' with the Kenton Orchestra whenever they played
New Jersey . . . usually at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. I followed
the band and
all of Stan's
throughout the years, confident somewhere in my thoughts that I would
day be the drummer
high school (the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan), the jazz band
played a number of Stan's charts. After 1 year in college (Indiana
I met the percussion instructor, George Gaber, through composer Johnny
Richards' recommendation. Gaber had played timpani on several tracks
the Kenton Orchestra's 'Cuban
my father received a telephone call from Stan:
Peter is ready to play with the band?"
course my Dad
of going to New York and playing with the band at a rehearsal with June
as part of the
appearance at the 1972 Newport Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center. Except
conga drummer Ramon Lopez and outgoing drummer Jerry (Lestock)
the rest of the band just assumed that this long-haired kid was June
the charts I thought to myself, "Gosh, I don't remember the cymbals
I was told
I would be doing the show that night. After that it was a matter of
my travel so that I could meet the band somewhere in the Midwest as it
continued its tour. It turns out that my first gig with the band was an
afternoon concert and clinic, followed by an evening concert at my alma
mater, Interlochen, during the
remember it all as being big, exciting, thrilling . . . and hard work.
I loved every minute of it!
into the tour, while sharing a ride in the elevator of a hotel
in Iowa, Stan casually remarked:
we haven't discussed money yet."
"So . . . how much do you want me to pay you?"
very well by all of the members of the band. The band was like family.
I was young and I had a tremendous amount to learn! By the time I had
the band I had become pretty interested in the activities of bands like
Miles Davis and Weather Report, Chick Corea's 'Return to Forever,' the
Mahavishnu Orchestra and the music of Keith Jarrett. Stan welcomed this
part of my developing musical personality, while the band patiently
for me to come to grips with some big band stylistic necessities I had
yet to conquer and master.
on the road
. . . playing virtually every night (or day and night, as in the case
the numerous clinics we did), traveling all over the country, meeting
of my jazz heroes at festivals and jazz clubs . . . and meeting girls .
. . cool! And, occasionally meeting other drummers who coveted my
band was big
and as such had a very big sound. I played with a lot of energy, but
with as much
respect as I
muster . . . particularly for the ballads; and especially for the
Side Story' or 'Adventures in Time!' Since I had been a fan of the
of Don Ellis I also welcomed the chance to play the wonderful charts of
easy to stay completely content while on the road so much of the year.
During my first year on the road we had 10 days off for the Christmas
. . . otherwise, we were working the entire rest of the year.
came and went, but, hey, I was young, so that was okay. 'Mail Day,'
our mail was forwarded to us on the road from Stan's office in Los
was always a big event.
was friction between various factions of the band, which fortunately
too long. I also
that my touch on the instrument wasn't getting any lighter . . .
I would sit-in with a small group somewhere I didn't always sound like
I wanted to sound!
Nor did I always sound
like I wanted to sound with the band. However, Stan was an incredibly
patient bandleader, allowing me time to explore and discover my own
mistakes. At times he could be a stern
taskmaster . . .
particularly with the trumpet section (they had an incredibly demanding
job), but more often than not he was never anything less than gracious,
encouraging and loyal to me and every other member of the Orchestra:
'fatherly,' you might say.
loved the band. Stan had fans like no other bandleader. It was a
part in all of that excitement.
professional recording with Stan, which was the 'National Anthems of
World' album. That began a friendship with composer/arranger Bob Curnow
which lasts to this day. We made that recording in the old
studios in Hollywood during the summer of 1972. We worked there during
the day, then had to pack everything up and drive to Anaheim to play 4
sets each night
We did this every day for one very long week.
later I found myself in the same room (now known as Oceanway
making the Sinatraland' recording with the Pat Williams Big Band. I
only smile at my good fortune; for having been lucky to have met Stan
I was so young; to have been inspired by his music; for getting to be
of his organization for three years; for getting my professional start
in the business; and most of all, for getting to know Stan so well.
fondest memories of the man for his drive, his passion and his
for his music.