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From the Vault – Stan Kenton’s “Journey into Capricorn”

Journey into Capricorn - Stan Kenton

For this week’s lecture, class, I want to delve into the past. And by the past, I mean the 90’s. I remember in the early-to-mid days of CD players in cars (my parents were far from early adopters of this luxury), we would all load into the van and head off to some mosquito-ridden campsite in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.

The soundtrack of these road warrior adventures in those early days involved a lot of Mannheim Steamroller and whatever other dross was in the glove compartment, but one piece of road trip listening that’s made a comeback in my playlist is the remarkable album, Journey into Capricorn (Creative World, 1976) by the master of the mid-century big band, Stan Kenton. While there have been some unfortunate revelations about Kenton’s personal life in recent years, it would be difficult to overstate the impact he had as a musician, bandleader and educator during his career. Journey into Capricorn was Kenton’s final studio recording and is truly a masterclass in big band. The wall of sound that emanates from the afro-cuban inflected tracks was an epic, if not a bit incongruous, bed of sound for those summer camping trips.

Songs like the Hank Levy chart “Pegasus”, Chick Corea’s “Celebration Suite” and the soaring “Granada Smoothie” (Mark Taylor) must be heard to be believed. Check out a clip of “Pegasus” below. Pop on your Discman headphones and picture yourself roaring down 99-W in a Ford Aerostar. Welcome to my childhood.