Ken Dahleen and his Big Band Staff will pay tribute to Stan Kenton at the Thursday, Aug. 6, Summer Concert Series performance. File photo
Ken Dahleen and his Big Band Staff will pay tribute to Stan Kenton at the Thursday, Aug. 6, Summer Concert Series performance. File photo

Following a successful Western music night, the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series features the second big band of this season’s well-attended run. Ken Dahleen’s Big Band Staff remembers the music of Stan Kenton, last and one of the most revolutionary band leaders to come out of the big band era. Dahleen features an all-Kenton concert on Thursday, Aug. 6.

The music of the big bands spanned the period from the Great Depression to post World War II and its optimistic and sentimental music helped lift the spirits of a nation undergoing very difficult times. Swing music appealed to those needing an escape from the ardors of deprivation and war, and provided an upbeat musical tonic, characteristically positive and American.

Kenton, a pianist and arranger, was the last of the era to lead his own eponymous band. He continued to lead his band into the late 1950s and early ’60s. He was either critically acclaimed as an innovator, hailed for bridging the gap between classical and jazz music, or slammed for his “wall of sound” brass section and for music that was too loud and tempos that some found not danceable. But Kenton’s brand of West Coast big band music, music he called “progressive jazz,” found a wide following.

Said Kenton, “Some of the wise boys who say my music is loud, blatant and that’s all, should see the faces of the kids who have driven a hundred miles through the snow to see the band … to stand in front of the bandstand in an ecstasy all their own.”

So for the kids in all of us, Dahleen offers up Stan Kenton, playing Kenton’s original charts and arrangements, including arrangements done by long-time Kenton arranger Bill Holman and others.

Dahleen is reprising his Kenton tribute in response to demand. “It was so popular I thought it would be good to bring it back,” he said. His Big Band Staff, at 16 players, has always been popular with Idyllwild audiences.

Dahleen first came to Idyllwild from his hometown of Norwalk on a music scholarship to the ISOMATA Summer Program between seventh and eighth grade. “It was great,” he remembered. “And how could I know when we were driving away at the end of the band camp that 50 years later I’d be living here.”

For that, and for the 16 seasons of the Idyllwild Summer Concert Series, Idyllwild music lovers can be grateful. Dahleen and the BBS take the stage at 7 p.m.. There is no opening group. As they do each year, Dahleen and board start the series with insufficient money to fund the summer. They, like the music of the big band era, move forward on optimism. As of this writing, ISCS is still short of its $31,000 season budget. Bring chairs, cash (for the donation jars), blankets and beverages and enjoy the big band sounds of Stan Kenton and the big band era. Contributions also may be sent to Idyllwild Summer Concert Series, P.O. Box 1542, Idyllwild, CA 92549.

For more about the series visit