I never knew my paternal grandfather, but I was told he loved the music of Bartok, Stravinsky, Hindemith, and above all, Stan Kenton. My grandfather was a professional jazz drummer in the era of big band, supposedly with more talent than workplace discipline. Maybe because it's a way of keeping a connection with Grandpa Tom, but I've been listening to the music of Stan Kenton for about thirty-five years. In any case the best Kenton cuts (download here) still strike me as underrated. Despite the clunky and sometimes elephantine side of Kenton's style, his work draws upon, and anticipates, developments in compositional jazz, European modernism, Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound," and early Latin rhythms, all topped off with an energetic American brashness. I eagerly lapped up last year's new Kenton biography. But now — what am I to do? I've just read Leslie Kenton's Love Affair: A Memoir of a Forbidden Father-Daughter Union, which among other things is a very good treatment of how little consent lies behind father-daughter incest (review here, and it was from ages 11 to 13).
None of Kenton's previous biographers seems to have suspected this horror and overall he had the reputation of a straight-laced man. I had long thought of him as a somewhat dour disciplinarian, firmly wrapped up in middle American values.
The lesson is how little we know of an individual life. And what do we still not know? When we judge others, or decide not to, that is worth keeping in mind.