Bob Curnow

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Bob Curnow
Bob Curnow bio picture 2011.jpg
Background information
Birth name Robert Harry Curnow
Born (1941-11-01) November 1, 1941 (age 75)
Origin Easton, Pennsylvania, United States
Genres Fusion
Big band
Symphonic jazz
Occupation(s) Trombonist, Conductor, Composer, Arranger, Music Producer, Educator, Music publisher
Instruments Trombone
Associated acts Stan Kenton

Robert Harry "Bob" Curnow (born November 1, 1941) is an American musician who served as a trombonist, staff arranger and producer for the Stan Kenton Orchestra during the 1960s and 1970s.[1] As a composer and arranger he has become well known for large ensemble jazz music set to contemporary fusion and rock music of groups such as Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and the Yellowjackets. Most notably he arranged the music for and produced the award winning and critically acclaimed CD, Bob Curnow’s L.A. Big Band Plays The Music of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays.[2][3] His compositions and arrangements are heavily influenced by earlier writers for the Stan Kenton Orchestra such as Pete Rugolo,[4] Bill Russo, Johnny Richards and Bill Holman.[5] Curnow is currently owner and President of Sierra Music Publications, Inc., he is also prominent in the instrumental music and Jazz Education fields.

Early life, musical education and influences[edit]

Bob Curnow was born and grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania and was first exposed to music through learning the trumpet at age 9 but then switched to baritone horn. He ultimately started to play the trombone at age 12. Curnow had started high school when he first heard the Stan Kenton Orchestra with Kai Winding on the 45 single Collaboration.[5] In addition to learning the trombone Curnow was doing a great deal of transcribing big band music and eventually of the Kenton band composers.[6] During college he first met Stan Kenton in person in 1961 during the Stan Kenton Band Clinics.[5] Curnow worked his way through college playing the string bass, he graduated from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in May 1963.

Professional career[edit]

with Stan Kenton[edit]

On May 19 of 1963 (1 day after college graduation) Bob Curnow started as a trombonist with the Stan Kenton Orchestra at the age of 21 touring all of the United States and the U.K. through the end of November; this was the last of Kenton's Mellophonium Bands and the group disbanded after this tour until 1965.[7] During this tour Curnow had arranged "God Save The Queen" for the orchestra; this would be his entry into the cadre of Kenton composers and arrangers.[1] He recorded in the trombone section of the Kenton Orchestra for Capitol Records on the LP's Artistry In Voices And Brass and From The Creative World Of Stan Kenton Comes Jean Turner.[1][8][9] Most notably he sat next to and established a friendship with trombonist Jiggs Whigham during their time on the Kenton band together.

back to school and teaching[edit]

After leaving the Stan Kenton Orchestra he did graduate work at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan from 1964 through 1967 earning two master's degrees and completing his doctoral course work. He served as Professor of Instrumental Music and director of the Jazz Lab bands at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio from 1967 through 1973.[10]

As producer for Stan Kenton[edit]

Stan Kenton & Bob Curnow
United-Western Studios, Los Angeles
National Anthems of the World sessions

By 1971 Curnow was contacted again by Stan Kenton to do the arrangements for a new concept, double LP, National Anthems Of The World.[1][11][12][13][14] Kenton remembered the earlier arrangement done in 1963 of "God Save The Queen", this sparked the interest of Kenton and led to Curnow serving as chief arranger, conductor, and the producer for the new 1972 concept album. Though the recordings ended up being a commercial failure for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the project became a high point for Curnow as an arranger and record producer.[1] After the National Anthems project Curnow stepped in on numerous dates for an ailing Kenton to conduct during that next year.[5]

In June 1973, at the age of 31, Curnow was hired as the Director of Artists & Repertoire; by August Kenton fired the general manager and Curnow was in charge of the complete Creative World operations.[15] Starting with the LP 7.5 On The Richter Scale, Curnow was the producer for 6 of the final 7 Stan Kenton studio albums for Creative World leading up to Kenton's death in August 1979. He also oversaw the re-issue of numerous LPs from Kenton's Capitol Records catalogue. During this tenure with Kenton he was in charge as composer, arranger, and producer of one of the last commercial successes the band was to have with Stan Kenton plays Chicago.[1][16][17][18]

Bob Curnow & Stan Kenton
Universal Studios, Chicago, Ill. June 1974
Stan Kenton plays Chicago sessions

During this period as a younger composer, arranger and producer, Curnow was able to help usher in a new, more vital concept and style for the orchestra which helped appeal to a younger music audience of the post big band/rock n' roll era.[19] Due to deteriorating business conditions with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Creative World Records, Curnow resigned from his post in 1976. Curnow is quoted as to the frustration he encountered, "I was burnt out...I really didn't like the record's a dirty game working with the big players and all the crap that goes on there".[19] Kenton's 1977 album Journey To Capricorn would be the last studio-produced project for the orchestra and the final LP for which Curnow served as producer for Creative World.[20]

CSULA and the McDonald's All-American High School Band[edit]

In 1976 Curnow accepted the position as Director of Jazz Studies at California State University, Los Angeles; he held that position until 1987. He conducted the award winning No. 1 Jazz Ensemble,[21][22] the Brass Ensemble, Symphonic Band and the Wind Ensemble. For eight years (1981–1989) Curnow also directed the McDonald's All-American High School Jazz Band, touring the country and discovering many talented young jazz players.[23]

Pat Metheny's music and Sierra Publishing[edit]

Curnow ultimately penned some twelve arrangements of compositions by Pat Metheny and/or Lyle Mays; the initial arrangement of Metheny's The First Circle[24] was tested out and recorded on a critically acclaimed school jazz LP at California State University, Los Angeles.[25] These works and the resulting CD album from 1994, Bob Curnow’s L.A. Big Band Plays the Music of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays have been called a prime example of the art of arranging for large jazz ensemble in a contemporary setting.[26] A second CD was released in 2011 entitled The Music of Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays, Volume II by the Bob Curnow Big Band.

Since 1976 Curnow has been the C.E.O. of Sierra Music Publications, Inc. and currently resides in Liberty Lake, Washington. The company is the exclusive publisher of music from the Stan Kenton Orchestra library as well as many other important and historic large jazz ensemble scores. The company is currently overseeing the production of large ensemble music of the rock/pop group Radiohead.

In 2005, Curnow was given the Distinguished Music Alumnus Award by the West Chester University of Pennsylvania School of Music. Curnow has donated almost $60,000 worth of musical compositions, CDs and books to the School of Music Jazz Studies Area.[27]

Jazz education and former students[edit]

Bob Curnow conducting in PA, 2010

Curnow is a strong advocate of Jazz education and has been very involved since being a part of the well known Stan Kenton Band Clinics when first associated with the group in 1963.[28] As well as holding academic positions at universities, he has served as a guest conductor and educational clinician for groups and organizations throughout the United States and Canada. He has served as a guest artist, adjudicator, conductor, or clinician at colleges and jazz festivals over the past 30 years throughout the world. Numerous students Curnow has worked with have gone onto have very successful music careers such as Danny House, Phil Feather, Luis Bonilla, Charlie Richard, Jack Cooper, John Hollenbeck, Christopher Hollyday, Geoff Keezer, Don Braden, Wycliffe Gordon, Greg Gisbert, Loran McClung, Tony Kadleck, John Bailey, Javon Jackson, John Medeski, Neal Finn, and Delfeayo Marsalis.

Select discography (partial)[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Sparke, Michael; Venudor, Peter (1998). "Stan Kenton, The Studio Sessions". Balboa Books. ISBN 0-936653-82-5
  2. ^ Review (2000). The Music of Pat Metheny. Jazz Journal International, vol. 53, page 31.
  3. ^ Review (1995). The Music of Pat Metheny. CD Review Magazine, vol. 11, Volume 11, Issue 10, page 13.
  4. ^ August 22, 1998 interview with Pete Rugolo and Bob Curnow on YouTube
  5. ^ a b c d Steven Harris. The Kenton Kronicles Dynaflow Publications. 2000. pp. 266-268
  6. ^ NOTE from author: this is an essential part of learning the technique of composing and orchestration.
  7. ^ William F. Lee, Audree Coke Kenton (1980). Stan Kenton: Artistry In Rhythm. Creative Press of Los Angeles.
  8. ^ You're The Top, Stan Kenton presents Jean Turner LP on YouTube
  9. ^ Love Walked In, Stan Kenton presents Jean Turner LP on YouTube
  10. ^ Billboard Magazine, Jazz Labs in Cleveland start Jan 16, 1971, Page 28.
  11. ^ Soviet Anthem, Stan Kenton: National Anthems of the World LP on YouTube
  12. ^ Hungarian National Anthem, Stan Kenton: National Anthems of the World LP on YouTube
  13. ^ Polish National Anthem, Stan Kenton: National Anthems of the World LP on YouTube
  14. ^ The National Anthem of the Netherlands, Stan Kenton: National Anthems of the World LP on YouTube
  15. ^ Billboard Magazine, Robert H. Curnow named to Creative World Aug 11, 1973, Page 4.
  16. ^ Review: High fidelity Musical America, Volume 25, Issue 1, page 34. Billboard Pub.(1975)
  17. ^ Billboard Magazine, RECOMMENDED TOP JAZZ PICKS Oct 26, 1974, Page 66.
  18. ^ Mother, Stan Kenton plays Chicago LP on YouTube
  19. ^ a b Sparke, Michael (2010). "Stan Kenton: This Is An Orchestra". University of North Texas Press. p. 260 ISBN 1-57441-284-1.
  20. ^ Billboard Magazine, review (Dave Dexter Jr.), Stan Kenton Journey To Capricorn, page 83.
  21. ^ Dave Dexter Jr., Billboard Magazine, Kenton Memorial Concert at Cal. St. L.A. Dec 6, 1980
  22. ^ 1982 Playboy Jazz Festival, C.S.U.L.A. Jazz Ensemble No. 1, collegiate winner under the direction of Bob Curnow on YouTube
  23. ^ The 1985 McDonald's All-American High school Band, Bob Curnow-director, Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon from Las Vegas, NV on YouTube
  24. ^ The First Circle, Bob Curnow’s L.A. Big Band Plays the Music of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays on YouTube
  25. ^ We're Back! (LP). Cal State L.A. Jazz Ensemble, Dave Caffey; director, side A, No. 3, The First Circle, Pat Metheny, arr. Bob Curnow (1986)
  26. ^ Bob Rusch, reviewer: Cadence Magazine, Volume 21, Issue 3, page 91 (1995)
  27. ^ West Chester University of Pennsylvania, The Presser Music Library
  28. ^ Billboard Magazine, Stan Kenton Slates Clinics on Campus Mar 10, 1973, Page 25.
  29. ^ Spencer is Here, Towadneck, Bob Curnow and the SWR Big Band on YouTube


  • Steven Harris. The Kenton Kronicles. Dynaflow Publications. 2000. ISBN 0-9676273-0-3
  • William F. Lee, Audree Coke Kenton. Stan Kenton: Artistry In Rhythm. Creative Press of Los Angeles. 1980.
  • Michael Sparke, Peter Venudor. Stan Kenton, The Studio Sessions. Balboa Books. 1998. ISBN 0-936653-82-5
  • Michael Sparke. Stan Kenton: This Is An Orchestra. University of North Texas Press. 2010. ISBN 1-57441-284-1

External links[edit]