Gene M. Roland (September 15, 1921 in Dallas – August 11, 1982 in New York City) was a jazz composer and musician who played many instruments during his career but was most significant as an arranger/composer and for his association with Stan Kenton. Roland was the only arranger to write for Kenton in all four decades of the band's existence.
Life and work
Roland, who gained a degree in music from the University of North Texas College of Music, first met up with Kenton in 1944, playing fifth trumpet and contributing arrangements. He worked briefly with Lionel Hampton and Lucky Millinder and then rejoined Kenton in 1945, this time as a trombonist and writer (he arranged the hit "Tampico").
Roland played piano and wrote for a group in 1946 that included Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Giuffre and Herbie Steward and would lead to Woody Herman's Four Brothers Second Herd. In the late 1940s, Roland played trombone with Georgie Auld, trumpet with Count Basie, Charlie Barnet and Lucky Millinder and contributed charts for the big bands of Claude Thornhill and Artie Shaw. After leading a giant rehearsal band in 1950 that included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Roland wrote for Kenton in 1951, Dan Terry in 1954, and Woody Herman from 1956–58, for whom he contributed 65 arrangements. Roland was a major force in Kenton's mellophonium band of the early 1960s, not only writing for the ensemble but performing as one of the mellophoniums; he also occasionally doubled on soprano sax with the orchestra.
Gene Roland provided the robust vocal on "Hawaiian Teenage Girl" (composed by Bob Bertram), issued on a 49th State Record Company as 45 rpm record HRC-314A.
Roland remained active as a writer in the 1960s and 70s, working with the Radiohus Orchestra in Copenhagen (1967) and contributing charts to Kenton as well as Dan Terry's D.T.B.B.B. album (Metronome Records, 1981); he also played trumpet, piano and tenor with his own groups. In addition to writing an entire album for Kenton, Roland led his 1950 rehearsal band on a Spotlite release (Parker is one of his sidemen), led half of an album (recorded in 1957 and 1959) for Dawn Records in which he plays trumpet, and arranged a 1963 octet record for Brunswick Records.
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With Stan Kenton
- Stan Kenton Classics (Capitol, 1944-47 )
- The Kenton Era (Capitol, 1940–54, )
- Kenton Live from the Las Vegas Tropicana (Capitol, 1959 ) – as composer and arranger
- Viva Kenton! (Capitol, 1959 ) – as composer and arranger
- A Merry Christmas! (Capitol, 1961)
- Sophisticated Approach (Capitol, 1961)
- Adventures in Blues (Capitol, 1961 ) – as performer, composer, arranger and conductor
- Stan Kenton! Tex Ritter! (Capitol, 1962) with Tex Ritter
With Jimmy Knepper
- A Swinging Introduction to Jimmy Knepper (Bethlehem 1957)
- Michael Sparke, Stan Kenton – This Is an Orchestra!, excerpt from one of the photo pages between pps 142 & 143, University of North Texas Press (2010)