The November 26, 1977, issue of Billboard devoted major space in the newspaper to saluting the achievements of Arista, its founder, and the significance of its place in the music industry. The following excerpt focuses on the acquisition of the Savoy and Freedom labels.
Savoy / Freedom Labels
Almost from the moment Arista Records began operating in late 1974, it has been involved with all kinds of jazz – vintage bop to the most advanced avant-garde. Its first two label acquisitions covered the spectrum of the music – in purchasing Savoy Records, it obtained a treasure house of jazz’s past and, in signing a distribution arrangement with Freedom Records, it gained a foothold into jazz’s boldest frontiers.
With the invaluable creative guidance of Steve Backer, director of progressive product, both of Arista’s jazz lines have been standard bearers in the world of jazz, old and new. Elliot Goldman, Arista’s executive vice president and general manager, commenting on the the two label deals. said. “Savoy had a vast catalog of classic performances that was not being made available, and Freedom’s exciting avant-garde product lacked the exposure in the U.S. that it had in the rest of the world. In addition to the fact that this important music deserved exposure, which was the major consideration in both instances, we felt that the projects could be economically viable as well. So our investment was made, based on creative and commercial reasoning, and it has proven sound in both areas.”
“The prestigious and highly sought-after Savoy Records was purchased by Arista in 1975, and from the initial release of eight double album sets in April 1976 the series has been recognized throughout the music world as the best and most conscientious of the reissue programs. In every area on both sides of the art/business equation, from credits and liner notes to mastering and sound to research, packaging and marketing, the Savoy project, as assembled by Steve Backer and Bob Porter has been a class operation. Represented in the 32 albums issued to date have been a definitive performances by an awesome galaxy of jazz stars, performances of rare historic and musical value that for nearly two decades have been unavailable. The response on the sales level has been heartening, and the critical acclaim has been unsurpassed.”
The first Art Pepper Discovery sessions to be reissued on Arista come from his initial March 4, 1952, session, with Hampton Hawes, Joe Mondragon, and Larry Bunker, the quartet that debuted at the Surf Club in January of 1952. Patricia Willard wrote the liner notes for this two LP release, Black California, Savoy SJL 2215. Ms. Willard’s exacting research into this period provides an evocative snapshot of jazz in Los Angeles during this nascent period in west coast jazz.
Southern California was a hotbed of black musical creativity in the 1940s and early 50s. Los Angeles had both artists and audience in abundance. Scores of clubs and more than a few radio stations were caught up in the exhilaration of be-bop. Sadly, the wealth of outlets rarely was given any space in national music publications and few people who weren’t on the scene even suspect that any music was being played outside of a few Hollywood jam sessions.
The first 78-rpm documentation of the bop revolution at Minton’s and environs was devoured hungrily by a cadre of eager, talented, young musicians in Los Angeles, a city with a strong jazz tradition. The Club Alabam on Central Avenue on the eastside was started as the Apex Club in the 20s by drummer-bandleader Curtis Mosby. Billy Berg’s famed spot on Vine Street in Hollywood was his fourth consecutive jazz nitery in Greater LA.
When John Birks Gillespie arrived at Berg’s in 1945 with Charlie Parker, Al Haig, Stan Levey, Milt Jackson, and Ray Brown and joined forces with Lucky Thompson, they found Sonny Criss, Hampton Hawes, Teddy Edwards, Chuck Thompson, Roy Porter, Jay McNeely and their friends already playing the new music and eager to jam with the Eastern masters. Two of the city’s own—Dexter Gordon, a native, and Wardell Gray, an adoptive Californian—were becoming nationally known tenor saxophone exponents of the challenging direction jazz was taking. By his 20th birthday, Dexter was a three-year veteran of the Lionel Hampton band, and by the mid-1940s, he also was an alumnus of Louis Armstrong’s and Billy Eckstine’s bands. He had sat in at Minton’s between Lester Young and Ben Webster, and he had played with Bird, Miles Davis, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Wardell had just finished two years on the road with Earl Hines’ band.
Dexter and Wardell were a formidable front line many nights at the Down Beat on Central Avenue at 41st Street. At closing time, they moved up the Avenue apiece to Jack’s Basket, a bring-your-own-bottle-and-buy set-ups/fried chicken restaurant/after-hours club where the music cooked till dawn. Their running battle of the saxes resumed somewhere almost every night. Wardell might be the winner three nights in a row, then Dexter would get it together and blow down the house. The faithful kept score.
Sonny, Hamp, Bird, Teddy, Dodo Marmarosa, Eugene Montgomery, Clora Bryant, Illinois and Russell Jacquet, Freddie and Maurice Simon, Addison and Arthur (before he chopped off his name) Farmer and whoever else was in town.flocked to the Basket every night. Conveniently, although certainly not to accommodate the Basket’s clientele, the No. 4 Melrose Bus ran Hollywood-Central Avenue roundtrips around the clock. Blacks and whites going there together soon learned that they were hassled less by the cops on public transportation than in private autos. The logic of. the uniformed mind was open-ended conjecture.
Central Avenue had more jazz clubs, before and after hours, than any other street or neighborhood in Los Angeles —Alabam, Lovejoy’s, Down Beat, Memo, Last Word and Turban Lounge, all in a two block cluster, as well as the Clark Hotel Bar, Plantation Club and Savoy—plus the Elks Auditorium at 40th where the big bands played dances, the Lincoln Theater between 22nd and 23rd with musical stage-shows, and the after-hours clubs which intermittently had live music but catered to musicians and their friends—Backstage and Brother’s. And in the market parking lot at 53rd was a cat who sold booze after 2 a.m.
Curtis Mosby had been succeeded by his dancer-brother Esvan as Honorary Mayor of Central Avenue. A single night’s club-hopping could take in T-Bone Walker at the Elks, Redd Foxx and Howard McGhee at the Last Word, Johnny Otis big jazz band with Paul Quinichette, James Von Streeter and Eddie Preston at the Alabam, Lucky Thompson, Dexter, Wardell, Teddy, Jackie Kelso, and Sonny Criss at the Down Beat, and Bird, Diz, Al Killian and Dodo at Lovejoy’s.
Oscar Pettiford’s Trio was at the Swanee Inn on LaBrea. Streets of Paris was swinging upstairs on Hollywood Boulevard. Nat Cole was moving up from the 331 Club of Eighth Street to the King Cole Room of the swank El Trocadero on the Sunset Strip, and Helen Humes was downstairs at the Swing Club on the Boulevard between Central Avenue engagements.
During World War II, the section immediately northeast of downtown Los Angeles known as Little Tokyo faded into a ghost town when all persons of Japanese descent were interned for the duration. Negro business people gradually moved into the vacant business facilities, and the area temporarily was known as Bronzeville. Shep’s Playhouse at First and San Pedro Streets, where Eddie Heywood appeared for months, and Club Finale, where Bird led a group with Miles, Joe Albany, Addison Farmer, and Chuck Thompson, were the music centers. As the Japanese returned in the post-war years, jazz migrated back to its L.A. roots.
Nearly every night after the last show, members of big name bands appearing downtown at the Orpheum, Paramount and Million Dollar Theaters headed south and east toward Vernon and Avalon to Herb Jeffries’ Black Flamingo, an after-hours club hidden at the end of a row of houses approached by the knowledgeable from Avalon Boulevard. Ida James was there. So was Pearl Bailey. She always took off her shoes when she sang. Next stop could be Elihu “Black Dot” McGee’s Casablanca, 28th and San Pedro, where a Jefferson High school kid named Ernie Andrews was singing “Green Gin,” and on to Lovejoy’s, upstairs at Vernon and Central. Lovejoy’s was Art Tatum’s favorite place to stretch out.
At Ross Snyder Playground Recreation Hall between Jefferson High and the White Sox Ballpark, winter home of the National Negro Baseball League, Al Adams rehearsed a band of Los Angeles musicians including Buddy Collette, Charles Mingus and Jackie Kelso. The drummer, Forrest Hamilton, was yet to be nicknamed “Chico” by his local Mexican-American fans. A mile away at South Park, 51st and San Pedro, Bird liked to lie on his back in the soft grass and blow his horn by the hour.
Mingus was a Los Angeles original. He so loved his bass that he played it everywhere he went—friends’ front porches, streetcars en route to a gig from his home in Watts. His deep feeling for Ellington consistently came through. “In a sense, Mingus was the most creative here,” Buddy Collette reflects admiringly. “He had his own thing he was doing no matter what else was going on. He wasn’t completely out of the be-bop, and he wasn’t completely in it. He had a mixture of his own thing, Duke and bop … no formula. His music had more surprises than anyone’s . . . always something new.”
Irrepressible, ebullient, resourceful Slim Gaillard, master of a half-dozen languages and several instruments, was in demand everywhere because of “Cement Mixer,” his pop hit record introducing his “vout-o-reeny” scatlocution. He and rotund Tiny Brown could be found after-hours on the Avenue, alternating sets with Dizzy at Berg’s or guesting on Frank Sinatra’s Wednesday night CBS radio show three blocks north at 1615 Vine Street. Bird played in Slim’s band, along with Tiny, Jack McVea, Dodo Marmarosa and Zutty Singleton for a Beltone recording session in December, 1945. With the exception of Bird and McVea, the same group is heard here, in three selections originally issued on the Bee Bee label. The nonsense-and fine playing-are quite representative of Slim at the time.
Several years later, around 1950, Slim was the talk of Western Avenue when he arrived an hour late for his opening at the Club Oasis, followed closely by a nervous cabby whom Slim introduced to uneasy co-owners Bill Robinson and Joe Abrams: “Today was such a beautiful day that I took a walk this afternoon. I was thinking what a lovely city San Francisco is when I remembered that you wanted me to be here tonight, so I hailed this gentleman and told him you would take care of him.” Slim smiled warmly, betraying no hint of weariness from the 500-mile journey, and proceeded with his guitar to the stage for his first set.
Phenomenal high-note trumpeter Al Killian first recorded with Gaillard in 1939 and with Bird for Norman Granz in 1946. He had just toured Europe with Duke Ellington when he came home to L.A. for a vacation in the late summer of 1950. Maynard Ferguson, in town with Stan Kenton, reputedly was blowing all trumpet players off the stand at Monday night sessions at Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. Killian extended his visit in order to challenge Maynard and was satisfied that he outblew the 22-year-old Canadian. “I couldn’t go higher than Maynard,” Killian admitted, “but I could play the melody up there, and he couldn’t.” Two weeks later, Al Killian was dead at 33, the gunshot victim of a psychopathic janitor at his East 35th Street apartment. “Backbreaker” features a group that worked under Killian’s leadership during most of 1947.
Black and white disc jockeys were staunch supporters and dedicated proselytisers for bop. Of the hip black disc jockeys, “Mayor of Melody” Joe Adams on KOWL was first in Los Angeles, joined in 1947 by Roy Loggins’ “Blowin’ With Roy” on KALI and Bill Sampson on KWKW, who eventually beamed his program “live” from Jack’s Basket. Loggins more than justified the name of his show one evening in 1949 when he offered some friends an opportunity to broadcast their music. Hampton Hawes, Sonny Criss, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Billy Hadnott, Arthur Farmer and Chuck Thompson jammed on KALI for an hour.
Of the non-black djs, Gene Norman probably was the best known, both for his nightly two-hour KFWB “Eastside Time”—named for his sponsor’s brand of beer, and his “Just Jazz” concerts at the 6,700-seat Shrine and 3,500-seat Pasadena Civic Auditoriums. Dizzy’s big band, Charlie Ventura’s “Bop For The People” with Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, Billie Holiday and the big names from the East headlined Gene’s concerts. Their slightly less famous Los Angeles Brothers and Sisters usually were showcased on opening sets. Gene’s publicist would invite all the djs in town to pick up complimentary tickets at the boxoffice. In exchange for this courtesy, 25 jocks on a dozen or more stations would play the artists’ records all week and urge listeners to show up. The majority of the concerts were sell-outs. (Photo at left, a Just Jazz session with Art Pepper, Wardell Gray, Gene Norman, and Shorty Rogers.)
Dave Dexter spelled Gene on KFWB Sunday nights, putting him on with Coleman Hawkins’ “Stuffy” as a theme. Alex “Pickupacoupleabucks” Cooper spun jazz all night on KXLA; Al Poska on KHJ. Jack the Bellboy was a jazz pioneer, midnight at 6 a.m. on KFVD. Hank the Night Watchman was his successor. Six-foot-six-inch tall Carl Bailey, who called himself “the world’s tallest radio announcer,” was a friend to jazz on KXLA and KBIG, Al Jarvis interspersed some jazz into his KLAC “Make Believe Ballroom” and Steve Allen supported and played jazz on his late-night KNX music and talk show.
During the war years, Ernie Whitman hosted such guests as Billy Eckstine’s big band and Herb Jeffries on “Jubilee,” the only live black music radio show. It was recorded before an enthusiastic audience of about 200 by Armed Forces Radio Service at NBC Studio D at Sunset and Vine for the exclusive consumption of black U.S. service personnel.
Somewhat later, black dj Charles Trammell played mostly rhythm and blues from the window of an all-night record store, Dolphin’s of Hollywood, which was not in Hollywood but ten miles away at Vernon Avenue off Central. Loggins added two outlets for jazz—KCMJ, Palm Springs, on Saturdays, and KFVD, L.A., Sundays. H. L. Moore and C. L. Lovings became hosts of a program dedicated to bop musicians, emanating from KFOX studios in the downtown Bradbury Building, which now is a bonafide California Cultural Heritage Monument, not because Wardell and Dexter were interviewed there but for its ornate architecture.
On July 2, 1944, Norman Granz, a 25-year-old film editor at MGM, presented his first jazz concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium, a dignified old edifice identified principally with classical music and distinguished lecturers. His “Jazz At The Philharmonic”—or JATP—concerts went on to world tours, record labels and lasting fame despite the Auditorium management’s decision several years later to ban jazz from the premises because of the alleged deportment of the audience at one event.
Racial mixing on bandstands wasn’t a problem in L. A. A dozen or so white musicians played more on Central than they did in Hollywood, and Hollywood sessions boasted many accomplished and aspiring Brothers who risked police harassment by driving to Hollywood. Mixed audiences had a hard time in any part of town. As late as 1949, ubiquitous pianist-vocal coach Eddie Beal and a white male composer friend he was working with went to hear Count Basie at a short-lived Hollywood Boulevard spot known as the Cotton Club. They were informed that they must sit at separate tables. In Hollywood, that law was unwritten and subject to “arrangement” between club owners and enforcement agencies. In adjacent Glendale, the ordinance was on the books. Black musicians had to apply for police permits to be within the city limits after 6 p.m. or be subject to arrest. At 2 a.m., squad cars escorted artists with permits from their places of employment to the L. A. line.
For four months beginning Dec. 7, 1948, Hollywood had a club still talked about by everyone who listened or blew there. Until irreconcilable differences among Gene Norman and his three partners ended the operation, the Hollywood Empire at 1539 Vine Street was a luxurious jazz mecca with all the necessary “arrangements.” Ellington, Armstrong, Gaillard, Tatum, Woody Herman, Louis Jordan and Roy Milton packed the place. The policy of reasonable admission-no minimum was borrowed from New York. So was the official greeter, PeeWee Marquette.
If there wasn’t a jam session, it wasn’t Sunday afternoon. Besides the ones at Berg’s, there were sessions in 1948 at the Crystal Tea Room on Avalon near 50th, sponsored by the Progressive Musicians Organization—Buddy Collette, Bill Green, Bobby McNeely, Walter Benton and others. Guitarist Stanley Morgan brought his amazing son Frank who, at 14, was sounding remarkably like Bird. The familiar chords of “Cherokee,” “Lady Be Good,” “I Got Rhythm” and inevitably the blues launched thousands of stirring solos at Sunday sessions from East Manchester Boulevard to the Doll’s House in Culver City to the Hula Hut on Beverly Boulevard to Whisling’s Hawaii on Sunset.
At UCLA in 1945, the Carver Club UCLA’s only interracial Organization staged the first campus jazz festival in California—perhaps the first in the nation—a four-hour affair with Count Basie, Nat Cole, Kay Starr, Teddy Edwards, Erroll Garner and Benny Carter’s big band with singer Ruth Olay.
Three years later, journalism-political science student Bob Fox was presenting regular noon jazz concerts and jam sessions with Red Callender, Eric Dolphy, Dodo Marmarosa, Barney Kessel, big bands and singers in the Administration Building Auditorium at L. A. City College on North Vermont Avenue.
Fox’s fellow student Dick Bock wrote a jazz column in the school paper The Collegian and worked after school as an artists & repertoire and promotion man for Discovery Records. Bock produced the Humes, Hawes and Pepper portions of this album. He is credited as one of the instigators of the so-called “West Coast Jazz” era in 1952. Eddie Laguna of Sunset Records, Lester Koenig of Contemporary and Bock-along with Granz and Norman and Savoy’s Ralph Bass were responsible for capturing much of L.A.’s best jazz of the 40s and 50s.
In 1944, Benny Carter and Gerald Wilson had the big bands. A few years later, both trumpeter John Anderson and Roy Porter, Charlie Parker’s drummer on the memorable Dial sides, also organized big bands. Porter’s rehearsed regularly during the day at the Alabam and at a restaurant on Vernon and Avalon and occasionally worked ballrooms like the wedge-shaped Avedon downtown at Spring and Main. Some sidemen were in two and three of the bands. Arthur Farmer and Eric Dolphy played with Porter and with Wilson. Art solos on “Pete’s”, “Sippin” and “Howard’s”, Eric was a 20-year-old L. A. C. C. student when he made his recording debut with Roy Porter, included in this album. He solos on “Sippin”‘, “Gassin”‘ and “Little Wig”. Leroy “Sweetpea” Robinson, however, was given the heavier alto solo responsibility. Eddie Preston, Porter and Kenny Dorham had been roomates and members of the school band at Wiley College, Marshall, Tex. in the early 40s. Jimmy Knepper, at 21, had played professionally for eight years, was an accomplished arranger and composer and contributed charts as well as provocative trombone solos to the band. Knepper has all the trombone solos. Chet Baker, Herb Geller, Addison Farmer, Hadley Calliman, Joe Maini, Russ Freeman, Kenny Bright, Teddy Edwards, and singer Damita Jo also passed through the Porter ranks.
As racial integration eased westerly in Los Angeles, so did jazz clubs. By 1950, little music remained on Central Avenue. Western became the hip Avenue for music. There had been isolated strongholds earlier, like the Hi-De-Ho, at 50th, where in 1947, Bird and Hampton Hawes played in Howard McGhee’s Quintet. That same year, Hamp graduated from Polytechnic High School. In his book, Raise Up Off Me, written with Don Asher (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan), he relates throwing his cap and gown in the back of the car and making it only 15 minutes late to his gig with Big Jay McNeely at the Last Word. Some of Hamp’s earliest trio playing is presented here. Included is the performance of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” which is new to 12″ LP.
Helen Humes left Basie during the 40s to make her home in L. A., around the corner from the Milomo, a club on Western near Adams, where she often was seen and heard. The diminutive singer was an early choice of Granz’ for JATP and worked Berg’s. She had starred at the Alabam, Down Beat, Last Word and Plantation before she emigrated to the Oasis and Intime. Later she sang the blues at Chuck Landis’ Tiffany Club, successor to the 331 on Eighth; at the Gala on the Strip and Peacock Lane in Hollywood. Helen continued to appear around L. A. into the 60’s. This session, originally for Discovery, is blues oriented but the appearance of Dexter Gordon should be no surprise. Dex was a frequent participant on blues dates during this time.
Eddie DeSure’s Oasis at 38th and Western had been an ofay Dixieland supper club until it was sold to Robinson and Abrams in 1949. The new owners opened with a jazz policy—local guest stars appearing with the house band led by Lee Young. Ernie Freeman, Wilfred Middlebrooks and Eric Dolphy were in that band. In a year, the Oasis was booking nationally known jazz artists. A booking error once resulted in Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton appearing the same week, alternating sets.
In May, 1950, Lena Home was at the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove on Wilshire, accompanied by Gerry Wiggins, Joe Benjamin and Chico Hamilton. The hotel excluded the Negro press from the lavish opening day press party, hoping thereby to discourage black patronage. Lena retaliated coolly by having her manager, Ralph Harris, invite 24 black media representatives to sit at two huge ringside center tables that night.
After-hours spots, by this time, were transitory, dependent upon the local political atmosphere. After-hours music never wavered. Three blocks north of the Oasis, Glen Willingham and his wife Jimmy ran Glen’s Barbecue. Shortly after two every morning, musicians and entertainers began congregating in ‘Glen’s Back Room’, a modest-size private dining room with an upright piano. Bobby Short came from the posh Club Gala on the Strip . . . Erroll Garner . . . Red Callender . . . Sarah Vaughan . . . Joyce Bryant . . . J. C. Heard . . . Carl Perkins … all the local and visiting celebrities hurried to hang out. Glen and Jimmy treated the burgeoning crowds as if they were invited guests, never allowed liquor on the premises and refused to consider charging admission or raising the minimum food order higher than 25 cents even though more and more people were skipping the nightclubs and showing up at 1:30 for a good seat, ordering a cup of coffee and digging every jazz artist in L. A.
On Saturday nights in the early 50s, some of the best music was upstairs at Normandie Hall, Jefferson Boulevard at Normandie, presented by the Four Brothers—law student James Tolbert (a nephew of Lester and Lee Young), writer Joe Bernhardt, former Alaskan disc jockey Jerome Hirschman and guitarist Irving Ashby. Art Tatum, Nat Cole, Oscar Peterson, Carl Perkins, Eddie Beal, Hampton Hawes, Billy Hadnott, Gerald Wilson, Buddy Collette, John Anderson, Art and Addison Farmer, Red Callender, Barney Kessel, Wardell Gray, Sonny Criss, Teddy Edwards and Ash, of course, all played there. Buddy Collette joined Jerry Fielding’s orchestra on the Groucho Marx television show in 1952, becoming the first black musician in Los Angeles with a steady TV assignment . . . “talk about lonely in the studios . . .” When the show’s contractor from all-white American Federation of Musicians, Local 47, refused to deduct required taxes from Buddy’s paycheck because he was a member of black Local 767, Buddy decided to do something about the long overdue integration of the unions. He and Marl Young were prime movers in the campaign, opposed by National President James Caesar Petrillo. With the support and pressure of Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole and other name entertainers, the crusaders finally affected the merger a full year later. In 1973, when Petrillo was 82, he visited Los Angeles, inquired whose idea the merger had been, summoned the rebels to his hotel penthouse and intoned his benediction: “It was a good idea,” he finally admitted.
Art Pepper had gigged with Benny Carter and Lee Young during the early 40s and was in the Army during the preliminary volleys of the bop revolution. He achieved his first prominence as a strongly Parker-influenced soloist after joining Stan Kenton in 1947 and later with Howard Rumsey’s Kenton alumni Lighthouse All-Stars at Hermosa Beach. Pepper’s first record date with Hampton Hawes was with Shorty Rogers’ Giants in late 1950. Shelly Manne, Jimmy Guiffre, John Graas, Gene Englund and Don Bagley also were on the date. Eighteen months later, when Art recorded with his own quartet, Hamp was on piano. As the bop movement engendered the West Coast/Cool era in California, Hawes and Pepper both emerged as respected voices in the newer context.
A couple of hours down the coast at San Diego, the black music scene, in many ways, was a microcosmic reflection of what was happening in Los Angeles.
Froebel Brigham was considered in San Diego to be one of the most exciting trumpeters in the country. He returned his hometown’s devotion by refusing all offers to tour or even play a gig outside the city. Froe’s band had a steady following at the Creole Palace, a club on Market Street owned by an elderly lady known as Miss Mabel. Their off-nights were booked months ahead for parties and dances. Harold Land was a self-taught teenager when he began playing tenor sax with Froe.
Sonny Criss frequently came down from Los Angeles to play at Miss Barron’s Black & Tan Club on Imperial Avenue. San Diego bop fans said he was “the next Bird.” Some insisted Sonny played better. Chuck Thompson, too, divided his energies between L. A. and San Diego, and Harold shared the bandstand with them as often as he could, some nights managing to work both the Palace and the B&T. Sonny usually played with bassist Shifty Henry’s group, which also included former Lionel Hampton tenor man Clifford Solomon, a ometime-member of Roy Porter’s L. A. band.
Froe Brigham had Harold, Freddie Jackson and Leon Petties in his band, along with William Doty on alto and David Dyson on bass when Harold was offered the chance to record for Savoy in 1949. Froe made one of his rare excursions from San Diego to the L. A. recording studio and happily turned his band over to the leadership of his favorite tenor sax man. For this date, Land decided to add trombonist Russell Campbell.
Nat Cole, Red Norvo and the big bands from out of town worked Top’s, the Pacific Ballroom and Russ Auditorium at San Diego High School. San Diego did not allow after-hours clubs. Local musicians jammed in each other’s homes but when visiting artists asked where they could find a session after the job, the San Diego players took them on a 30-minute trip across the Mexican border to Tijuana where there was no alcohol or entertainment curfew. One night, Nat Cole, Jack Costanzo and Wardell Gray jammed all night with guys from the Brigham band. (At left, Russ Auditorium on the SDHS campus.)
Slim Gaillard was San Diego’s first black disc jockey, spinning jazz records for several months in 1944 from a used car lot. Gary Bell was next. From 1946-49, on KFMB, “Time For Gary” was spokesman for good music in San Diego. He played Diz and Bird, big bands and singers— predominantly jazz, interviewed artists and emceed the big concerts like Ellington’s at Russ Auditorium.
During a portion of his tenure at KFMB, Bell commuted to KSON to do another jazz show until he moved to station KSDO. L. A. disc jockey Joe Adams’ brother Arthur also was heard briefly on KSON. The only other black jazz programming was by Henry Louie on KSON and a sampling by Don Howard at KSDO.
Unlike somewhat more sophisticated Los Angeles, San Diego had little tolerance for racially integrated bandstands. Mixing the races and the sexes absolutely was forbidden.
In the summer of 1951, Benny Carter’s band from Los Angeles with Gerald Wiggins, Bill Douglas and Ulysses Livingston was booked into Club Royal in San Diego. People knew that Benny had a white girl singer named Sue Lowrey (Ruth Olay), who would be unwelcome. She and Benny decided to beat the system. Sue/Ruth acquired a fast sun-tan and became “Singer Rachel Davis” for four weeks. To help keep her secret—and her gig—the band joined her on the beach for two hours of sunshine and volleyball every day in July so she wouldn’t lose her identity.
But this is only a fragment of Black California. The real story is the music. This Savoy album offers some of the best that was played during this significant growth period in the evolution of American music.
All eight tracks on side 4 or this reissue were produced by Dick. The Art Pepper tracks (1-4) were from the March 4, 1952, session at Radio Recorders via Bob Scherman’s Skylark label, supervised by Dick Bock for Discovery Records of New York. The Hampton Hawes tracks (5-8) were financed by Dick Bock who sold the master tape to Discovery, netting Bock some needed start-up money for his Pacific Jazz label. There were no alternate takes from the Pepper session.
“Brown Gold” D6001-7
“These Foolish Things” D6002-4
“Surf Ride” D6003-5
“Holiday Flight” D6004-4
The next Savoy/Arista reissue of Art Pepper Discovery sessions on SJL 2217 included master takes that had previously been released on Savoy MG 12089, Regent MG 6069, and Savoy 12215.
Side 1 (tracks 1-4) were the master takes from the October 8, 1952, session with Russ Freeman, Bob Whitlock, and Bobby White.
“Chili Pepper” D6058-4
“Suzy The Poodle” D6059-1
“Everything Happens To Me” D6060-4
“Tickle Toe” D6061-4
Side 1 (tracks 5-6) were the master takes from the first August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Paul Vallerina.
“Deep Purple” D6303-1
Side 2 (tracks 1-2) continued the master takes from the first August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Paul Vallerina.
“What’s New” D6305-3
Side 2 (tracks 3-6) continued the master takes from the second August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Larry Bunker.
“Thyme Time” D6306-2
“Straight Life” D6307-2
“Art’s Oregano” D6308-5
“The Way You Look Tonight” D6309-5
Sides 3 & 4 released (for the first time) alternate takes from the October 8, 1952 quartet session and the August 25, 1954, quintet sessions. Additional alternate takes were also released (for the first time) on Savoy SJL 1170, Art Pepper / Rediscoveries. The producers did not attempt to label the alternates as good-better-best. All of the saved alternates were equally fine and the decision to select a master for the initial releases must have been a difficult process.
Side 3 (tracks 1-4) were alternate takes from the October 8, 1952, session with Russ Freeman, Bob Whitlock, and Bobby White.
“Chili Pepper” D6058-2
“Suzy The Poodle” D6059-6
“Everything Happens To Me” D6060-1
“Tickle Toe” D6061-9
Side 3 (tracks 5-6) were alternate takes from the first August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Paul Vallerina.
The first track on side 4 continued the first August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Paul Vallerina with another alternate take of “What’s New.”
“What’s New” D6305-2
Side 4 (tracks 2-5) continued with alternate takes from the second August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Larry Bunker.
“Thyme Time” D6306-3
“Straight Life” D6307-3
“Art’s Oregano” D6308-2
“The Way You Look Tonight” D6309-2
The final release of these fabled Art Pepper Discovery sessions, additional alternate takes that had never been released previously, was produced by Todd Selbert for Arista in 1986.
Side A released (for the first time) additional alternate takes from the October 8, 1952, session with Russ Freeman, Bob Whitlock, and Bobby White.
“Chili Pepper” D6058-3
“Chili Pepper” D6058-5
“Suzy The Poodle” D6059-3
“Suzy The Poodle” D6059-5
“Everything Happens To Me” D6060-2
“Everything Happens To Me” D6060-3
“Everything Happens To Me” D6060-6
Side B released (for the first time) the balance of alternate takes from the two August 25, 1954, quintet sessions. Tracks 1-4 were from the first session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Paul Vallerina.
“What’s New” D6305-1
Tracks 5-7 continued with alternate takes from the second August 25, 1954, quintet session with Jack Montrose, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and Larry Bunker.
“Thyme Time” D6306-1
“Straight Life” D6307-1
“Art’s Oregano” D6308-1
These Savoy/Arista releases of the Art Pepper Discovery sessions presented the final U.S. versions on vinyl. Mastering and other aspects of production were at their zenith, and these albums are the ultimate analog releases of the Art Pepper Discovery sessions.
Copies of SJL 1170, SJL 2215, and SJL 2217 can be purchased for very reasonable amounts on Ebay. Pepper collectors seem to be fixated on the first releases on Discovery (DL 3019 and DL 3023), Savoy MG 12089, Regent 6069, and Savoy 12215. Perhaps these Arista albums will attain those astronomical prices in another twenty or thirty years. Collectors take heed!
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