JAZZ SCENE U.S.A. #8
HAROLD LAND / RED MITCHELL QUINTET
TUESDAY, JULY 31, 1962
CBS TELEVISION CITY, LOS ANGELES, CA
Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
The Harold Land / Red Mitchell Quintet was the eighth jazz combo taped for Steve Allen’s Jazz Scene USA series. They recorded a single album for Atlantic Records, HEAR YE!!!!HEAR YE!!!! (Atlantic 1376). The quintet members were: Harold Land, tenor sax; Red Mitchell, bass; Carmell Jones, trumpet; Frank Strazzeri, piano and Lawrence Marable, drums. The liner notes by Leonard Feather that accompanied the LP indicate that the quintet hoped to tour the quintet, but the AD LIB column in the June 21, 1962 issue of Down Beat for Los Angeles noted that the Red Mitchell-Harold Land Quintet had quietly dissolved recently with Mitchell concentrating on studio work and Land moving to Las Vegas for a while to work at the Carver House Hotel. The Jazz Scene USA appearance was most likely a reunion of sorts with only four members of the original quintet as Lawrence Marable filled the drum chair that Leon Petties occupied in the original quintet. Harold Land’s remark that it is hard to keep a group together acknowledged the reality of their short lived quintet.
Prior to their quintet LP for Atlantic both Harold Land and Red Mitchell had recorded four LPs separately as leaders. Land’s first album as leader was for Les Koenig’s Contemporary Records, HAROLD IN THE LAND OF JAZZ (Contemporary C3550), followed by an album for David Axelrod’s HI-FI label, THE FOX (Hi-Fi Jazz J612). Harold Land’s third and fourth LPs as leader were for the Jazzland subsidiary of Riverside Records, WEST COAST BLUES (Jazzland JLP20) and EASTWARD HO! – HAROLD LAND IN NEW YORK (Jazzland JLP33).
Red Mitchell’s first two LPs as leader were both on Bethlehem Records, HAPPY MINORS (BCP-1033) and RED MITCHELL (BCP-38). His next LP was for Les Koenig’s Contemporary Records label, PRESENTING RED MITCHELL (C3538) followed by an LP for Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label, REJOICE (PJ22).
The 7th annual yearbook of jazz published by Down Beat, MUSIC 1962, featured an extensive article, A DISCUSSION: JAZZ WEST COAST, hosted by John Tynan with Red Mitchell, Harold Land and Jimmy Rowles wherein they discuss the current state of jazz in Los Angeles. The topics range from “music contractors” to “jazz club owners” and provide insights into reasons why groups like the Mitchell-Land Quintet were difficult to form and more difficult to sustain in the present music environment.
(Excerpt from liner notes for Atlantic 1263 © Atlantic Records)
The record debut of the Red Mitchell-Harold Land Quintet may mark a turning point not only in the career of this group. but in the whole image of West Coast jazz.
Far too many years this slogan was associated with a brand of music, emanating exclusively from Los Angeles, that employed tautly scored little performances with all the shine and sparkle of a prune. It was claimed at times that this represented a new trend in jazz, that the music had its own validity and was not a mere faded reflection of some ideas that had become desiccated on their way west from New York. Time has killed theory and music alike.
Red Mitchell and Harold Land were never a part of that scene. True, they have worked at times with some of the musicians said to typify West Coast jazz, but this has no more direct bearing on their musical ambitions than Red’s TV shows with Mahalia Jackson or Harold’s Las Vegas excursion with Brook Benton. Both were interested in a new, fresh, bold sound, one that could give the tired West Coast slogan a valuable meaning.
That their paths crossed, leading to the creation of what John Tynan in Down Beat aptly called the most stimulating and creatively alive jazz group resident on the West Coast,” was the product of a series of fortuities. Red, a New Yorker. had worked in the East with Chubby Jackson (as pianist doubling on bass), Charlie Ventura and Woody Herman. He moved to Hollywood in 1952, when he began a two year membership in the Red Norvo Trio.
“I can’t remember exactly where and when I met Harold,” says Red, “but I heard him with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach group around 1954-5, and then really got to listen to him extensively a year or two later when he was with Curtis Counce’s combo. Later on I guess there was a mutual respect thing going; we started hanging out more, got to like each other a lot personally, and found out we had a lot of things in common, a lot of musical ideas and ideals.”
“It seemed a natural thing for us to get together. Even our families had grown close — our wives and sons — and somehow we started out with an idea for a quartet But we wanted a fuller round, and different voicings, and we had this concept of using the bass as a third voice on some things, so we agreed that the quintet is a perfect jazz instrumentation.”
“I can’t remember exactly where and when I met Red,” says Harold, completing the mutual oblivion pact, “but I think It was in San Diego, where I lived before I moved to Los Angeles. He played there in a little group that Woody Herman had with Bill Harris and Bags, in 1950. That was four years before I moved north.”
“The first time we played together was at an art exhibit, with a quartet. By that time I had known and admired Red’s work for a long while. We both got to thinking that we could provide a few fresh approaches to the quintet sound. We felt there weren’t enough well-organized, tightly-knit combos on the scene. . .”
The three sidemen lined up by these two leaders were all logical choices. “Carmell had come out to the coast primarily to work with Harold; he dug him that much,” says Red. “Of course, I knew him well too; he had sat in with me several times. Frank Strazzeri and I had worked together a lot, and Leon Petties came here from San Diego, like Harold, and had been jobbing with Harold’s quartet, I had known Leon since he sat in with me in 1956, when I was with Hamp Hawes’ Trio: in fact, I had tried to get Hamp to hire him.”
The five musicians began rehearsing in the summer of 1961. All but Petties doubled as writers, and all five had identical feelings concerning the group’s objectives and musical potential.
“There has been so little of this kind of music organized out here,” Red points out. “Curtis had a fine group, but it didn’t last too long. We realized, too, that forming a group like this in Los Angeles and trying to keep it together was not the easiest thing in the world.”
Despite the evident handicaps, the men were unflaggingly cooperative in making rehearsals. All made sacrifices of one kind or another to keep the group intact. (On one occasion, in order not to miss a rehearsal, Red turned down a gig that would have meant a whole TV series for him.)
The basic sound of the Mitchell-Land group is one that musicians find elusive of verbalization. “Hard” is an adjective that has been applied too often lately to any brand of jazz with a substantial degree of aggressiveness; the implication that hardness involves harshness seems to invalidate the use of the term here. It is more relevantly a jubilant, sinewy, cohesive sound, in which the key factors are: self confidence and the kind of group feeling that can only stem from musicians who have been working together and listening to one another closely over an extended period.
Fortunately the opportunities for the quintet, though limited by their geographical situation, have exceeded their original expectations. In addition to stretching out for several weeks at Los Angeles’ Town Hill Club, they have worked every Monday at Shelly’s Manne-Hole for several months, played weekend concerts at Le Grand Theater, and have gigged at the Renaissance and other local spots. With the release of this album they plan to make their first joint trip east.
It is a healthy sign that a group of this type has been able to get going in Southern California. After having lived out here for a year, this writer can attest to the frustrations that beset Los Angeles jazzmen whose ambitions are analogous with those of, say. a Blakey or Silver or Adderley in New York, Removed by thousands of miles not only from the principal jazz clubs but also from the booking agencies headquarters, most of the record companies, and many of the influential jazz critics, the musicians in Los Angeles are sometimes tempted to become bitter as they see extensive publicity and work opportunities falling in the path of other groups, whose musical value may be equal lo their own but is certainly not so far superior as to justify the great disparity in recognition.
Had the above mentioned New York groups been stationed in Los Angeles during the past six or seven years while Red, Harold & Co. were transplanted to New York, it is entirely possible that jazz history might have been written a little differently.
Although I have stressed the importance of the group’s overall sound, obviously no combo that relies heavily on improvisation can be any stronger than its weakest solo link. The steel links in this chain know no weaknesses; all ensemble considerations aside, this is, man for man, as strong an alliance of compatible talents as you will find on the scene today — and this does not just mean the California scene.
The January 10, 1962 issue of Down Beat magazine published a review of the Mitchell-Land engagement at Shelly’s Manne-Hole:
(© 1962 Maher Publications)
The Lord Jazz Discography lists four tunes that were recorded by Atlantic for the Mitchell-Land HEAR YE!!!!HEAR YE!!!! album but remained unissued. One of those tunes, FROM THIS MOMENT ON, was performed during the taping of Jazz Scene USA and is presented here for readers enjoyment.
HAROLD LAND-RED MITCHELL QUINTET – FROM THIS MOMENT ON
Host: Oscar Brown, Jr.
Executive Producer: Steve Allen
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Director: Steve Binder
Associate Producer: Vince Cilurzo
Associate Director: George Turpin
Technical Director: Jim Brady
Lighting Director: Leard Davis
Audio: Larry Eaton
Art Director: Robert Tyler Lee
Production Assistant: Penny Stewart
Jazz Consultant: Leonard Feather
Title Films: Grant Velie
Cameras: Bob Dunn, Ed Chaney, Gorman Erickson, Pat Kenny