JAZZ SCENE U.S.A. #7
SOUNDS OF SYNANON
TUESDAY, JULY 31, 1962
CBS TELEVISION CITY, LOS ANGELES, CA
Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
Joe Pass, Bill Crawford, Greg Dykes, Dave Allan, Ronald Clark and Arnold Ross in performance at Synanon House
The seventh jazz combo taped for Steve Allen’s JAZZ SCENE USA series had recently emerged on the jazz scene with their only album as a group, SOUNDS OF SYNANON. The members: Joe Pass, Bill Crawford, Greg Dykes, Dave Allan, Ronald Clark and Arnold Ross toured the west coast in 1962 partly in support of the enterprise that had played a major role in their rehabilitation from drug dependence, Synanon House of Santa Monica, California.
John Tynan had written an extensive article in the February 2, 1961 issue of Down Beat about Synanon House and the rehabilitation program that had brought many jazz musicians back from the brink. The cover of that issue of Down Beat was used on the front jacket of SOUNDS OF SYNANON and John Tynan wrote the liner notes for the album.
The following brief biographies of the members are taken from John Tynan’s liner notes for the Pacific Jazz album, PJ-48 © EMI Capitol Music.
An important manifestation of Synanon’s work may be heard in these Sounds Of Synanon. They are but a small number of addicted musicians in residence there but the jazz group they have created is a constant morale builder. Consistent with the group consciousness of the residents, there is no leader as such. As a matter of policy and mutual agreement the musicians work together. This is not to say that talent and experience do not prevail in matters musical. And pianist Arnold Ross is the recognized dean in this respect.
“Like all addicts who come to Synanon for help, Arnold Ross was desperate” this reporter wrote in Down Beat. “His first visit. . . was in May, 1959. He described the events leading to his arrival.
“‘I’d tried to kill myself; he said matter of factly, ‘and landed in County General hospital. They found needle marks on me, and I was booked for ‘misdemeanor—marks’. When my case came up, my lawyer told me the only way I could avoid the county jail was to commit myself to Camarillo for treatment. So I did. Then, when I got out, I went with (a) club group. I was back on dope fast. I quit the group and tried to kick again by myself, but I couldn’t make it. So I came to Synanon’.
“Heeding a variety of rationalizations, he didn’t remain this first time. But last July 7 (1960), Ross returned and stayed.
“Pianist Ross enjoyed a rising reputation in the late 1930s and ’40s with a variety of bands, including the late Glenn Miller’s army orchestra and Harry James (1944-47). In 1950, Ross says, while on a tour of Europe as accompanist to a name singer, he started his first serious heroin habit.
“‘When we got back’, he continued, ‘I kicked- But soon I’d started another’. After that, there was no turning back” Today, at 40, Ross has turned back. Or, to state it more accurately, he has taken a new turning. He has taken and accepted the Synanon way.
Joe Pass (Passalaqua), one of the most exciting talents on jazz guitar to emerge in recent years, is a native of New Brunswick, N. J., born January 13, 1929. He began formal study of guitar at age 9, sticking with these lessons, he says, about a year. By then, he was gigging around his hometown. He had several small groups in Johnstown, Pa., before leaving on a tour with the Tony Pastor band. This was of short duration ; he had to leave the band and return to school. He chronicles the balance of his life as follows: “Left school and got a Local 802 card. I gigged around Long Island, Brooklyn, and started goofin’—pot, pills, junk. Traveled around the country with different tours. Then I was draped into the Marine Corps. I was in a year. Meantime I’d been in and out of hospitals and seeing doctors and so on. In the Corps, I played cymbals in the band, worked in a small group at N.C.O. and officers’ clubs. Then I got busted. I moved to Las Vegas and worked the hotels there. Busted again. After that I spent three years and eight months at the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital at Fort Worth, Texas. Then I went back to Vegas. I recorded with Dick Contino on Capitol and with several other commercial groups. Meanwhile, I was in and out of jails for narcotics violations. I came to Synanon from San Diego after a final ‘marks beef.’ At the time this album was recorded, Joe Pass had been at Synanon 15 months.
Trumpeter David Allan was reared, and attended high school, in Chicago where he was born April 1, 1928 into a musical family. His father, he says, was a songwriter and song-and-dance man in vaudeville. At age 12 he was playing in a jazz band with his two cousins. He spent 1946 and ’47 with army bands in the U. S. and in the Philippines. Following an honorable discharge from the army, Allan settled in Southern California where he formed a jazz group with pianist Don Friedman, tenorist Lin Halliday, bassist Don Payne and drummer Gary Frommer. During this period he played regularly with Chet Baker, Ornette Coleman, Joe Maini and Russ Freeman. Allan attended Whittier College, Whittier, Calif., and, he says, was one semester short of securing his bachelor’s degree in economics “when addiction caused me to leave college” Before coming to Synanon, he was committed to the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital at Lexington, Ky.
Greg Dykes, trombonist and trumpeter, who plays baritone horn in this album, was born in Los Angeles, January 20, 1931. This is his story: “My Father was a music teacher and I started playing trumpet at around 10. Through school I played music as a hobby. After high school, I played two years in army bands. While in hospital in Fort Worth, I changed to baritone horn and valve trombone. I worked in local (Los Angeles) big bands, but have done very little work in jazz. In 1958, I became associated with Art Pepper who helped me a great deal. Now I feel that I am just scratching the surface; I’m starting to write music, too. As is the case with my life in Synanon, my life in music is just beginning”
Ronald Clifford (Ronnie) Clark is another native Angeleno, born September 19, 1935. He attended high school with trumpeter Don Cherry and drummer Billy Higgins and began playing alto sax. Then he stopped playing, he says, until 1959, when, while living with school-mates Cherry and Higgins, he started on string bass. At the time of this recording, Clark had been at Synanon 11 months.
Bill Crawford, a member of Synanon’s board of directors and the band’s drummer, was born in Seattle, Wash., February 3, 1929. He began musical studies at five years and pursued the study of harmony and clarinet for two years at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While at the conservatory, Crawford says, he smoked marijuana for the first time. “I never returned to school after that” he recalls. “I spent the next 10 years smoking weed, shooting dope, going to jam sessions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, in and out of jail and working at various jobs—including four years repairing cash registers with the National Cash Register Co” Crawford arrived at Synanon in October, 1959. At the time of the recording he had been studying drums for one year under volunteer teachers Eddie Atwood and Bill Douglass, well known Hollywood musicians who donated their professional services to Synanon.
The following liner notes by Pete Welding place the importance of The Sounds of Synanon in the career path of Joe Pass.
Following his discovery and first recording by Pacific Jazz’s Dick Bock, Joe Pass recorded extensively over the next few years. That maiden effort, 1962’s The Sounds of Synanon (Pacific Jazz 48), was succeeded by the guitarist’s participation in a large number of Pacific Jazz recordings by its contracted artists as well as several well-received albums under Pass’ name – Catch Me!, For Django, Simplicity and others – on all of which it was made abundantly clear that an impressive new, fully matured talent was on the scene and performing at peak creativity. They revealed that Pass had not only assimilated his early influences, among whom were Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and several important early ’50s jazz guitarists, but had perfected a strong, identifiable voice of his own.
His approach was characterized by great melodic fertility, harmonic sophistication and a natural, easy command of swing, and the music he made was both invigoratingly inventive and thoroughly accessible. Like Parker and other great melodists in jazz, Pass had the singular gift of improvising lines of natural, singing clarity and firm inner logic. That he rose, with superb consistency, to the opportunities afforded him through his affiliation with Pacific Jazz can be heard in every one of his numerous recordings from this period, and it is tribute to his deep, committed creativity that his work as a sideman is fully as resourceful and imaginative as that recorded under his own leadership. Too, it is tribute to Dick Bock’s acumen that he provided the guitarist such plentiful opportunity to commit that creativity to record. Certainly it paid off handsomely too, for Pass contributed tellingly to every session he made with Bud Shank, Les McCann, Clifford Scott, Groove Holmes, Gerald Wilson and even blues singer Bumble Bee Slim. And his own albums, Catch Me! and For Django in particular, have taken their place with the very finest jazz guitar recordings of the last two decades.
(from Pete Welding’s liner notes for JOY SPRING, Blue Note LT-1103 © EMI Capitol Music)
The following video clip from YouTube is from the 7th show and features the group performing “C.E.D.” (the initials for the head of Synanon, Charles E. Dederich).
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: John Tynan
Title Films: Grant Velie
Cameras: Bob Dunn, Ed Chaney, Gorman Erickson, Pat Kenny
The photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of CTSIMAGES. The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Howard Lucraft Collection. Please note that these photos remain the property of the Howard Lucraft Collection and are used here with permission. Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to: Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.