The best known production from Linear Publications was a portfolio of photographs by William Claxton that coined the now famous “Jazz West Coast” moniker. Work on the publication began in the fall of 1954 and the finished product would be published in the spring of 1955. It measured 10.5 inches by 13.5 inches, paperbound, contained 84 pages with introductory essays by Will MacFarland and Nesuhi Ertegun.
The photographic layout included brief biographies and discographies of the artists featured on each page. The biography and discography chores were divided between Will MacFarland, Woody Woodward, Herb Kimmel, Nesuhi Ertegun and David Stuart.
Lee Friedlander and Stuart Fox worked with William Claxton on the art concept and layout of the portfolio. The title – “jazz west coast” – was designed by Stuart Fox, it is not a typeface but an original piece of art. The image of the trumpet player on the cover is Don Fagerquist, taken from a Claxton photograph that was solarized by Lee Friedlander.
Claxton selected many of the photographs from recording sessions that he had covered for a variety of record labels, among them Prestige, Jazz:West, Contemporary, Capitol, Fantasy, Nocturne, RCA Victor, New Jazz and Pacific Jazz. A block of text delivered short biographical and discography details on each jazz artist.
The following pages illustrate the layout of the portfolio with some of the same pages seen above, but now with the opposite page included.
The back pages of the portfolio contained several ads to help defray the cost of producing the portfolio.
Essays from JAZZ WEST COAST © EMI Capitol Music
about jazz west coast:
In presenting a collection of photographs based on a single theme, it was thought wise to define the limits and scope of the selection. While this book is titled “JAZZ WEST COAST,” it is (and it is said with candor) something less than that. The task of definitive summation is left to later years or less biased observers. What has been attempted is better put by the sub-title, “A Portfolio of Photographs by William Claxton.” This collection of pictures shows jazz musicians at work and in repose on the West Coast. They are the work of one photographer. All the pictures were taken in California—the majority of them in Los Angeles. The texts and articles are supplementary to the pictures.
While it is interesting to speculate as to whether most of these pictures show musicians who can be grouped into a musical school of thought, that is not one of the limitations that was placed on selection. The chances are, history will reveal that there is a West Coast School: a group of musicians playing calmer, gentler jazz, placing at least as much emphasis on writing as on soloing. But restricting this book to such a group should have been close to impossible (particularly since it is not a retrospective examination) and somewhat undesirable since that would have eliminated much that has been meaningful to the period.
It is hoped that by disclaiming any restrictions of School we may bypass much of the clamor about presumptuous inclusion of musicians commonly associated with other areas. Easterners will spot many of their old stand-bys in these pages, but the mentioned geographical limitation alone is testimony that their compatriots have strayed—however fleetingly—to our Pacific shores . . . long enough at least to have their pictures taken. This wide margin of inclusion might seem to compromise the “West Coast” labeling; actually, an effort was made to restrict East Coast musicians to those who have been active in this area for a considerable length of time.
If the attitude toward comprehensiveness seems mild, certainly the reasons for making some gesture toward commemorating the jazz situation here will seem powerful enough. Jazz on the West Coast in the first half of the fifties has enjoyed a status it has seldom experienced in any time or any city. To flourish, jazz must function as a popular music, at least comparatively salable entertainment. Attendance at California clubs and concerts, record sales—locally, nationally, and abroad—of California jazz seem to indicate a remarkably wide audience acceptance of what might have been a cliquish movement. Several motivating factors are readily apparent.
Our schools are partly responsible. Westlake College of Music turned out most of the formally educated jazzmen at one time. Now, with the emphasis on a more general academic music background, the credit must be shared with the Los Angeles and Southern California Conservatories of Music, Los Angeles City and State College, Mills College, and with USC and UCLA. This last institution, furthermore, is the scene of Nesuhi Ertegun’s classes in jazz — lectures seldom duplicated in authoritativeness elsewhere.
As to concerts, the “P” in “JATP” stands for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium; Norman Granz’ immense machinery meshed its first gears in this city. Gene Norman was one of the early concertmasters and still operates standing-room-only to Western crowds. Furthermore, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the homes of a peculiar phenomenon which might be called the shoe-string concert. Each month brings another rash of posters with a new and aspiring young organizer’s name affixed. While most of these proposed series tend to fade away after the second concert, none of them have done anything but good for the health of local jazz.
California, the home of the cocktail bar, has always been a potentially great set-up for combo employment. In these times, a competent group has the pick of a number of acceptable stages. Clubs like the Haig, Zardi’s, the California Club, the Tiffany, the Oasis, and the Lighthouse (which Howard Rumsey made, almost single-handedly into an institution) were pioneers and are still leaders in the presentation of good jazz. In San Francisco, clubs like the Blackhawk, Down Beat, the Hangover, Facks, and the Tin Angel come to mind. Western colleges consistently employ jazz groups for their own functions, as well.
The West Coast’s little record companies have lured the great and the promising to California. Their high standards of recording and presentation have drawn more attention than would have been the case with earlier, more casual jazz packaging. Richard Bock inaugurated Pacific Jazz with the Mulligan-Baker music, and has, since then, done much to further the careers of newcomers. Les Koenig’s Good Time Jazz and Contemporary labels have presented both sides of the jazz politic with exceptional taste; much of the important compositional experimentation recorded today has come through their Manne dates. Fantasy and the Weiss brothers came in the national jazz picture early with the Brubeck octet; since then they have presented several former Brubeck associates; most importantly, Desmond. Disc Jockey Norman, besides his concert activity, is engaging successfully in the recording business with his “Gene Norman Presents” line. A steadily larger portion of the jazz recorded by the old-line companies is emanating from the West Coast; Capitol, Victor, Decca and Columbia all do important recordings here. In the case of Capitol, their new “Stan Kenton Presents” series deserves mention. This activity can be added to a long list of contributions that Kenton has made to West Coast Jazz; many of the West Coast’s major soloists first came to California to work in Kenton bands. Kenton’s latest interest is Jazz International, an organization he formed in association with Howard Lucraft, dedicated to the world wide propagation of the jazz idiom.
Among the musicians, four men have served as focal points for Western creativity: Brubeck has been influential through his organization of various-sized groups, and through his powerful and literate style of playing. Shorty Rogers, as far as his trumpeting is concerned, is best judged by the great body of his work, which has been consistent and good. He has written prolifically; as much to fill the requests of outside organizations as to provide material for his own small groups and big bands. As suggested before,Shelly Manne has served to engender some of the most rewarding work in contemporary music. Catching his enthusiasm, composers and performers have given free rein to their creativities with a resultant high return of meaningful music. Gerry Mulligan, through his composed, friendly soloing and superb writing, has been an inspiration and pace-maker unparalleled in this locale. Although the emphasis in this book is on contemporary music, the senior school, as well, is represented pictorially, and it is fitting to mention that Traditionalist attention, too, has been focused on the West Coast. A revolution of sorts has taken place within their own ranks; the scene has been San Francisco, the people the personnel of the Yerba Buena band. Like the contemporary school, the traditionalists have seen their movement split into several facets, with each key figure now representing a faction, but with a common direction of movement still discernable. As far as selecting individuals to credit with the origin of California’s present Golden Age, it would seem to be Mulligan for the Contemporaries, Lu Walters for the Traditionalists.
This boom in local jazz provoked the interest of local artists. Those among the painters and designers who follow the jazz scene felt the spirit of this new movement and set about to capture it. Outstanding among these is the photographer, William Claxton. A California native, Claxton had left UCLA, where he had been doing graduate work in psychology, in 1951, to become a professional photographer. He had been a jazz follower long before he had handled a camera, but his commercial work at first involved subjects remote to jazz—primarily, architecture, interiors, and children. (He is still quite active in other types of photography, and feels a bit uneasy about the limiting label, “jazz photographer”.) Now and then he photographed jazz musicians whom he knew socially, and the resulting pictures attracted notice in Los Angeles jazz circles. In the spring of 1952, Bock of Pacific Jazz came to him and suggested that he try his hand at album covers. Claxton was interested, and soon after, did his first jazz photography. Since then he has done covers for every company, major and minor, of importance in the West Coast jazz milieu, and he has photographed every musician who has been a part of it. As far as is known, he has done more covers, classical and popular, than any other photographer. In fact, he has started a trend which has swept through the field of cover design. Probably more than any other factor except the music itself, Claxton’s photography has been responsible for the wide acceptance of West Coast jazz. Yet far from being merely adjunct to the music, his work has attained a following of its own, earning praise as much from artistic sources as from the musical world.
Esthetically, Claxton’s work is praiseworthy for the purity of its composition. Equally impressive is his function as a reporter. Lamentably, honest portrayal of jazz musicians seems to have been ever absent. Right from the nineteen twenties, the jazz musician has been depicted and exhibited as a frantic clown with a repertoire of grotesque expressions; the emphasis has been on perspiration and harshness. Opposed to this sort of stereotyped violence, Claxton has set out to counteract it. Whatever else they are, his pictures are not harsh. Soft and calm, his pictures often show the musicians at rest, freezing the action into hazy still-life. Even when he catches them playing their hardest, he seems able to filter out much of the disquieting hypertension that so long has crippled jazz’ relations with the rest of the world.
If this quiet approach to photography seems particularly appropriate to the music identified with California, it is no accident: Claxton has consciously striven to match the mood of the music. That he has succeeded in capturing the measured tranquility of the present trend is obvious; what gives his pictures this unruffled quality is another thing. Perhaps it is the locale itself that lends the music and the photography its pacific demeanor. A likelier cause is the combination of Claxton’s personality with his photographic habits. His very appearance at a recording studio brings relaxation instead of the usual concomitant tension. A tall, lean, soft-spoken fellow, Claxton enjoys a rapport with the musicians that is based on a friendly respect for each other’s art. At a session Claxton appears to be listening more than photographing. When he does bend to peer into his viewer, it is always in a rather off-hand manner. His desire to work with relaxed subjects has shaped his methods. For this sort of thing, he works entirely with small cameras (Rolleiflex Xenar f3.5 and Xenatar f2.8c), objuring any cluttering paraphernalia that might distract studio proceedings. No spots, no floods, no flash are used; his pictures are taken in whatever light is available.
This factor of available light requires a fast, or relatively fast, lens. Such lenses with their shallow depth of field, coupled with Claxton’s penchant for preconception of composition, call for a deal of skill. Besides a quick eye for exact focus, these procedures involve an one-the-spot command of design. Like all photographers, Claxton compose’s on the projector’s easel, but he possesses a knack for extemporizing as advanced as that of the musicians he photographs. He puts composition into his pictures at their source: the groundglass of his camera.
An overabundance of understatement is here, perhaps, an immoderate restraint. But, as with the music, these pictures conceal a complexity beneath their surface simplicity: The saving complexity of design. The soft texture, the graininess, the low contrast make for a frank two-dimensionality where, as in contemporary painting, the illusion of depth is avoided, the overall composition paramount. At its most successful, Claxton’s work can be ranked with the best of present-day design.
Our reasons, finally, for offering this book, are twofold: The West Coast jazz scene is important in itself, and calls for this report. The beauty of these photographs would have warranted collection if they had portrayed millhands or milliners instead of musicians. For those who take pleasure in looking at pleasant pictures as well as following jazz progress, this volume should be doubly absorbing.
jazz west coast… a history and development
Nesuhi Ertegun jazz west coast… a history and development Jazz came West early. It is commonly thought that the exodus of musicians from New Orleans began after World War I and the closing of the French Quarter. Actually, New Orleans jazzmen started on their travels around the country almost with the beginning of jazz. The Original Creole Band led by Freddie Keppard,who was considered the finest trumpet player of the day, appeared on the West Coast in the early 1910’s. It is rumored also that Jelly Roll Morton, a one-man jazz army constantly on the move, was in San Francisco around 1915; at any rate he was playing with his own band in Los Angeles in 1917.
When Kid Ory decided to leave New Orleans in 1919, his intention was to follow the general movement to Chicago. He came to California for a few weeks’ vacation on his way North, and found so much interest for the new music and received so many offers for jobs that he stayed on. He asked several members of the band he had left behind to join him and reorganized the famous Kid Ory Creole Jazz Band.
By the late 1910’s and early 1920’s there was considerable jazz activity on the Coast. Many New Orleans groups heard of Ory’s and Morton’s successes and came West. At one time the two best-known jazz bands of the day, Ory’s and King Oliver’s, were playing within a few blocks in San Francisco.
In 1921, in a recording studio on Santa Monica Boulevard, Ory’s band made the first jazz recordings by a Negro group. Four sides were made accompanying blues singers and two sides featured the band in instrumental numbers: Ory’s Creole Trombone and Society Blues.
The success of these Negro and Creole musicians was bound to have a far-reaching influence. The jazz craze had begun to sweep the country, and “commercial jazz” was being organized in a more systematic fashion. The “pure” jazz musicians such as Ory and Oliver, in spite of many successful engagements and a certain amount of prestige among fellow musicians, were never able to reach wide audiences. It remained for people with more developed promotional talents, who were able to dilute the music sufficiently in order to make it palatable to a broad public, to actually make something “big” out of jazz. Unavoidably many elements of jazz were lost in the process.
The most remarkable of these popularizers was Paul Whiteman. His amazing success story begins in Los Angeles. Whiteman, a viola player from San Francisco, was the first to realize clearly how far you could go by using just enough and not too much of the jazz language, merging it with more “respectable” forms of music and achieving a product different enough to attract large audiences and not strong enough to shock them. Whiteman perfected his “symphonic jazz” formula at the Old Alexandria Hotel in Los Angeles, then the most fashionable playground of the movie colony. His pianist and arranger was Ferde Grofe, and Henry Busse was on trumpet. It was a big band for those days: 2 saxes, 2 brass and rhythm. From the Old Alexandria Whiteman took his symphonic jazz to New York and bigger bands and bigger money and concerts and George Gershwin to become the “King of Jazz.” (He was to return to Hollywood some ten years later to make the famous film musical of that title.)
Aside from Ory and the other New Orleans jazzmenwho were playing their uncompromising music to relatively small crowds, there was nothing except caricatures of jazz by clown bands and absence of jazz by society bands until Ben Pollack appeared on the West Coast scene.
Pollack had made a name for himself in and around Chicago, and had played drums with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, the best of the white jazz bands. In 1924 he opened at the Venice Ballroom, a dance hall on Venice pier overlooking the Pacific. His big band used original arrangements and at once captured the imagination of all musicians and listeners who were intrigued by the new music. Pollack was the first on the West Coast to attempt an intelligent and musically valid approach to jazz arranging. As his fame grew, many talented young musicians were attracted to his band. In the summer of 1925 an unknown clarinetist from Chicago, Benny Goodman, joined him, and shortly afterwardGlenn Miller, who had been playing with Abe Lyman in Redondo Beach. Pollack left the Venice Ballroom in 1926 to go East, where he continued to have good bands, and to use many of the finest musicians and arrangers. He kept a remarkable amount of jazz spirit within the framework of a big commercial band, and although he came close several times, he never really made the big time.
Los Angeles was not an important music center in the 1920’s. For several years after Pollack left, nothing of great consequence took place, Jazzmen were playing in theatre pit bands, at burlesque houses and in small clubs, but they were usually isolated and surrounded by musicians who had no conception of jazz.
Interest in jazz on the West Coast was awakened by the amazing series of recordings Louis Armstrong had been making in Chicago. Armstrong’s immense solo virtuosity cleaned many ears and opened many eyes. Everywhere, musicians felt his influence, and in the West, white musicians who had never paid much attention to Negro jazz and were drowning in an ocean of insipid arrangements reacted violently to the clean, fresh air Louis was blowing. They began to listen to the many fine local Negro musicians who had been playing in almost total obscurity. The best of these groups in the 1920’s was Curtis Mosby’s Kansas City Blue Blowers at the Apex Club (which later became the Club Alabam).Among Mosby’s sidemen were Lawrence Brown on trombone and Lionel Hampton on drums; Ivie Anderson was in the floor show and sang a few vocals. Mosby broadcast frequently and many musicians listened, especially to Lawrence Brown, who was considered by many to be the finest on his instrument. It was somewhat of an event in musical circles, therefore, when Brown left Mosby and joined Les Hite at Sebastian’s Cotton Club. Unlike the Alabam, the Cotton Club attracted white audiences, and it was there that many heard jazz for the first time. When Louis Armstrong, by this time generally recognized as the finest soloist in jazz, came to Los Angeles for the first time, he brought no band with him and appeared at the Cotton Club fronting Les Hite’s group. He was idolized by all the musicians who heard him, and a hero-worshipping cult soon formed around him. Armstrong shared everyone’s admiration for Lawrence Brown, featured him extensively, and with Lionel Hampton on drums, this was the most exciting music to be heard on the Coast in 1930. Louis made some of his best-known records in Los Angeles with Les Hite (Confessin, If I Could Be With ‘You, I’m a Ding Dong Daddy).
After Armstrong left, the Les Hite band continued to play a leading part in the musical life of Los Angeles. With few exceptions, the finest Negro musicians of the city played with Hite at one time or another: Buck Clayton, Hershal Evans, Marshall Royal, Red Callender among many others.
The depression of the 1930’s hit Los Angeles with an impact from which it didn’t recover for several years. It wasn’t uncommon for a musician to work for one dollar a night. Big dancehalls like the Palomar sometimes employed non-union bands. Many musicians retired from music altogether.
The turning point came with the opening of Benny Goodman’s band in August 1935. Goodman had formed his band a short time before in New York and had engaged on a cross-country tour on the strength of a few mildly successful records. The band had met with a startling absence of enthusiasm on its one-nighters. Goodman was several times on the verge of disbanding his group and when it finally reached the West Coast following one discouraging experience after another, the musicians’ morale was extremely low. Coming down the Coast, they played a dance in Oakland, and for the first time they had a big and responsive audience. But success on a really large scale and of undreamed-of proportions came upon the band during its Los Angeles Palomar engagement; a history of the Big Band era of the 1930’sproperly begins there. Crowds kept coming in increasingly large numbers; the band’s run was extended several times; Goodman’s records and broadcasts were avidly followed across the nation.
When Goodman closed at the Palomar, his name was familiar to everyone concerned with jazz. Goodman’s success changed the musical scene in Los Angeles and gave new hope to many musicians who were ready to give up. Bunny Berigan left the band at the Palomar and was replaced by one of the most promising local trumpet players. Harry Geller. It was during Goodman’s second Palomar date, one year later, that his trio first appeared in public.
During this second run Goodman and his musicians heard about a small jazz group playing at the Paradise on Main Street, led by Lionel Hampton on drums and vibraphone. Goodman, Krupa,Teddy Wilson and other members of the band often jammed at the Paradise with Hampton, and that’s where the Goodman Quartet came into being. Another musician very well-known locally, Vido Musso, was also a Paradise regular. He first played with Goodman there, and like Hampton, was to join his band soon afterward.
In the mid-30’s Los Angeles was beginning to draw musicians from all over the country. New York was still the music center, but more and more musicians were coming West to join studio staff bands and radio network orchestras. One of the first to spearhead this movement was Vie Berton, a percussionist with academic background who had a long association with jazz (the Wolverines, Red Nichols’Five Pennies).
Ever since, many fine Jazz musicians have been employed by the movie studios, and the networks, a complete list would include several hundred names. Ziggy Elman, Eddie Miller, Stan Wrightsman, Milt Raskin,Manny KIein, Nick Fatool, Allan Reuss, Barney Kessel, Don Lodice, Jimmy Zito, Les Robinson, Red Nichols, Maynard Ferguson, Joe Mondragonare a few who at various times have been active on Hollywood sound stages. This has created a somewhat paradoxical situation; there are those who deplore the fact that jazz musicians are wasting their time and their talent, caught as they are in the tentacles of the Hollywood monster. Often, schizoid musicians themselves feel that their creative ability is being smothered, while they discuss their problems sitting by their swimming pools.
There have been some encouraging signs, recently, in the use of jazz on movie sound tracks. A few alert producers are beginning to introduce jazz playing and arranging into their films. There is a faint hope that one of these days a really good Jazz arranger will be given a free hand to write a movie score exactly as he wishes.
In 1933, Tempo magazine, edited by Charles Emge, was founded in Los Angeles to chronicle musical activities in the West. Essentially, Tempo presented the working musician’s viewpoint and covered local events, but it also showed an awareness of jazz and ran articles by some of the early American jazz writers; John Hammond, Marshall Stearns, George Avakian.
Following Goodman’s triumph, jazz could be heard in many Hollywood clubs as well as on Central Avenue and in Main Street joints. It was in one of these joints that Hammond found Buck Clayton and Hershal Evans, working for $15 a week, and soon had them playing with Count Basie. In October 1935, Al Jarvis opened his “Stomp Shop” on Hollywood Boulevard and featured “hot jazz” records. Jarvis was one of the first to organize jam sessions. At one of these, Benny Goodman, Bobby Sherwood, Gene Krupa, Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan, Archie Rosate, Vie Berton jammed until the session was broken up by the police. Joe Sullivan had been brought West by Bing Crosby to play piano on his radio show. Sullivan had a lot of free time between broadcasts, and he was soon at the center of Hollywood’s jazz life. Many informal sessions were held at the Speedboat Cafe on Vine Street, and Sullivan was joined by many jazzmen eager to play freely: Rosate, Harold Peppy, Harry Geller, Dave Forrester, etc.
The first staged jazz concert in Los Angeles was a benefit sponsored in 1937 by Bing Crosby for Joe Sullivan, who had contracted tuberculosis. All the jazz and pseudo-jazz bands who were in the area appeared. The concert was held in a huge circus tent and 4000 people attended.
The following year Nat Cole, who came to Los Angeles with a traveling Shuffle Along show and was stranded, opened with his trio at the SwaneeInn and failed to stir up much interest. The few who heard him agreed that the piano-guitar-bass instrumentation had no future whatsoever.
Two names were becoming increasingly important by the late 30’s, Vido Musso and Stan Kenton. Friends for many years, the two had often played in the same bands or for each other. Musso was the first to become famous through his association with Benny Goodman. Kenton had worked for several years in every imaginable kind of band in and around Los Angeles, starting with the Everett Hoagland band in 1933, playing at Earl Carroll’s later, etc. When Musso formed a big band after he left Goodman in 1938, he had Kenton on piano and Howard Rumsey on bass.
Soon afterward Kenton was to organize his own group, the first really important big band to come out of the West Coast. Highly ambitious, with an unusual sense of dedication to his music, Kenton tried from the very first to broaden the scope of big band jazz. After the famous Rendezvous Ballroom engagement in Balboa in April 1941 and his big success at the Palladium in Hollywood, he took his band to New York for what proved to be a disastrous date at the Roseland. Temporary setbacks, however, never discouraged Kenton. He didn’t compromise with his musical standards and continued in the direction he believed in, in spite of the coldness of audiences toward his music and the reluctance of many jazz critics to agree with him on the soundness of his experimentations. He tried again and again with remarkable tenacity and finally made contact with his public in the mid-40’s.
By this time, interest in jazz was so widespread that an increasing number of more or less informal jam sessions were being held. The Joe Sullivan sessions of the 30’s were for musicians alone; in the 40’s public concerts where admission was charged became very popular. Many tried their hand at jazz promotion, and the most successful by far was Norman Granz, a jazz collector who conducted sessions at the Trouville one night a week, and later at Music Town on Sunday afternoons. In August 1944 Granz held his first concert at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium with Nat Cole, Joe Sullivan, Barney Kessel,Sidney Catlett and Illinois Jacquet among others. He had found the formula for JATP.
Many established musicians moved to the West Coast. One of the most important among them was Benny Carter, who since the early 40’s has taken a leading part in the musical life of Los Angeles. Carter, an uncommonly gifted musician-composer-arranger, has led big bands and small bands, made records, written orchestrations for films, and yet his many successes don’t quite reflect the full measure of his talent. Practically no Negro musicians, until now, have been hired by studio or radio staff bands. Lee Young and Buddy Collette are among the very few to break the barrier. It is to be hoped that, with the recent amalgamation of the white and Negro musicians’ locals in Los Angeles, this situation will change.
For a few years in the late 20’s and early 30’s,San Francisco was the West’s music center. The first network programs from the Coast came not from Los Angeles, but from San Francisco, where NBC opened studios in 1927. For the next six years all network programs from the West originated there. However, as soon as the networks began to broadcast from Hollywood, San Francisco’s influence declined.
The Bay City had a long tradition as an entertainment center ever since the Barbary Coast days. Being much more of a city than Los Angeles, it had more night life and clubs and cabarets than any place on the Coast. There were great numbers of remarkable musicians going back to the ragtime days, but because very few recordings were made there, many musicians who could have achieved fame pursued their careers in comparative obscurity.
The “New Orleans Revival,” which was to sweep the country in the 40’s, begins in San Francisco in the late 30’s. Lu Watters was the leader of this movement. He and other young and unknown musicians decided to return to the earliest jazz forms and attempted to prove that traditional jazz was neither out-moded nor dead. Watters was againstarranged swing and disorganized jam sessions, and he was for re-discovering the principles of improvised ensemble jazz. The discipline he stood for stressed ensemble playing with a strictly defined part for each instrument, and an active repertoire of several hundred tunes was mastered. Watters, Turk Murphy, Bob Helm and others wrote compositions in the traditional idiom, at the same time as they rediscovered neglected or forgotten material of the past. A highly personal use was made of this old material: the interpretation was always fresh and original. It is therefore incorrect to speak of an imitation of the past; it was rather a new and often brilliant expression of earlier techniques. Jamming in the Chicago sense was discarded, and the members of the group thought playing well together more important than solo virtuosity.
Highly skilled technically, these serious, dedicated musicians made their first records in 1941, and the influence of the San Francisco School is felt to this day. Watters, whose own incredible gifts are often overlooked, has retired from music. Two of his former sidemen, Turk Murphy and Bob Scobey, are present-day exponents of the San Francisco style. Murphy continuing along the lines Watters indicated, and Scobey breaking away from a tight sense of discipline and complex ensembles toward a more relaxed and flowing rhythmic drive. Among the members of the group are three remarkable pianists: Paul Lingle, Burt Bales and WallyRose.
After Watters’ rediscovery of traditional jazz, the revival movement found followers everywhere. In the process, many of the earliest instrumentalists from New Orleans returned actively to music. Bunk Johnson, who had played with Buddy Boldenin one of the earliest jazz bands, came to San Francisco in 1943 and spent several months with the Watters group. The following year Kid Ory made his comeback in Los Angeles after a silence of almost ten years. Ory’s band first appeared on a series of Orson Wells radio shows, and public response was so enthusiastic that his band has been playing up and down the Coast with great success ever since.
While Watters and Ory were bringing back New Orleans jazz in the strict sense, there was a more general Dixieland revival in the West through the Forties which continues to this day. The Rainy City Band of Seattle, the Castle Band of Portland, and the Frisco Jazz Band of San Francisco are three examples. In Hollywood, Dixieland jazz has been extremely popular; the outstanding bands have been led by Red Nichols, Pete Daily, Rosy McHargue, Ted Vesely, Jack Teagarden, Teddy Buckner, Nappy Lamare, Marvin Ash. Ben Pollack returned briefly to the scene, this time at the head of a six-piece Dixieland group. Jess Stacy’s piano, combining Chicago barrelhouse and Bixian delicacy, has been heard in late years mainly in solo.
Unquestionably, Lester Young played a greater role in the formulation of modem jazz than any other musician; he gave it its sound, its free-flowing lines, its texture and its mood. Modem jazz, therefore, arrived on the West Coast when Young, leaving Basie in the early 40’s, opened at the Club Capri with a six-piece band. Almost immediately, a host of young musicians fell under his domination, and although they didn’t know exactly where they were going, they found themselves engaged along entirely new, unexplored paths. One of the first Coast musicians who assimilated the new style was Joe Albany, an extraordinary pianist who recorded with Young while still in his teens. The movement was intensified in the middle 40’s when Gillespie and Parkerplayed at Billy Berg’s on Vine Street. The public’s reticence to accept the new music was overshadowed by the religious fervor with which young musicians listened.
The situation is entirely different today. Modem jazz enjoys tremendous popularity on the West Coast, on a scale rarely reached elsewhere. There seems to be more activity here than in other parts of the country, more experimentation, deeper convictions, and an adventurous approach to music which has interest even when it fails. It is inaccurate to speak of the West Coast modern style as a totally different form, opposed to other kinds of new jazz. The basic techniques are the same, but there are serious changes of emphasis, and the achievements are correspondingly different. The West Coast modernist is seeking order, clarity, structure, and continuity, and tries to avoid wild exhibitionism and uncontrolled outbursts. The significant emphasis is on composition, and it is in terms of composition that the West Coast modernists have achieved unity. The best known composers of the school are Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan and Jimmy Giuffre, but in the last year or two other impressive composers-arrangers have emerged: Bob Cooper, Jack Montrose, and Bill Holman among others. They, and the great soloists-improvisers the West Coast has produced, from Dave Brubeck and ChetBaker to Hampton Hawes and Art Pepper, are admirably captured by William Claxton’sphotographs.
Text from JAZZ WEST COAST © EMI Capitol Music
The planned yearly publication of Claxton photographs as mentioned by William Claxton in the interview with Bud Widom did not happen. The cost of mailing was not entered into the calculation when setting the selling price and Linear Publications did not break even on the portfolio.
ALL FRONT COVER PHOTOS,
GRAPHICS, AND REAR LINER NOTES
© EMI CAPITOL MUSIC
Leave a Reply