Teddy Charles / Dave Brubeck / Chet Baker – Los Angeles 1953
The individual careers of Teddy Charles, Dave Brubeck, and Chet Baker intersected when they appeared at clubs and concerts in 1953. Teddy Charles shared the stage with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and a Shelly Manne group at Wilshire-Ebell in July for what was billed as “The Modern Jazz Concert of the Year!” Teddy Charles was working with a quartet around this time that included Gene Gammage on drums, Howard Roberts on guitar, and Curtis Counce on bass. The Brubeck Quartet featured Paul Desmond, Ron Crotty, and Lloyd Davis. Shelly Manne was filling the drum chair at The Lighthouse during the first eight months of 1953, a position he would yield to Max Roach in September. Shelly’s combo at the Wilshire-Ebell concert most likely included some of his Lighthouse mates, Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, and Russ Freeman.
Teddy Charles was the emcee and featured artist at a concert in August presented by Mark Anthony at the Carlton Theater that included the Chet Baker Quartet and a Lighthouse All Stars combo with Shelly Manne, Jimmy Giuffre, and Shorty Rogers. Teddy Charles’ quartet at the Carlton concert featured Howard Roberts on guitar, Curtis Counce on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums. The Chet Baker Quartet, captured on tape during their first concert appearance included Russ Freeman on piano, Carson Smith on bass, and Larry Bunker on drums. Smith and Bunker had also been the duo backing the Gerry Mulligan quartet during the first months of 1953.
Later in August the Teddy Charles Quartet shared the billing in an ad that proclaimed, “JAZZ AT THE HAIG,” 3 Great Quartets, Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Chet Baker Quartet, and Teddy Charles Quartet. The August billing at The Haig was most likely Mulligan’s last advertised appearance before doing time at the Sheriff’s Honor Farm. The Charles Quartet also made a one night appearance in August at The Clef, formerly the 1841 Club at the same number on North Cahuenga.
Teddy Charles spent most of 1953 in Los Angeles as the head of West Coast A&R for Prestige Records. One of his first productions for the label assembled Wardell Gray, Frank Morgan, Sonny Clark, Lawrence Marable, and Dick Nivison with Charles as leader for a session that was released as Prestige prEP 1307, Teddy Charles West Coasters. The sextet performed “The Man I Love,” “Lavonne,” “So Long Broadway,” and “Paul’s Cause.” Wardell Gray had recorded for Prestige the previous year where he led an All Star group that included Art Farmer, Hampton Hawes, Lawrence Marable, Harper Cosby, and Robert Collier. The three 78 singles from that session were later released on a 10″ LP, prlp 147, Wardell Gray Los Angeles All Stars. Original compositions recorded at that session included Hampton Hawes’ “Jackie” and Art Farmer’s “Farmer’s Market.”
Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All Stars were regularly featured in Ray Hewitt’s “The Spotlighter” column in the Los Angeles Daily News. The May 6, 1953, edition noted that Teddy Charles had formed a trio who were featured on Monday and Tuesday nights. Charles was also a regular during the Sunday marathon jam sessions. Bob Andrews was a Lighthouse regular along with his Pentron tape recorder. One of those Sunday sessions where Stan Getz joined the session was released on Andrews’ Vantage label as Stan Getz – The Lighthouse Sessions Vol. 1, Norma/Vantage NLP5003. Charles’ “So Long Broadway” was one of the tunes recorded and released from that session.
The Teddy Charles Trio backed Vivien Garry during a June engagement at Circus Gardens, Ocean Park. The Evening Vanguard noted. “Vivien Garry, whose plaintive call of “Blackberries” made Herb Jeffries “Basin Street Blues” one of the most talked about records of the business, is currently featured along with the Teddy Charles Trio at Circus Gardens, Ocean Park. Mark Traversino’s “Ice Classics” starring Buddy Schroff and Marion Travers, with the Harry Ranch band for entertainment and dancing; Jeff Mason, romantic voiced balladeer formerly with the Spike Jones band, and a Circus Show, complete the five hours of continuous show and dancing offered by Circus Gardens nightly except Mondays.” This engagement provided another intersection as Mark Anthony Traversino became friends with Teddy Charles.
Richard W. Bock, President, Pacific Jazz Records, recorded the Dave Brubeck Quartet portion of the concert at Wilshire-Ebell. Arnold Roth’s cartoon cover on the Fantasy Records release of the Brubeck performance includes a caricature of Bock, complete with red beard, holding a microphone toward the Brubeck group who are center stage. The date of the concert at Wilshire-Ebell has been a source of confusion as the date given on the liner notes of the Fantasy release, 3249, Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond at Wilshire-Ebell, is June 20, 1953, a Saturday. Ads for the concert in newspapers give the date as July 20, 1953, a Monday. The Monday date is correct, and was used by Fresh Sound Records for their release of the concert on CD. The liner notes below, have been edited to remove biographical information about Dave Brubeck.
“The ordinary citizen of the United States made the acquaintance of Dave Brubeck when his picture appeared on the cover of TIME November 8, 1954 — the third jazz musician to be so honored. But he had been familiar to jazz fans long before that and particularly to the West Coast jazz audience where he had pioneered in the presentation of intimate jazz concerts in colleges, universities, and in the better, small concert halls.”
“The Wilshire-Ebell concert in Los Angeles on June 20, 1953, was one of these. It was, as the majority of Brubeck’s concerts were then and have been ever since, highly successful. The entire concert was recorded by Richard W. Bock and from the tapes Fantasy now presents — for the first time — the music the Dave Brubeck Quartet played that night. These are all Brubeck recordings that have never before been issued.”
“I’ll Never Smile Again,” aside from solos by Brubeck and Desmond, has a bass solo by Ron Crotty. “Let’s Fall in Love” gets a slight Christmas Carol sound in the beginning and Brubeck has a solo of an unusual mood. Desmond, of course, is heard at length and Crotty is also given time for a short statement. “Stardust” shows the pattern with which the group has always played it. The audience applause following Desmond’s long improvisation, quickly brings to mind the familiar picture of Desmond acknowledging it with a slight smile, hands folded over the saxophone as he steps back to stand, with head cocked to one side, listening attentively to the chorus by Brubeck which followed.”
“All the Things You Are” is a bright number with Paul beginning his solo with a light, almost clarinet tone and Dave interpolating a quote from “My Man” into his solo. Note particularly the way in which Desmond creeps into his own solo on the tail of Brubeck’s closing phrase. The two then begin their celebrated dual improvisation. “Why Do I Love You” is the shortest piece in the album and is almost a tour de force for Desmond. Brubeck enters closely tied to Desmond’s solo and there is an interesting passage by both before the bright duet at the end. “Too Marvelous for Words” has an interesting Brubeckian touch of almost boogie woogie trilling in the middle of the piano solo which follows Paul’s opening improvisation. You may catch an echo of “Digga Digga Do” in Brubeck’s chorus prior to the entry of Ron Crotty for his last bass solo on the album. The ending of this tune and the album is replete with the double echoes of alto and piano as Paul and Dave again join musical thoughts.”
Cecil Spiller’s educational background was as an electrical engineer. During the late 1940’s Cecil was attracted to photography and soon honed his skills in this area as well using the name Cecil Charles for his professional photography work. Cecil built his own tape deck when that technology was just emerging and used this deck to record many notable jazz groups in Los Angeles, the most notable being Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All Stars. Much of Cecil’s published photography work documented the “Muscle Beach” scene in Santa Monica, as well as numerous professional ski magazines. Cecil was also a fine mastering engineer who performed work for Contemporary Records, Revelation Records, and the Giants of Jazz label.
Cecil set-up his tape deck backstage at the Carlton Theater on August 17, 1953. The Carlton Theatre at 5409 S. Western Avenue was a 1,200-seat Fox West Coast Theatres movie house. It was opened in May 1924 and closed in the late-1950’s. It had been demolished by 1972. When Mark Anthony rented the theater to present his “Program of Modern Jazz” it had long ceased to present motion pictures and had been advertised for sale in the classified section of newspapers.
The concert got underway before Cecil had completed his set-up and microphones. The first number performed, Shorty Rogers’ “Popo” featured Teddy Charles, Jimmy Giuffre, Shorty Rogers, Chet Baker, Howard Roberts, Russ Freeman, Curtis Counce, and Shelly Manne. Cecil’s recording missed the opening of “Popo.” Teddy Charles Quartet with Howard Roberts, Curtis Counce, and Shelly Manne performed the next portion of the concert – “So Long Broadway,” “Out of Nowhere,” “Just One of Those Things,” “Curtis Counce,” “Violetta,” and “Cherokee.”
The Chet Baker Quartet with Russ Freeman, Carson Smith, and Larry Bunker performed – “All the Things You Are,” “Isn’t It Romantic?” “Maid in Mexico,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “This Time the Dream’s On Me.” This portion of the concert was sold to Blue Note Records and released as the first volume of the Chet Baker Live series.
Shorty Rogers with Jimmy Giuffre, Russ Freeman, Curtis Counce, and Shelly Manne performed – “La Soncailli,” “Apropos,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “Beau Boy,” and “Luau.” Bob Sunenblick of Uptown Records purchased the Teddy Charles and Shorty Rogers tape of the concert.
The notes scribbled on the back of the Scotch tape carton were illegible and mistakenly interpreted as August 12, 1953, the date used on the CD release and subsequently in Tom Lord’s Jazz Discography. The Carlton Theater concert was not advertised in newspapers and I only become aware of the actual date when Mark Anthony Traversino contacted me twenty years ago. I had mentioned the concert online and received an email out of the blue from Mark. He had saved the handbill used to advertise the concert. During our email exchanges he shared his background growing up in Los Angeles. He said that he regretted not using his full name on the handbill.
“My interest in jazz began around 1948 or 1949 when I first hear Bird on the radio. The music grabbed me immediately. Also, the Norman Granz concerts here in Los Angeles. I also caught Bird at the Tiffany Club on 8th street with Chet Baker and Hampton Haws in the 1950s. I loved the way Hamp played. I happened to be sitting next to Barney Kessel and during intermission Bird came over and talked to him; I just stared with my mouth open. Bird was bitching about the “fuzz” bugging him over something. Also, Walter Benton attended Dorsey School with me. He studied with Lucky Thompson. He taught me the changes to “Robbins Nest” and “Body and Soul.” He used to come over my house in the Crenshaw district where I lived. A great guy. We had a small group and played for the students. Incidentally, his friend, Eric Dolphy, joined us. I always felt lucky to have known those two.”
Mark Traversino continued to be a part of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. He owned several nightclubs during his career including the Sanbah that he acquired from Jimmie Maddin. One of the regulars at the Sanbah was Joe Maini, seen in this photo with Mark.
“In time, I owned three night clubs and wound up giving my half of the last one — the Mardi Gras Room of the Park Wilshire Hotel — to one, Jimmie Maddin, who had, a few years earlier, sold me a defunct jazz club called the Sanbah Club on the corner of Sunset and Virgil in Hollywood. However, it seems Ornette Coleman had emptied the club and the place went belly up. At that time, I realized I wasn’t a Dodo Marmarosa or an Oscar Peterson and went commercial and made it a dance club. Joe Maini worked with me quite a bit there and loved to play R&B with the band. That’s what I loved about Joe; he could play all kinds of music and when he couldn’t make the gig, he’d send in Richie Kamuca, Med Flory, or Bill Perkins. The jazz cats loved the opportunity to play in my band because it was a lot of fun.”
Teddy Charles wound up his West Coast recording career with two sessions for Prestige Records. The first on August 21st featured Shorty Rogers on trumpet, Charles on vibes and piano, Curtis Counce on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums. The recording captured four tunes that were released on a 10″ LP, PRLP 164, New Directions in Jazz 3: “Wailing Dervish,” “Variations on a Motive by Bud,” “Further Out,” and “Etudiez du cahier.”
The next session, ten days later on August 31st, added Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone. This session captured four tunes that were released on a 10″ LP, PRLP 169, New Directions in Jazz 4: “Free,” “Evolution,” “Margo,” and “Bobalob.” The Carlton Theater concert and his tenure at the Lighthouse where Teddy Charles performed along side Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, Curtis Counce, and Shelly Manne played a major role in Charles’ decision making process to assemble these adventurous West Coast albums for the Prestige label.
A special thanks to Cynthia Sesso and CTSIMAGES where Cecil Charles’s photography can be licensed for commercial use.