Dick Bock produced two albums, one in late 1955 and the other in early 1956, that remained in the Pacific Jazz / World Pacific catalogue over the next ten years with each being released three times. The Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca sessions recorded on December 4-5, 1955 were originally issued as PJ-1211 with reissued versions as PJM-410 in 1957 and PJ-42 in 1962. The John Lewis / Bill Perkins session recorded on February 10, 1956 was originally issued as PJ-1217 with reissued versions as PJ-44 in 1962 and ST-20144 in 1964. The two albums share many similarities.
Whitney Balliett’s liner notes for PJ-1217 described the Lewis / Perkins session as a “motherless” session. Balliett elaborates:
“This record was made in one afternoon a few months ago in a small, empty theatre in Los Angeles. Largely an accident, it is composed of men—outside of the two teams of Lewis-Heath (the MJQ) and Hamilton-Hall (Hamilton’s Quintet)—who ordinarily do not work together or have not played together at all. As such, it is, like Armstrong’s “Knockin’ a Jug,” a “motherless” session. Some of the great jazz records have been motherless sessions: many of Lionel Hampton’s pick-up sides made in the late Thirties on Victor; Red Norvo’s Comet session in 1945 with Parker, Gillespie, Phillips, Teddy Wilson, and Slam Stewart; the Teddy Wilson-Harry James-John Simmons-Red Norvo “Just a Mood.” The head arrangements were done on the spot by Lewis, who acted as musical overseer for the date, and also contributed the blues-original, “Two Degrees East—Three Degrees West,” a charming, infectious figure that should be expanded into a work for the MJQ. Elsewhere, Lewis’s touch is evident in the quiet tempos, the unstrained swinging, the overall, persuasive warmth.”
The Touff / Kamuca sessions were also “motherless” sessions. Aside from Touff, Kamuca and Flores being part of Woody Herman’s current Herd; the other musicians in the octet session, Conrad Gozzo, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Matt Utal, Leroy Vinnegar and Russ Freeman were not part of a working jazz unit except Vinnegar and Freeman who were regulars with Shelly Manne’s current incarnation of his Men.
Bock selected two accomplished musician/arrangers to compose and arrange the music for each album, Johnny Mandel for the Touff / Kamuca sessions and John Lewis for the Lewis / Perkins session. Without diminishing the superlative performances of all of the musicians involved in these sessions it is difficult to imagine that either would have come into being without the hand of the composer/arrangers charting the music for each album. The albums continue to attract listeners, new and old, who marvel at the timeless quality of the music, in Whitney Balliett’s words – “the quiet tempos, the unstrained swinging, the overall, persuasive warmth” – adjectives equally expressive of PJ-1211 and PJ-1217.
Both albums were recorded outside of conventional recording studios, instead utilizing former movie theaters where Bock hoped that the natural acoustics would provide the perfect environment to record jazz. The Forum Theater at 4050 West Pico Boulevard was a former Warner Brothers movie palace seating 1,766 that had fallen in disuse and was now available for short term rental. The Music Box at 6126 Hollywood Boulevard was a smaller venue that catered primarily to the presentation of plays, but it also promised excellent acoustics and it was in close proximity to Jazz City where the MJQ were performing in February of 1956.
Woody Woodward’s liner notes for PJ-1211 perfectly describe the background and preparation that went into planning the Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca sessions:
CY TOUFF, HIS OCTET & QUINTET
FEATURING RICHIE KAMUCA, HARRY EDISON,
PETE JOLLY, & RUSS FREEMAN
Liner notes by Woody Woodward
Ordinarily the planning and production of a jazz album is a relatively simple matter taking perhaps four or five months from the planning stage to its subsequent arrival at the record counter. The history of this album’s development is quite a different story.
It all began in September 1953, when Richard Bock, John Mandel and I found ourselves engaged in a conversation regarding four arrangements Mandel had done for Terry Gibbs. To Bock and me they were like a breath of fresh air.
As Bock had a thriving young record company at his disposal, it followed that his interest was more than casual—particularly when it came to John Mandel and the prospects of recording his music. John was broached on the subject—would he consider doing some arrangements of this sort for Pacific Jazz? He most certainly would.
We proceeded to discuss the plans; how the material should be handled, who could best play the music in the way John had in his mind without subverting their own musical personalities. The music wasn’t a great problem as John had clear cut ideas about that. It would be rather simple in structure, loosely arranged—extroverted and infectious in nature. The underlying Basie concept.
The musicians were another matter. Of course, Harry Edison came to mind immediately. Who could better play the jazz trumpet parts than the man who had spent more than ten years in that role with Basie himself. As for the others, the choices were vague—we had to give the matter a great deal of thought. We departed, each going his separate way, with no concrete plans beyond Bock’s invitation to discuss it further at a later date.
In the months that followed, we came in occasional contact, each time the subject was touched upon, nothing important developed. After almost a year had gone by, the whole thing was all but forgotten. Then in the summer of 1954, Woody Herman brought his new band through Hollywood and with it an exciting new jazz voice—a 26 year old bass trumpeter form Chicago named Cy Touff. He played with the dynamic attack of a lead trombonist on the “shouters” and the delicacy of a muted mellophone on the ballads. Bock went several steps out of his way to meet and talk to Touff—the subject being records. Cy’s name was placed alongside that of Harry Edison. It was another year before anything further developed.
On Wednesday afternoon, September 1, 1955, I received a phone call from Cy. He had just arrived in Hollywood and asked me to meet him at Capitol Studios where they were rehearsing the new Herman Octet. There, I renewed an old acquaintance with a young tenor player from Philadelphia, Richie Kamuca. That afternoon and during several rehearsals that followed I had the opportunity to hear Richie at length—he was impressive. On Tuesday night, September 6, Bock heard him during a rehearsal and substantiated my opinion. There was no question about it—Richie Kamuca was our man.
During those rehearsals, another musician made quite an impression—drummer Chuck Flores. He had been with Herman for several years—proof enough of his ability. But it wasn’t until those rehearsals, propelling, kicking, and sparking the Octet that the point was driven home—that Chuck Flores was one of the most exciting young drummers in the nation. Flores was included in our plans.
Needless to say, Cy greatly influenced our decision to use Kamuca and Flores. He had been working with them for more than a year and regarded them as outstanding jazz musicians and as an asset to the album. Cy further suggested using bassist Red Mitchell, and pianist Pete Jolly. Since both Kamuca and Jolly were under contract to RCA Victor it was necessary to secure permission to use them. On Thursday night September 8, the Herman Octet opened at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas for an undetermined length of time. Unless something unforeseen came up, we expected to record early in November. On October 6, we received a telegram from RCA Victor: “You have permission to use both Pete Jolly and Richie Kamuca.”-signed Jack Lewis, Director Jazz Artist and Repertoire.
On Thursday night October 13, I flew to Las Vegas to confer with Cy Touff. Cy and Richie played me some things they had worked out for the two horns—the idea was born to record half the album utilizing these head arrangements. I also learned that the band would be in Hollywood the last week in November.
Now, for the first time we had something concrete to go by and a tentative deadline. Mandel was contacted and informed of what to expect in the way of time. He was writing for five horns and three rhythm: Two trumpets, a bass trumpet, a tenor, an alto or baritone, and piano, bass and drums. He decided to use the additional two horns (a trumpet and alto or baritone) purely for ensemble voicing, thereby leaving the jazz choruses to the rest of the band and having two instruments available at all times for the written passages. The arrangements were under way, Touff, Kamuca, Edison, Flores, Jolly and Mitchell were set—six down and two to go.
From our earliest discussions with Cy, he voiced an interest in recording someplace other than a regular recording studio—some place with natural acoustics like a large auditorium. He believed the musicians would be more relaxed under such conditions and anyway he was tired of the dead sound of the usual recording studio. All through the month of November we scouted around for a suitable location—it seemed a large vacated theatre might be the best bet. After investigating five or six, Bock found a promising theatre—the Forum, on West Pico Boulevard. The 1500 seat theatre had since fallen into limbo along with silent pictures and extravagant Hollywood premiers.
On Friday morning, November 25, Cy called from Las Vegas; he, Riche, and Chuck would arrive in Hollywood on the following Tuesday. Arrangements were made for the record dates to take place on Sunday, December 4 at 11:00 a.m. for the Octet, and Monday at 1:00 p.m. for the Quintet.
Mandel was called again. Everything was going smoothly with the arrangements; three of the four were nearly completed. The fourth had been delayed because he had been snowed with arranging jobs during the last week of November. Under the conditions he didn’t see how he could do justice to the last arrangement with so little time left. John mentioned that Ernie Wilkins (arranger and saxist with Count Basie) would be staying with him over the weekend and suggested he do it. Wilkins was invited to do the fourth arrangement. To complete the band, John proposed using Conrad Gozzo, possibly the best lead trumpeter in the business, and Matt Utal, who had played lead alto with Billy May, Gordon Jenkins, Xavier Cugat, Jerry Gray, and a number of other bands.
With four days to go, it appeared that Red Mitchell would be unable to make the dates as several last minute record dates had been called for the Hamp Hawes Trio, with which he was working. A disappointment that greatly softened when we learned that Leroy Vinnegar was available. Next we learned that Pete Jolly would be out of town with Shorty Roger’s Giants at the time we had scheduled the recording of the Octet recording. He was still available for the Quintet date, but we had to get another pianist for the Sunday session. The decision to use Russ Freeman was not a difficult one—besides recording frequently for Pacific Jazz, he was also working with Vinnegar on the Manne Quintet. Now the band was complete.
At 10:30 Sunday morning on December 4, we assembled at the Forum while the first heavy rain of the season fell outside. Out front sat perhaps a dozen interested onlookers swallowed up in the dim reaches of the spacious auditorium. On the lefthand side of the stage sat Richard Bock at the mixing controls and Phil Turetsky before the portable Ampex, and in the center of the stage eight musicians.
Those rare moments when a jazz group “catches on fire” are seldom captured on record. The inescapable pressures of the recording studio and the inevitable formal gathering of musicians, technicians, and executives cause even the veteran jazz musician to withdraw somewhat. The success of their music is so dependent on complete realization and the extroversion of the performers that it requires a live response to raise it to its full potential. This comes from a genuine communion between performers and audience. One feeds upon the other until it seems the excitement is unbearable. Under ideal conditions, when the musicians are in the right frame of mind—coaxing each other to greater heights—and the others they are working with are responsive, a recording session can glow with an undefinable beauty.
As the date progressed, we experienced that special kind of glow. It was relaxed—as Cy had predicted. It swung, and it felt good. On Monday it was the same story. Each date produced a performance that required but one “take”; on Sunday it was “Keester Parade,” and on Monday, “A Smooth One.” Maybe it was the welcome rain that fell both days, or the pressureless aura of the theatre. Maybe it was the genuine sense of anticipation that had built up after months of waiting-whatever, December 4 and 5, 1955, will remain a memorable experience to all of us.
John Tynan featured the Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca Forum Theater recording session in the October 1, 1956 issue of Down Beat magazine. That issue contained two other articles related to recording, one authored by John Neal who had been responsible for all of the Nocturne Records recordings and Leonard Feather’s guest in the Blindfold Test column was Rudy Van Gelder.
Another Down Beat notice from January 11, 1956 noted that the Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca session had been recorded in stereophonic sound for future release on tape and LP. Evidently this version recorded by Gerry MacDonald was not successful and a stereo version of the sessions has never surfaced although one tune appeared on a big band anthology in stereo.
The album was given a generous display ad in the March 21, 1956 issue of Down Beat when it hit the record stores.
PJ-1211 split the sessions with the octet date on side one and the quintet date on side two. Subsequent reissues would mix the sessions and Bock would also edit some of the tracks.
The extended play release of the Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca sessions used an alternate take of A SMOOTH ONE despite Woody Woodward’s liner notes that stated a single take was necessary during the quintet session. The full version allowed both Touff and Kamuca two choruses followed by a chorus by Freeman, and an abbreviated solo by Vinnegar before the ensemble took the song out. The alternate take preserved the opening and closing ensemble passages with a single chorus by Touff in the middle. KEESTER PARADE was edited, reducing the timing from the full version on the LP of 7:47 to 6:51 on the EP. The full version of HALF PAST JUMPING TIME at 3:48 was preserved on the EP release.
Noted jazz critic, broadcaster and author Will Thornbury interviewed Dick Bock at length in 1963 and 1984. In one interview segment Dick Bock stated that they never achieved success in marketing the Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca sessions. The album never reached the level of sales that it should have achieved. Bock felt this was due in part to not having a well known ”star” as neither Touff or Kamuca were well known nationally and neither had toured fronting their own groups. On the other hand the album was highly regarded among all musicians and several jazz DJs selected tracks as their theme music for their shows. “HAVIN’ A BALL” was the second attempt to market this album.
Bock attempted to provide greater exposure to Johnny Mandel’s involvement in the Touff / Kamuca session by including one track from another Pacific Jazz session featuring Hoagy Carmichael where Mandel had crafted arrangements of some of Carmichael’s well known standards. A version of LAZY RIVER without Hoagy’s vocal was recorded and included on “HAVIN’ A BALL.” Johnny Mandel’s name was given equal prominence on the cover along with Cy Touff, both all caps and a larger point size than the other musicians on the sessions. None of the original tracks on PJ-1211 were edited. PRIMATIVE CATS was dropped and replaced by LAZY RIVER reducing the total time from 42:49 on PJ-1211 to 39:58 on PJM-410.
One of the quintet tracks did not appear on the original release, PJ-1211. IT’S SAND, MAN was included on the second Jazz West Coast Anthology, JWC-501. It would finally join three of the quintet tracks that had been issued on PJ-1211 when World Pacific released the third version of the Touff / Kamuca sessions on PJ-42 in 1962.
Five of the tunes recorded during the December 4th and 5th sessions were edited on this last and final release. KEESTER PARADE was trimmed to 7:20 from its original timing of 7:47. GROOVER WAILIN’ was edited from 4:08 to 3:32. A SMOOTH ONE received a drastic cut from 6:56 to 5:03. PRIMATIVE CATS was cut from 5:36 to 4:26 and IT’S SAND, MAN was trimmed from its original timing of 5:58 to 4:26.
A 45 single release promoting PJ-42 further edited versions of KEESTER PARADE (2:55) and WHAT AM I HERE FOR? (3:16).
Tracks from the December sessions were also issued on a big band anthology, THE SOUND OF BIG BAND JAZZ IN HI-FI, a mono release as WP-1257 and a stereo version as STEREO-1015. Bock used WHAT AM I HERE FOR? on WP-1257 preserving the original timing of 4:19. KEESTER PARADE replaced WHAT AM I HERE FOR? on the stereo version of THE SOUND OF BIG BAND JAZZ IN HI-FI in an edited version timing at 4:42. The track detail panel on jacket back of STEREO-1015 did not list the substitution. The stereo separation is fairly decent with Touff on the left channel and Kamuca on the right channel leaving one to ponder what became of the other tracks captured in stereo by MacDonald.
Many fans discovered the Touff / Kamuca collaborations via Assorted Flavors of Pacific Jazz, HFS-1, that used passages of KEESTER PARADE along with an oral history of the label narrated by Frank Evans on side one. Side two of the sampler included the full version of GROOVER WAILIN’.
The Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca sessions were reissued on CD in 1998 as part of the West Coast Classics reissue of celebrated releases from the Pacific Jazz vault. All of the tracks from December 4th and 5th were finally available in their full original versions with one exception. IT’S SAND, MAN, the orphaned track that initially appeared on the Jazz West Coast Anthology, JWC-501, was an edited version at 5:24. The original version, 5:54, had also been licensed to Jazztone where it appeared in the full version on J1243. JWC-501 was released on CD in Japan as part of Toshiba’s five CD package reissuing all of the Jazz West Coast anthologies. The timing on that CD reissue was edited to 5:24 and evidently was the only version available in the tape archive. WHAT AM I HERE FOR? was also reissued on a West Coast Classics sampler that was used as a promotional give-away to market the release of the Pacific Jazz albums on CD.
All original album graphics @ EMI Capitol Music
I have the PJM-410 version of this album, the Pacific 'Assorted Flavors' sampler and the Jazztone 1243 lp.
i really love this album/session and it is a damn shame that this is not considered a stone-classic like 'Time Out', 'Kind Of Blue', et al.
This and 'The Swinging Mr. Rogers' have to be my two favorite West Coast albums.
– Thomoz, Feed Your Head! Music, Atlanta