Zardi’s adopted their final moniker in 1953
The musical merry-go-round of Sardi’s, Cardi’s, and Zardi’s settled with the latter name in March of 1953. The existence of the well-known New York restaurant might have been the motivation to make the name changes although evidence of any legal challenge did not make headlines in the newspapers. Ads promoting the entertainment at 6315 Hollywood Boulevard were also absent in local newspapers during the first months of 1953.
The Mel Henke Trio opened at Cardi’s in November of 1952. The Henke engagement may have continued into 1953. Mel Henke was popular with Los Angeles audiences and a change of venue, if it happened, did not result in newspaper coverage.
Pud Brown opened at Zardi’s on March 20, 1953. The make up of his All-Star Jazz Band is not known. Brown was an in-demand saxophonist/clarinetist in the Los Angeles traditional jazz community and frequently appeared with other major artists like Jack Teagarden and Kid Ory. He was a member of Pete Daily’s Chicagoans during the 1951 edition of Frank Bull and Gene Norman’s 1951 Dixieland Jubilee concert at the Shrine Auditorium.
Brown did not record extensively as a leader during this period. The one exception was a session from October 1951 with Charlie Teagarden, Jack Teagarden, Jess Stacey, and Ray Bauduc as “Pud Brown’s Delta Kings” on the West Craft label that produced two 78 singles. Brown also recorded as the Pud Brown Trio with Peter Urqurdi on piano and Hank Castro on drums for a Capitol Records session on February 12, 1953, that produced one 78 single.
The Pud Brown engagement continued into early May. Zardi’s management made a 180º musical turn in mid May when the Alice Hall Quartet was booked for several weeks. Hall rose to popularity in the 1940s along the cocktail circuit in Chicago.
Her original combo was a trio with bass and drums. Over the years changes to a quartet format included at various times, trumpet, saxophone, or piano. The review of her Capitol single in The Billboard was titled, “HOT JAZZ. “Caravan” – Miss Hall stirs up considerable excitement with her accordion capers, complemented by her own humming in time and tune above the line of her solo; drums and bass give much rhythmic punch.” During her time on the West Coast she played others popular venues like Ciro’s.
Stan Getz and his current quintet opened at Tiffany on Friday, May 8, 1953, after driving cross country from Washington, DC. John Williams and Getz took turns driving Stan’s stretch De Soto. The automobile is featured on the cover of the 1996 Verve CD reissue, Stan Getz – East of the Sun – The West Coast Sessions. That three CD set did not include the West Coast sessions with Bob Brookmeyer that were recorded in July and August of 1953 and released on Norman Granz’ Norgran label as Intereptations by the Stan Getz Quintet and Intereptations by the Stan Getz Quintet #2. Steve Voce interviewed John Williams who recalled his joining Stan Getz and their time on the West Coast.
“All of a sudden out of a clear blue sky my old buddy Frank Isola called me up and told me that Stan Getz was looking for a piano player, and that I was to come down to Nola’s, a set of studios at Broadway and 51st, to audition. I played at Nola’s many many times. We used to chip in a few bucks each to hire the place and have sessions there. Anyway, I went there to audition and I got to go with Stan. Two long stints first began in January 1953 and the second in 1954. The first one had Al Levitt on drums for a while and Bill Crow on bass. Johnny Mandel played the first week or two on trombone with the band while we waited for Bobby Brookmeyer to work out his notice. He was playing piano with the Tex Beneke Orchestra. How about that! Johnny Mandel wrote “Pot Luck” at that time, the quintet recorded it later. The reason that there were two separate stints was that Stan disbanded to do a concert tour on his own in the fall of 1953.
“The pictures were taken on the trip we made by road between Washington DC and LA. I had only been with Stan about four months, so it would have been about May, 1953. We were on the road and as I remember the girls were very pretty along the way.
“We were working at The Blue Mirror in Washington DC which then was the jazz club in the city. It was a great jazz city in the early fifties. Every time you played Washington the good players came out of the wall. They were all over the place – Earl Swope, Rob Swope, Bill Potts. Bill put together and wrote for that wonderful local band which worked under Willis Conover’s name. Charlie Byrd used to work in an after hours club in the city. We got through at two o’clock and then there were all these private clubs all over the city where you could go and play until eight in the morning. We went to the place that Charlie was working with his trio and sat in almost every night that we were there.
“We closed on Sunday night at the Blue Mirror and we were supposed to open at the Tiffany Club in Los Angeles on Friday night. Bobby Brookmeyer was going home to Kansas City and was going to fly out and meet us in LA. We left Al Levitt in Washington. I think that was his last week with the band. Frank was going to join later, and somebody from LA subbed until he did. I’m sorry to say I can’t remember at this time just who it was.
“Anyway, it left three of us to go from Washington to Los Angeles in Stan’s old stretch De Soto, longer than the usual car and with room for instruments and stuff.
“So there was bassist Teddy Kotick, Stan and I. But Teddy didn’t have a license and didn’t know how to drive. So Stan and I had to drive these three thousand miles between us. Now I wasn’t too orderly in those days, but there were times when I felt a lot more orderly than some of the people I was working with and I’d assumed that we ought to leave Monday if we were going to open Friday three thousand miles away. But Stan, as always, had better things to do on Monday, namely some lovely young lady. That happened with him in every city we played. So he called Teddy and me at our hotel and told us that we couldn’t leave until Tuesday. It was about five o’clock on Tuesday that we finally pulled out of Washington.
“Thankfully there was a friendly little druggist in Washington who was a real jazz enthusiast – he particularly loved Louis Armstrong as I recall – and with the help of his amphetamines we made it to LA in about 60 hours of driving time!
“Teddy was relegated to the front seat because he was a non-driver. Stan and I would take turns to drive eight hours, then wake the other guy up and he would drive eight hours. Of course, when you finished driving after eight hours you took a big swig of whiskey and lay down in the back seat while the other guy drove. We did so good that we even stopped in Kansas City for about six hours. Stan and I crashed out in a hotel while Teddy went to see his estranged wife Peggy (they got back together later). As you can see from the photo of the stop at Salt River Canyon, Arizona (we probably just stopped to relieve ourselves), with Stan and Teddy cheek to cheek, it was kind of a cuckoo ride. But not only did we make it to the gig, we pulled into Santa Monica at the Pacific Ocean about 10 o’clock on Friday morning. We stopped at Red Norvo’s place. By pre-arrangement his wife had gotten us some rooms at a motel on the beach. I went down to the beach and fell asleep and ended up with one of the worst sunburns I’ve ever had in my life. I had to play that night and subsequent nights in real misery.
“We were at the Tiffany Club in LA at the same time as Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Carson Smith and Larry Bunker were at The Haig. That was the origin of the Gerry Mulligan pianoless saga. The Tiffany Club and The Haig were only about 6 or 7 blocks apart, so every intermission we’d run out to the car, and head for The Haig and hope that we would hit it while they were playing. We’d listen to the band for 20 minutes or so and then back to The Tiffany. Chet and Gerry would do the same thing in reverse. It was during that period when I got to know Chet pretty well. We went to Chet’s house one afternoon and jammed, and on another day Chet took Teddy and me down to Balboa Bay and took us out in his sailboat.
“I think we were at Tiffany’s for three or four weeks and then Frank Isola came out and joined the group. We went into a place called Zardi’s at Hollywood and Vine and we stayed there all summer, for about three months. We all lived at the Elaine Apartments on Vine Street. There was a pool, and the picture that you see of the rhythm section was of us sitting round that pool at the Elaine. It takes me back, because on my feet are the rubber shoes that I had brought home from Korea five or six months before.”
The Stan Getz/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet closed at Tiffany on May 30th. They opened at Zardi’s on June 18, 1953. The Getz quintet received rave reviews during their engagement at Tiffany’s, and Norman Granz wasted no time in getting the quintet into Radio Recorders in July and August to capture the exceptional chemistry of the group. The June engagement extended to September when the Dave Brubeck Quartet opened on September 10th for a four week run. The Brubeck Quartet featured Paul Desmond on alto sax, Ron Crotty on bass, and Lloyd Davis on drums.
The Buddy DeFranco Quartet opened at Zardi’s on October 8th. DeFranco’s quartet arrived in Los Angeles earlier in 1953 for an opening at the Clef Club at 1841 Cahuenga Boulevard on June 3rd. The Clef Club had recently been remodeled and was showcasing modern jazz groups. Eugene Wright held the bass chair with DeFranco during this period. Pianist Kenny Drew had been with DeFranco since February 1952 and most likely was still with the group during their time in California before Sonny Clark joined DeFranco on piano in 1954. The Buddy DeFranco quartet remained at Zardi’s well into November.
The Stan Getz Quintet returned to Zardi’s on December 8th. Chet Baker joined the Stan Getz Quintet for a brief appearance on December 9, 1953. Baker was actively recording with Pacific Jazz Records in the fall of 1953 in addition to touring briefly with Charlie Parker. Baker and Getz had played together previously in June of 1953 at The Haig. The Baker Quartet was featured at Zardi’s in January of 1954.