1954 provided a cornucopia of modern jazz for Los Angeles jazz fans. In addition to booming business at the city’s leading jazz clubs, jazz impresarios Gene Norman and brothers Norman and Irving Granz staged sell out concerts to meet the growing demand for modern jazz. Gene Norman continued to wear several musical hats and his partnership with Frank Bull continued to present their annual Dixieland Jubilee in October, but modern jazz was the dominant music garnering headlines in the newspapers and magazines.
The new owners of Zardi’s, Sam Donato and Ben Arkin, had joined the modern jazz bandwagon in 1953 when the Stan Getz Quintet moved into Zardi’s after a successful run at Tiffany’s. The Chet Baker Quartet was held over at Zardi’s from December of 1953 into January of 1954. Chet Baker formed his quartet in December of 1952 while he was a member of Gerry Mulligan’s newly formed quartet. When the Mulligan quartet dissolved in the summer of 1953, Chet continued to perform and record for Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label. Russ Freeman handled the miniutae that allowed the quartet to function and Chet to blossom as an artist.
Chet had recently completed recording sessions for an ensemble album on Pacific Jazz, and initial sessions for an album with strings for Columbia Records. His first two albums for Pacific Jazz, PJLP-3 and PJLP-6, were available in record stores and were fueling his growing popularity among fans and critics. But not all critics were in agreement regarding the emerging popularity of what was happening on the West Coast. The January 16, 1954, issue of The New Yorker published a review of some of the recent albums emanating from California.
“The presence of a flourishing school of modern jazz in and around Los Angeles has been apparent for some time, and I don’t suppose there can he any doubt about its status now, for even conservative old Victor has taken notice of it, devoting two long-playing sets to the work of Shorty Rogers, a composer-trumpeter who is one of the leaders of the movement. Other recordings, by West Coast firms, introduce some of the other members of the school, (they’re all quite young, by the way), among them Shelly Manne, a drummer, who is heard leading a septet (Contemporary); Gerry Mulligan, a baritone-sax soloist, leading a quartet (Pacific Jazz); and Chet Baker, a trumpeter, leading another quartet (Pacific Jazz), in which a composer-pianist named Russ Freeman is a major factor. These recordings have other points in common besides their place of origin and their preoccupation with modern jazz. For instance, Jimmy Giuffre, a tenor-sax player, is represented as a composer and as a soloist in both the Rogers and the Manne sets; two of Rogers’ compositions turn up in the Manne records; Manne is the drummer for the Rogers records; and Baker plays in the Mulligan quartet.
For an explanation of what it is these young men are up to, I rely on the notes found on the back cover of the Manne set. They were written by Nesuhi Ertegun, who is a spokesman for the group and, among other things, a lecturer on jazz at the University of California at Los Angeles. In this new jazz, Ertegun says, the composer-arranger assumes an importance equal to that of the improvising soloist. “Today’s young writer,” he goes on, “is thoroughly familiar with classical music, especially when it’s contemporary. He has had academic training, and is probably pursuing advanced studies in composition, either in a conservatory or with a well-known teacher. He wants to find ways of uniting elements of classical music with jazz. . . . From the jazz tradition he accepts much and rejects much. He isn’t interested in forms of music he considers harmonically too elementary, but he is always attracted by rhythmic vitality and inventiveness, and his main objective is to incorporate the infinitely varied rhythms and timbres of jazz with the harmonic richness of modern classical music, His masters, then, are as much Bartok or Schoenberg as Count Basie or Charlie Parker. He is a new kind of composer, who doesn’t accept arbitrary separations between jazz and classical music, who strongly feels he is writing modern music, open to all musical currents, whatever their source. He doesn’t want his music to be categorized, because his interests and training aren’t; he wants to stand or fall as a composer.”
The reviewer, initials D.W., continued his survey of albums by Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, and Chet Baker, dismissing them in the process.
The Chet Baker Quartet ended their engagement at Zardi’s on January 27, 1954, when Shorty Rogers and His Giants took over the bandstand. Chet’s working quartet throughout 1954 included manager and pianist Russ Freeman plus Carson Smith on bass and Bob Neel on drums, quartet members that toured the East Coast in the spring of 1954 when their concert at Ann Arbor was captured on tape and later sold to Pacific Jazz and released as Jazz at Ann Arbor. Chet’s quartet toured major California cities upon their return from the East in the summer of 1954, and once again a live concert in Santa Cruz was recorded and released by Pacific Jazz.
Gene Norman began staging his “Just Jazz” concerts in the late 1940s. Los Angeles jazz fans were usually treated to several Gene Norman concerts a year, and 1954 was no exception. His first presentation in 1954 featured the Stan Kenton Orchestra and a “Festival of Modern American Jazz” with the Erroll Garner Trio, June Christy, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz, and Candido. The concert was held at the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday evening, February 28th.
Shorty’s Giants included Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet, tenor and baritone sax; Marty Paich, piano; Curtis Counce, bass; and Shelly Manne, drums. Zardi’s interior bandstand area still sported the South Seas décor with woven raffia ceiling panels and backdrop framed by bamboo. The photo at right captures the décor in detail showing the close proximity of customer seating in front of the bandstand.
The Shorty Rogers albums on RCA Victor that reviewer D.W. discusses in his The New Yorker review were among Shorty’s first for the label. Giuffre and Manne were on the first album and all five members of his current Giants line-up were on the second album, a seventeen piece orchestra assembled for the Cool & Crazy release. Shorty’s Giants, the five man crew that held forth at Zardi’s for several months in the spring of 1954, also appeared in numerous concert presentations. Shorty Rogers and His Giants appeared at Wilson High School in Long Beach at a concert that was advertised as “Progressive Jazz Concert” on May 7th. Four days later the Giants were part of Irving Granz’s initial “Jazz a la Carte” concert at the Embassy Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles. The concert was a tremendous success with many patrons turned away. In addition to Shorty’s Giants the concert presented the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Anita O’Day, Wardell Gray, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Arnold Ross, Joe Comfort, Zoot Sims, Shelly Manne, Jackie Mills, and Barney Kessel. The concert was reviewed by several newspapers. One of the display ads mistakenly credited Irving’s brother, Norman, as the presenter!
Brubeck, Rogers Whip Up Jazzy Menu
By Hal Morris
Los Angeles Mirror News
Modern jazz lovers downed a hearty chunk of “Jazz a la Carte” last night in the first presentation by newest impresario, Irving Granz.
He’s the brother of Norman Granz, who made “Jazz at the Philharmonic” a stomping expression.
And it looks like Irving is ready to cut a successful trail, judging from the standing-room-only crowd who flocked to see some of today’s jazz greats at the Embassy Auditorium in a one-night performance.
Topping the list was the Dave Brubeck Quartet, named the greatest jazz combo in the country in Down Beat’s annual critic’s poll.
Brubeck, new member of the contemporary music school, has a happy team composed of Paul Desmond on alto sax, Joe Dodge, drums, and Bob Bates, bass. The group had no trouble keeping the audience alert over five numbers.
Brubeck is impressive with his solo essays on the 88s. Introductions and endings are arranged. The rest is improvised. His choruses build over a neat patternwork set by his rhythm men as in “Give A Little Whistle.” Altoist Desmond has conception and unfailing taste.
Shorty Rogers and his Giants copped a solid mitt from the mob with his modern contemporary jazz, which he recently told this writer is “the only true American art form.”
The trumpeter-arranger undoubtedly won some new fans after the ticket buyers cocked an ear to a cool “Winter Wonderland” and a Basie-ish “Walk, Don’t Run,” among others. Later had Drummer Shelly Manne casually spinning a top atop one of his tubs – for a distinctive sound anyway.
Shorty’s Giants also included Jimmy Giuffre, who came through with a tender tenor saxing of “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Marty Paich, piano, and Curtis Counce, bass.
Chirper Anita O’Day with the Bud Lavin Trio bopped along a set of five including a moving “Lover Come Back,” A rustling “Lullaby of the Leaves” and an interesting “Lovesick Blues.”
The show kicked off with an hour-long jam session featuring the tenor sax work of Wardell Gray, Steve White, and Zoot Sims, plus Harry (Sweets) Edison, trumpet; Joe Comfort, bass; Arnold Ross, piano; Barney Kessel, guitar; and Jackie Mills, drums.
From the opener, “Perdido,” to the closing “Sweet Georgia Brown” the session gave each artist a spot to showcase his keen-cutting talent. Kessel, with his flashy, fluent guitar technique, got the most action from the handclappers.
Gray, White, and Sims managed to flip a few too.
THE SARTU CONCERTS
Five days later beginning on May 16th, Los Angeles jazz fans were treated to three Sunday afternoon concerts at the Sartu Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The concerts were organized by Dick Bock at Pacific Jazz and co-sponsored by Ray Avery who had recently relocated his rare record enterprise from the first location on La Cienega to the middle of Hollywood at 6631 Hollywood Boulevard. The concerts filled the small theatrical venue that continued to stage plays in the evenings. The first concert on May 16th featured the Laurindo Almeida Quartet featuring Bud Shank, June Christy, Barney Kessel, and Zoot Sims.
The Laurindo Almeida Quartet’s first album on Pacific Jazz, PJLP-7, had recently been released and was garnering favorable reviews for its infusion of Brazilian samba rhythms into jazz. The quartet’s first public performances were held at The Haig on Monday nights in August, September, and October of 1953. The Sartu appearance was their eighth public performance. Quartet members Bud Shank, Laurindo Almeida, Harry Babasin, and Roy Harte recorded their second album for Pacific Jazz the prior month on April 15th and 22nd at Sound Stage studios on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Dotty and Woody Woodward attended all of the concerts and Dotty recalled that Zoot Sims continued to play his tenor sax after falling backwards after stumbling on Barney Kessel’s amp on stage. Woody worked for Ray Avery at the time as manager of Ray Avery Avery’s Rare Records. Dotty had joined Pacific Jazz the previous year as the fledgling jazz label catapulted to world wide attention.
The second Sartu concert on May 23rd headlined another jazz vocalist, Jeri Southern. Other featured jazz artists included the Barney Kessel Quartet, Herb and Lorraine Geller, and Bob Gordon. The rhythm section included Monty Budwig and Gene Gammage. Ray Avery took numerous photos of the concerts as did William Claxton who was in attendance. One of Ray’s candid shots in the Green Room captured Herb Kimmel and Will MacFarland chatting with Lorraine Geller. Kimmel launched his Jazz:West label in the fall of 1954 along with Will MacFarland when they recorded Jack Sheldon’s first album as leader, Get Out of Town.
The last concert on Sunday, May 30th, announced the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet, the Art Pepper Quartet, Kenny Drew, and Teddy Edwards. The Roach/Brown quintet featured Teddy Edwards on tenor, George Bledsoe on bass, and Carl Perkins on piano. Art Pepper’s appearance was not confirmed in newspaper reviews of the concert and the extensive photo coverage of the Sartu concert series by Ray Avery and William Claxton do not include any images of Art Pepper. Pepper was in Los Angeles at the time and participated in jam sessions at Tiffany Club in June and July where he teamed with Jack Montrose in a quintet that alternated sets with the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet. The Brown/Roach unit continued to appear at concerts hosted by Gene Norman, Irving Granz, and the Beta Sigma Tau fraternity at UCLA.
Head First Into A Controversy
By Bill Brown
Los Angeles Daily News
There Is an amusing if erudite controversy raging in the music trades as to whether there is a “West Coast, school of music” but I can’t find out who’s on which side.
The learned and scholarly if somewhat obtuse Nat Hentoff seemed to be against the proposition at the first writing but last time I looked he was backing water fast.
What Hentoff really is opposed to, he says, is “useless labeling” of schools of music. One can assume he refers to such as the New Orleans and Chicago schools . . . and I share his lack of enthusiasm for this practice.
However, there is a West Coast school and you can’t just shut your eyes and wish it out of existence.
Or, to be exactly accurate, there is a Los Angeles school of modern music. I have yet to here any contributions emanating from points north … or south for that matter.
And let’s stop the fatuous observations that men such as Shorty Rogers, Shelley Manne, Chet Baker, Dave Pell, and Bud Shank would be playing and writing the same things if they were settled in Keokuk or some other way station.
That simply isn’t true. They are able to contribute as mightily as they do because there is a healthy Jazz climate in Los Angeles. They can work here . . . in clubs and on records . . . and that’s important. So I say long live the L. A. S. M. M. and let’s have an end to bickering.
The Pacific Jazz concert at the Sartu last Sunday was most enjoyable, well performed and well staged. June Christy, Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank, Harry Babasin, and Roy Harte distinguished themselves.
Tenor player Zoot Sims distinguished himself in another manner when he fell backwards over Almeida’s amplifier while on stage.
Next week’s program at the Sartu will include Barney Kessel, Herbie Geller, Bob Gordon, and singer-pianist Jeri Southern, PJ officials said. If subsequent performances are on this same level it will be a very worthwhile series.
Herb Kimmel cultivated a friendship with Dave Brubeck when the Brubeck Trio appeared at The Haig in 1950. Kimmel made a point of catching Dave’s group every time they played clubs in Los Angeles. When Brubeck signed a contract to appear at Zardi’s for a minimum of two months in the summer of 1954 he asked Herb’s assistance to find a place to live while the quartet was playing Zardi’s. Brubeck usually toured without family, but a permanent gig was different and Iola Brubeck insisted that Dave bring the family to Los Angeles.
Jack Lewis introduced Herb to Lord Buckley who was renting a house in Whitely Terrace located not too far from Zardi’s in the hills above Hollywood. Buckley had fallen on hard times and was looking for an escape from his rental that was is serious arrears. Herb negotiated a deal with the owner that took care of Buckley’s predicament and secured housing for the Brubeck family during Dave’s engagement at Zardi’s.
1954 was the year of the “mambo” craze. Irving Granz’s first foray into the concert realm with “Jazz a la Carte” had been a solid success and in June he presented a line-up of the leading orchestras who were riding the mambo wave as “Mambo Jumbo” at the Shrine Auditorium: Perez Prado, Noro Morales, Tito Rodriguez, Tony Martinez, and Chico O’Farrill. Life magazine surveyed the mambo scene in an article with photos covering Cal Tjader’s Mambo Quintet in performance at San Francisco’s Macumba Club. Many Los Angeles clubs featured a “mambo” night and bigger venues like the Palladium and Zenda Ballroom booked Latin orchestras that specialized in presenting the “mambo.”
Maynard Sloate leased the space at 5510 Hollywood Boulevard that was known as the Mural Room in the early 1950s. Sloate and his partners renamed the club as Mambo City and featured some of the leading Latin-American orchestras working in Los Angeles: Tito Rivera, Don Tosti, Johnny Martinez, and Chuy Penita.
Mambo City was short lived. Sloate and his partners discovered that the crowds were more interested in dancing the mambo and spent little time at their table ordering drinks and food. Sloate’s background was jazz. He used to run jam sessions around Los Angeles and persuaded his partners to redo the club space, carpet the dance floor and fill it with small tables to beef up the capacity. The retitled club, Jazz City, opened in October of 1954.
The jazz concert field heated up again in July when Gene Norman staged a modern jazz concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on the 13th. The line-up included the Dave Brubeck Quartet who were absent from Zardi’s on that Tuesday evening, the Red Norvo Trio, the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet who were performing at the Tiffany Club alternating sets with the Red Norvo Trio, Shorty Rogers Giants who were holding the bandstand at The Haig, and Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars from Hermosa Beach.
Jazz concerts were offered at the Ivar Theater in May and July by budding impresario, Bob Markus. The May event was titled “Music on a Sunday Afternoon” most likely tagging on the success of Dick Bock’s jazz concerts at the Sartu Theater. Markus’ May 23rd event featured Kitty White, Jess Stacey, Walter Gross, George Van Eps, Dick Cathcart, the Pete Kelly Big Seven, and the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet. The July 25th concert was titled “Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon” and featured some of the same artists: the Red Norvo Trio, jazz violinist Joe Venuti, Eddie Druzinsky (harpist from the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra), George Van Eps, Kitty White, Bob Laine and Arthur Schutt on twin concert grand pianos, and the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet.
July ended with another Irving Granz “Jazz a la Carte” concert at the Embassy Auditorium on July 26th. The Duke Ellington Orchestra was the headline featured act with the Dave Brubeck Quartet on leave this Saturday night from Zardi’s, and the Chet Baker Quartet, also on leave from Tiffany for the concert. The “Jazz a la Carte” concerts always offered patrons a lavish commemorative concert program with graphics by David Stone Martin who was the graphic artist behind all of Norman Granz jazz album covers for his Clef and Norgran releases.
The Sartu and Ivar Theater concerts were small scale presentations in comparison with the Gene Norman and Irving Granz concerts at larger auditoriums in Los Angeles and Pasadena. This did not deter Jimmy Pratt, drummer with the Zoot Sims Quintet, from trying his hand at presenting jazz concerts. Pratt organized two Sunday afternoon concerts at the Hollywood Country Club in Redondo Beach on August 8th and 15th. Scheduled jazz artists to appear included: Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, Maynard Ferguson, Art Pepper, Zoot Sims, Milt Bernhardt, and Jack Montrose with others to be announced.
Irving Granz presented his third 1954 concert at the Shrine Auditorium on August 20th, another edition of his “Jazz a la Carte” series. The headline act this time was Cab Calloway who had recently ended a much praised staring role in Porgy and Bess in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Civic Light Opera production. Jazz fans enjoyed a special guest artist, Stan Getz, who performed with the Chet Baker Quartet. Getz had been absent from the jazz scene due to personal problems and was warmly received by legions of fans who were eager to hear his tenor sax artistry. The all-star concert included the Red Norvo Trio, Buddy DeFranco Quartet, Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, Louie Bellson All-Stars, Zoot Sims, and Harry “Sweets” Edison.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet engagement at Zardi’s ended on August 25th when Erroll Garner opened the next day. Garner had previously appeared in Los Angeles as part of the “Festival of Modern American Jazz” at the Shrine Auditorium in February. Garner’s working trio during this time included Wyatt Ruther on bass and Fats Heard on drums. Newspaper columns reported that the trio was attracting appreciative crowds to the club despite a hike in prices for drinks. Zardi’s maintained a “no cover charge” and “no admission charge” policy.
The indefatigable Gene Norman presented another blockbuster concert on August 31st with a stellar line-up: the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gene Krupa Jazz Trio, Erroll Garner Trio, Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars, Zoot Sims Quartet, Buddy Rich, Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, and Barney Kessel. Some of the newspaper ads for the concert also listed Art Pepper as appearing.
The Erroll Garner Trio engagement continued into September at Zardi’s until the end of the month when the Oscar Peterson Trio took the bandstand for a three week run. Peterson’s trio included Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar. The Oscar Peterson Trio was a regular feature of Norman Granz’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic” organization ever since Granz featured the pianist in a JATP concert in 1949.
The Beta Sigma Tau fraternity at UCLA presented a “Concert In Jazz” at the Embassy Auditorium on September 3rd. They were able to schedule Billie Holiday to appear on the bill along with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, Art Pepper, Barney Kessel, vocalists Toni Harper and Norman Dunlap, and other leading jazz artists.
Gene Norman returned to the Shrine Auditorium on September 17th with the second edition of the Stan Kenton “Festival of Modern American Jazz.” In addition to the Kenton Orchestra the concert featured the Art Tatum Trio, vocalist Mary Ann McCall, Shorty Rogers and His Giants, Shelly Manne, Johnny Smith, and Candido.
Norman donned his third musical hat on September 23rd when he staged a blues concert at the Shrine that he billed as “The World Series of the Blues.” The star studded line-up included Muddy Waters and His Band, the Johnny Watson Band, Guitar Slim and His Band, Shirley Gunter (the Oop Shoop hit with the Queens), Marvin and Johnny, The Robins, The Platters, The Jewels, The Flairs, Chuck Higgins, and The Queens.
The Oscar Peterson Trio took a short leave from the bandstand at Zardi’s in October when the Modern Jazz Quartet appeared during their first visit to the City of Angels. The MJQ featured John Lewis, Milt Jackson, Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke during their two week run. The Oscar Peterson Trio was back on the stand November 3rd for another four week engagement.
Norman Granz presented his “Jazz at the Philharmonic” troup twice in October, first at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles on the 7th and then at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on the 27th. The line-up for both concerts was similar: Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Louie Bellson, Flip Philips, Ben Webster, Buddy DeFranco, Bill Harris, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, and the Oscar Peterson Trio.
Norman Granz was back at the Shrine on November 8th to present one of his most memorable concerts, memorable because portions of the concert were recorded and released on his Norgran label. The Stan Getz Quintet with Bob Brookmeyer, John Williams, Bill Anthony, and Art Mardigan was recorded in concert and released as a two LP set including a series of photos of the quintet. Granz included Duke Ellington’s introduction of the Getz quintet, intoning that it was his priviledge to “introduce one of the leading exponents of the Cool School.”
The concert line-up: the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gerry Mulligan, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and the Stan Getz Quintet. The CD reissue used an edited version of “Flamingo.” The original vinyl release included John Williams piano playing “I’ll Take the Low Road” – a few bars of music before he stops playing and you hear the audience applause as Duke Ellington emerges from behind the stage curtain. The CD version above from youTube includes the applause.
Sam Donato and Ben Arkin closed out the year at Zardi’s with the return of Shorty Rogers and His Giants.
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