Sam Donato and Ben Arkin had been tinkering with the décor of Zardi’s ever since they acquired the club in 1953. The woven raffia ceiling that was framed in bamboo remained but the backdrop below the ceiling behind the musician bandstand changed several times. The strip below the bamboo termination of ceiling provided a frieze design above the mural depicting musical staff with notes and clef signs when the Stan Getz quintet with Bob Brookmeyer played the club in 1953. The backdrop remained the same when Shorty Rogers and his Giants played the club in 1954. When the Dave Brubeck Quartet played Zardi’s in the summer of 1954 the frieze was gone as well as the musical mural with neutral blank wall sections behind the Brubeck group.
Photos of Shorty’s group when they appeared at Zardi’s in 1955 reveal a change in décor. The frieze is gone and the musical mural was replaced by floral sections that alternated with neutral unadorned sections behind the bandstand. Shorty’s group had also changed. Pete Jolly replaced Marty Paich on piano with the rest of Giants remaining the same: Jimmy Giuffre, Curtis Counce and Shelly Manne.
Shorty had recently signed with Atlantic Records and his first album for the label, recorded in March of 1955, featured the new line-up of the Giants. Nesuhi Ertegun departed the West Coast to join his brother, Ahmet, at Atlantic to head up jazz releases for the label. Dave Pell also departed RCA Victor for Atlantic at the same time as documented in Down Beat’s May 18, 1955, edition showing Dave Pell, Shorty Rogers, and Nesuhi Ertegun.
Nesuhi Ertegun was familiar with the new directions in modern jazz that were defining the West Coast School as some critics described it. Ertegun’s liner notes for Shelly Manne’s first ten inch LP for Contemporary Records described the phenomenon. When Les Koenig reissued the Manne LP in the industry standard twelve LP format it was titled – The West Coast Sound. Ertegun also lectured on jazz history at UCLA while he was based in Los Angeles.
He wrote the introductory essay for William Claxton’s first photography portfolio, Jazz West Coast, that traced the evolution of jazz in California. His opening paragraphs discussed the roots:
“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 1910s. 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.”
Ertegun’s closing paragraph summed up the present scene:
“Modern 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 Chet Baker to Hampton Hawes and Art Pepper, are admirably captured by William Claxton’s photographs.”
Shorty Rogers and His Giants returned to Zardi’s on December 3, 1954, for an indefinite stay. It lasted for nearly three months, ending on February 23, 1955, when the Roy Eldridge Quintet took the bandstand at Zardi’s.
Newspapers did not elaborate on the sidemen with Eldridge, but most likely it was the same musicians that Norman Granz assembled in March for an album on Clef with Benny Carter, Bruce MacDonald, John Simmons, and Alvin Stollar. The club date at Zardi’s provided an extended working rehearsal for the musicians, a frequent move on the part of producers that made a recording session more productive. Roy Eldridge had recently returned to the states after a successful European tour with Jazz At The Philharmonic.
Art Tatum might have been on piano with the group as he was the featured jazz artist at Zardi’s, opening on March 10, 1955. Tatum had completed a solo album for Granz in January that was released on the Verve label, More of the Greatest Piano of Them All. Newspaper reports stated that Tatum appeared with a trio at Zardi’s, none of the sidemen were mentioned. Tatum’s engagement was brief, ending on March 26th.
Concert promoters Gene Norman, Norman Granz, and Irving Granz continued their jazz concert presentations in 1955. Gene Norman had planned a triple header concert with Nat King Cole, June Christy, and Chet Baker, all backed by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra on February 25th at Shrine Auditorium and February 27th at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Both concert dates had to be rescheduled when Cole’s mother passed away. Chet Baker’s set included backing by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in an effort to capitalize on the popularity of Chet Baker’s recent album for Columbia Records, Chet Baker with Strings.
The student body at Claremont Men’s College had planned a similar concert with Nat King Cole backed by the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. The concert was to feature King Cole’s trio and vocalist Lucy Ann Polk. The jazz concert was scheduled to take place on February 26th in Bridges Auditorium on the Claremont campus. It was cancelled.
The Frank Rosolino Quintet opened at Zardi’s on Monday, March 28th. Rosolino was featured in Capitol Records new “KENTON PRESENTS JAZZ” series that brought attention to several emerging jazz artists as leaders including Claude Williamson, Bill Holman, Bob Cooper, Sal Salvador, Serge Chaloff, Boots Mussulli, Ken Hanna, and Al Belletto. Rosolino’s first album on Capitol came out in 1954, and his second, Frankly Speaking, was recorded after his engagement at Zardi’s, providing another extended working rehearsal prior to the recording session at Capitol. Quintet members: Frank Rosolino, trombone; Charlie Mariano, alto sax; Walter Norris, piano; Max Bennett, bass; and Stan Levey, drums. Bill Holman and Mariano provided charts for the session.
The Shrine Auditorium near the USC campus hosted three mega events in March and April. Gene Norman donned his pop music hat to present Bill Haley and The Comets, the Four Freshmen, the Robins, the Medallions, the Harris Sisters, the Joe Houston Orchestra, and the Oscar McLollie Orchestra on March 25th.
Irving Granz presented the first of three Jazz à la Carte concerts he would mount in 1955 in Los Angeles. The April 2nd concert featured Ella Fitzgerald, the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond, the Red Norvo Trio with Tal Farlow, and an ensemble labeled as The Modern Jazz All-Stars with Barney Kessel, Zoot Sims, Wardell Gray, Conte Candoli, Harry “Sweets” Edison, John Simmons, Arnold Ross, and Jackie Mills.
Gene Norman was back at the Shrine again in April wearing his jazz trilby to present the Stan Kenton Orchestra, June Christy, and the Earl Bostic Orchestra. Several weeks after the concert, Stan Kenton and June Christy were at Capitol Records studios to record Duet, with Kenton sans orchestra accompanying June Christy on piano.
Shorty Rogers and His Giants returned to Zardi’s in April following the departure of the Frank Rosolino Quintet. Ads for the Giants featured a headline – “Nitely — RCA RECORDING STAR.” Shorty’s first album for Atlantic that was recorded in March wasn’t in the stores yet and his last albums for RCA Victor were available and featured in record shops as well as getting ample airplay by Los Angeles deejays.
Irving Granz presented his second Jazz à la Carte concert on June 10th at the Shrine Auditorium. Granz usually promoted his concerts in several Los Angeles newspapers with ample sized display ads that named all of the jazz artists who were to appear. The concert received mention in The Mirror and Daily News and The Los Angeles Times where short editorial columns named the featured jazz artists, the date and location. Perhaps Granz was testing the waters to see if he could fill the Shrine without the expense of display ads?
S. Duncan Reid’s superb biography of Cal Tjader, now in an expanded second edition for McFarland Publishers, details the full California tour.
“Tjader’s mambo quintet made their first appearance on a “Jazz à la Carte” tour. They opened each show for producer Irving Granz, brother of Norman, and were followed by singing duo Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Oscar Peterson Trio, and Sarah Vaughan. The concert series kicked off at the 6,700-seat Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10, then went to the 7,000-seat San Francisco Civic Auditorium on June 11 and wound up at the similarly sized Russ Auditorium in San Diego on June 12.”
The Giants remained at Zardi’s until the Fourth of July. Stan Getz made a quest appearance with the Giants in June. Getz wasn’t the only musician dropping by Zardi’s that summer. Visiting British musicians Johnny Dankworth and Allan Ganley were captured by Howard Lucraft’s camera as he renewed friendships with his UK mates. Lucraft was a regular contributor to Melody Maker, the English music journal. The photo above with a group gathered at one of Zardi’s banquettes featured: Stan Getz, Johnny Dankworth, unknown, Howard Lucraft, Teddy Wilson, unknown, and Shorty Rogers. The second photo captured Shelly Manne giving Allan Ganley a few pointers. Both photos show the floral print panels in detail.
Cal Tjader’s Modern Mambo Quintet opened at Zardi’s on July 6th. Following their tour with Irving Granz the group was booked at a variety of engagements in the Bay area before returning to Los Angeles for their brief appearance at Zardi’s. The photo at left captured Luis Miranda, Al McKibbon, and Cal Tjader in action at the club.
Gene Norman presented his 6th Annual Rhythm & Blues Jubilee on July 15, 1955. The line-up featured one of the same groups that had appeared at the Shrine event that was headlined by Bill Haley and The Comets in March. Earl Bostic and His Band was the featured group along with The Clovers who shared the bold billing in display ads. Other artists appearing included the Medallions, the Jewels, the Meadowlarks, the Chuck Higgins Band, and Frankie & Johnny.
When Cal Tjader and His Modern Mambo Quintet left Zardi’s the balance of July and the first part of August featured Shorty Rogers and His Giants along with a brief appearance of Stan Getz and his quintet.
Los Angeles jazz audiences were treated to a special event mid August when the Hollywood Bowl presented a “jazz night” on Friday, August 19th. The All-Star line-up included: the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Buddy deFranco Quartet, Billie Holiday, Pete Kelly and his Big Seven, Lee Konitz & Warne Marsh, Andre Previn, Shorty Rogers and His Giants, and Cal Tjader and His Modern Mambo Quintet.
Leonard Bernstein, who had participated in other presentations of the “Festival of the Americas” five day event, moderated a panel discussion with Leonard Feather, Ralph Gleason, and Andre Previn. The symposium explored the origins and influences of jazz. Newspaper accounts noted that the reception by the audience who had come to hear jazz bordered on the ruckus side as members felt the discussion had lasted too long!
Gene Norman repeated his Nat King Cole/Nelson Riddle concert at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on August 27th. June Christy was on the program as well as the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.
The Erroll Garner Trio with Eddie Calhoun and Denzil Best moved in to Zardi’s on August 19th for a two-week stay. After leaving Zardi’s the Garner trio motored north to San Francisco to appear in a double billing with the Dave Brubeck Quartet at the Blackhawk. When the trio was persuaded to drive over to the coast at the invitation of Jimmy Lyons to appear at Sunset School in Carmel as part of Lyons’ Sunset Series it was privately recorded by Will Thornbury who was in the military and stationed at nearby Fort Ord. Columbia Records acquired the recording which was released as Concert by the Sea, one of the biggest selling jazz records of all time.
When the Garner trio departed for San Francisco on September 5th the house band, Shorty Rogers and His Giants, moved into Zardi’s. Donato and Arkin had a surprise in store for Los Angeles audiences. Earlier in 1955 they had negotiated an expansion into the space that had been part of the original Sardi’s Restaurant. The newly renovated club would debut in November. Down Beat, November 16, 1955, reported that the Dave Pell Octet worked Zardi’s for two weeks at the end of October.
Less than a month later the indefatigable Gene Norman presented one of his “Just Jazz” concerts, this time a double header, first at UCLA’s Royce Hall on September 23rd and then at the Shrine Auditorium on September 24th. True to form, both concerts were sold out prior to the opening. The Dave Brubeck Quartet was the featured jazz group with Shorty Rogers and His Giants, the Buddy de Franco Quartet, Andre Previn and Mrs. Previn (Betty Bennett), and Howard Rumsey and the Lighthouse All-Stars featuring Bud Shank and Frank Rosolino filling out the bill.
Los Angeles traditional jazz fans received their annual Dixieland fix on October 15th when Frank Bull and Gene Norman presented the 8th Annual Dixieland Jubilee at the Shrine Auditorium. The line-up featured new and old faces: Red Nichols and His Five Pennies, Ted Buckner and His Band, the Pepper Jass Band (a group of young college students who competed for a spot on the program), Kid Ory and His Creole Band, the Firehouse Five Plus Two, George Lewis and His New Orleans Band, and the Bobby Hackett All-Stars.
Norman Granz’ JAZZ AT THE PHILHARMONIC returned to the southland in October with concerts at the same venues as in 1954, the Shrine Auditorium on the 19th and the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on the 27th. The tour included the usual all-star line-up of jazz artists: Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson, Flip Philips, Roy Eldridge, Illinois Jacquet, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, and Eddie Shu.
The new Zardi’s opened on November 4,1955, as Zardi’s Jazzland. Newspaper accounts of the event were positive.
AROUND OUR TOWN
“Jazz Heaven Created at New Zardi’s”
by Audrey Kearns
Los Angeles Evening Citizen News, November 10, 1955
“Happy days are here again! At least as far as jazz enthusiasts are concerned, for Sam Donato of the new Zardi’s Jazzland on Hollywood near Vine, has created a veritable “jazz heaven.”
For many years Zardi’s was known as Sardi’s where the late Tom Breneman started his “Breakfast at Sardi’s” radio program, but for the last three years, since Sam Donato and Ben Arkin have owned the spot, Zardi’s has become nationally famed for presenting such musicians as Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz and now Oscar Peterson’s trio which entertains there nightly.
Now at last, Sam Donato’s dream has come true: to provide not only the finest jazz music obtainable but in the most beautiful and appropriate surroundings. During the past six months, work on the new and much enlarged Zardi’s has quietly been going forth, while the old Zardi’s continued “at the same old stand.” In just four days the walls between the old and new were removed, other alterations completed and now Zardi’s will seat 475 in comfortable chairs and booths. On the walls are fascinating and beautiful “clouds” encompassing individual jazz instruments, while the spacious and sunken bar faces a beautiful flourescent scene of Las Vegas’ lights under a flaming sunset sky.
This is truly a “jazz heaven” worthy of Hollywood and Zardi’s must be sincerely congratulated on their contribution to night life Around Our Town.”
by The Rounder
Mirror News, November 3, 1955
“Undoubtedly, the unveiling of the new Zardi’s Jazzland featuring Oscar Peterson tomorrow night will find jazz lovers astounded at the switchover from the old Zardi’s. I looked the place over the other night and there’s no question that this is the biggest and most beautiful spot in the entire area featuring jazz.
The room is circular with an elevated stage making possible an unobstructed view of the musicians from any angle. Capacity is close to 500 persons. There’s a clever sunken bar arrangement which does away with the old style stools.
They’ve even erected a specially constructed three dimensional mural of the Las Vegas Strip behind the bar which is remarkable in its depiction. Sam Donato and Ben Arkin deserve a lot of credit for this remodeling job and with the presentation of Oscar Peterson it looks like the spot starts off in high gear.”
Sam Donato and Ben Arkin booked the Oscar Peterson Trio as the featured jazz group for the grand opening of their new club. The trio was fresh from their recent appearance at the two JATP concerts at the Shrine and Municipal Auditorium. Norman Granz recorded their appearance on the night of November 8, 1955. The tapes remained in storage, unissued, until Granz bowed out of the record business. Fantasy Records issued a three LP boxed set of the concert using the Pablo imprint in 1986.
The Oscar Peterson Trio engagement lasted for a little over two weeks, departing on November 22nd. The new Zardi’s Jazzland featured an expanded bandstand, big enough to host the largest jazz orchestra as was the case with the arrival of the Duke Ellington Orchestra on November 23rd. The make-up of the orchestra was probably the same as when they appeared on a U. S. Treasury broadcast in New York in October. Duke Ellington And His Orchestra : Clark Terry, Willie Cook, Cat Anderson (tp); Ray Nance (tp,vln,vcl); Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, John Sanders (tb); Jimmy Hamilton (cl,ts), Johnny Hodges (as), Russell Procope (as,cl), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (bar,cl,b-cl), Duke Ellington (p), Jimmy Woode (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
Monitor, the radio program, was the brainchild of legendary NBC radio and television network president Sylvester (Pat) Weaver, whose career bridged classic radio and television’s infancy and who sought to keep radio alive in a television age. Believing that broadcasting could and should educate as well as entertain, Weaver fashioned a series to do both with some of the best-remembered and best-regarded names in broadcasting, entertainment, journalism, and literature taking part. Monitor and the Sunday-afternoon TV documentary series Wide Wide World were Weaver’s last two major contributions to NBC, as he left the network within a year of Monitor’s premiere. Monitor began a “remote” from Zardi’s Jazzland beginning the first of December, 1955. It aired over local radio station KFI every Saturday from 12:10 to 12:30 A.M. with Joe Adams as emcee.
Irving Granz staged his last Jazz à la Carte concert of 1955 on December 3rd at the Shrine Auditorium. Woody Herman and his Octet featuring Cy Touff, bass trumpet; Monty Budwig, bass; the Dave Brubeck Quartet featuring Paul Desmond, alto sax; Dinah Washington with Wynton Kelly, piano; Keter Betts, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; June Christy; and Cal Tjader and His Afro-Cuban Jazz Band featuring Luis Miranda, conga. This was the third appearance of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the second booking of Cal Tjader’s Modern Mambo Quinet (now retitled the Afro-Cuban Jazz Band) on Granz’ Jazz a la Carte series in 1955.
Cal Tjader returned to the newly renovated Zardi’s Jazzland on December 7th. Newspaper ads billed his quintet as Cal Tjader and His Group with some ads adding a tagline – Afro Cuban Rhythm. John Tynan’s review of the Granz concert included a glowing review of Tjader’s group in Down Beat and Los Angeles jazz fans continued to pack Zardi’s Jazzland.
The Oscar Peterson Trio returned to Zardi’s Jazzland on Monday, December 19th. Shorty Rogers and His Giants joined the Oscar Peterson Trio on December 22nd for a double billing that closed out the year at Zardi’s Jazzland. The gamble that Donato and Arkin made in expanding the club to accommodate 475 plus patrons appeared to pay off as attendance during November and December was close to capacity on weekends and moderate during the week.
Gene Norman donned his “Rhythm and Blues” Fedora to wind down 1955 with a New Year’s Eve concert at the Shrine Auditorium on Saturday evening, December 31st, beginning at 9:00 P.M. The line-up included: Joe Turner, Oscar McLollie, The Calvanes, The Robins, Gene & Eunice, and Dolly Cooper.
The Howard Lucraft photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been licensed from CTSIMAGES, the premier source for entertainment photography representing dozens of the leading photographers in the field. Please note that these photos remain the property of the Howard Lucraft Collection at CTSIMAGES and copying is forbidden. Any inquiries regarding fees for their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to: Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.