Monday, June 25, 2018

A Word or Two About Conte Candoli

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Born in Mishawaka, Indiana, Candoli toured with several big bands from the late 1940s onwards and moved to California in 1954, where he became a fixture in the West Coast scene. He basically worked there until his death, maintaining long associations with Shorty Rogers' groups, the Doc Severinsen Orchestra, Super-sax and a small group he co-led with his brother Pete (born 1923), another trumpeter.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton assert in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th ed.

Those of you familiar with Conte Candoli’s given name - “Secondo” - will get the attempt at a bad pun that forms the title of this piece.

Because I was encamped on the West Coast for most of my “Jazz life” with easy access to Hollywood and the greater Los Angeles area, I got to hear trumpeter Conte Candoli perform frequently in a variety of contexts.

Whether as a member of bassist Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars, drummer Shelly Manne’s Men [quintet] or the Terry Gibbs Dream Band, Conte was known to me, as Richard Cook and Brian Morton assert in their Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th ed., “... as one of the great West Coast brassmen. Often as content to be a foot soldier as a leader, he seldom helmed his own dates, but he always played with a unassumingly likeable style.”

Whenever I listen to Conte it's always a particular delight to hear him have a go at a bebop chestnut - Ah-Leu-Cha, Groovin’ High, Allen’s Alley -  and shine them into something special. The pleasure he takes in his own playing shows how much Conte enjoyed his work.

His exciting phrasing, often done with a deliberate nod toward his hero, Dizzy Gillespie, and the hefty, gorgeously clear sound he gets, are both complimented by the lovely way he paces himself through his solos.

As Richard Cook and Brian Morton conclude in their review of Conte’s CDs:
“A voice from a glittering age of jazz improvising, which was sadly stilled at the end of 2001.”

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles wanted to remember Secondo Candoli on these pages in gratitude for the many pleasurable hours of Jazz we enjoyed in his presence with three excerpts from writings about him by Tom Stewart, Joseph F. Laredo and Ted Gioia, respectively.

Conte Candoli: Groovin’ Higher [Bethlehem BCP-30], original LP liner notes by Tom Stewart.

“In previous years Stan Kenton's trumpet section included two players who stand out most in my mind. One was Buddy Childers, the other Conte Candoli. Both men could lead the five-man powerhouse trumpet section, blow the "Screechers" above it and still come forward and play pretty middle and low-register solos. Of the two, perhaps, Conte is more closely associated with the jazz idiom. Born and schooled in South Bend, Indiana, Conte took up the horn at the age of thirteen under the supervision of his older brother Pete, who was soon to join the professional ranks. Today both brothers are successful musicians. Conte has played with the bands of Woody Herman, Charlie Barnet, Kenton, and the small groups of Chubby Jackson and Charlie Ventura, to name two. His European tour in 1947 with Chubby Jackson's group resulted in four sides done in Sweden (Lemon Drop, Dee Dee's Dance, Boomsie and Crown Pilots) which were big items at the time of their release in this country.

In addition to the aforementioned, Conte has many fine solos on record, several of them with the Charlie Ventura unit of the latter forties and many with the Kenton orchestra. His earlier work most closely approximated Dizzy's style and more recently he has assimilated some of the characteristics of Fats and Miles (particularly the frequent staccato articulation and half-valve inflections of the latter).

But Conte's playing has always had a distinct individual quality about it. He has always played his horn with the kind of aggressiveness and confidence which are necessary to produce good jazz. His style is characterized by a firm knowledge of harmonics, good taste and a command of execution which is almost faultless.”

Conte Candoli: Powerhouse Trumpet [Groovin’ Higher Bethlehem LP as a CD reissue on Avenue Jazz R2 75826] insert notes by Joseph Laredo.

“Although he has long been respected as a first-rate trumpet man who executes his musical ideas with propulsive drive and impeccable command, Conte Candoli has been granted surprisingly few opportunities to record as a leader over the course of his prolific career. A welcome exception was this quintet date recorded for Bethlehem in July of 1955. Candoli had just recently moved to California after leading a group in Chicago. He was soon a vital part of the thriving West Coast jazz scene, playing with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars, freelancing as a sideman on hundreds of albums, and quickly becoming, along with his older brother Pete, one of the most in-demand studio musicians in Hollywood.

Powerhouse Trumpet (aka Groovin' Higher) is a mainstream bop effort that finds Conte and company in sterling form. The Candoli original "Full Count" is arguably the best illustration among the seven tracks of the energy and subtle use of dynamics that characterize his aggressive approach, but his playing is imaginative and bracing throughout. Fellow veterans Bill Holman and Lou Levy each have a number of outstanding solos, particularly on the opening track, "Toots Sweet." The original liner notes describe Leroy Vinnegar and Lawrence Marable as "newcomers" to recorded jazz (although Marable had already recorded with pianist Hampton Hawes, among others).

Both of these largely self-taught musicians would have notable careers. In 1956, Vinnegar played bass on Shelly Manne's Contemporary album of songs from My Fair Lady, one of the best-selling jazz releases of the decade.
In the 1970s, Larry Marable, Lou Levy, and Candoli all performed with Supersax, a five saxophone nonet that re-created, in harmonized form, some of Charlie Parker's most celebrated solos. Candoli's Dizzy Gillespie-influenced horn fit in perfectly with this ensemble.

Long sojourns in film and television studios, including a lengthy stay in the "Tonight Show" band led by Doc Severinsen, have occupied much of Candoli's time in more recent years. He is also a sought after teacher, but continues to perform frequently, often with his brother, and remains a unique and readily identifiable voice on his instrument.”

Ted Gioia, in his seminal West Coast Jazz: Jazz in California 1945-1960, offers his usual pertinent and informative insights into Conte style of playing:

Conte Candoli, Rosolino's companion in the Lighthouse All-Stars front line, shared his sympathy for a more aggressive, hard bop approach. An exuberant trumpeter, with none of the pensive moodiness of a Chet Baker or Jack Sheldon, Candoli was best at uninhibited blowing in a jam session setting. In fact Candoli, when he was paired up with East Coasters Kenny Dorham and Al Cohn for a mid-1950s tour and recording, came across as much more of a bombastic bebopper than his more subdued East Coast counterparts. An unaware listener would likely pick out Dorham and Cohn, on that date, as the ones with the West Coast sound.

Like Carl Perkins, Leroy Vinnegar, and Buddy Montgomery, Candoli was a West Coast musician by way of Indiana. He was born Secondo Candoli in Mishawaka on July 12,1927. As his true name suggests, Conte was the second son in this highly musical family. During much of his career, Conte has collaborated with his older brother, trumpeter Pete [Primo] Candoli, born June 28, 1923. At age twelve Conte began his musical studies, in emulation of his brother's playing. By his mid-teens he had developed enough proficiency to join the Woody Herman band—an engagement that was interrupted when the younger trumpeter was forced by his mother to return home to finish high school. In January 1945, diploma in hand, Conte embarked on a full-time career as a professional musician.

After leaving Herman, he worked with Chubby Jackson, Stan Kenton, and Charlie Ventura before finally leading his own group in Chicago in 1954. Later that year he settled in California, where he soon signed on as a regular member of the Lighthouse band.

Brother Pete had a more flamboyant stage presence. … Conte's extroversion, in contrast, comes out more in his playing than in his personal demeanor. His trumpet stylings, though less rooted in the upper register than his brother's, possess a devil-may-care verve that is quite appealing.

Shortly after his arrival on the coast, Conte undertook a date as leader for Bethlehem Records, released as Groovin' Higher, in which he was joined by Bill Holman on tenor sax and a rhythm section comprised of Leroy Vinnegar, Lawrence Marable, and Lou Levy. Here the basic elements of Candoli's style are evident.

He first and foremost shows a knack for constructing long phrases with a variety of rhythmic twists and turns; unlike most players, who strive to play complex phrases with an appearance of ease, Candoli seems to aim for the opposite effect — his playing, particularly on fast numbers, sounds as though it is running at full steam and perhaps in danger of overheating. Also contributing to this effect is Conte's strong sense of dynamics.

While Pete might build up to a musical climax by working his way into the highest register of the horn, Conte achieves the same effect through shifting dynamics, not only between phrases but often within a specific phrase. Conte's music is like a caldron on the boil, with individual notes and groups of notes bubbling above the surface.

Like so many of [his] contemporaries,... [Conte established himself] as a first-call Hollywood player somewhat at the cost of [his] reputation in the jazz world. Yet … [his] occasional forays into straight-ahead jazz still find … [him] playing at peak form.”

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Richie Kamuca - The Gordon Jack Interview

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

In view of how little tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca [1930-1977] recorded under his own name over the years, I was immensely fortunate to hear him play in performance on an almost weekly basis from about 1958 - 1964.

Of course, this observation is made in retrospect because like everyone else who directly experienced the West Coast Style of Jazz which was in vogue from in California from about 1945-1965, I assumed that the music would go on forever.

From 1958 to 1960, I was an habituĂ© of the Lighthouse Cafe at 30 Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, CA and although Bob Cooper was the resident tenor saxophonist, because Richie’s boyhood friend Stan Levey occupied the drum chair, bassist Howard Rumsey, who led the resident Lighthouse All-Stars, would often turn over the last set to Richie and a fabulous rhythm section made up of Victor Feldman on piano and Stan on drums, both members of the All-Stars, and a young bassist phenom, Scott LaFaro.

You can check out this group on the last two tracks of Joe Gordon and Scott LaFaro: West Coast Days [Fresh Sound FSCD 1030], recorded in performance, September, 1958.

A year later in, September, 1959, Richie, then a regular with drummer Shelly Manne’s quintet, would perform with Victor, who was subbing for Shelly regular pianist Russ Freeman on the classic 5 CD set that Shelly’s group recorded at the Blackhawk Cafe in San Francisco, CA [Contemporary, Original Jazz Classic CD OJCCD-656-660].  Needless to say, I wore out the original LP’s during repeated listenings and if you want to hear Richie at the peak of his powers, this is the set to get.

Shelly returned from the cozy atmosphere of the Blackhawk even more determined to open his own club which he did at 1608 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood, CA in November of the following year.

Along with Conte Candoli on trumpet, Richie formed the front line of that band from about 1960-1962 and you can hear the exciting music this band made on a 2 CD set recorded in performance in 1961 and released on Contemporary as Shelly Manne and His Men at The Manne Hole Original Jazz Classics OJCCD 714/715-2]. If you look closely, you’ll find me garbed in a white polo shirt and blue slacks, seated in front of the bandstand with my chair turned around, staring at Shelly so I could pick up a few of his licks, fills and tricks. I caught the group every chance I could and was rarely disappointed in the quality of the band’s playing, especially Richie’s.

Oh, and while all this was going on, Richie was a member of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs’ Dream Band from about 1960-1963 which made regular “off night” [Monday night] appearances at club venues on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, CA.

Talk about a surfeit of riches - or should I say, Surfeit of Richies .

The editorial at JazzProfiles had planned to do a feature on Richie, but when it received word that Gordon Jack had done just that for JazzJournal magazine, we reached out to Gordon about posting his piece on Kamuca on the blog.

As many of you know, Gordon Jack is a frequent contributor to the Jazz Journal and a very generous friend to these pages in his allowance of JazzProfiles re-publishings of his excellent writings. He is the author of Fifties Jazz Talk An Oral Retrospective and he developed the Gerry Mulligan discography in Raymond Horricks’ book Gerry Mulligan’s Ark.

The following article was first published in Jazz Journal August 2017..
For more information and subscriptions please visit
© -  Gordon Jack/JazzJournal; copyright protected, all rights reserved., used with permission.
Richie Kamuca was already a stellar member of Woody Hernan’s Third Herd when he recorded Johnny Mandel’s Keester Parade with Cy Touff and Harry Edison in 1955. It became enormously popular and helped establish his reputation with jazz audiences especially when it was used as a theme by disc jockey Frank Evans on his Frankly Jazz Show on Mutual KHJ. In 1959 Marty Paich memorably transcribed Mandel’s chart for Mel Torme’ and the Mel-Tones on their Back In Town album (LoneHill Jazz LHJ10304). Keester was to undergo a name-change when Harry Edison performed it as Centerpiece in 1958 with Jimmy Forrest (Fresh Sound FSRCD 547-2). Just like Keester Parade, Centerpiece found favour with another vocal group when Lambert, Hendricks & Ross recorded it on their Giants Of Jazz release – The Hottest New Group In Jazz (CD 53127).

Kamuca was born in Philadelphia on 23 July, 1930. He studied at the celebrated Mastbaum Vocational High School where Red Rodney was a fellow student.  In 1951 he began working with Stan Levey’s quartet along with Red Garland and Nelson Boyd at the local Rendezvous Club. As the house-band they had to be highly adaptable backing non-jazz acts like Burl Ives as well as visiting singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Richie and Stan became very close over the years and Kamuca was Godfather to two of his sons. It was thanks to a recommendation from the drummer that Kamuca joined Stan Kenton on 26 August 1952 – the same day as Lee Konitz. The band was appearing at the Moonlite Gardens, Coney Island, Cincinnati at the time.

Two weeks after his debut Kamuca performed on Kenton’s New Concepts Of Artistry In Rhythm album recorded for Capitol Records in Chicago. The opening title is Stan’s ambitious This Is An Orchestra! which includes his verbal introduction to each band member who then solos briefly.  He highlights Kamuca’s ability to “Swing at the drop of a hat” which Richie ably demonstrates on his album features - Young Blood and Swing House. As Bill Holman said at the time, “Richie is a tried and true Lester Young person… with his own sound that nobody else had”.

During his early career with the band he did not get too many solo opportunities on studio dates but he makes an impressive contribution to Bill Russo’s chart on Fascinating Rhythm along with two of the band’s giants – Frank Rosolino and Lee Konitz.  I still have the L.P. with Alun Morgan’s sleeve-note pointing out that this was the 37th. take yet the performance retains the freshness of a first run-through. Live performances though  – well documented by Sounds Of Yester Year and Submarine – are replete with his contributions to Intermission Riff, It’s The Talk Of The Town, Eager Beaver, Too Marvellous For Words, Jump For Joe, The Big Chase, Royal Blue and Walkin’ Shoes.

Richie was a good looking young man and very popular with the girls who followed the band.  Michael Sparke in his authoritative biography of Stan Kenton reveals that Rosemary Clooney and Johnny Mathis were once in the audience, both clearly enamoured with him.  Andy Hamilton’s book on Lee Konitz points out that this probably occurred at the Blue Note in Chicago. Apparently Kamuca and Ms. Clooney eventually became an item for a while. Richie left Kenton soon after an engagement at Birdland in June 1953 and his place was taken by Zoot Sims. Count Basie apparently wanted him but there were union difficulties that prevented him joining the band.

Kamuca took over from Dave Madden with Woody Herman in October 1954 just as the band finished a two week engagement at the Hollywood Palladium.  Jack Nimitz who played baritone with Kenton and Herman told me in a JJ interview (December 1997) that the money was not as good with Herman. One of Woody’s road-managers - trumpeter John Bennett – put it more bluntly to writer William D. Clancy, “The pay was atrocious…you have to save up for these kind of gigs!”. Travelling between jobs was certainly not as comfortable either. Kenton had an air-conditioned band-bus but Woody’s musicians frequently travelled in four Ford Sedans even on road trips of 800 miles or more. Trumpeter Don Rader who joined the band in 1959 put it quite succinctly to Clancy - “To say that Woody was operating on a shoestring would be an understatement”. Herman’s music though was more straight ahead and swinging than Kenton’s with less emphasis on the experimental.

Richie is heard on a driving Captain Ahab (his favourite solo with the band) and Nat Pierce’s arrangement of Opus De Funk but the highlight of his time with Herman was when Woody took an octet into the Riviera Starlight Lounge in Las Vegas on 8 September, 1955. He only used five horns - Dick Collins and John Coppola (trumpet), Cy Touff (bass trumpet), Kamuca (tenor) and his own clarinet. The engagement lasted three months and after performing nightly from midnight to 6AM the band was really tight as can be heard on the Fresh Sound release that documents the octet’s repertoire. There is a little bow to Basie with numbers like Every Day I Have The Blues, 9.20 Special, Jumpin’ At The Woodside and Broadway which are all perfect fits for Kamuca’s Prez-like tenor. There is plenty of the leader’s clarinet to enjoy and his vocals on Every Day and Basin Street Blues are an added bonus.

Richie finally left the band around July 1956 soon after their appearance at The Lagoon in Salt Lake City, Utah. The venue was an amusement park that also booked bands with Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong all appearing there during the year. Incidentally, Leonard Feather once asked Herman which tenor players impressed him the most of the new generation and he replied, “Richie Kamuca and Bill Perkins”. After four years on the road he probably wanted a rest from travelling so he moved to Los Angeles where he was able to take advantage of all the recording opportunities there. These  were  the boom years for West Coast Jazz and his discography reads like a who’s-who of the Californian scene featuring albums with Bill Perkins, Marty Paich, Stan Levey, Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Maynard Ferguson, Bill Holman, Conte Candoli, Frank Rosolino, Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne. Living at 1032, North Pass Avenue, Burbank he quite soon became a Lighthouse All-Star and from time to time he returned to the Kenton fold whenever Stan had bookings on the west coast.

One particularly memorable date took place when Manny Albam came to town to record the second volume of his Jazz Greats Of Our Time in August 1957. (The first volume had been recorded four months earlier with the cream of the New York set – Art Farmer, Bob Brookmeyer, Phil Woods, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims and Gerry Mulligan). Richie more than holds his own with the superior company assembled by Manny Albam including Harry Edison, Jack Sheldon, Herb Geller, Bill Holman and Charlie Mariano. He is at his most poignant on the moody Afterthoughts and his exchanges with Bill Holman on It’s De-Lovely call to mind Al and Zoot at their best. Another album I frequently return to is Just Friends with his good friend Bill Perkins. The title track finds them opening with an unaccompanied chorus of contrapuntal interplay that sets the scene for one of their finest collaborations. In a 1958 Downbeat interview Perkins generously said, “Richie is a much better jazz player than I am…he possesses the most original combination of tonal quality and ideas of any tenor player around”.

Unlike many former Kenton and Herman musicians who had settled In California in the fifties, Kamuca made very few movie recordings. He does appear however in a lengthy scene with Red Norvo and Pete Candoli in the 1958 Kings Go Forth film starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and Frank Sinatra.

In 1961 he performed with Terry Gibbs’ Dream Band at The Summit in Hollywood.  This was the band (with the great Joe Maini on lead alto) that had so impressed Bob Brookmeyer that he recruited Conte Candoli, Buddy Clark and Mel Lewis for Gerry Mulligan’s CJB. A little later he decided to move back east - not to his home-town of Philadelphia but to New York City where he lived at 780, Greenwich Street.  Gary McFarland soon recruited him for his new sextet along with trombonist Willie Dennis.  Richie introduced his oboe on the sextet’s only album and with Willie’s unique slide-work producing numerous overtones they created a distinctive ensemble sound. He often worked at the Half Note with Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Witherspoon and Roy Eldridge who was one of his favourite musicians.  In January 1964 he performed at Birdland with Mulligan’s CJB playing new material that the band unfortunately never recorded like Al Cohn’s Mama Flosie, Gary McFarland’s Kitch, Wayne Shorter’s Mama G and the standard, I Believe In You. That was the year he became a member of Merv Griffin’s TV Show Band which was a home-from-home for some prominent jazz musicians like Bill Berry, Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Byers, Dick Hafer, Art Davis, Jim Hall and Jake Hanna. He remained with the band when Griffin relocated to Los Angeles in 1971.

Until his death Kamuca remained active on the Los Angeles scene with Mundell Lowe, Bill Berry’s Big Band, the Frank Capp-Nat Pierce Juggernaut and a quintet he co-led with Blue Mitchell. One of his final recordings in February 1977 took place with Dave Frishberg for the Concord label. Dave of course is a consummate songwriter and one of the titles Dear Bix has Richie singing Frishberg’s charming hymn to the trumpeter. It is yet to be released on CD but it can be heard on YouTube. The lyric’s opening line makes it clear just what the trumpeter meant to the composer – “Bix old friend, are you ever going to comprehend you’re no ordinary, standard Bb [B flat] run-of-the-mill type guy”.

When it was discovered in early 1977 that he had cancer a benefit performance was given for him that included Steve Allen, Milt Jackson, Doc Severinsen and others. Towards the end, his good friend Stan Levey used to wheel him to the car and drive him to the beach where he could sit and watch the birds. Richie Kamuca died the day before his birthday on July 22, 1977.


As Leader
Cy Touff and Richie Kamuca Quintet Octet (Fresh Sound Records FSR 2237)
Richie Kamuca and Bill Holman: Jazz Erotica (Original Jazz Classics 1760)
Richie Kamuca Quartet (V.S.O.P. 17CD)

As Sideman
Stan Kenton: New Concepts Of Artistry In Rhythm (Capitol Jazz CDP 7 92865 2).
Woody Herman: His Octet & His Band (Fresh Sound FSR 2238).
Frank Rosolino Quintet (Tofrec TFCL-88920).
Bill Perkins:  Just Friends (Phono 870250).
Manny Albam: Jazz Greats Of Our Time Complete Recording (Lonehill Jazz LHJ10118).
Shelly Manne and His Men: Complete Live At The Black Hawk (American Jazz Classics 99009).
Terry Gibbs Dream Band: Main Stem Vol 4 (Contemporary CCD-7656-2).

Richie was often praised for the “appealing freshness" of his "tender ballad style." The following video shows off his affinity for ballads as he joins with Bill Holman perform on Bill's arrangement of The Things We Did Last Summer.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Shelly Manne liked to introduce his band members in this ironic manner: 'On tenor—Richie Kamuca from Philadelphia, PA; on trumpet — Joe Gordon from Boston, Mass.; on bass—Monty Budwig from Pender, Nebraska; our pianist is Victor Feldman from London, England; I'm Shelly Manne from New York City—WE PLAY WEST COAST JAZZ!'

In 1992, Chronicle Books published a coffee table sized book entitled California Cool: West Coast Jazz of the 1950s and 1960s. Edited by Graham Marsh, it is essentially a compilation of the album cover art from the period nicely reproduced in color on thick paper.

The following essays by photographer William Claxton who had a great deal to do with creating the most prominent album cover art “look” of this period, Jazz author and essayist Leonard Feather who was the Jazz Critic for the Los Angeles Times newspaper for many years and Brian Case provide an excellent short summary of the main characteristics of Jazz on the West Coast or - “West Coast Jazz.”

Reasonably priced used and new copies of the book can still be sourced through online booksellers.

- William Claxton

“The jazz scene on the West Coast of the USA, notably California, in the 1950s was indeed a real and prolific musical happening. Early in 1955 a book of my photographs was published, called Jazz West Coast. It was accompanied by two 12-inch LPs with the same title, and served to sum up what was happening musically at that time. This book was a success, and the media picked up the title and made a great deal of this 'school' of jazz from the West Coast.

The question of geographic limitations and origins of any art form can best be left to the historians and, in this case, the musicologists. In the 30s, 40s and early 50s, jazz compatriots from the East Coast—the Apple, Philly, the Windy City and other points west—had always strayed to the Pacific shores long enough to play a few gigs and to have their pictures taken. In the early 50s a group of young, healthy (well, mostly healthy) arrangers and writers — such as Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Lennie Niehaus, Jack Montrose and Jimmy Giuffre — and young players — such as Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon, Shelly Manne and Bob Brookmeyer— were, indeed, in the right place at the right time. They were musically sophisticated, educated, and sought new ways for jazz expression. Some jazz journalists have implied that this was largely a white musician's movement when, in fact, during this period the black players, who had long been an important force in the Los Angeles jazz scene, were treated as new stars and were now gracing the covers of their own albums. Important names like Benny Carter, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Chico Hamilton, Gerald Wilson, Buddy Collette, Dexter Gordon, Red Callender, Ray Brown, Hampton Hawes, Wardell Grey and Harold Land were to be seen and heard everywhere during this prolific period.
On the New York scene the photographers and designers were producing album covers with a hard-edged, gutsy look (sweaty musicians in smoke-filled clubs); while out in California, we — myself, along with others, such as the brilliant Bob Guidi of Tri-Arts—were creating album covers with a different look . . . covers that reflected this new, laid-back West Coast sound. We worked for all the major record companies, but the majority of the most amusing covers were for Richard Bock's Pacific Jazz Records, Les Koenig's Contemporary and Good Time Jazz labels, and the Weiss brothers' Fantasy Record sin San Francisco, plus a dozen other neophyte labels that sprang up overnight.

This early 50s recording phenomenon came about for various reasons: the advent of the 33 ⅓ rpm long-playing record, for one thing, which gave us, the graphic designers and photographers of that time, a generous 12x12" format to use as a billboard to display our art and to sell the recording artist. This engineering and commercial event happily coincided with renewed interest in jazz.

By 1955, the rush to produce jazz LPs and their cover art became so frantic (recording day and night), that we had constantly to invent new ways to sell these jazz artists visually.

The sheer volume of work produced created a problem of just what to do next with any one of these blossoming young jazz musicians. I would shoot Shorty Rogers in a space helmet, then the following week i'd shoot him up high in his kid's tree house; then atop the windy Hollywood hills with his quintet, when the title of the album became Wherever the Five Winds Blow. Indeed, the photograph of a group would often determine the title of the album: Chet Baker and his quartet perched on a beautiful yacht became Chet Baker and Crew; visiting Easterner, Sonny Rollins, wanted to wear a cowboy hat on his cover, so I took him to the Mojave Desert, added a six-shooter and created Sonny Rollins Way Out West; I put Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars on the Santa Monica Beach, piano and all; for a Jazz West Coast anthology for Pacific Jazz, I had a diver in his black wetsuit clutching a bright, shiny trumpet as he sprang from the salty, foaming Pacific Ocean; for The Poll Winners Ride Again I put Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown on a merry-go-round. The ideas went on and on ... new juxtapositions of palm trees, sunshine and sandy beaches with jazzmen. All in all we had fun while creating a cool look . . . California Cool.”

- Leonard Feather

“The term 'the art of jazz photography' is a misnomer; a better phrase would be 'photography devoted to jazz musicians, by photographers who love and understand jazz'. That, of course, is one of several ways in which one can characterize the work of William Claxton.

Born in Southern California, with a mother who was a semi-professional singer and an elder brother who played boogie-woogie piano, William was seven when, fascinated by a musical short featuring Cab Calloway and Lena Home, he assembled a scrapbook devoted to them. While in his early teens, he was exposed to live jazz on a memorable scale, hearing Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Art Tatum and Fats Waller in a single matinee at the Streets of Paris in Hollywood.

Later idols were Billie Holiday and Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy and Bird, Bud Powell, and the name bands of the 1940s. Meanwhile, a teenage neighbourhood friend, Richard Lang, had turned him on to photography.

While photographing the Gerry Mulligan Quartet at the Haig club on Wilshire Boulevard, Claxton met Richard Bock of the newly formed Pacific Jazz Records. His photographs on the record covers became almost as important as the music inside. Claxton became an integral part of that organization and was soon shooting for almost every important record company in the country. His record cover art has won many awards. His ubiquitous appearance at recording sessions and his easy rapport with the musicians led Shorty Rogers to dedicate a tune to him, 'Clickin' With Clax'.

Over the years, Claxton's work expanded beyond jazz. On an assignment for a major magazine he met a young actress, Peggy Moffitt. He suggested that she became a fashion model. She did, indeed, become a very successful model and also became Mrs William Claxton. She went to work for fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, and Claxton photographed most of his collections on Peggy, including the notorious Topless Swimsuit. Rudi, Peggy and Clax became a formidable threesome and produced some memorable work in the 60s and 70s.

For a while, Claxton was largely removed from jazz; instead of musicians, his close friends and subjects were film stars. He worked mainly doing special photography on motion picture sets for the major magazines and continued his fashion photography with Peggy and Rudi Gernreich. The latter part of the 6Os was spent living in Paris and London.

By that time, though, he had accumulated a veritable gold mine of jazz photographs, representing every era from New Orleans origins (shot on location) to post-bebop days.

During his early years as a jazz photographologist, Claxton had some memorable encounters. 'In June of 1952,' he recalls, 'I was still very green and naive; I was shooting with a big old 4x5 Speed Graphic with film plates and flash bulbs — I hadn't yet discovered the technique of available light. At this time I had a chance to shoot Bird at the Tiffany Club on Seventh Street. I hung out with him till the place closed,then brought him and his young fans to my parents' home in Pasadena. Bird was delightful; he entertained us and played for us. I improvised a studio in my bedroom and posed him with his fans in a formal portrait. It's pretty good for a kid photographer. I've never seen Bird look happier.'

Like a very few other jazz experts, Claxton has an eye for more than the obvious picture presented by his subjects. Often, along with the settings in which he showed them, they became metaphors for the Zeitgeist, for a whole era of musical evolution.”

West Coasting
- Brian Case

“Listening to veteran tenorman Teddy Edwards' reminiscences of the West Coast can make your mouth water. 'Everybody was in town because the war was in the Pacific. Soldiers, sailors, whole families had moved to the West. Los Angeles was a 24-hour town during that period. I'm sure that the 40s was the most productive period in American history in the arts and everything else. Everything was in full production, employment was at its highest peak, everything was in motion -and money was almost running down the street to meet you. Nobody thought about the war hitting America. The whole thing was alive and in motion.' In the war years the population of LA quadrupled, and Central Avenue became the Harlem of the West Coast, with clubs like Jack's Basket, Cafe Society, Casablanca and the Jungle Room, in the words of Hampton Hawes, 'jumping in to the sunrise'.

In 1945 Diz and Bird made the scene at Billy Berg's, bringing Bebop to the Coast. Few jazzmen linked with the region were born there. Out-of-town big band musicians on Blue Goose buses saw the palm trees and failed to climb back aboard. Teddy Edwards had been with the Ernie Fields Orchestra. 'We played there and then went on. The bus broke down above Cheyenne, Wyoming, and all you could see was snow. I thought, you can have all this stuff. I'm going back to California.' Tenorman Brew Moore made it in a go!-man-go! trip that allegedly inspired Jack Kerouac's On the Road. 'Billy Faier had a 1949 Buick and somebody wanted him to drive it out to California so he rode through Washington Square shouting, "Anyone for the Coast?" And I was just sitting there on a bench and there wasn't shit shaking in New York so I said, Hell, yes.' But the migrant who put the West Coast Sound on the map travelled by thumb, packing a baritone saxophone and a case full of arrangements.

Crew-cut Gerry Mulligan was responsible for some of the arrangements on the highly influential 'Birth of the Cool' album by Miles Davis, and when he formed his pianoless quartet with Chet Baker in 1952, the music shared that velvet melancholy elegance at low decibel levels. Weatherless, neatly contrapuntal, the sounds from The Haig were afar cry from the blowing sessions and cutting contests between Dexter Gordon and Wardell Cray on Central Avenue. A Time magazine article on the group set the seal upon the white West Coast sound, encouraging a rash of topographicality among record producers, after which many blazing black musicians suddenly experienced 'the LA slows'. The greatest musician in California, Art Pepper, was white and didn't feel right: 'I wanted to be a black because I felt such an affinity for the music.' Shorty Rogers, along with Mulligan, the linchpin in the West Coast movement, viewed his band, The Giants, as an update on Count Basie and the Kansas City Seven. But the copy-writers had taken over and a half-truth was born: West Coast cool, East Coast hot.

If California had the weather, it also had the film studios which provided steady work for schooled ex-big band players tired of the road. Some, like the talented Lennie Niehaus, quit the scene and wound up working for Clint Eastwood, but for many jazzmen, playing film scores by Henry Mancini or Elmer Bernstein didn't burst the spirit's slumber. Bud Shank, whose flute was always in demand for deathbed scenes, teamed with Laurindo Almeida off the lot to experiment with bossa nova. 'Was I on "The Last Detail"?' said the late Shelly Manne. 'I can't remember. Probably was. I was doing two or three a week, and I didn't always see the title. Often it hadn't got one.' He lived for the after-hours gigs, for blowing at Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse and the Blackhawk, and finally founded his own club, Shelly's Manne Hole.

Contemporary and Pacific album covers emphasized fun and sunshine in primary colours. The West Coast looked like a theme park. Visiting Brooklynite Sonny Rollins, kitted out as a gunslinger in a stetson and posing by a cactus for Contemporary's 'Way Out West', was embarrassed for decades about it until he learned that the sight of a black cowboy so influenced Courtney Pine, then a black Londoner at school, that he took up the tenor.

The long-playing record fed an expanding market, and sales techniques came up with stereotypical images for the hi-fi. Finally, the whole West Coast thing was oversold, and a reaction set in which was unfair too. Good music was playing on both coasts, often, since travel is an economic necessity, by the same cats. Dexter Gordon, born there, played everywhere. The West had its legends: Pepper, Mister Chet, the preternaturally on-it drummer, Frank Butler, Sonny Criss, who gave Bird a run for his money, and not forgetting the forever tantalizing promise of trumpet player Dupree Bolton, jailed forever. Ironically enough, it was Contemporary which first put Ornette Coleman, a Texan revolutionary whose music split both coasts, on to the market.”