Thursday, November 19, 2009

ROBERT GORDON - Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950’s -Chapter 5

I’ve always been grateful that my folks decided to re-locate to California in the mid-1950’s as one great benefit of the move was that I was able to experience Jazz on the West Coast first-hand. Over the years, it was great fun to have easy access to the Jazz Clubs in Hollywood, the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, and the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa via California’s nascent [and relatively un-crowded] freeway system where I could listen to the many manifestations of what Bob Gordon refers to as - The West Coast Sound.

For example, one night in 1959, I attended a concert at the recently-built [1958] Santa Monica Civic Auditorium that featured the Dave Brubeck Quartet and afterwards I continued down the Pacific Coast Highway to catch the closing sets of the Lighthouse All-Stars. Talk about halcyon days gone by!

Also relatively new at this time [1950] was the Union Hall of Musicians Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians chapter of the AFL-CIO where on any given day you could listen to or be performing in rehearsal bands of all shapes and sizes.
One day it might be the Onzy Matthews Big Band with a trumpet section of Bud Brisbois, Ollie Mitchell, Dalton Smith, Bobby Bryant and Freddie Hill; Horace Tapscott, Lou Blackburn, Dick “Slyde” Hyde and Don Smith on trombone; Joe Maini, Clifford Scott, Curtis Amy, Jay Migliori and Sydney Miller on reeds; Ray Crawford, guitar, Jim Crutcher, bass and Charles “Chiz Harris, drums.

Another day it might be Marty Paich working through his charts with the likes of Al Porcino, Conte Candoli, Jack Sheldon on trumpet, a trombone section that included Bob Enevoldsen and George Roberts with Vince DeRosa close-by on French Horn, a saxophone section that was made up of Art Pepper, Bill Perkins, Jimmy Giuffre and Bill Hood and a rhythm section of Victor Feldman on piano & vibes, Scott LaFaro on bass and Mel Lewis on drums.

Or you might walk in on a small group rehearsal involving Curtis Amy on tenor, Carmel Jones on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Frank Strazzeri on piano, Jimmy Bond on bass and Frank Butler on drums.

Union hall happenings like these were a microcosmic reflection of the “West Coast Sound,” a sound that was everywhere apparent in the greater Los Angeles area. It was so vibrant in its many expressions that it was difficult to understand why it was so often criticized, if not ostracized, as a lifeless and limpid style of Jazz not worthy of serious attention.

As was the case with the preceding chapters on Central Avenue, Shorty Rogers and Gerry Mulligan, Bob Gordon’s next chapter continues to further our understanding of the evolution of the modern Jazz scene that developed in Los Angeles, primarily during the 1950s.

© -Robert Gordon, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Chief among Pacific Jazz's competitors in the southland's independent record derby was Lester Koenig's Contemporary records. Koenig had founded Good Time jazz records in the post-war years to record traditional Dixieland and New Orleans revivalist groups, and the Contemporary label was a natural outgrowth of the parent company. As we have seen, the first Lighthouse All-Stars recordings were released on Contemporary. (Actually, the 78 singles were issued on the Lighthouse label, and that trademark and logo was then used for Contemporary's Lighthouse series of 45s and long-playing albums.) In addition to Howard Rumsey and the Lighthouse crew, Koenig signed Shelly Manne (the All-Stars' drummer at the time) to a long-term contract. Shelly was given carte blanche with regards to recording sessions and sidemen, and the liberty he enjoyed paid dividends for Koenig and the Contemporary label.

The first session under Shelly's own name was held on 6 April 1953, shortly following the Shorty Rogers Cool and Crazy sessions, and featured a number of the same sidemen. The band was a septet, and the instrumentation was slightly unusual: the front line consisted of three saxes and a valve-trombone. Art Pepper's alto, Bob Cooper's tenor and Jimmy Giuffre's baritone were joined by Bob Enevoldsen on trombone and the rhythm section of Marty Paich, Curtis Counce and of course Shelly. However, in both this and a second session held later in July, the featured artists were really the writers. For the initial session Shorty Rogers contributed two arrangements, an original entitled 'Mallets' and a chart on a traditional Mexican folk theme, 'La Mucura'. Both are Latin-tinged. 'Mallets', as the title suggests, features Shelly using mallets throughout. The remaining two arrangements were by Bill Russo, a trombonist and writer then with Stan Kenton. 'You and the Night and the Music' has lovely alto work by Art Pepper (recording under the name Art Salt for contractual reasons) on both section lead and solo. Russo's second piece, 'Gazelle', is aptly named, for the difficult theme runs and leaps at a brisk pace.

There were two changes in personnel at the second session, held on 20 July. Altoist Bud Shank replaced Art Pepper, who was away on the first of numerous absences from the scene, and Joe Mondragon replaced Curtis Counce. Shorty Rogers and Bill Russo each contributed an additional chart for this date. Shorty's ballad 'Afrodesia' was written with Art Pepper in mind, but Bud Shank fills in admirably; Russ's minor-key number is named 'Sweets'. Pianist Marty Paich contributed an arrangement of 'You're My Thrill' which seems influenced by Russo's writing on 'You and the Night and the Music'. Finally, there is Jimmy Giuffre's 'Fugue', an attempt to stretch the boundaries of jazz writing. 'Fugue' is atonal, and the rhythm section plays melodies or counter-lines rather than time. There is, however, a repeated figure - as old as a Kansas City riff - that ties the arrangement together.

When these eight numbers were first released on a long-playing record, the album was entitled The West Coast Sound, and indeed these arrangements - much more than the Shorty Rogers Capitol sides - set the style for much of what came to be called West Coast jazz. The valve-trombone is used here not as the ensemble lead, but is treated as a member of the sax section. The inner voices - trombone and tenor sax - are given the most dissonant notes (they are often voiced in minor seconds), thus thickening the ensemble sound. There are many contrapuntal passages, even aside from the formal 'Fugue'. Perhaps most importantly, the writing definitely takes precedence over the solos: often each horn gets only half a chorus to blow in. Moreover, Shelly confines himself to brushes (or mallets) for the most part, and there are few 'bombs' dropped. The result is an intellectual music that exhibits a great deal of craftsmanship but little warmth or swing. At the time it was recorded it was certainly a new and fresh sound, and that may have had much to do with the music's initial acceptance. But it palled rather quickly and made one long for some uninhibited, straight-ahead blowing.

Several months later the Lighthouse AU-Stars once again recorded for Contemporary. By this time the key members of the original All-Stars - Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre and Shelly Manne - had left to form Shorty's working group, the Giants. The second-generation members who met in the studio on 20 October included the Swedish trumpet star Rolf Ericsson saxophonists Herb Geller, Bud Shank and Bob Cooper, pianist Claude Williamson, and a most important new addition, Max Roach. In retrospect, it might seem strange that the fiery drummer of Charlie Parker's quintet and the acknowledged father of modem jazz drumming would take a job on the Coast, which was already gaining a reputation for a laid-back style, but the All-Stars - especially in concert at the club - were always exponents of straight-ahead blowing. Max was with the All-Stars six months, starting in September 1953. Shelly Manne had recommended Max as his replacement, and Howard Rumsey phoned New York to see if the drummer was interested. He was. 'I called him - he needed work,' Rumsey recalls. 'When he finished he told me it was the only job he ever had for a six-month period.’ [Letter to the author June 12, 1983]  Max seemed to enjoy working with the All-Stars, although it may be significant that he left as soon as his contract expired. Bob Cooper remembers Max telling him that he liked working in a 'clean' atmosphere; the always professional Rumsey saw to it that drugs were off-limits at the club. In any case, the California musicians certainly enjoyed working with Max Roach.

Four tunes were recorded at the October session, Shorty Rogers's 'Mambo Los Feliz', Jimmy Giuffre's beautiful arrangement of the Victor Young standard 'Love Letters' and two originals by Bob Cooper, 'Witch Doctor' and 'Jazz Invention'. Jack Costanzo was added on bongos for 'Mambo Los Feliz' and 'Witch Doctor', and Milt Bernhart's trombone was added on the latter tune. 'Love Letters' features a contrapuntal arrangement that has the four horns passing the melody from player to player, as well as a haunting piano solo by Claude Williamson. Bob Cooper's 'Jazz Invention', which also features contrapuntal lines throughout, shows that the saxophonist had come into his own as a jazz composer. Coop's arrangement is thoughtful yet genial, which, come to think of it, is quite accurate as a sketch of Cooper himself.

An even more ambitious attempt at showcasing the West Coast composers came with Shelly Manne's second album. Where the first album had featured an ensemble dominated by reeds, the ensemble on the new LP was composed of a brass choir (two trumpets, valve-trombone and tuba) plus rhythm. Again, the recording was done in two sessions. The first, held on 18 December 1953, had Ollie Mitchell and Shorty Rogers on trumpets, Bob Enevoldsen back on trombone, Paul Sarmento on tuba, and the rhythm section of Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon and Shelly. All of the album's pieces, incidentally, were original compositions. Shorty Rogers must have enjoyed the challenge of working with the unorthodox instrumentation; his 'Shapes, Motions, and Colors' shows that he was capable of much more than the swinging big-band riffs that had become his trademark. Each composer was invited to comment on his own work for the album's liner notes, and Shorty's personality comes through clearly in his statement.

I didn't consciously try for any specific overall form, preferring free forms in my own thinking. I did however use many devices within this free form, but as ends in themselves and not as means to an end. I realized, after I finished this work, that it had taken the shape of a first rondo, but the form was really a result of an instinct for balance ... This is a reflection of my likes in music. I tried only to write what I like, not concerning myself with such thoughts as: Is it jazz? or: Is it legitimate? or: Will anyone like it? [Notes to Contemporary 2511].

'Dimension in Thirds', by Marty Paich, is fairly conventional, yet clearly shows the talent that the youthful Paich was developing. Jimmy Giuffre once again offers an atonal composition, 'Alternation', and once again the rhythm section plays melodies or counter-lines, rather than time. The resulting piece is much closer to the Third Stream experiments that would take place later in the decade than to any works of the other West Coast writers. By the same token, 'Alternation' is further removed from jazz than any other piece on this album.

The outstanding composition to come out of the second session, which was held on 17 March 1954, was 'Etude de Concert' by Jack Montrose. The piece features a number of different moods, instrumental combinations and tempi, highlighted by Shorty Rogers's swinging trumpet. Montrose combines classical techniques with jazz feeling better than any of the other composers, and 'Etude' remains an important work. Its secret is found in Montrose's own comments: "'Etude de Concert" is first and last a jazz composition. The main objective I had in mind was that it must swing.” [Ibid]] Bob Cooper's 'Divertimento for Brass and Rhythm' is more conventional, but Coop also remembers the necessity to swing. The sixth selection, Bill Holman's 'Lullaby', is so named for the childlike directness and simplicity of the theme. On this second session Don Fagerquist and Marty Paich replaced Ollie Mitchell and Russ Freeman on trumpet and piano.

Another Lighthouse All-Stars album cut the same year had the participants experimenting with forms and instruments not usually (at the time) associated with jazz. Saxophonists Bud Shank and Bob Cooper had originally begun doubling on flute and oboe, respectively, while members of the Kenton Innovations orchestra. Cooper, born on 6 December 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had joined Kenton in 1945 and was a mainstay of the sax section in the post-war years. In 1946 he married Kenton's popular vocalist, June Christy. Although he is adept on just about any of the woodwinds, he gained special recognition as being one of the very few jazzmen to have mastered the difficult oboe. Bud Shank was born Clifford Everett Shank Jr. in Dayton, Ohio on 27 May 1926. He had played with the bands of Charlie Barnet, Alvino Rey and Art Mooney before joining Kenton in 1951, and had taken up the flute as a double expressly to audition for the Innovations orchestra.

In 1953, as members of the Lighthouse All-Stars, Shank and Cooper began experimenting with duets featuring their alternate woodwinds. The audience enjoyed the fresh sounds of the duets and asked for more, and their burgeoning popularity suggested a recording date. By February 1954 everyone felt ready, and the quintet entered the Contemporary studios to record eight tunes. In addition to 'head' arrangements of two jazz standards, 'Night in Tunisia' and 'Bag's Groove', the musicians had written six originals specifically for the flute and oboe combination. Bob Cooper contributed three of the tunes, 'Warm Winds', 'Still Life' and 'Hermosa Summer'. Bud Shank's offering was a bright number called 'Happy Town'; Claude Williamson wrote 'Aquarium'; and Max Roach penned a number entitled 'Albatross'. Shank and Cooper also play alto flute and English horn on several of the numbers, achieving a darker coloration with the lower-pitched instruments. The flute and oboe combination works well on the slower mood numbers, but is less effective on the up-tempo pieces, which tend to sound anemic. The group sound begins to pall over the length of a full album, but the experiments did help to legitimize the use of such 'exotic' instruments in the jazz arsenal.

The culmination of the Contemporary/Shelly Manne experimental series came on 10 September 1954 when Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre and Shelly met in the studios to tape an album entitled simply The Three. Rogers, Giuffre and Manne had been playing together for over five years: in various editions of the Herman and Kenton bands, with the Lighthouse All-Stars, and in Shorty's own group, the Giants. They had in that time developed, in Giuffre's words, 'a mutual instinct which enables us to work together in volume, motion and sound'. [Notes to Contemporary 3584] As was the case with the flute and oboe duets, the trio first experimented with the combination on the job, informally, as the mood struck them. Again, a recording date was suggested, and again, several tunes were composed specifically for the instrumentation. Two of the tunes, 'Autumn in New York' and Charlie Parker's 'Steeplechase', were in the Giants' regular book. Two more tunes were composed especially for the date, Shorty's 'Three on a Row' and Jimmy's 'Pas de Trois'. As the name suggests, 'Three on a Row' is based on a twelve-tone row Finally, two of the numbers were worked out in the studio Shelly Manne's 'Flip' (Shelly's wife's nickname) is a head arrangement featuring the horns in two-part canon. The sixth piece, 'Abstract No. F, is a completely free improvisation.

The trio sounds somewhat empty on first hearing; the lack of the jazz pulse usually supplied by the bass is especially disconcerting. But the versatility of the musicians helps matter greatly. Shelly Manne, as has often been noted, is an extremely melodic drummer, and here he often functions as a third voice Jimmy Giuffre divides his playing time almost equally between three horns - clarinet, tenor and baritone saxes - which significantly extends the range of colors available to the trio Most importantly, the three can and do swing. One method Shorty uses to avoid excessive repetition in 'Three on a Row' is to vary the tempi and accents in the various statements an( permutations of the tone row. He succeeds admirably, and the performance is far from the rigid and sterile statement one might expect from such a premise. 'Steeplechase' turns out to be , straight-ahead swinger, with Giuffre starting out on tenor and switching to the more assertive baritone for a surging solo. The album's capstone is 'Abstract No. F, which recalls Lennie Tristano's 'Intuition' and anticipates the free jazz of the sixties a, well. The lack of a piano is an advantage here, as there is no implied tonal centre. The two horns listen closely to each other and respond quickly to changes in direction. Moreover, 'Abstract' breaks into swing, something the Tristano free pieces never managed to do.

A short four days later, a sequel to The Three was recorded This time the participants were Shelly Manne and Russ, Freeman, so the album was naturally enough entitled The Two Russ and Shelly had worked together both at the Lighthouse an in the original edition of the Giants, and had developed empathy that went beyond the usual partnership expected of two rhythm-section instruments. As Russ Freeman remembered it

Playing on the job, Shelly and I used to do things together in the rhythm section, not just counterpoint to the horns, but between us. Instead of playing a drum solo or a piano solo, in some spots, we'd play a solo at the same time, trying to fee each other out, with an awareness of each other being there And Shelly would add, 'We enjoyed playing together so much that we kept talking about making an album, just the two of us, because of the freedom we'd have ... We have a lot of confidence in each other, particularly in each other's time. We're not afraid to try unusual things metre-wise.' [Ibid]

'The Sound Effects Manne' is a perfect introduction to the method the two had worked out. A thirty-two-measure tune, Russ carries the melody for the first sixteen, with Shelly playing a counter-line; then the two switch roles for the second sixteen. Throughout the 'solos'. Russ and Shelly take turns as lead voice or in offering a supporting role to the other. The fine Matt Dennis tune 'Everything Happens to Me' serves as a ballad vehicle for Russ, with Shelly providing sympathetic accompaniment. The two swing so hard on 'Billie's Bounce' that the absence of a bass is hardly felt, and this is also true for 'With a Song in My Heart', which is taken at a very rapid tempo. The two remaining tunes -'A Slight Minority' and 'Speak Easy' - are both Russ Freeman originals (as is 'Sound Effects Manne'). 'Minority' is a ballad, while 'Speak Easy' is a thirty-two-bar AABA piece; both showcase the thoughtful yet swinging interplay between Russ and Shelly. The teamwork these two demonstrate throughout the session would pay dividends later in the decade when they would be reunited in Shelly's own working quintet.

The experiments we've been discussing in this chapter suffered the fate that happens to so many similar artistic searches. At first they were lavishly praised as fresh and original; then a reaction set in and they were damned (often by the same critics!) as straying too far from their jazz heritage. Andre Hodeir, one of the most thoughtful critics ever to write about jazz, had this to say about the West Coast musicians:

Men like Bill Holman, Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre are certainly excellent musicians; they have proved it on many occasions. Why do they apparently find it necessary to think in terms of two types of works, the 'normal' and the 'experimental'? An attitude as artificial as this cannot help being reflected in an alternation of failures that do not at all make up for each other. The medium-size-group sessions ... under the aegis of Shelly Manne are revealing. They show us what mistakes can be made by estimable jazzmen working without any doctrine except, perhaps, the most detestable - eclecticism. The risks taken here are inversely proportional to the jazz level achieved: the closer one gets to the language of jazz, the more commonplace becomes the performance. That is exactly the opposite of what should have happened; or, to be more precise, a maximum of jazz discipline should have been combined with a maximum of musical risks. Such as they are, the pieces included on the Shelly Manne records suffer from a distressing lack of unity.' [Andre Hodeir, Jazz: Its Evolution and Its Essence, New York: DaCapo, 1975, p. 276]

Hodeir seems to miss the point here, however. Of course the works are eclectic. There is a wide cross-section of musicians at work here, and certainly no jazz musician is going to sit down and compose a piece hewing to any preconceived strictures of 'doctrine'. In the case of the first two Shelly Manne albums, there were no givens - with the exception of the instrumentation. Each composer or arranger was specifically enjoined to write whatever he wished. Under such conditions it makes no sense to complain about lack of unity.

Nor could the musicians be blamed for dividing their works into 'normal' and 'experimental' modes - the very nature of the recordings assured that. Most of the experimental works were never played outside the recording studios. There seems to have been a picture in the minds of jazz writers at the time of attentive audiences sitting in Hollywood clubs listening to twenty-piece orchestras play the latest atonal scores from the pens of the West Coast musicians. In reality, a typical jazz-club patron would be listening to a quartet or quintet working out on 'Donna Lee' or 'Now's the Time'. The flute and oboe duets, it is true, were originally played before live audiences at the Lighthouse, but they would typically represent only a small portion of an evening's program.

On the other hand, Hodeir is nearer the mark when he says that 'the closer one gets to the language of jazz, the more commonplace becomes the performance'. Numbers like 'You're My Thrill' and 'You and the Night and the Music' from the first album are little more than scaled-down big-band dance charts with slightly advanced harmonies, the sort of music that Dave Pell would later manufacture in a seemingly endless series of albums.

In any case, the albums we've been discussing sold well and paved the way for additional sessions - both conventional and experimental - on various labels, including Contemporary, Pacific Jazz, and a host of other independent labels that sprang up in their wake. Not all of the musicians on the Coast were experimenting with exotic forms and instruments, of course, but the atmosphere at the time was very conducive to such experiments. One such experiment, whose significance would not be fully realized until the following decade, was that of joining the samba rhythms of Brazil with those of jazz.

Laurindo Almeida, a Brazilian concert guitarist, first came to prominence in this country as a featured soloist with Stan Kenton in 1947. Laurindo had been born in Sao Paolo on 2 September 1917 and had taken up the guitar as a youth. By the time Kenton invited him to the States for a concert tour, Almeida had become famous in his native country playing Spanish concert-style acoustic guitar. His extensive musical training - he had played staff radio jobs in Rio de Janeiro and led an orchestra at Casino de Urca in that city - helped land him a job in the movie studios when Kenton disbanded following the 1947 tour. While working on the soundtrack of A Song is Born, Almeida would relax between takes playing duets with bassist Harry Babasin, and a fast friendship developed between the two.

In 1952 Almeida and Babasin were reunited when the bassist subbed for another musician on a club date the guitarist was working. As Babasin remembers it, 'During the evening Laurindo would play several sets of solo guitar, and rather than hang around the bar or take a walk, I found myself joining him on bass.[John Tynan, “The Real Story of Bossa Nova, Down Beat, November 8, 1962, p. 21] The chemistry between the two was still working, and Babasin began to wonder what would happen if the guitarist were to be backed by a regular jazz combo. The opportunity finally came in 1953, when a quartet composed of Almeida, altoist Bud Shank, Babasin and drummer Roy Harte began to rehearse in the back room of Harte's Drum City, a Hollywood music shop. Roy Harte, a veteran of the Boyd Raeburn and Les Brown bands, takes up the tale.

We rehearsed for about a month. It was Harry's idea, and his bass parts provided the lead rhythmically. Actually we rehearsed for our own education - to see whether Laurindo would swing. Of course, we all knew how great he was as a formal guitarist, but we wanted to find out if he could swing in jazz.

Our main purpose was to achieve the light, swinging feel of the baiao - combined with jazz blowing. In order to get this, I played brushes on a conga drum, not a snare drum. This gave it a light feeling. Actually, I was trying to play with my right hand to Bud's jazz blowing, and with my left I was putting in the samba colour with Laurindo's playing. [Ibid, 22]

Things gelled from the first, and the group soon landed an engagement at The Haig. In September the quartet entered the Pacific jazz studios to record six tunes for a ten-inch LP. Three of the tunes, 'Blue Baiao', 'Carinoso' and 'Nono', were standards of the Brazilian repertoire, and a fourth, 'Tocata', was written especially for the recording by one of Brazil's foremost classical composers, Radames Gnattali. Harry Babasin contributed an original called 'Noctambulism', and the sixth tune, 'Hazardous', was written by Dick Hazard. The music is instantly appealing; the infectious samba rhythms fit in quite well with the jazz feeling, and Bud Shank's pure alto tone is a perfect complement to Almeida's unamplified guitar. Listeners at The Haig were enthusiastic, and Babasin wanted very much to continue, but Almeida preferred to continue with his classical concert work. A second ten-inch album was cut the following year, but there were no further live performances by the group.

In late 1953 Laurindo Almeida returned to Brazil for a visit and took with him twenty-five copies of the first album. 'I gave copies to many of my friends, and it was given close attention,' he remembers.[Ibid] It is tempting to argue that these experiments linking Brazilian samba rhythms with jazz led to the music called bossa nova, which made such an impact on the popular music of the early 1960s, but there is no positive proof of this. No doubt there was some influence at work here, but the Brazilian musicians had already been exposed to the Latin-jazz fusion of some Charlie Parker and especially Dizzy Gillespie recordings of the late forties. But whether the Laurindo Almeida. sides were the progenitors of bossa nova or not, they certainly exhibited characteristics of that style some nine years before bossa nova became a national craze.

The Laurindo Almeida-Bud Shank quartet sides were not the only recordings on which Harry Babasin and Roy Harte collaborated. In fact Roy Harte had formed his own label, Nocturne, prior to the Almeida session. The label was short-lived, but Harte did record some interesting albums while it was in existence.

The first Nocturne album introduced two rising young jazzmen, Herbie Harper and Bob Gordon. Trombonist Harper, whose album this was, was a veteran of the big bands, having played with Johnny 'Scat' Davis, Gene Krupa, Charlie Spivak, Benny Goodman and Charlie Barnet. Herbie was born in Salina, Kansas on 2 July 1920 and was raised in Amarillo, Texas. Bob Gordon (no relation to the author) was a baritone saxophonist who, at the time the album was cut, was rapidly developing an individual voice on the large instrument. Gordon was born in St Louis on 11 June 1928 and had been a California resident since the forties. He had played with the bands of Shorty Sherock, Alvino Rey and Billy May. The rhythm section for the recording date was Jimmy Rowles on piano, Harry Babasin and Roy Harte on bass and drums. Both of the hornsmen favor a straight-ahead blowing style, which results in relaxed yet swinging versions of Jeepers Leapers', Gerry Mulligan's 'Five Brothers', 'Herbstone' (A Harper original) and 'Jive at Five'. There are also ballad performances of 'Dinah' and 'Summertime'. Bob Gordon, despite the inclusion of 'Five Brothers', exhibits an individual style that is not beholden to Gerry Mulligan.

The second Nocturne set marked Bud Shank's first recording as a leader. The Nocturne house rhythm section of Jimmy Rowles, Harry Babasin and Roy Harte returned, and Bud's ex-boss Shorty Rogers provided the second horn. Shorty, moreover, supplied all six of the album's tunes: 'Shank's Pranks', 'Casa de Luz', 'Lotus Bud', 'Left Bank', 'Jasmine' and 'Just a Few'. Two of the tunes, 'Shank's Pranks' and 'Lotus Bud', were minor hits at the time; 'Shank's Pranks' features a bright, catchy tune based on diverging lines, while 'Lotus Bud' is a beautiful ballad with an engaging alto flute solo by Shank. Rogers, by the way, plays flugelhorn on all numbers, imparting a dusky coloration that blends well with both alto sax and alto flute.

As national interest began to focus on the Los Angeles jazz scene, sparked by the growing controversy over 'West Coast jazz' in the trade press, recording activity in the area grew apace. By 1954, a seemingly endless stream of albums issued by both independent and major labels gushed forth from the Coast. Some of the artists represented certainly would not have considered themselves West Coast jazzmen, but were recorded under the banner none the less. Stan Getz, for example, formed a quintet with Bob Brookmeyer in 1953 which, although often on tour, was headquartered in Los Angeles and recorded prolifically there for Norman Granz's Norgran label. Two tunes from their first Norgran album, 'Crazy Rhythm' and 'Willow Weep for Me', became jazz equivalents of hits. 'Crazy Rhythm' is highlighted by some improvised contrapuntal lines by Getz and Brookmeyer of the type that would become the group's trademark. 'Willow' features Stan in his most lovely ballad style. Whether or not they were true West Coast jazzmen, Getz's cool, Lestorian tenor and Brookmeyer's genial valve-trombone certainly fit in well with the West Coast sound. An album taped at a pair of concerts held in LA's Shrine Auditorium in November 1954 (but unfortunately long out-of-print) gives the best idea of the alchemy that existed between the two. Getz and Brookmeyer, backed by pianist Johnny Willams, bassist Bill Anthony and drummer Art Mardigan or Frank Isola, romp through up-tempo numbers like 'Open Country', 'It Don't Mean a Thing' and 'Feather Merchant', and play at their lyrical best on ballads like 'Polka dots and Moonbeams' and 'We'll be Together Again'.

Earlier that year Maynard Ferguson recorded the first of many albums for Mercury records' subsidiary label, Emarcy. This was an octet session with Maynard on trumpet or valve-trombone; Herbie Harper on trombone; Bud Shank, Bob Cooper and Bob Gordon on alto, tenor and bari saxes; and a rhythm section of Russ Freeman, Curtis Counce and Shelly Manne. The arrangements by Willie Maiden were in the by now familiar West Coast style, and so Maynard - whose trumpet style is anything but cool - became allied in the public's mind with the West Coast jazzmen. A contrapuntal version of 'The Way You Look Tonight' is the album's up-tempo swinger, while both 'Over the Rainbow' and 'All God's Children Got Rhythm' feature Ferguson's patented stratospheric trumpet range.

Another West Coast musician to come into prominence at the time was altoist Lennie Niehaus. Niehaus, born in St Louis on 11 June 1929, moved to LA at the age of seven. He had a very thorough grounding in music theory, including a BA in music from Los Angeles State, and had played for Jerry Wald and Stan Kenton before being drafted. Discharged in 1954, he returned to LA and began playing casuals around town. Niehaus happened to sit in with Shorty Rogers one night at The Haig. Shelly Manne was so impressed he mentioned the altoist to Les Koenig, and Niehaus was promptly signed to a contract with Contemporary records. He recorded his first album less than a month later, in July 1954.

The first of many Lennie Niehaus albums for Contemporary featured a quintet composed of Niehaus, Jack Montrose and Bob Gordon on alto, tenor and baritone saxes, Monty Budwig on bass, and Shelly Manne on drums. Four standards ('I'll Take Romance', 'You Stepped Out of a Dream', 'I Remember You', 'Day by Day') and four originals ('Bottoms Up', 'Whose Blues', 'Prime Rib', 'Inside Out') were all scored by Niehaus, and his formal training is quite evident - perhaps too evident. The writing is highly contrapuntal; even the rhythm-section parts are largely written. The altoist also gets the bulk of the solo space and ona ten-inch LP there isn't that much space to go around. The result is a one-man showcase for the leader, whose talent is large indeed, but not large enough to support such a burden.

Niehaus is an accomplished altoist, with an awesome technique and a seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, but his work on the Contemporary albums is somewhat lacking in emotion; a listener soon longs for the earthy, blues-tinged soul of a Parker or Sonny Criss. The one number in which the players let their hair down is the up-tempo 'Whose Blues', which features an exchange between the three saxophonists. Bob Gordon's surging baritone is especially impressive here.

A second album taped a month later expands the instrumentation to an octet by adding trumpeter Stu Williamson, valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen, and pianist Lou Levy. The remaining players are all hold-overs from the first session. Again there are eight tunes, including four originals ('Figure 8', 'Patti-Cake', 'Night Life' and 'Seaside'). No new ground is covered or even attempted, and many of the faults of the first album are exacerbated by the increased instrumentation. Even more than the first, this is a writer's album, as three more potential soloists vie for the same limited space. Again, it's largely Niehaus supported by a seven-piece ensemble, and again his playing is technically adroit and emotionally bland. Shortly after this album was taped Niehaus rejoined Kenton, although he continued to record albums for Contemporary - largely in the same vein as those mentioned above - for several years.

Another composer-arranger whose work was superficially similar to that of Lennie Niehaus was tenor saxophonist Jack Montrose. Montrose's background was very similar to that of Niehaus. Born 30 December 1928 in Detroit, Michigan, Montrose attended high school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and like Niehaus - took his BA in music at Los Angeles State. Montrose was with Jerry Gray's band in 1953 and played with Art Pepper in 1954. Like Niehaus, Montrose favored contrapuntal rather than vertical writing, but Montrose usually managed to breathe a little more individuality into his scores; there is less of the and feel of the classroom in his writing.

Jack Montrose's first major writing assignment was for a Chet Baker ensemble album cut for Pacific jazz in December 1953. The seven-piece ensemble consisted of Baker, Herb Geller on alto and tenor saxes, Montrose on tenor, Bob Gordon on baritone, and a rhythm section of Russ Freeman, Joe Mondragon and Shelly Manne. Montrose arranged all eight tunes for the session, including three standards ('Moonlight Becomes You', 'Little Old Lady' and 'Goodbye') and five originals ('Ergo', 'Bockhanal', 'Headline', 'A Dandy Line' and 'Prodefunctus'). Although the writing does tend to get over-elaborate at times, Montrose allows plenty of room for blowing (given the space limitations of a ten-inch LP). Chet Baker, of course, gets the majority of the solo space, but none of the other musicians is relegated solely to a supporting role. The two best performances are on the up-tempo 'Bockhanal' and 'A Dandy Line'. 'Bockhanal' is a blues with two equal but complementary melody fines, in the manner of Charlie Parker's 'Chasin' the Bird'.

Montrose quickly became house arranger for Pacific Jazz, writing for a variety of artists and instrumentations in the next few years. He supplied the arrangements and played for Bob Gordon's debut album, Meet Mr. Gordon, recorded in June 1954. In fact Montrose and Gordon were close friends as well as extremely compatible players, and the baritone saxophonist appeared on all of the albums which Montrose arranged until Gordon's tragic death in a car accident in 1955. We'll examine three of these albums in upcoming chapters, including one that featured trumpeter Clifford Brown supported by a contingent of West Coast jazzmen.

The years 1953 and 1954 were pivotal ones for jazz in Los Angeles. As 1953 opened, the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and the Lighthouse All-Stars were just beginning to attract national attention, and Shorty Rogers had yet to record his second album. By December 1954, the Los Angeles jazz scene had received international scrutiny, and musicians who had been obscure sidemen a short two years before had achieved national reputations and lucrative recording contracts. For good or ill and in retrospect it seems largely ill - West Coast jazz had become a catchphrase in the jazz press. And as is so often the case, writers who had initially heralded the new style quickly became satiated and switched to being vehement detractors. When the Gerry Mulligan Quartet made their first trip north to San Francisco in late 1952, Ralph J. Gleason - at the time West Coast editor of Down Beat - wrote, 'The Gerry Mulligan Quartet is certainly the freshest and most interesting sound to come out of jazz in a long time.’ [Down beat, September 9, 1953, p. 15] But by September 1953, some critics were having second thoughts. Nat Hentoff, in his 'Counterpoint' column in Down Beat, was moved to ask:

But was the quartet really that brilliantly original? Weren't the chords more barbershop harmony than anyone except a few musicians publicly noted? Was the counterpoint that contrapuntal or was that revived praiseword used quite loosely at times? And don't the records - some of them - sound kind of dull on rehearing? As one who lauded the group loudly at initial hearings, I'm just wondering. Anyone for reflection? [Down Beat May 19, 1954, p. 16]

Many of the critics seemed annoyed at the attention given the West Coast musicians. Chet Baker won the Down Beat readers' poll for best trumpet in 1953 and 1954, which particularly incensed some writers, although he had won the critics' own New Star Award in the same magazine in 1953. Nat Hentoff observed (with some justification) that '... Baker certainly is a rewarding soloist. But I cannot get particularly excited about [his] present work. When there are giants in the land like Dizzy Gillespie, I marvel at Chet winning polls."' But of course Chet Baker could hardly be blamed for the voting preferences of Down Beat readers. Years later, a bemused Baker would took back on the vagaries of his youthful popularity with irony:

I feel right now [1977] I can play twice as good as I could play when I won the Down Beat poll. And right now I'm twenty-second or something. I'm twice as good now as I was then, so the whole thing is kind of dumb. Yeah I played some nice things on that first Gerry Mulligan album. It was a different style - soft, melodic. I think people were wanting and needing something like that and it just happened that at the time I came along with it and it caught on. But I don't think I was one-half the trumpet player that Dizzy was, or Kenny Dorham. Clifford was around then, Jesus Christ! So it just didn't make sense to me that I should have won the poll. It was kind of a temporary fad kind of thing that was bound to work itself out. [Quoted by Bob Rosenblum in notes to Artists House 9411]

In the meantime, as the critics were arguing the respective merits of the white upstarts from the West Coast versus the established black jazz stars of New York City, a group of Los Angeles-based musicians were serving up a harder style of jazz in relative obscurity. Most of their achievements would not be recognized until years later, but the foundations were firmly laid in 1954.