Friday, July 16, 2010

Pacific Jazz Samplers

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

A few years ago, thanks to the urgings of a brilliant and witty friend who mockingly refers to himself as “the sage of the Florida swamps,”  a group of West Coast Jazz fans set out to track down the Pacific Jazz label’s sampler LP's and convert them to CD.

The leadership for this task fell primarily to another friend, a kind and gentle man who heads-up a West Coast Jazz internet chat group and who is also an expert of the subject of West Coast Jazz in general and the recordings of Pacific Jazz in particular.

Frankly, without the guidance and knowledge of this quintessential Gentleman, the Pacific Jazz sampler conversion project would have been a non-starter [“today speak” for would-never-have-gotten-off-the-ground].

Some other members of said chat group contributed their expertise and materials to this non-commercial project and before long the digital conversions were taking place replete with scaled down artwork and liner notes from the original LPs.

Until he sold it to Liberty records during the mid-1960’s, the “chief cook and bottle washer” at Pacific Jazz was Richard Bock, who had founded the label about ten years earlier.
I gather from those who knew him personally during the years he owned and operated the label and from those who have subsequently made a study of his business practices that Dick Bock was a very idiosyncratic man who basically viewed Pacific Jazz as his sandbox in which he could build whatever kind of sand castles he chose to build however he chose to build them [I’m sure there is a better metaphor for this, but I can’t think of one at the moment].

The following, paraphrased paragraph from Mosaic Records’s founder and President Michael Cuscuna provides us with another view of Richard Bock’s entrepreneurial proclivities:

Dick Bock, owner and producer of Pacific Jazz Records, had some strange habits. Among them were switching takes when a tune went from 10' LP to 12" LP. Often he would gather together anthologies of unreleased material from various artists and various sessions. On occasion, for some sessions an album was never realized. Instead, various tracks would emerge on various anthologies in the late fifties. Releasing these performances in such scattered form over time gave the session a status of almost non-existence. To make matters worse, some tunes kept reappearing on new anthologies in shorter and shorter forms through editing.”

As the name implies, a “sampler” offers the buyer a variety of audio tracks from the artists and albums available through the Pacific Jazz catalogue.

And while this was generally the case with samplers from Pacific Jazz and other record companies that issued them, with Pacific Jazz, the sampler buyer sometimes got bonus of tracks that had not been previously released or alternative tracks from previous recording sessions.

Such LP’s were often sold at a discount price to make them more appealing to the buyer. As indicated on the PJ  “Assorted Flavors” cover used as the graphic lead-in to this piece, that sampler was available for $1.98 which is probably today’s cost for the ice cream cone the little girl’s holding!

If you weren’t already familiar with the playing of certain artists or the style of  a particular group, samplers were an inexpensive way to get a first hearing.

In the case of Pacific Jazz, Richard Bock was blessed at the outset to have the brilliant photographic work of William Claxton form the basis for most of his album covert art.  Ray Avery, a contemporary, once said of Claxton work: “Some of us take photographs of Jazz musicians, but Bill does much more than that: he is an artist with a camera.”

In fairness, Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz label gave Bill Claxton a place to learn and practice his art as a photographer so the creative purposes of each were well-served through their business relationship.

Acknowledgement should also be made of the skills of Woody Woodward, who designed many of the Pacific Jazz covers, and without whose logistical and technical contributions, Dick Bock’s Pacific Jazz would have been even more disorganized, and of Dotty Woodward, the firm’s accountant and the person who managed the royalties for the musicians and composers.

More of the details about the origin and development of Pacific Jazz Records are contained in the reminiscences of William Claxton that conclude this piece.
From a legal perspective, I would imagine that mid-1950's [when most of the PJ samplers were issued] and early 1960’s were a much simpler time from a copyright, music publishing and artists rights’ standpoint.

While ASCAP and BMI royalties may have been paid, I doubt that the performing artists received a great deal of additional revenue from these samplers.

And yet, the albums themselves are a treat because they provide more or different music by favorite West Coast Jazz artists and because they often contain musical surprises and revelations such a bass trumpets, cellos and flutes and oboes – all of which are fairly rare in a Jazz environment [with the exception of the flute].

Since many of these Pacific Jazz samplers are difficult to find, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has created the following YouTube with slides of many of  the album covers from the series along with an audio track from the Assorted Flavors of Pacific Jazz: A Hi-Fi Sampler.

Some of this sampler’s tracks are combined within a spoken narrative that describes the evolution of West Coast Jazz in the 1950s as represented on Pacific Jazz records.

The audio track on the following YouTube is fairly representative of the music available on these samplers, this one featuring Cy Touff’s bass trumpet with an octet arrangement of Johnny Mandel’s Groover Wailin’.

In 1992, Hitoshi Namekata engaged William Claxton to co-author Jazz West Coast: The  Artwork of Pacific Jazz [Tokyo: Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha].  Claxton wrote the following introduction for the book which he entitled: Clickin’ With Clax: A History of Pacific Jazz Records.

© -William Claxton, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“It was the winter of 1949. My former high school girl friend, Carol McCallson, had become a top fashion model in New York and was coming out to California, bringing a friend to escape the cold New York weather. It just so happened that Los Angeles was suffering through its worst cold winter of the century. The good aspect of her trip was that the friend she brought out was the young, somewhat legendary tenor saxophonist, Allen Eager. I was on winter holiday from college. So, the three of us spent two weeks palling around together; I showed them around Hollywood, visiting the jazz clubs where Allen introduced us to the musicians; we would stay up late listening to the records of the young Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie and, of course, Bird. I think that we wore out all of Charlie Parker's Dial recordings. We would drive around late at night in the rain and scat sing Bird's solos. Allen would tell us about Pres and Billie and what it was like playing with Dizzy, Stan Getz, Bud Powell, Tad Dameron and others at the Royal Roost on 52nd Street. It was exciting to listen to this "cool" musician while driving about in a Cadillac convertible with its owner, a sophisti­cated model.

One Sunday afternoon Allen suggested that we stop at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard to meet a couple of his musician friends. We walked into what turned out to be Woody Herman's large suite of rooms. There were most of Herman's "Four Brothers Band" sitting around casually rehearsing. There in front of my eyes were Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Bill Harris, Jimmy Giuffre and Shorty Rogers. The music was wonderful. And I'll never forget how the gold afternoon light fell across this room full of energetic, young musicians and how the sparkling reflections danced off their shiny brass instruments.

I made a vow to myself: never to be around musicians without my camera again.

We always had music around my house as I was growing up in the 40's and 50's. My mother sang in an important church choir and played piano. My older brother studied piano and would practice while imitating everyone from Eddie Duchin to the boogie woogie piano of Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons. The record player (the Victrola) was always playing, as was the radio. I thought the Hit Parade was corny, but I loved the big band shows of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and, of course, Count Basie. Like most boys, I liked airplanes and automobiles and devoted scrapbooks to my favorites. Later my heroes were singers and musicians: Cab Galloway, Duke Ellington, Lena Home and Billie Holiday...never dreaming that one day I would be photographing them.

While in junior high school, a neighborhood chum introduced me to photography. I had always done well in my art classes, but photography produced a special magic for me. It was through my sister and her collection of fashion magazines, VOGUE and HARPER'S BAZAAR, that I became aware of photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon and their pure but sophisticated images of people, all kinds of people, not just fashion models. Somewhere in the back of my mind I decided that I wanted to photograph my favorite musicians in a similar style.

Jazz became more and more important to me during high school, and I began collecting records of Johnny Hodges, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young. But the skies parted for me the first time I heard Charlie "Bird" Parker. My other high school pals were shocked too, but in an adverse way. I knew Bird was a genius and bought every record he made.
On the weekends, I would borrow my father's car, pack up my 4x5 Speed Graphic camera, and head for some jazz club. I was much too young to be legally allowed in the clubs, but because I was very tall, I was rarely questioned. The clubs that I frequented were Brother's on Central Avenue, The Clef Club in Hollywood, and the Club Alabam. The first musicians that I photographed in those days were Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Ernie Royal, Buddy Collette, and Frank Morgan. Every now and then I would have a date and go to the local bars in Glendale, near my high school, and listen to the Nat "King" Cole Trio, Slim Gaillard and Slam Stewart Duo, Bobby Short, and Harry the Hipster.

While a student at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) studying psychology and art and wondering how and when I would ever be able to make a living with the knowledge I might gain from these two subjects, I photographed some "exceptional" children (special because these children were intelligent but had emotional problems and were failing in their school work). The pictures were purchased by LADIES' HOME JOURNAL magazine, and I was paid rather well. It was then that I decided that photography could possibly become my career.
My passion for jazz and photography grew through my college years, and I continued to visit jazz clubs and occasionally a jazz concert when I could afford it. It was during one of these excursions that I met Richard Bock, and Pacific Jazz Records was about to be born.

In the Fall of 1952, I heard that Gerry Mulligan was going to appear in Los Angeles. I had heard interesting stories about this composer, arranger, and baritone player. I knew that he had written Jeru, Boplicity, Venus de Milo, and Godchild for Miles Davis and that he wrote for the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, but the best story about him was that when he was broke and no one would give him money to rehearse his band, he took the band outside to Central Park in the middle of Manhattan. This event caused a great commotion and did just what he wanted: to call attention to his talent and ambition.

Once again I borrowed my dad's car, grabbed my enormous 4x5 Speed Graphic camera, and pointed the big Packard towards the Wilshire district where The Haig club was located. Why this tiny converted bungalow was called The Haig, I shall never know. It was so small that its capacity was only 85 people. Shorty Rogers supposedly said of the place, "If you took four steps, you had crossed the room." There have been many stories of why there was no piano in the club. One was that Red Norvo had just appeared there and had it removed, having no need for it. Another rumor was that the owner of the club, John Bennett, hadn't paid the rent on it so it was taken back by its owner. Yet one more rumor was that the piano simply was not delivered. So Gerry Mulligan did what he does best: Improvise! So, along with Chet Baker, Chico Hamilton and Bob Whitlock on bass, Gerry created the now famous "piano less quartet."

It was opening night and I arrived early. After introducing myself to Gerry, I got permission to take pictures. The music was, of course, wonderful and the place was packed. While I was shooting pictures, a young man introduced himself as Dick Bock. He was recording the group and he asked if he could see my pictures as soon as possible. I asked, "Oh, do you have a record company?" He replied, "No, but I will have one by morning." He was so bright-eyed and optimistic. That was the beginning of Pacific Jazz Records.
The actual company was created by Dick Bock with partners, drummer Roy Hart and accountant-sometimes-recording engineer, Phil Turetsky. Dick Bock liked my pictures of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and put them on the record cover. After that I shot a photograph of Harry "Sweets" Edison for Pacific Jazz's next release. Following several successful covers, Dick asked me to join the organization as Art Director and "Chief Photographer"; a month later I was made a partner in the company.

The first Pacific Jazz offices opened in a small above Roy Hart's Drum Shop on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. The one employee at that time was Dotty Woodward. She took care of the books, the accounts, and the royalties for the musicians and song writers. We all did a little bit of the chores, wrapping and shipping orders, etc. Later on, Dotty's husband, Woody Woodward, joined the group and became the manager and Dick Bock's right-hand man. Woody became an accomplished photographer and designer and took over much of that work when I left the group several years later.

The Gerry Mulligan records were very successful, but during the follow­ing year, Chet Baker was being looked at and listened to as a star in his own right. With his boyish good looks and his honest and direct trumpet work, he was beginning to win all the jazz polls and the popularity polls of that time. He quit Gerry's group and formed his own quartet in the Spring of 1954 with Russ Freeman on piano, Carson Smith, bass, and Bob Neel on drums.
Russ Freeman was an accomplished and well-educated musician. Chet Baker was not. He was considered a "natural." Russ became his teacher and profes­sional musician friend. Russ was responsible for much of Chefs growth as a musician.

It was during this period that Dick Bock said to me one morning, "Guess what Chet wants to do now? He wants to sing. What's more he wants me to record him!" So, he did and I photographed the event. Well, the rest is history. Chefs voice was just like the voice of his trumpet: sweet, gentle, simple, and honest. 
The first Chet Baker Sings album was very popular and was followed by two more vocal albums. Chet Baker was being pursued by movie producers and television companies to star in shows. But Chet had a drug problem, so he did not take many of his offers seriously or just ignored them.

Dick Bock was beginning to discover other new artists and to record them. Bud Shank, with guitarist Laurindo Almeida, produced some of the first Latin guitar and jazz music before bossa nova. Chico Hamilton formed his own quintet featuring Jim Hall and cellist Fred Katz. Pepper Adams did his famous Critic's Choice album for Pacific Jazz. In those early days of Pacific Jazz, Dick Bock produced some of the first and best recordings of such artists as Art Pepper, Bob Brookmeyer, Cy Touff and Richie Kamuca, Lee Konitz with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, and The Mastersounds with the Montgomery Brothers.

During much of this same period, 1954 to 1956, a few miles west of the Pacific Jazz offices, Les Koenig was recording artists for his Good Time Jazz label (mostly Dixieland) and his Contemporary label. Koenig saw my photographs and began hiring me to shoot and design his record covers for artists like Barney Kessel, the Lighthouse Allstars, Hampton Hawes, Shelly Manne and Sonny Rollins. The albums I designed for the Poll Winners series (Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel and Ray Brown) proved to be very successful, as much for the cover jackets as for the music inside.
The cover for Sonny Rollins Way Out West won several awards.

Back at Pacific Jazz, Dick Bock formed a publishing company, Linear Productions. For his first effort he wanted to publish a book of my jazz photographs. It was to be a portfolio of photographs with short articles or pieces by writers Will MacFarland, Nesuhi Ertegun, David Stuart, Woody Woodward and Herbert Kimmel, who later formed his own recording label, Jazz West. I called this first book JAZZ WEST COAST. Dick Bock decided then to release an album to accompany my book. It would be a collection or anthology of recordings of Pacific Jazz artists. We decided to give it the same name as my book. It was such a hit that it was followed by Volumes 2 and 3. The news media picked up on the title Jazz West Coast and it became "West Coast Jazz." At first, many critics and musicians on the East Coast said that there was no such thing as "West Coast Jazz." Which in a sense was true at that time. Many newly arrived jazz stars like Dave Brubeck in San Francisco, Gerry Mulligan in Los Angeles, Shorty Rogers, and Clifford Brown were from other parts of the country but happened to be in the right place at the right time. But the name "West Coast Jazz" did not go away.

In our book JAZZ WEST COAST, writer Will MacFarland stated: "The chances are, history will reveal that there is a West Coast School: a group of musicians playing calmer, gentler jazz, placing at least as much emphasis on writing as on soloing." During this period the new young arrangers, writers, players like Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Jimmy Giuffre, Jack Montrose, Johnny Mandel and Marty Paich blossomed into what became a whole new fresh sound. Call it what you want.
Those early days in the 1950's around Los Angeles and San Francisco were exciting for the jazz lover. There was so much good music to be heard, and there were so many jazz clubs like the Tiffany on 8th Street, Zardi's in Hollywood, Billy Berg's on Vine Street, and the Blackhawk in San Francisco, where Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond first played. Then there were the Oasis, the California Club and of course, Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. All this new music coincided with the advent of the Long Playing recording...the LP phenomenon. Everybody was recording... Night and day the studios were booming. It was in the recording studios that I got many of my best photographs. The musicians knew me and trusted me. I was close to them. At one late-night recording session, RCA Victor's A & R man, Jack Lewis, turned to Shorty Rogers, the composer of a just-recorded Pete Jolly Trio side, and asked him the name of the tune. Shorty shook his head, then looked up at me with my camera in hand, smiled, and said, "Hey man, how 'bout Clickin' with Clax."

My photographic covers were very successful on the Pacific Jazz, Contemporary, Good Time Jazz and Fantasy labels. But I was also shooting for the major labels like Capitol, Columbia, Decca and RCA Victor, and the dozen or so small recently formed companies that sprang up overnight. Regarding my photographic equipment, I did, indeed, graduate from that first old 4 x 5 Speed Graphic to a Rolleiflex camera to use available light. No more flash bulbs or cumbersome strobe equipment for me. In the mid 1940's, the work of Herman Leonard impressed me with its strong, crisp images and smoke everywhere. He must have used strobe lights. The musicians looked to me a little posed, but very dramatic. I wanted more freedom and never wanted to intrude on the performer. I have often wished that I could photograph someone without a camera-to use only my eyes and brain to record the image and not have that mechanism between us. Using the Light available at the time was as close as possible to my wish. But I needed faster lenses than the Rolleiflex offered, so I changed to 35mm Nikon cameras with their fast fl.4 lenses and relatively quiet focal plane shutters. There were times in the recording studios when I would shoot during the actual "takes," so I would try to click the shutter "on the beat."

Dick Bock of Pacific Jazz pushed me to come up with more and more new ideas for the record cover designs. I put Chet Baker and his quartet on a boat for Chet Baker and Crew; I shot Bud Shank and Bob Cooper with children and Bud Shank with the funny papers; I mounted Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel and Ray Brown on carousels of a merry-go-round; I put Shorty Rogers in a space helmet and up a tree house; and I shot musicians on the sandy beaches and in vintage cars... It became my signature to photograph jazz musicians in unlikely places. But what to do next ?

Photographs of jazz musicians in hot, smoke-filled clubs and studios with perspiration running down their faces were, in my mind, too stereotypical and not even honest anymore, certainly not on the West Coast. So I began to shoot clean, distinguished, rather sedate portraits of stars like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Hampton Hawes, Art Pepper, Lee Konitz, Art Farmer, John Coltrane, and John Lewis with his Modern Jazz Quartet looking even more elegant than usual in a ballet rehearsal hall.
Around 1957, the record company executives and their advisers noticed that competition was getting out of hand. There were just too many LP records being produced. It was time to rethink package design. It was decided to put sex on the covers: beautiful females, models, and girl friends to help sell the records. Pacific Jazz was no different. Contemporary Records and everyone else did the same thing. I liked unusual looking girls, so I photographed a young dancer friend of mine named Lelia Goldoni. Lelia graced the covers of many albums, including one of the Laurindo Almeida and Bud Shank covers and a Jack Sheldon cover. In the latter part of 1958, I met a young actress named Peggy Moffitt. I photographed her in an exotic costume for the Mastersounds recording of the Broadway show Kismet. Stereophonic sound became the next new technical gimmick to inundate the LP record market. Pacific Jazz sent out a demo record to demonstrate its own brand of stereophonic jazz sound. It was called "In Both Ears!" I photographed Peggy looking very chic holding two old fa­shioned hearing aid "trumpets" plugged into each of her lovely ears. Peggy was photographed for several more covers before I suggested that she should become a fashion model. She began working with the fashion designer Rudi Gernreich-together they made fashion history. Peggy and I were married in June of 1959.

Since the name West Coast Jazz had become so firmly entrenched with the music media, I came up with an idea that would further the importance of an art movement that was going on in the Los Angeles area at that time. The art galleries were flourishing with the talents of local artists. Monday nights on La Cienega Boulevard were the showcase nights when the works of the new, young artists could be seen. Dick Bock and I commissioned several of these artists (Bob Irwin, Keith Finch, Sueo Serisawa, and John Altoon). We would either give the artist a recording of a specific jazz artist or group to work with, or we would actually have the group play for the artist at his studio to "inspire" the painter. This became known as the "West Coast Artists Series." It received a great deal of attention. And it produced some very interesting record cover art that was a departure from the well-known and successful photo-graphic covers of that period.
By the Spring of 1958, I was photographing for virtually every record label, and I was also branching out into other fields, doing special photography on major movie productions for the major magazines. Dick Bock offered to buy my part of the partnership, and I agreed. Dick became more and more interested in the mystical aspects of East Indian philosophy. My only interest in that subject was the recordings of Ravi Shankar. I photographed him for his first two World-Pacific recordings.

The art of the LP cover, I'm afraid, has pretty much vanished with the arrival of the Compact Disk (CD) product. It is a bit more difficult to make an exciting package with that small 5x5" format. I long for that big 12x12" space where an exciting visual image could be put that would do justice to the artist on the recording and "turn on" the potential buyer.

I've never given up my love for jazz and, of course, for photography. The international language of jazz has delighted and moved me, and it has allowed me to speak to people all over the world through the international language of photography.

William Claxton
Beverly Hills