Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paul Desmond - Neoclassicism in Jazz

OUP Material, Copyright Line, and Acknowledgement
IP Number
THE IMPERFECT ART by Giola (1988) 2800w from "IV: Neoclassicism in Art" pp.81-91
 © 1998 by Ted Gioia  By permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.



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

There are lot’s of ways to learn about Jazz for as the noted Jazz author Doug Ramsey has advised in Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music & Some of Its Makers [Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1989, p. 6]:

"You don't need a degree in musicology to understand the language of jazz. ... Jazz is based on the common language of music understood around the world. The listener, whether musician or non-musician, can learn the idioms and vernacular of the language. It is simply a matter of absorption through exposure. My only caveat is this: in the learning process, don't spend your time listening to imitators or second-raters."

Doug’s caveat holds true as well for Jazz writers: only read the best.

Certainly, by any standard of judgment, three of the best authors about Jazz are Doug, Gene Lees and Ted Gioia.

I would think that as the youngest member of this distinguished triumvirate, Ted might be flattered to share the following, paraphrased words of praise which Gene articulated about Doug’s writing in his Foreword to Doug’s Jazz Matters:

“A decent and  respectful curiosity fills Doug Ramsey’s writing. When he expresses reservations about someone’s work, he does so gently and reluctantly.

… And he praises beautifully. This is the hardest thing to do in criticism. Any writer can make himself look clever by excoriation, which calls for witty analogies and comparisons, but a rare and sensitive gift goes into the writing of sensitive praise.

And Doug has the gift of imagery, rather like that of Whitney Balliett, to give impressions of music through words.

Doug writes for the ear, he has a habit of writing only what reads well aloud….

‘The primary responsibility in writing about anything is to help people understand,’ Doug said.

That, above all, is what Doug Ramsey does.”

And that is also what Ted Gioia does, he informs the reader. Whether he is writing about one style or school of Jazz such as West Coast Jazz, or whether his discourse is about the sweeping panorama of the history of Jazz itself, Ted gives his readers knowledge and insights into how to better understand and appreciate Jazz.

Yet, Ted is no stodgy academician, but rather, an interesting storyteller who makes reading about Jazz fun and enjoyable.

His writing also enriches our listening experience by introducing fresh and different perspectives about the music for as he states in the Acknowledgements to The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture: [click on book title for order information]

“… mine is a decidedly ‘thoughtful’ … approach to Jazz.

Doug and Ted’s musings about Jazz also intersect at another point along its spectrum of personalities. Each has offered a treatment on the subject of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond [although in Doug’s case, it is more like a Magnus Opus!].

In The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture, Ted’s unique views on Paul are characterized as part of what he refers to as Neoclassicism in Jazz [pp. 81 -91].

Ted and the kind folks at Oxford University Press have graciously granted JazzProfiles copyright permission to replicate his description of what this categorization entails and why Paul’s style of playing fits so neatly into it.

As part of an ongoing series, the editorial staff plans to offer future features on other artists who approach Jazz in a “Neoclassicist” manner including John Lewis, Ahmad Jamal and Miles Davis.

So as not to confuse the reader, before describing Neoclassicism, the excerpt from Ted’s work which follows initially describes Romanticism in Jazz as a basis for contrasting these two radically different approaches to the music.

THE IMPERFECT ART, pp. 81-91, © 1998 by Ted Gioia  By permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Drawing parallels between stages in jazz’s development and periods in the evolution of other arts is, at best, a questionable endeavor. Yet the pronounced obsession with individual art­ists which has characterized the reactions of jazz fans, critics, and even musicians at least since the time of Louis Arm­strong—reaching its peak with the figure of John Coltrane— can perhaps be best understood as the outgrowth of a tempera­ment which is essentially "romantic" in nature.

Romanticism, with its idealization of the expressive artist, created a new aesthetic vocabulary in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century—one that fixated on the act of artistic pro­duction; one that glorified the passing moment of artistic in­spiration as a secular epiphany; one in which the artist often became more important than what he created. In many in­stances the artist's life actually became, in his eyes and in the eyes of others, itself a work of art. With Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, Goethe, Wagner, and many of their contemporaries, biography and aesthetics begin to coalesce. The term "roman­ticism" has become worn with use, and, as more than one critic has advocated, much might be gained by discarding it entirely. Yet, as William Thrall has noted, "viewed in philo­sophical terms, romanticism does have a fairly definite mean­ing.”10 [William Thall, A Handbook to Literature, New York: Odyssey Press, 1960, p. 431] It designates a view of the world "which tends to see the individual at the very center of all life and all experience, and it places him, therefore, at the center of art." This aes­thetic sensibility was often seen as having a special affinity with the musical arts, As M. H. Abrams has noted, the Ger­man critics in particular saw " music as the apex and norm of the pure and non-representative expression of spirit and feeling against which to measure the relative expressiveness of all other art forms . . .
[I]nquiry into the neo-representative character of music joined with many collateral influences to strain and shatter the frame of neo-classic theory, and to reorient all critical discussion toward the new magnetic north of the expressive and creative artist.11 [M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and The Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1953, p. 94]

The inherent romanticist elements in music are realized with particular force in jazz. In no other area of creative en­deavor is there so little distance between the artist and his work of art. In the spontaneous act of improvisation, the art­ist has no opportunity to give his music a separate existence, to revise it, to reconsider it, to mull over it. The notion of the autonomous work of art—so fashionable in recent intellectual circles—has no place in jazz. Jazz music lives and dies in the moment of performance, and in that moment the musician is his music. His improvisation is the purest expression possible of the artist's emotions and feelings, and it is a purity which is only heightened by the absence of the spoken word. The German romanticist Novalis, arguing for the primacy of the musical arts, wrote towards the close of the eighteenth cen­tury: "The musician takes the essence of his art out of him­self—and not the slightest suspicion of imitation can befall him."12 [Cited in ibid., 93]
With his a cappella introduction to the West End Blues, Louis Armstrong ushered in a period of romanticism in jazz which has become, if anything, more pronounced with the passage of time. The increasingly individualistic nature of the music, the obsessive reactions of the jazz world to figures such as Parker or Coltrane, the almost complete breakdown of bar­riers between the artist and his work of art—all these legacies of Armstrong are the clear signs of an aesthetic sensibility which is essentially romanticist in character.

The benefits of such a musical environment are unmistak­able. Jazz, as a community of creative individuals, fosters a pluralism which is healthy for the art form as a whole. It lacks the embedded institutions of the other arts, yet a stronger em­phasis on group norms, exercised perhaps through academia or other mechanisms of standardization, would probably have stifled some of jazz's greatest talents. One could not imagine a Charles Mingus or a Thelonious Monk thriving in an environment n which artistic success depended on access to fel­lowships, government grants, academic appointments, and the like.

The benefits of jazz's pluralism, however, have not been achieved without a price. The attendant fragmentation of the jazz community has led to a lack of cohesion among practi­tioners, an absence of institutions for preserving and passing on the music's traditions, and, perhaps worst of all, a steady erosion of generally accepted critical standards which define what is good and bad in the music. Without the latter, musi­cians—as well as listeners and critics—may find their isolation only growing. The lack of common standards and a common musical vocabulary has exacerbated the collapse of the jazz world into countless schools and tendencies, each unable to communicate with those outside of its own small world.

Jazz has become, in effect, a music of perpetual romanti­cism. The jazz world has always exhibited a manic quality in which the music's inherent vitality threatened to run away with itself. Today this strain is more dominant than ever be­fore. By contrast, the powerful broadening and unifying in­fluence of an Armstrong, an Ellington, a Parker is now ap­parently a thing of the past.


Within this pervasive aesthetic of emotional excess, however, a handful of musicians have tried to temper the music's natu­ral impulse towards self-indulgence. They have created music of restraint, of control, of economy. These are the neoclassicists of jazz. Like neoclassical artists in other arts, they attempt to pare away the excesses of previous generations to reveal an art that is pristine and timeless. Their paradigm is the sculp­tor, whose work emerges from sharply cut and precisely de­fined lines, and whose warmth of expression is tempered by the cool, distant, and unforgiving medium with which he works. The neoclassicist recognizes that self-restraint is the essence of artistic style. A style which includes everything ceases to be a style—it has become an encyclopedia of tech­niques. The artist who embraces all of these techniques has, by the same token, reduced himself to a mere craftsman. Art begins only when some techniques are favored, others dis­carded.

Jazz, for these artists, is not just a music of possibilities, but rather a music of constrained possibilities. The temptation to­wards all-inclusiveness may have ruined more talent than all of the more publicized vices of the musician's life. Certainly when artistic norms collapse—as in our own day—the great art­ist must impose constraints upon himself. He must reject on his own what others are content to let go by.

Neoclassicism in jazz is not restricted to a specific time pe­riod or geographical area. Artists as different as Lester Young, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Count Basic, Stan Getz, John Lewis, Miles Davis, and Paul Desmond can be included in its ranks, although under almost any circumstances the neo­classicist is part of a minority that distances itself from the more frenetic tradition of romanticism which permeates jazz. Thus the neoclassicist may appear to be perpetually out of fashion, a lone voice in the jazz world.

Jazz, in the hands of a neoclassicist, is a music of balance, of care, of restraint. With an unabashed lyricism and a subtle sense of formal structure, the neoclassicist displays his affinity for jazz's rich tradition of vocal music. The most successful collaborations of jazz singers and instrumentalists—the Billie Holiday/Lester Young recordings come immediately to mind-have more often than not been a part of this neoclassical heritage.

Yet the neoclassicist can often be distinguished not so much by his positive virtues as by what he excludes. Some pundit once remarked that the most telling thing about Jane Austen was that she never mentioned the French Revolution in her writings. A similar perspective, it seems, could be applied fruitfully to the study of musicians. Indeed one of the most striking characteristics of recent jazz in the romantic tradition is its all-inclusiveness. It attempts to encompass the whole musical world, from Third World folk music to the twelve-tone row. Neoclassicism, in contrast, is a music of exclusion, of omission.


In the case of saxophonist Paul Desmond, one never needed to look far to find these omissions. The bebop clich├ęs, the ob­session with playing fast, the memorized licks which char­acterized jazz saxophone playing in the post-Charlie Parker era—all of these were noticeably absent in Desmond's music. As Dave Brubeck once mentioned, with no slight intended: "Paul's big contribution is going to be that he didn't copy Charlie Parker."13 [Downbeat, Sept. 15, 1960, p. 17]

A comparison between Desmond and his contemporary Charlie Parker is illuminating. Parker, perhaps the most bril­liant improviser in the history of jazz, was at his best when the tempo was fast and the chord structure was complex: his virtuosity delighted in musical obstacle courses such as "Ko-Ko" or "The Hymn." Desmond, in contrast, seldom played at very fast tempos, and when he did one sensed that it was done un­willingly. Not that his technique was not equal to the task; rather it was Desmond's overriding concern with creating a melodic and thematically organized improvisation that led him to eschew the facile glibness of many of the beboppers. Unlike the less talented descendants of Parker who followed a credo of "let your fingers do the walking," Desmond played a thinking man's jazz with solos that often made punning reference to other compositions and improvisations. On an early recording of "You Go to My Head” for example, Des­mond inserts a quote from a Charlie Parker blues in the midst of a most un-Parker-like passage. In other contexts he would incorporate long extracts from Chet Baker or Gerry Mulligan solos into his own improvisations.

Desmond was born less euphoniously as Paul Emil Breitenfeld on November 15, 1924, in San Francisco. His father was once an organist for silent movies and later an arranger. Paul began studying clarinet in 1936 while at San Francisco Poly­technic High School, and continued with it until 1943 when he switched to the alto saxophone. That same year he went into the Army and spent the next three years in San Fran­cisco as part of the 253rd AGF band. "It was a great way to spend the war," Desmond later remarked. "We expected to get shipped out every month, but it never happened. Some­where in Washington our file must still be on the floor under a desk somewhere."14 [Ibid.] After leaving the Army, Desmond played briefly with the bands of Jack Fina and Alvino Rey before joining forces with Dave Brubeck in 1951, a collaboration that would continue for over a quarter of a century.

At some point during this period, Desmond discarded the name Breitenfeld for his more manageable stage name. He claimed that he came upon the name Desmond while paging through a phone book. The remark is appropriate: for an im­provising artist such as Desmond, the spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decision is the basis of all he does. And Des­mond, more than most, let the philosophy of improvisation govern much of his life outside of music. His casual attitude went beyond the choice of a name. At its worst it encouraged a pronounced habit of procrastination, and Desmond was a procrastinator of almost legendary proportions. For years he spoke of writing a book about his experiences with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Only the title (How Many of You Are There in the Quartet? — according to Desmond, a favorite question of stewardesses) and one very funny chapter ever emerged.15 [It appeared in Punch on Jan. 10, 1973] Among his other intended projects was an album in which he planned to play each song in the style of a different alto player.

Perhaps the latter idea was only offered as a joke. With Desmond one could never tell. He once told an interviewer that he wanted his alto to sound like a very dry martini; whether his music attained this lofty goal is open to discus­sion, but of the dryness of his humor there can be no dispute. The humor figured prominently in his music—a rarity in mod­ern jazz, where the artists' self-conscious seriousness and the concert hall atmosphere of even nightclub performances casts a sombre aura over most of the music. As his close friend, jazz critic Nat Hentoff wrote:

At times Paul was the wittiest of improvisers. His ear was extraordinarily quick and true, his mind moved with eerie swiftness. He could take a phrase that someone had played earlier or a musical reference that a friend in the audience would understand and insert it into his solo. He'd build on that phrase until he had turned it inside out and seven other ways. Usually this kind of quoting is trickery, but Paul made it cohere. In his music, as in his life, the absurd cohabited with the familiar.16
[Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, Aug. 22, 1977]

For much of his twenty-six-year career, Desmond found his musical skills overshadowed by the work of his longtime friend and collaborator Dave Brubeck. Brubeck, who studied with Darius Milhaud in the late 19405, was a pioneer in the syn­thesis of jazz and classical music—his piano work featured dense harmonies, a studied sense of rhythm, and the use of elements seemingly alien to jazz such as the twelve-tone row and odd time signatures. Yet Desmond was the unsung hero of the Brubeck Quartet; as much as the group's leader, Desmond was instrumental in shaping the ensemble's distinctive sound. His lyrical tone was immediately identifiable, and his ingenious compositions (most notably the group's biggest hit "Take Five") were an important part of the band's repertoire. Although not a student of Milhaud's, Desmond was involved with Brubeck's experimental work from the start. His affin­ity for classical music was also revealed in other ways—most markedly in his intonation, which was remarkably pure, es­pecially when contrasted with the "dirtier" sound favored by many of his contemporaries.

In the midst of a period in which cool jazz and West Coast jazz were increasingly the scorn of jazz critics, Desmond em­braced both with a vengeance. Desmond was well aware of what passed as fashionable in jazz circles; commenting on Bud Shank, a fellow Californian (although one transplanted from Ohio), Desmond said: "I sympathize with him because I have the same problem in my occupation, which is the problem of one who is sort of raised in the atmosphere of cool jazz trying to sound hostile enough to be currently accept­able.” 17 [Downbeat, Oct. 16, 1958, p. 43] In another interview he elaborated: "The things I'm after musically are clarity, emotional communication on a not-too-obvious level, form in a chorus that doesn't hit you over the head but is there if you look for it, humor, and construc­tion that sounds logical in an unexpected way. That and a good dependable high F-sharp and I'll be happy."18 [Downbeat, Sept. 15, 1960, p. 37]

The virtues Desmond enumerated are easy enough to list, but maddeningly difficult to attain. Desmond's dissatisfaction with his own playing frequently came to light in many of the interviews he gave over the years. As Lee Konitz, a contem­porary who shares many similarities with Desmond, com­mented: "I feel that Paul has experienced greatness, and once this feeling of playing what you really hear has been felt by a player, it's difficult to settle for less than this."19 [Ibid., p. 16]

One senses that towards the end of his life Desmond came closer than ever to realizing this goal. His last recordings re­veal an artist who is at peace with himself and who knows with a dogged assurance what it is he wants to express. The ravages of lung cancer may have lessened his stamina and shorted his phrases, but if anything this led Desmond to be even more refined and thoughtful in his playing.

The sardonic humor, however, remained. One wonders what to make of the cover of Live, the last album he saw released. Desmond is pictured seated alone in a club at closing time—the chairs are stacked on the tables, and Desmond is packed to go with a suitcase, or perhaps his saxophone case, at his side. The artist is smoking a cigarette, although even then he must have known he had only a short time before lung cancer would take its final toll. Another detail: if one looks closely, one notices little skulls and crossbones on Desmond's suspenders. These details, combined with the album's ironic title and Desmond's grim smile, are powerfully unnerving. The music inside, however, is every bit as beautiful as the album's cover is morbid. His solo on "Wave" could be a text­book example of solo construction, each chorus outdoing the previous one in inventiveness and incisiveness. Elsewhere, on his own composition "Wendy" or in his closing chorus on "Manha de Carnival" Desmond plays as well as at any point in his career. This is the music of a master.

The end was approaching fast. His last appearance in a re­cording studio was for friend Chet Baker's debut album with the Horizon label. He had been slated to play on the entire album, but had the stamina to record just one track before begging leave to go home and rest. Although he had rarely played in the preceding months, his tone was as pure as ever and his short haunting solo is as fitting a closing statement as any artist could wish to make.

His were the legacies of a man immersed in music. Des­mond's piano, left to Bradley Cunningham, now graces Bradley's in New York, and has acquired a reputation as one of the finest nightclub pianos in jazz. His alto was left to Brubeck's son Michael, with whom he shared a special closeness. Yet these pale beside his legacy to jazz fans through his many records and a few—too few—short writings. Desmond, a West Coast musician at a time when that was virtually synonymous with being unfashionable, had his ashes scattered over Big Sur country near his birthplace in San Francisco.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Metropole Orchestra - A Tribute to Joe Zawinul - Tower of Silence

Checkout what The Metropole Orchestra can do with a 5-note phrase in six minutes!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mallets and Jazz Drumming

We have always been a fan of tympani mallets in Jazz drumming ever since we first heard them used by the late, Shelly Manne. They really bring out the melodic possibilities of the instrument as you can hear on the following track entitled Aotearoa by Dutch drummer Eric Ineke's Jazzxpress featuring Rik Mol on trumpet, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen on tenor saxophone, Rob van Bavel on piano and Marius Beets on bass [who is also the composer of the tune].

Monday, July 19, 2010


Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History 

[BerkeleyCAUniversity of California Press, 1997, pp. 364-365]

[Click on the book title for a link to the publisher for order information.]

Coming of age in Jazz when I did, where I did, I “missed” Bebop [what a horrible name for such wonderful music]. I literally had to seek it out after-the-fact and educate myself about the music and its makers. While I was on this quest, there were no books like Scott DeVeaux’s available.  If you have an interest in learning about Bebop or in revisiting it from some fresh perspectives, then this is a book that will help you on your way.  Here’s an excerpt. 

© -Scott DeVeaux, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“In the history of bebop, 1945 was the decisive year. At its outset Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were still edgy young professionals, fighting against the odds to make names for themselves in a crowded field. By year's end they were not much better known—not, at least, by the gen­eral public—but they had proved that an idiosyncratic form of jazz en­tertainment could carve out a new niche on the periphery of the music business. On 52nd Street, in concerts in New York's Town Hall, and at Billy Berg's new Hollywood nightclub, Gillespie and Parker found paying audiences for an idiom that showcased their finely honed virtuosity— not within the usual contexts of dance or popular song, but in defiantly dissonant and disorienting original compositions.

And, of course, they made recordings. Their efforts in the studio from the first months of 1945 constitute a permanent record, rich in detail, of the new music's emergence as public phenomenon and commercial com­modity. These recordings include the earliest surviving versions of much of its core repertory—"A Night in Tunisia," "Be-Bop," "Groovin' High," "Blue 'n Boogie," "Dizzy Atmosphere," "Salt Peanuts" (all Gillespie com­positions)—as well as the first collaborations between Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the small-combo format.

Many of these early recordings were obscure when released and remain obscure today. The first recording of "Groovin' High," for example, had such a limited run that in 1976, when the Smithsonian produced a special edition of Gillespie's recordings, only one battered copy of the original 78 rpm recording could be found. Immediately after the transfer to tape, Martin Williams reported melodramatically, "the walls of one of its grooves broke down forever.'

Others, however, have long since earned a firm place in the jazz canon. Performances like "Shaw 'Nuff" (recorded May 11 for Guild) and "Ko Ko" (November 26 for Savoy) are now enshrined on the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz as "definitive statements of the new music." What is being celebrated here is not simply artistic achievement. There are, after all, many other fine recordings by Gillespie and Parker. But there is only one pivotal, defining moment: the birth of modern jazz. One can look ahead and see, as Gary Giddins does, all of jazz modernity flowing from this moment ("Ko Ko," he writes, "was the seminal point of departure for jazz in the postwar era"). Or one can cast an eye backward and see the first bop recordings as the desired, and probably inevitable, outcome of a tortuous struggle for self-expression and artistic autonomy, the permanent achievement that marked the end of the Swing Era and announced a new musical age. "With them," James Lincoln Collier has written, "the bop revolution was complete."

That a handful of commercial recordings should stand metonymically in these assessments for all that the bop generation sought to achieve is hardly surprising. Recordings are jazz's enduring artifacts, analogous in this respect to the published compositions of the European "classical" tradition. Because they constitute virtually the only surviving evidence of artistic activity, it is natural to exaggerate their importance as an official record of musicians' intentions. Much of this is wishful thinking. We may understand that improvisation is an inherently volatile act, more process than product; that the recording studio is a poor stand-in for the usual social contexts in which the music was heard; and that the econom­ics of recording affects the process of documentation in myriad, mostly unhelpful ways. Still, we hope that the result faithfully represents re­flexes honed by countless hours of working together on the bandstand and that only the most ingenious and effective routines have been se­lected for preservation. We have faith that it is truly a record of a certain musical reality and that a history of recordings therefore constitutes a history of the music.”

Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra - Redux

If you love the trumpet playing of Clark Terry, then Jan van Duikeren's solo on Cole Porter's Love for Sale as featured with the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra will really put a smile on your face.  Throughout the track, listen for the fills, kicks and licks by Martijn Vink, one of today's best big band drummers.

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