Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tubby Hayes and Tin Tin Deo

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

While the editorial staff prepares a more detailed feature on Tubbs and his music, we thought we’d revisit “how it all began” by using his performance of Tin Tin Deo as the soundtrack to the following video montage which salutes some of England’s earlier Jazz record companies.

Recorded in London in December, 1959 and subsequently issued on CD by Jasmine records as Tubby Hayes – “The Eight Wonder” [JASCD 611], the idea, according to Tony Hall who produced the date, “was to use pianist Terry Shannon, bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer Phil Seamen in their primary role as an accompanying rhythm section thus allowing Tubby to stretch out and just blow with no restrictions whatever on the time.”

Richard Cook and Brian Morton had this to say about Tubby’s efforts on “The Eight Wonder” [JASCD 611], in the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.:

“The Eight Wonder gets top rating [4 stars]… it is perhaps Hayes’ most eloquent showcase. It’s true that the virtuosity of Tin Tin Deo comes out of his horn all too easily; almost as if it were a routine that he’d mastered without thinking, but it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle of … the tough-minded improvising.”

Hayes recorded prolifically, but the quality of these recordings are uneven at best.

Cook and Morton perhaps offer an explanation for this paradox when they observe:

“Tubby Hayes has often been lionized as the greatest saxophonist Britain ever produced. He is a fascinating but problematical player.

Having put together a big, rumbustious tone and a deliv­ery that features sixteenth notes spilling impetuously out of the horn, Hayes often left a solo full of brilliant loose ends and ingen­ious runs that led nowhere in particular.

Most of his recordings, while highly entertaining as exhibitions of sustained energy, tend to wobble on the axis of Hayes's creative impasse: having got this facility together, he never seemed sure of what to do with it in the studio, which may be why his studio records ultimately fall short of the masterpiece he never came to make.”

While I agree in the main with Cook and Morton’s assessment of Tubby’s frequently unrealized potential due to what they describe as his “creative impasse,” there are no road blocks or detours ahead in the solo he lays down on Tin Tin Deo.

See what you think.

[Incidentally, for those of you interested in such things, Tin Tin Deo is in the minor with a Latin Jazz feel to all but the bridge. It is of an unusual construction – 48 bars in length comprising two 16 bar sections, a middle 8 in 4/4 time and a final 8 which reverts to the second 8 measures of the 16 bar sections.]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Capitol Records – A Towering Success

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

Sometimes it’s fun to look back and see how much things can change in a person’s lifetime.

Digital sound files may have been a nascent idea as the second half of the 20th century began, but recorded music was still analog-based.

The music was preserved on tape and then transferred to vinyl by record companies who owned the rights to the music.

Cover art or photography was commissioned, someone wrote the notes and compiled the track information for the back cover and off went the newly minted 33 1/3 rpm long-playing records to a wholesale distributor who then made them available to retail outlets.

There are still recording companies today, some very large and others of the boutique variety which are usually devoted to a specific style of music. Much of today’s music is self-produced.

Almost all of today’s music is recorded digitally and distributed primarily through compact disc or some form of downloadable file-sharing system.

I doubt that the following story that John Tynan, the then West Coast Editor of Downbeat magazine, recounts of the first 15-years or so of Capitol Records’ existence could be written today.

And that’s what makes it so much fun to read.

What a difference a half-century makes!

© -  John Tynan/Downbeat magazine, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"WHEN A RECORD COMPANY erects a $2,000,000 temple to its own greatness, it's time to probe the where­fore.

About the time of the outbreak of World War II in Europe, a quiet young Iowan named Glenn Wallichs was oper­ating a small recording studio at 5205 Hollywood Boulevard. With the country just pulling out of the depression, things were beginning to improve a bit business-wise, but it was still a scuffle for many small enterprises such as Wallichs'.

Sharing the premises with the record­ing studio, even to using the same tele­phone, was a radio announcer who owned a record store he called "The Stomp Shop." His name was Al Jarvis. Also operating from the same location — and using that same serviceable phone — were Charles Emge and Ward Humphrey the publishers of a lively weekly magazine, Tempo, which chron­icled the music activities of the west coast throughout the '30s. From this rather unseemly beginning grew Cap­itol Records.

WITH THE TURN of the decade Wallichs decided to open a record store. To this end he entered into partnership with his father, Oscar, who at the time owned an appliance shop in Hollywood. Together they launched Music City.

Music City quickly became hangout for assorted songwriters, pluggers, working musicians. Anyone connected in any way with the music business in Hollywood inevitably headquartered there on a cracker barrel basis.

One such songwriter, Johnny Mercer, who made Music City his base of social and professional operations, had by 1941 formed a fast friendship with Wallichs. The epoch-making negotia­tions between Mercer and Wallichs that led to Capitol's founding reportedly went something like this:

Wallichs: "Johnny, how would you like to start a record company?"

Mercer: "I wouldn't. But I know someone who would."

Wallichs: "Who is he? Can you get hold of him?"

Mercer: "Name's Buddy DeSylva. He's head of production at Para­mount."

Wallichs: "Let's get together with him and talk this thing over."

B. G. (Buddy) DeSylva did indeed want to start a record company. The three pooled resources, with DeSylva putting up $25,000 to kick the venture off. Wallichs contributed his technical and organizational know-how, and Mercer's offering was equally priceless  — his genius for writing good songs.

SO IT WAS DONE. In July of 1942 Capitol Records elected as its first offi­cers, B. G. DeSylva, president; Johnny Mercer, vice president; Glenn Wallichs, general manager.

What followed belongs a little in the realm of fantasy. Capitol first releases consisted of six sides, among them Cow Cow Boogie with music by Benny Carter and lyrics by Don Raye and Gene DePaul. Ella Mae Morse did the rocking vocal with the Freddy Slack orchestra. For anyone who has been conscious of popular American music over the last 15 years, nothing more need be said about Cow Cow Boogie. Along with Mercer's Strip Polka, it virtually put Capitol Records in busi­ness.

With that extraordinary acumen that enabled him to see the potential in a west coast record company interested in producing well recorded, good pop material, Wallichs immediately inno­vated another policy that was to revolu­tionize the marketing strategy of phon­ograph records. He announced the plan of providing disc jockeys throughout the country with complimentary copies of all Capitol records. The idea proved so successful that soon the other big companies followed suit.

THE YOUNG FIRM grew phenome­nally. Soon the demand for Capitol's product was so great that an agree­ment was reached for the Scranton Record Co. to supply limited amount of vital shellac in addition to that which already was contracted for in Holly­wood.

In the first six months of Capitol's existence, hits like Ella Mae Morse's Mr. Five By Five, Elk's Parade by Bobby Sherwood, and Johnny Mercer's I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City further consolidated the company's economic position. Branch offices were opened in Chicago and New York, and the following year two more were started in Atlanta and Dallas.

The second year of Capitol's life was marked, among other things, by the in­troduction of another new factor in the record business, the News Maga­zine. In addition, the careers of Jo Stafford, Nat Cole, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, and songwriter Dick Whiting's young daughter, Margaret, were spawned on the label in 1943.

No big-time record company is with­out its quota of album releases, and Capitol had big-time aspirations by 1944. A package titled Songs by John­ny Mercer was released to meet with immediate success, shortly followed by a second album aimed at the growing kiddy market, Stories for Children By the Great Gildersleeve.

WAR'S END saw an increasing ex­pansion by the label. In 1945, 14 albums were released and marketed to be joined by 19 more in 1946, one of which proved to be the biggest selling item in the children's field, Bozo at the Circus. The same year also witnessed the inau­guration of the Capitol Transcriptions firm and the outright purchase of Scranton Record Co. for $2,000,000. Capitol went on the market as a result, issuing its first stock April 30, 1946, offering 95,000 shares of common stock.

When the American Federation of Musicians imposed a ban on all re­cording by its members in 1947, Capi­tol plunged into a furious whirl of re­cording activity before the pre-announced deadline, thereby obtaining a huge backlog of sides. Among these discs, which turned into smash sellers, were Manana by Peggy Lee, Nature Boy by Nat Cole, and Pee Wee Hunt's Twelfth Street Rag.

One of the more remarkable facts about this remarkable business enter­prise is that the most profitable year in Capitol's history was 1948, a gloomy year indeed for the entire rest of the industry. Capitol's sales spiraled to $16,862,450, with a profit of $1,315,847, and this bumper year saw them extend their market to foreign countries.

THE FIRST FIVE years of the 1950s were a continuation of the success story, climax of which was reached last year with the purchase of 96.4% of Capitol Records, Inc., by the British firm of Electric and Musical Industries, Ltd., for $8,500,000, with Glenn E. Wallichs retained as president of the company.

In 13 years Capitol has risen from a less than audacious dream given ut­terance in a record store to Big BIG Business in the commercial music world. With its new international head­quarters completed and occupied this month, the Capitol Tower stands above Hollywood and Vine as a monument to the three men who begot the enterprise out of their creative talents, drive, initiative, and imagination — the late Buddy DeSylva, Glenn Wallichs, and tunesmith Johnny Mercer.”

Capitol Bandwagon Is Booming

“Should big bands ever rise to the peak of popularity they once knew, no one could be happier about it than Capitol Records. For they have assembled the most imposing list of top name orchestral talent to be found on any label.

And even if the music world never again experiences the phenomenon of bands leading the record-selling parade, Capitol is evidently quite satisfied with the results its stable is achieving even now.

Look at some of the crews now doing their waxing for Cap:

Les Brown, Harry James, Ray Anthony, Billy May-Sam Donahue, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and Ken Hanna.

In addition, they have the big-selling Benny Goodman BG in Hi-Fi album still going for them, and though Duke Ellington recently left the company, there are discs of his still in the catalog as well as some yet-unreleased sides in the bank.

Plus which Guy Lombardo is now in the Capitol ranks — a man who sells steadily and well.” [!]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Albert Namatjira and Chet Baker – “The Wind”

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

“Superficially, his paintings give the appearance of conventional European landscapes, but Namatjira painted with 'country in mind' and continually returned to sites imbued with ancestral associations. The repetition, detailed patterning and high horizons—so characteristic of his work—blended Aboriginal and European modes of depiction.”
- Sylvia Kleinert, Australian Dictionary of Biography

“Chet Baker was a man who breathed beautiful music.”
- Ira Gitler

I was having a difficult time finding suitable music to use as the audio track to the video tribute to Albert Namatjira that appears at the end of this piece.

And then I happened on trumpeter Chet Baker’s version of Russ Freeman’s The Wind and it suddenly just all came together.

The title of Russ’ tune and the lightness of its melody seemed like the perfect fit for Albert’s watercolors of the windswept Australian landscape. The Wind seems almost audible when viewing Albert’s paintings.

Russ Freeman wrote music for and performed with Chet for many years in the 1950’s, both in clubs and on a number of records. Johnny Mandel’s string arrangement marvelously enhances the melody that Russ wrote for The Wind.

Chet’s playing nearly always leaves me shaking my head at its originality.

Ira Gitler expresses the reasons why in his insert notes to Chet Baker with Strings: “The way he approached his art transcended any mechanical thought processes. The notes and phrases were at his lips and fingertips without his consciously having to think about them. The overall effect imparted by his delivery makes one feel this way. He was a man who breathed beautiful music.”

As Ted Gioia comments in his book about West Coast Jazz: “Despite the travails of his offstage life, Baker stands as one of the finest soloists that Jazz ever produced.”

Gene Lees declared: “I consider Chet Baker an enormously under-rated musician. I didn’t always get the point of his understated music. But one day I came to love the gentle, lyrical beauty of his playing and the trusting sensitivity of his singing.”

Charles Champlin, the late entertainment editor of The Los Angeles Times mused: “He and his contemporaries played the score for the Los Angeles I knew. In its go-ahead optimism, its mobility and its congeniality, it reflected for me the excitement and sense of promise of Southern California itself.”

Bernie Fleischer, President of the American Federation of Musicians Hollywood, CA Local 47 from 1986-1991 maintained: “If genius can be defined as knowing more than one could possibly learn, Chet Baker was a true genius.”

Chet Baker sensed and felt his way through Jazz. His was not a studied conception, yet he could play sometimes with amazing accomplishment.

As some critics have argued, he did stick to the middle range of the horn, but so what? If you want to listen to bass clef, go hear a trombone player.

Chet played the middle range of the trumpet with a quiet beauty and an inventiveness that simply have no place in the upper range of the instrument. Why be shrill and scream-like, when you can play scintillatingly long lines with an almost Lennie Tristano like logic in the pretty register of the trumpet?

Perhaps Albert Namatjira’s watercolors and Chet Baker’s trumpet playing go together so well because each, in its own way, was a modest proposition.

Albert’s work focuses on landscapes that “pull” the readers focus in-and-out of them. His images are at once arresting and simple. Much like Chet’s music, the viewer takes away an impression of moderation, restraint, and self-possession from looking at them.

Albert Namatjira [1902-1957] was an Aboriginal or indigenous Australian artist who was born. into the Arrernte community at the Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission, near Alice Springs, Northern Territory in the Western MacDonnell Ranges of the subcontinent.

He was one Australia’s most notable artists. His work, watercolor landscapes of Central Australia, is represented in all of the Australian State art galleries.

Namatjira met Australian artist Rex Battarbee who visited Hermannsburg in 1934. Battarbee tutored Namatjira in the western tradition of painting and helped him to organize his first exhibition in Melbourne in 1936. This exhibition was a success and Namatjira was encouraged to exhibit his work in Adelaide and Sydney. Other exhibitions of his work followed, especially during the 1950s.

The capacity of light to flatten, fragment, illuminate or hide the forms that comprise the land, as perceived by the eye at unique moments in time, were not the only qualities that inspired Albert Namatjira. Solid matter that we know to be red, brown or green is seen by the eye as mauve, purple or blue when viewed from a distance. The steep rays of the noonday sun falling directly into a narrow gorge can change subtle shadows into a vibrant orange within a matter of minutes. Sunrise and sunset ignite solid matter into fire.

Namatjira's early paintings of mountains rely on alternate placement of light and dark areas within broad, relatively flat shapes, to establish the effect of the sun in defining its unique topography and enclosing folds. Later works go on to explore the complex ways in which light both shapes and dissolves three-dimensional form. Namatjira achieves this through the introduction of linear patterns that intersect as they curve around the mountain's perimeters and sweep down its slopes to establish the illusion of shadows.

Like Chet Baker’s solos, Namatjira’s work is defined by allusions and changing patterns of textures; it’s constantly “moving” if such a thing can be said about an art form that is portrayed in a one-dimensional setting.

See what you think of Albert’s art and Chet music together; two “naturals,” each in their own way.

[Click on the “X” to close out of the ads.]

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Human Voice As The Ultimate Jazz Instrument

I love the sonority of all instruments in a Jazz setting, but sometimes I think that nothing is more emotionally intriguing in a Jazz groove than the human voice, especially with it is inflected with a bossa nova beat and the lyrics are sung in Portuguese by Ivan Lins, whose music is one of the joys of my life.

Judge for yourself.

[The video-taping is quite professional so you my wish to play this one at full screen.]

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Goldberg’s Variation

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

“The Goldberg  Variations utilize the Sarabande from Anna Magdalena Bach's
notebook as a passacaille—that is, only its bass progression is duplicated in the varia­tions, where indeed it is treated with suf­ficient rhythmic flexibility to meet the harmonic contingencies of such diverse contrapuntal structures as a canon upon every degree of the diatonic scale, two fughettas, and even a quodlibet (the super­position of street-songs popular in Bach's times).
Such alterations as are necessary do not in any way impair the gravitational compulsion which this masterfully propor­tioned ground exerts upon the wealth of melodic figurations which subsequently adorn it. Indeed, this noble bass binds each variation with the inexorable assurance of its own inevitability.”[Emphasis, mine]
- Glenn Gould, concert pianist

At the conclusion of this piece, I have re-posted a video retrospective of the artwork of Clifton Karhu because I wanted to dwell a bit more on the technical virtuosity of the music that accompanies it as played by the Joris Roelofs Quartet.  [Karhu - 1927-2007 - lived and worked in Japan for many years and drew his inspiration from the traditional Japanese woodblock print masters of the 19th century.]

The musicianship on this recording is of such a high quality that it does justice to the roots in modern Jazz from which it draws its influence – the “school” of Jazz founded by pianist-composer Lennie Tristano and his main collaborators, alto saxophonist Lee Konitz and tenor saxophonist, Warne Marsh.

The super cool, deeply harmonically and very intellectual style of Jazz that Lennie, Lee and Warne played did not find very many, subsequent devotees, although contemporaneous musicians like pianist Alan Broadbent and alto saxophonist and flutist Gary Foster could be said to be somewhat reflective of its tenets.

I hope to have more to say about Alan and Gary’s collaborations in a future profile about Gary.

This JazzProfile derives it’s title from The Goldberg Variations, “one of the monuments of keyboard literature” which was published in 1742 while Johann Sebastian Bach [1685-1750] held the title of Polish Royal and Saxon electoral court-composer.

Glenn Gould’s 1955 Columbia Masterpiece Performances [MYK-38479] recording of The Goldberg Variations never fails to leave me shaking my head in amazement at the grandeur and scope of Bach’s conception and Gould’s pianistic talent in accomplishing it.

But although the music on the audio track to the Karhu video tribute may be said to be representative of both the Tristano school of Jazz and J. S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, particularly in its use of bass clef figures played by the piano and the bass [see above quotation by Glenn Gould], it is very much its own music.

And what music it is – commanding, lively and full of energy.

The tune is entitled The Rules and was composed by New York-based pianist Aaron Goldberg. It forms part of the music on the Introducing the Joris Roloefs Quintet  CD [Materials Records MRE-023-2].

Joris, a rising young star on the European Jazz scene, came to New York to record this album along with Aaron, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Ari Hoenig.

The Rules is based on a tonal center which is interlaced throughout its performance by the use of a six-note phrase that Aaron carries, primarily, with his left-hand, and, at times, in unison with bassist Penman to bring added emphasis.

The constant repetition makes the phrase very insistent but all of the soloists do a masterful job of bobbing and weaving in and around it without ever being overcome by it.

The sustained intensity that the group maintains really consumes the listener; one keeps expecting it to breakout at some point, but it never does.

In the absence of any means to record them, some experts maintain that J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations are really Bach’s improvisations put to pen and ink.

While listening to Aaron’s recorded solo on The Tunes, I began wondering what future pianists might make of his improvisations if they, too, were to be “notated” for posterity?

Obviously these notations would not be as complex as the knuckle-busters Bach composed, and yet, in their own way, perhaps just as challenging and interesting.

There are three solos on The Rules, but the solo order is unusual: piano, then drums [!] with the lead instrument, Joris’ alto sax, soloing last before the group returns to the theme to close out the piece.

Each is a long improvisation that makes great use of space. There are no chord progressions to be run or melodic frameworks to navigate or modal scales to set a course through. The music literally has to be created from the ground up from a very limited foundation. Such are The Rules to The Rules.

But make no mistake. This is not “Free Jazz” with the worst connotations that references to that 1960’s style can arouse. And it is not an exercise in sterile intellectualism. The music is formed in the minds of the musicians using the repetitive six-note phrase as a point of departure.

This is some of the most powerful and emotional Jazz you’ve ever experienced.

Ari Hoenig’s solo reminds me of drummer Shelly Manne’s axiom that “the hands should not rule the way you play the instrument.” He meant by this that the drummer should play music first and not show off technique. Of course, Shelly had both, and so does Ari, who plays one heck of a drum solo on this performance.

The Rules ends in an explosion of sound and with what musicians refer to as a “surprise ending.”

As Jazz moves forward in the 21st Century, players such as Aaron, Joris, Matt and Ari will not only add their brilliant improvisational ideas to its legacy, but also bring to it, an enormous quantity of technical skills which with to execute them.

The Jazz Gods must be smiling.

I certainly am.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Henry Mancini – “Making Yourself As You Go”

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

“If modern jazz becomes indelibly linked with manslaughter, murder, mayhem, wise­cracking private eyes and droll policemen, the brunt of the responsibility must be borne by composer Henry Mancini. Be­cause of him the point is rapidly being reached where no self-respecting killer would consider pulling the trigger without a suitable jazz background.

Seriously, Henry Mancini has become a pacesetter. Immediately after the first episode of the TV series "Peter Gunn," Mancini's modern jazz background score became a topic of general conversation. The Music from Peter Gunn, his first RCA Victor album (LPM/LSP-1956), rocketed into the nation's number one best-selling spot with the muzzle velocity of a police positive. Various recordings of the main theme music became top single records.

With all this excitement, it was inevitable that others should follow Mancini's lead. TV detectives now swash, buckle and make love to the strains of modern jazz.”
- Bill Olofson, liner notes to More Music From Peter Gunn [RCA LPM-2040]

Had it not been for a chance meeting with producer-director Blake Edwards, I daresay that Henry Mancini may not have had the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of writing music for the movies.

There was no television when the dream first took shape in Henry’s mind after his father took him to see Cecil B. DeMille’s movie version of The Crusades.

The year was 1935. Henry was eleven-years old.

In the 23-years between that fateful day at the Lowe’s Penn Theater in Pittsburg, PA  and bumping into Blake as he was coming out of the Universal Studios barber shop in North Hollywood, CA, Henry Mancini had become a masterful composer-arranger. He did so with a minimum of formal education; essentially by learning through doing.

As the late, writer Ray Bradbury once put it: “You make yourself as you go.”

After serving as a rifleman in World War II,  Mancini married and, at his wife Ginny’s suggestion, he relocated to southern California to pursue his dream.  Once there, he landed a job in the music department at Universal Pictures.

Henry did every job imaginable at Universal’s music room from copying scores to writing incidental music to even writing scores for forgettable-at-the-time-later-to-become-cult-classic-“B”-films like The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Henry, too, might have been forgotten if he hadn’t been for the advent of television as a popular form of entertainment in the 1950s.

And, a rendezvous with obscurity might have loomed even larger for Henry had he not run into Blake Edwards, an old acquaintance, that fateful day in 1958 on the Universal back lot.

What’s the old adage: “I’d rather be lucky than good[?]”

Henry Mancini was a couple of years younger than Blake at the time of there chance meeting [36 and 38, respectively].

The studio system that maintained staff orchestras and staff composer-arrangers was coming to an end and Mancini has just lost his job. He had a wife and three children to support.

As they were parting company, Blake asked Henry if he would be interested in doing a TV show with him.

“Sure,” said Mancini, “what’s the name of it?”

Edwards said “It’s called Peter Gunn.”

Mancini asked: “What is it, a Western?”

Edwards, replied: “You’ll see.”

The rest is history.

Starring Craig Stevens as the stylish private-eye, Peter Gunn was to become one of the most successful series in that genre.

Thanks to Mancini’s genius, it would also lead to major changes in how music was written for television and the movies.

For Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini wrote the first full score in television history.

Both Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini went on to have illustrious television and movie careers that resulted in fame and fortune, distinction and awards, and the comforts of a satisfying and stylish life.

But for me,  the epitome Henry Mancini’s composing and arranging always began and ended with his exciting and energetic work on the music for Peter Gunn.

The Jazz pulse with which he infused the music for that TV series has influenced and informed my Jazz consciousness for over fifty years.

One of my great treats in life is to return to this music and savor its timeless brilliance.

Much of the music that Mancini wrote for Peter Gunn features small group Jazz, but Blue Steel, which is from the second album – More Music for Peter Gunn – is composed for a full big band, one that certainly roars on this track.

Led by a trumpet section of Conrad Gozzo [lead], Pete Candoli [soloist], Frank Beach and Graham Young – can you imagine?! – and an orchestra that also includes five trombones, four French Horns, four woodwinds and four rhythm, Blue Steel is a veritable explosion in sound.

Hank’s music always seems to bubble with enthusiasm and humor; its bright, bouncy and bops along.

Blue Steel is only 3:39 minutes in length and yet it is brimming over with compositional devices – vamps, interludes and riffs that launch the soloists; half-step modulations and dynamics that are constantly building in the background until Hank rushes the band effervescently to the foreground; glissandos that probe and punctuate the arrangement; a throbbing walking bass that starts and stops to heighten suspense; vibes-guitar-piano playing mice-running-along-the-piano-keys figures to create a furtive sonority; flute “choirs” interspersed with vibes and then with a piano solo; a trumpet solo that soars over bass trombone pedal tones and ascending, and then, descending French Horns [see if you can catch Pete Candoli’s reference to Your Getting to Be a Habit With Me in his solo].

And just when you think the band is going to explode, Hank brings in a fanfare played by the orchestra in unison with Conrad Gozzo screaming out three, high note blasts to close the piece with a rush of orchestral adrenalin.

This is the music of a master orchestrator at work. Few arrangers have ever called upon a greater palette of colors in their arrangements. Mancini music always seem to have a mysterious gift of melody to it which provides him with a strong, inner core to build his scores upon.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bobby Troup – Theme Magazine Interview: Bobby and Julie London Revisited [From The Archives]

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

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles’ recent “discovery” of the following article about pianist-vocalist-composer Bobby Troup in the November 1954 edition of Theme Magazine prompted this return visit to archived features of both he and his wife, vocalist Julie London. You’ll find these earlier pieces plus related photographs and videos following this article by Herbert Kimmel. By the way, we think you’ll love the story about how the tune Route 66 came about.

© -  Herbert Kimmel/Theme Magazine, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Bobby Troup – A Boyish Grin and A Roadmap

“Imaginative press agents spend their sleep­less nights dreaming up stories like this for their clients:

"It happened in the winter of 1946 at the old Trocodero out on the Sunset Strip. It was after closing time and the last of the partying night club crowd had finally drift-ed out into the sleeping city. A few tired musicians were packing their instruments away for the night, talking very softly.

A nervous young man, still wearing the deep tan acquired during five years in the South Pacific as a Marine captain, was being introduced to King Cole. The fellow making the introduction, who seemed to be the young man's agent, was saying, "Nat, this is the song-writer I was telling you about. The one who wrote Daddy. Remem­ber ?" King Cole nodded. "Bobby just got in from back east and I want you to hear some of his tunes before anyone else gets a chance.” Then, the agent turned to his protege, "How about playing a few songs, Bob?"

The young man bit his lip as he ap­proached the bandstand. He knew it was foolish for him to be so jittery, but he couldn't talk himself out of the feeling. As if this were his first big chance! He re­membered how nervous he had been that time in Philly, when he was just a twenty-year-old college kid. His friend, Kurt Weiler, had telephoned him to say that Sammy Kaye had heard his song, "Daisie Mae," being played by Kurt's small band at the Embassy Club and wanted to record it.

Still, as he adjusted the piano stool, he was jittery. His hands felt cold and stiff as he placed them on the keyboard. This was a little different from having your song played by your friend's band. He decided to shout the works and play his best tune first. At the instant he played the opening chord the stool slipped off the platform supporting it, and stool, platform, and song-writer tumbled over backwards, all three ending up in a heap behind the bandstand. What a way to make an impression! But, when he had gotten back on his feet and re-arranged the stool, he realized that his vaudeville-type spill had broken the tension. Now his hands felt warm; his fingers were looser.

When the first tune was finished, King Cole said he liked it, but wanted to hear some others. Bobby played every song he had ever written, without satisfying Cole. Finally, in desperation, he said, "Look, I wrote twelve bars in the car yes­terday, kind of a blues idea. Maybe you'll like it.' He had thought of the tune while driving across the desert on highway 66. It had never even been played on a piano be­fore. Cole loved it as soon as he heard it. He told Bob to finish it and bring it back the next night.

As simple as that. All he had to do was compose a song overnight. The next morn­ing he went to a gas station and got a road-map. Then he went from rehearsal hall to rehearsal hall at CBS, using any un­occupied pianos he could find. By the time the next night rolled around, "Route 66" had been completed. The rest is his­tory.'

The only difference between this story and a press agent's dream is that this one is true. The remarkable thing about Bob­by Troup's career is the fact that the same boyish ingenuousness which characterized his piano-fall that night back in 1946 is still noticeable in him every time he sits down to play. Not that he makes a habit of falling off the stool. Simply, he has nev­er thought of himself any differently. Put­ting it in corny words, he just hasn't let success go to his head.

Even after having composed such nation­wide hits as "Daddy" (nee "Daisy Mae") and "Route 66," Bobby still found that the going could be pretty rough. The world of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael doesn't have room for people who produce one or two big hits and expect to loaf around while the money pours in. Bobby knew this. For six years after Route 66 he devoted all of his energy to two things, com­posing new songs and trying to assemble a successful trio. He produced everything, from straight ballads to zany novelties like "Triskaidekaphobia," "The Three Bears," and "Hungry Man." Recording artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Lea Brown and The Page Cavannaugh Trio waxed his tunes.

But none of them seemed to click real big. His first trio had a quaint, folksy sound, hut offered very little new in the way of entertainment. Listening to this group gave you the feeling that the musicians were all such nice friendly boys who were always smiling. But this wasn't enough to keep the strangers coming in. The group found its way into almost every cocktail lounge in Los Angeles. Each change of jobs was a step downward into what seemed would be eventual oblivion. Bobby's spirits ebbed near gloom when he found the trio being booked into such out-of-the-way saloons as the Pioneer Club in far away El Monte. He felt so bad about his hard luck that he couldn't even force himself to try to write another song. Finally, the trio split up and Bob went back to playing as a single.

After successful bookings at the Parrot's Cage and The Kings in Hollywood, Bob's confidence slowly returned. With the for­mation of his new trio, with Bob Enevoldsen on bass and Howard Roberts on guitar, Bob's piano has become more and more dis­tinctive. The jazz backgrounds of Enevoldsen and Roberts have rubbed off on Troup with excitingly salutary effects. Recently, after hearing the Dave Brubeck Quartet when they were in Hollywood, Bobby was very much impressed by Brubeck's unique percussion approach to the piano. Now, his listeners are getting used to the surprise of a "Brubeck-type" chorus when it graces the trio's offerings.

Three other recent happenings have helped to place the Troup star higher than it has ever been. With the encouragement and as­sistance of his friend, Johnny Mercer, Bob­by has become a permanent panelist on the KTTV musical quiz-variety show, Musical Chairs. Along with Mercer, and master-of-ceremonies Bill Leydon, Bobby spends his Friday evenings visiting millions of living rooms, via television, singing songs and clowning around in general. In addition to the regular panelists named above, each week finds another glamorous feminine star sitting in as guest panelist along with a male personality. Recent weeks have seen songful June Christy, lovely Carol Rich­ards, funny-man Dave Barry and the pop­ular Mel Blanc lend their talents to the show.

The second new push up the ladder was contrived with the help of Capitol Records. For a short time last year Bobby tried his luck with a small band. The Septette's first week at the embers in North Hollywood was so successful that Capitol decided to record it before the group disbanded. The results of this session have been released on a long-playing Bobby Troup album. The arrangements were written by Bob Enevoldsen with a definite jazz concept in mind: to develop the four-reed idea which had been so effective on Woody Herman's record of Early Autumn. The contrast established be­tween this sound and Bobby's whispery vo­calizing is striking. The album has sold so-well that Capitol has recorded additional sides for the future.
Last of the three new events, but far from least, are Bobby's newest song hits, "It Hap­pened Once Before" and "Julie, is Her Name." Writing songs was what started Bob out into the world of entertainment, and in these tunes he convincingly indi­cates that it is still his first love. There is warmth and simplicity in the words and a fresh sound to the tunes. The funny side of the story of these songs is the fact that they differ from Bobby's other big hits in that they are romantic ballads. And this is its serious side also, because underneath Bobby's boyish grin there is a world of simple, romantic idealism.

Which brings us to the end of the story. Bobby Troup doesn't need a press agent to invent a tale of rags-to-riches for him. He doesn't want anyone to think of him as be­ing any different from any other American kid, who went to college and had some fun, had some luck at times and some tough breaks at others, got married and had two lovely silken-haired daughters, and above all, worked hard for a long time to get where he is now. As a matter of fact, when I asked him to give me a few ideas on what to write about him, all he could think of to say was, "Just say — Come into the En­core Restaurant and let me play a few songs for them." And, truthfully, that's the only way to really get what I mean.”

Bobby Troup – Stars of Jazz

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

“About Bobby Troup...
He sang as though he had just half a voice. No volume, it was all about confiding. Some­times he croaked out a line, next minute he'd released a word as though he was doubtful about delivering it to the world at large. Bobby Troup never played to the gallery, never went for the big one. Yet, despite - or rather because of - such reluctance, allied to a lemon-twist quality that fell oddly on unaccustomed ears, the man from Harrisburg, PA. still qualified as Mr. Cool, the vocal equivalent of a Paul Desmond alto solo maybe. He sounded like no one else. And no one else has ever sounded like him.”

- Fred Dellar, Mojo Magazine

We wrote about composer, pianist and vocalist Bobby Troop in an earlier feature about him and Julie London which you can locate in the blog archives by going here.

Many of us first “met” Bobby in the 1950s when he hosted the Emmy award wining ABC television series, Stars of Jazz.

Can you imagine - a regular, weekly series on a major television network devoted to Jazz?

It was cool and so was Bobby.

Since it was based in Los Angeles, most of the groups that appeared on the show were associated with was then labeled the “West Coast” school of Jazz.

There are two wonderful books on this subject: Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960 and Robert Gordon, Jazz West Coast, The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s.

A number of years ago, The California Institute of Jazz made available to those in attendance at its Spring 1999 4-day festival celebrating West Coast Jazz , a wonderful CD of the music from the Stars of Jazz series.

Ken Poston, the director of the institute, wrote the following in the insert booklet which accompanied the compendium:

“This anthology has been assembled exclusively for JAZZ WEST COAST II, presented by the California Institute for the Preservation of Jazz. All of the material comes from various Bobby Troup Stars of Jazz television broadcasts. Stars of Jazz debuted in the summer of 1956 on KABC, Los Angeles. It was unheard of in the mid 1950s to televise jazz on a regular basis, but because of the dedication of producer Jimmie Baker, program director Pete Robinson and host Bobby Troup the program aired for over two years. It was sponsored by Budweiser and eventually went from a local to network broadcast. The selections on this disc represent the incredible range of artists that were beamed into your living room every night.”

—Ken Poston

Incidentally, Ken’s organization, which now carries the name – The Los Angeles Jazz Institute [LAJI] – continues to sponsor semi-annual, four day festivals, as well as, one-day commemorative events. You can find out more about these programs by visiting Ken’s website at

In addition to the LAJI’s repository of goodies, Ray Avery, the late photographer and Jazz recordings maven, was allowed to photograph the Stars of Jazz.

A compilation of Ray photographs from these shows was published in 1998.

Cynthia T. Sesso, who in her own right is a major authority on Jazz photography, licenses Ray’s work along with the images of a number of other photographers who specialized in Jazz.

Cynthia has been a great friend to JazzProfiles over the years in allowing us to use photographs by her clients on these pages.

You can find out more about Cynthia and her work at She may also have copies of Ray’s book about Stars of Jazz still available for sale.

Her are some excerpts from the book’s introduction regarding how Ray came to be involved with the show and Bobby Troup’s role as contained in an interview that Ray gave to Will Thornbury.

© -  Cynthia T. Sesso/CTSimages, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“…, my photography flowed naturally out of my involvement in my record store. At that time I wasn't well known as a photographer. I just happened to be there and I had an entrĂ©e because I was in the record business. Most of the small record companies knew about me because I was carrying their product in my store, they would invite me to record sessions. I was very seldom paid for a session, except if they bought some photos. …

One day a friend of mine asked if I'd seen "Stars Of Jazz" and I said I hadn't, so I checked the newspaper and found out when it was going to be on. I just went down, I think it was the second or third show, and I asked them if I could photograph it. They were very friendly and said yes, of course, just be careful and don't fall over any cords or walk in front of any cameras."

The host for all but two Stars of Jazz episodes was Bobby Troup. He embodied the essence of the show - straightforward, genuine and creative. Perhaps some of the show's viewers from outside the jazz world were pulled in through Troup's accessibility. He wore a crew cut. He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in business and had written many of the nation's favorite songs "Route 66", "Daddy", "Lemon Twist", songs that crossed over from the jazz to the popular charts. In addition to writing songs, he was also an active musician and would perform often on the show.

"Bobby was the perfect man", notes Jimmie Baker. 'There were some people who wanted to have a bigger name, but nobody else could do it. Nobody else had the appeal that Bobby had." Avery adds, "Bobby was a good musician, had written great songs and he could be a great master of ceremonies. That's a combination they couldn't find in anyone else. He spoke really well - he didn't want any of those corny jazz lines in the script, which was good. He was a really good interviewer. He made people feel so comfortable when they were there. And of course they respected him as a musician, many of the sets featured Bobby at the piano."

"All the musicians had so much faith in the presentation of "Stars of Jazz"," Troup says. "They thought it was the best jazz show they'd ever seen. Did you know the story of how "Stars of Jazz" got started? Pete Robinson, Jimmie Baker, and Bob Arbogast were all jazz buffs. I mean they really loved jazz, and there was this executive, Seligman, graduated from Harvard, Phi Beta Kappa, and they were on him constantly to let them do this jazz show. Finally just to get them out of his hair, he said 'OK, I'll give you a studio, a camera, you have to write it, you have to arrange every musician, no more than scale, and I'll give you three weeks to run the show.' The first show was Stan Getz. And they screened quite a few people and for some reason or another they picked me to be the host. I'm sure glad they did. Every night was a highlight, every night. I did the show for scale, it amounted to $60 maybe $70 a night. When we went network I got scale for network, which was more."

Avery adds, "in those days there weren't the camera men that there are today. Now you go to a concert and there's fifty people with cameras, but before, maybe half a dozen of us would show up. Consequently, the photos taken in my early period are the ones that are in demand now because not many people have them."”

Ironically, Seligman, who authorized Stars of Jazz and was very boastful of the program when it won an Emmy Award, never supported the show for a regular timeslot when it went national on ABC.

Despite the critical acclaim it received, the show was cancelled of January, 1959 due to “low ratings.” Seligman was also responsible for ordering that the tapes of the 130 episodes of Stars of Jazz be erased so that they could be reused. After all, each tape cost $400. Of course, what was recorded on them was priceless!

I guess “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad?”

Mercifully, Jimmy Baker of the show’s production team was able to save 35mm’s and 81 of the early kinescopes, all of which now reside for posterity in the UCLA Film Library.

More of the music from the series is available on a commercial RCA CD - Bobby Troup Stars of Jazz [74321433962] - from which we’ve drawn the music for the following tribute.

In his insert notes to the recording, Pete Robinson, one of the show’s producers, wrote the following:

“It has been observed that People Who Live in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones, and since Bobby Troup's particular glass house is a collective one, consisting of 17- and 24-inch television screens the country over, it is most important that his participation in the realm of jazz be exemplary. It is.

As one playing of the enclosed collection will attest, Mister Troup's qualities of tempo, intonation, taste and interpretation place him in good stead as a jazz singer of considerable merit. Nominations in the Down Beat and Playboy polls add further to his vocal status.

These fans, however, will come as no sur­prise to the initiated. Bobby's work has had more than a little exposure on records. What IS new is the extraordinary group of jazz musicians who here­with are represented in tandem with Troup. Bobby's presence as narrator of ABC-TV's "Stars of Jazz" for the past three years has found him rubbing elbows with players from every corner of jazz. (A total of 714 of them at this writing, for those who find security in statistics.)

It was, then, only a matter of time until an elite group of these jazzmen should come together with Troup for the purpose of recording. When Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Rowles became available to provide arrangements, the time was ripe.”

The audio track on the video is Bobby singing Free and Easy which he co-wrote with Henry Mancini. The trumpet solos are by Pete and Conte Candoli and Jimmy Rowles wrote the arrangement.

Julie London, Bobby Troup and The China Trader

[c] –Steven A. Cerra, Introduction, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The China Trader is not there anymore.

Originally located at 4200 Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake, Ca, it was a Chinese restaurant that had a South Sea islands and nautical theme with lots of tiki heads and bamboo sprouting from every nook and cranny.

For a time it was best known for being the birthplace of the Hawaiian Eye drink [think Mai Tai].

The '60s detective, ABC television show Hawaiian Eye was filmed at Warner Bros. studios in nearby Burbank, CA and The China Trader was the after-work hangout of its stars, Robert Conrad, Connie Stevens and Anthony Eisley and of many members of the crew.

The Hawaiian Eye drink was concocted there in their honor.

The Falcon Theater is in The China Trader’s place today.

Toluca Lake is a very upscale community located between Burbank and North Hollywood, CA. Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures studios are only a few miles away. A 10 minute ride over the Barham Pass takes you into Hollywood.

There really is a lake in Toluca Lake and it is surrounded by very fashionable homes and a country club that offers access to a marvelous golf course.  Bob Hope is probably the best known of Toluca Lake’s many long-time residents, but numerous luminaries associated with the entertainment business live in the community.

For many years, composer, pianist and vocalist Bobby Troop held forth at The China Trader.  He and his wife, actress and song stylist, Julie London, were residents of Toluca Lake. Since his piano was already stationed in the lounge, Bobby could and did walk to work on some of the nights he appeared at The China Trader.

Throughout most of the 1970s, Bobby and Julie were in the cast of the hit NBC TV show, Emergency.  The popularity of the show only served to enhance the gatherings  at The China Trader when Bobby was performing there.

Bobby appeared solo on Thursday and Sunday nights and with a trio on Friday and Saturday nights.

Given his low-key temperament, unassuming personality and acerbic wit, Bobby always kept the atmosphere in the bar relaxed and cordial.

Julie dropped by occasionally and when she did, their were always numerous pleadings for her to sing, but she rarely did.

Bobby was one of the most comfortable-in-his-own-skin musicians I ever knew.  I first met him in 1962 when we were both involved with the Surfside 6 television show; he as an actor, and me as a member of the band that recorded the soundtrack for the series.

That year, I was home on leave following boot camp and he came up to me in the studio and said: “You’re a Marine.” When I quizzically looked at him following that remark, he said: “I was a Captain in the corps for three years.”

Over the years, I kept in touch with Bobby as The China Trader was a stone’s throw away from my home.  I even subbed as the drummer is his trio on a few occasions.

With over 40 movie and television appearances to his credit and a slew of royalty checks coming in from songs he wrote like Route “66,” Daddy and Lemon Twist, Bobby was a very busy guy and a fairly well-off one, too. Good for him; not too many musicians make more than a few schimolies in the music “business.”

He was very pleased and proud of writing the tune – The Meaning of the Blues.

Interestingly, when Julie was in the mood to sing during her visits to be with Bobby at The China Trader, she invariably sang this tune.

I recently came across a version of Julie singing The Meaning of the Blues with an orchestra under the direction of Russ Garcia.  It’s from her album All About the Blues which Bobby produced for Capitol [7243 5 38695 2 6] and it forms the soundtrack to the following video tribute to her.

Here is an excerpt from  James Gavin’s insert notes to the disc:

“LPs were her true medium. The queen of the make-out album, London recorded over 30 for Liberty between 1955 and 1969. Supported by a goose-down blanket of strings or just guitar and bass, she sounded so intimate that she seemed to be breathing into your ear. Men drooled over the cheesecake covers, which showed her snuggled in bed, posed in an alley as a scantily-clad courtesan, or seated backwards in an Eames chair, legs pointed up in a V. ‘I'm sure she hated all that,’ says Arthur Hamilton, the songwriter who wrote Cry Me A River, her breakthrough hit of 1955. ‘That wasn't Julie at all. She wasn't trying to seduce her audience; she just blotted them out. She hid inside the song. She didn't like to perform, she didn't like getting dressed, she didn't like that image she had to live up to.’”