Friday, April 5, 2024

Jazz from the Pacific Northwest - Shelly Manne and His Men

 © Introduction. Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

We Were All Influenced by Him: A Conversation with Joe LaBarbera

About Shelly Manne

A Sound Colorist: Peter Erskine Reflects on Shelly Manne

I Wanted to Sound Like Him: Jim Keltner Talks About Shelly Manne

The word “community” is very much in vogue these days. But when people use “community” today they have a particular meaning in mind: they want the term to denote something that is a force for good.

Perhaps this meaning for the term community may also be used in retrospect as when it came to the “Jazz community,” especially in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s, no one contributed more “good” to it than drummer, band leader and club owner Shelly Manne [1920-1984].

Vocalist Ruth Price explains Shelly’s demeanor and role this way in the booklet from the soon-to-be-released Jazz from the Pacific Northwest - Shelly Manne and His Men:

“Thinking back now, I'm just really glad I fell into everything accidentally in the first couple of weeks I was out on the West Coast. I had a steady gig at the Manne-Hole and it kept me going. It helped me survive. There are just a few things that musicians have said to me that I really utilize. One of them was from Shelly. One night I came in and I just wasn't musical. I don't know how to explain it, except I didn't sound musical to myself. The band didn't sound musical to me either, but I know they were just like they always were. I just couldn't sing and I was having trouble. I mean, I was unhappy and he sensed it. He took me aside and said, "You know, Ruthie, it's OK to copy yourself." And I knew exactly what he meant.

When you're dealing with jazz, what you're hoping you can do is bring something fresh to it every time and that's hard to do. I wasn't finding anything fresh and I was floundering. He meant that I could sing off the stuff that I'd done before and perhaps recorded, even though that would normally be something I would never want to do. I wouldn't want to do it the same way twice, but he said, "You can copy yourself, Ruth. That's OK."

I loved him. And so did a whole lot of other people as well. He was more than just a wonderful musician. He was really a supporter of the guys, of the musicians who needed support. He was pretty wonderful.”

- Excerpted from an interview with Ruth Price conducted by Zev Feldman on May 12,2022.

Many of us in the broader Jazz community who came of age in the music during the time that Shelly was active with his various quintets and especially after he established his Jazz Club, The Manne Hole, in 1961 in Hollywood, CA, experienced his warm-heartedness first-hand, so it’s nice to see it brought forward and acknowledged in the legacy recordings from the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival and a 1966 appearance at The Penthouse in Seattle, WA that make up this double CD set - Jazz from the Pacific Northwest - Shelly Manne and His Men - another in the Jazz Discoveries series by the “Jazz Detective”  Zev Feldman.

In the customary superb booklet materials that accompany the music on these “discoveries,” Shelly’s humanity and good-heartedness are reaffirmed many times over in the stories about him recounted by drummers Joe La Barbera, Peter Erskine and Jim Keltner, all interviewed by Zev in 2002 as these recordings were entering production. I venture to say that these anecdotes could have been compounded many times over by other stories from any musician, let alone drummer, who ever met Shelly.

Shelly was everywhere in Left Coast Jazz Circles from 1950-1970: with Stan Kenton’s Orchestra at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, CA; as a member of Howard Rumsey’s All Stars at the Lighthouse in Hermosa, Beach, CA; with Shorty Rogers Giants at Zardi’s and Jazz City in Hollywood, CA; with various iterations of his own quintet at the Blackhawk in San Francisco and later on every weekend in his own club, The Manne Hole. He even returned to work for his old boss Stan Kenton when the latter formed his Neophonic Orchestra for a series of concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles from 1966-1968!

His best selling quintet albums and Broadway show LPs with Andre Previn and bassists Leroy Vinnegar and Red Mitchell helped to establish the viability of Les Koenig’s Contemporary Jazz label.

He was the drummer on Hank Mancini’s score for the ground-breaking Peter Gunn TV series [1959-63] which made Jazz a mainstay in the music scores of the then ubiquitous TV detective series, a tradition continued by the likes of Pete Rugolo, Elmer Bernstein and Skip Martin. 

His Filmography details an exhausting schedule throughout his career. He spent so much time in the studios at Universal that there is a plaque just outside the drum booth with his name on it!

He even found time to teach a class in Jazz at California State University, Northridge!! [“It’s the least I can do to spread the word about this wonderful music. Besides I live in Northridge” <big grin>.].

But after all is said and done, Shelly Manne was all about creating music and there are certainly plenty of new sounds by him and his group to enjoy on Jazz from the Pacific Northwest - Shelly Manne and His Men [Reel to Reel, LP: RTRLPO 12; CD: RTRCDO 12]. The LP street date is April 20, 2024 to coincide with an exclusive for Record Store Day while the CD releases on May 10, 2024.

Disc One features The Men with Stu Williamson on trumpet, Herb Geller on alto sax, Russ Freeman, piano, Monty Budwig, bass and Shelly on drums performing three selections at the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival, the highlight for me being the performance of Bill Holman’s four-part suite entitled quartet which I first heard on Volume 5, More Swinging Sounds on Contemporary.

Fast forward 8 years and Disc Two finds Shelly’s Men at The Penthouse in Seattle with the group comprised this time of alto saxophonist and flutist Frank Strozier, who made his mark in the Jazz world as a member of drummer Walter Perkins MJ2 + 3, a Chicago based quintet that also included pianist Harold Mabern. Joining Frank on the front-line is Manne’s old running mate Conte Candoli on trumpet with pianist Hampton Hawes and Monty Budwig forming the rhythm section along with Shelly and vocalist Ruth Price doing the honors on two tracks.

More of Shelly's sense of community is involved with these recordings in the form of a commissioned work by Bill Holman, Herb Geller replacing alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano and joining with Stu Williamson to form the front line at the MJF [Herb was dealing with the serious illness of his wife Lorraine [ she died about a month after the MJF appearance and Shelly’s offer of a gig was timely in the extreme] and new face Frank Strozier being brought onto the group in 1965 to help expand and extend his Jazz career. By the time of the Penthouse gig, Conte had been on the band for six years [talk about loyalty; a very long time for a regular Jazz gig] and Shelly’s hiring of Hampton Hawes for the Seattle gig was a magnanimous gesture following some difficult personal times for the pianist. It was also a reunion of sorts from their time together at the Lighthouse during the early years of Jazz at that iconic club.

Beyond these background narratives, the music on these recordings are full of zest, a high level of musicianship and lots of Shelly’s trademark swing. It ranges from all original compositions on the 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival set to music drawn primarily from the Great American Songbook on The Penthouse dates in Seattle.

None of these tracks are just loose vehicles for blowing. Shelly’s music always came with intriguing arrangements, riffs or vamps between solos and shout choruses to help take things out. But there is also another feature of Shelly’s music on display on these recordings - plenty of room for the musicians to stretch out where six of the nine tracks exceed ten minutes.

Here’s more information about the music and what’s included in the package from the media release issued by Lydia Liebman Promotions.

Jazz from The Pacific Northwest combines two previously unissued concert recordings from one of the greatest jazz drummers of all-time, Shelly Marine. The first recording, recorded at the Monterey Jazz Festival on October 4, 1958, features Monty Budwig on bass, Russ Freeman on piano, Stu Williamson on trumpet, and Herb Geller on flute and alto saxophone. The second recording features Hampton Hawes on piano, Frank Strozier on flute and alto saxophone, Conte Condoli on trumpet and guest vocalist Ruth Price on two tracks recorded at the Penthouse jazz club in Seattle on September 7 and 15, 1966.

The hand-numbered, limited-edition, double LP set was transferred from the original tape reels and is pressed on 180g vinyl. The deluxe package includes an extensive 16-page booklet with essays by renowned archival producer Zev Feldman and label owner/producer/musician Cory Weeds, plus passages from Tim Jackson of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Charlie Puzzo Jr. from the Penthouse, and engineer/radio host Jim Wilke; interviews from musicians Jim Keltner, Peter Erskine, Ruth Price, Bill Holman and Joe LaBarbera; and rare photos and memorabilia. LP mastering by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio.

New York City-born Manne rose to fame in the 1950s after moving to Los Angeles and is known as a founding father of the "West Coast Jazz" scene. He is highly regarded as one of the most versatile and talented drummers of the day performing with countless legends including Andre Previn, Sonny Rollins, Stan Kenton, Charlie Ventura, Kai Winding and many others. Manne teamed up with Previn and Leroy Vinnegar to produce the first jazz album of a Broadway score for their version of "My Fair Lady," and he has numerous television/movie credits along with performing and composing scores. His recorded works include numerous albums for Capitol, Atlantic, Impulse!, Mainstream, Contemporary, Flying Dutchman and other international labels."


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Kind thanks to you for posting about this upcoming Shelly Manne release.

    I was cooking in the embryonic oven when Shelly and His Men played at the Monterey Jazz Festival in October of 1958.

    I'll be purchasing a copy of this on Record Store Day so that my collection of Russ Freeman recordings stays up-to-date and complete.

    Stay cool, Steven! ~from Paula Kenley Freeman


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