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Jazz Memories from The 50’s
Topic Started: Dec 4 2006, 11:01 AM (4,252 Views)
mort bakaprevski
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I grew up in Newport Beach. The thin two-mile Balboa peninsula was an important part of the city (especially to college students during Easter vacation). On the beach, in Balboa, was the famous Rendezvous Ballroom (now, long gone), where the Stan Kenton band got its start in 1940 (I was fortunate enough to attend a concert there in the late fifties which featured Stan, June Christy & The Four Freshmen)!!

In the summer of 1955, the Rendezvous had Maynard Ferguson front a nine-piece band every Saturday night. The charts were all by Bill Holman (they had no names, just numbers) and although the personnel would change somewhat from week to week, it was fairly consistent: Bob Gordon on bari, Bill Holman on tenor & Herb Geller on alto made up the sax section. Conte Candoli frequently played 2nd trumpet (unfortunately, he never got a solo). Milt Bernhart played trombone & the rhythm section featured Red Kelly on bass & Gary Frommer (I think that was his name) on drums. Lou Levy & Loraine Geller alternated on piano.

For the first month or so, they featured a chick singer by the name of Peggy Connelly. I honestly can’t remember anything about her singing, but she was definitely a “hot” number that certainly stimulated our very young glands. She “dated” Frank Sinatra, married (& divorced) comedian Dick Martin & gave birth to film director Richard Martin.

The music was very exciting & the ability to enjoy it in a ballroom setting was terrific. I’m sure there were some people who actually managed to dance to these numbers, but to my friends & I, it was enough to just lean on the bandstand & enjoy the great arrangements & exciting solos.

Mercury recorded a version of this band (long out of print) with a few personnel changes (George Auld playing some blistering, raw tenor). Obviously, this group was the precursor to the big band Ferguson ultimately fronted for many years.
"Nov Shmoz Ka Pop."
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mort bakaprevski
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Over a year ago, I posted the above & thought I might continue it with other reminiscences, but no one seemed very interested, so I never bothered. However, I noticed that there are more than 50 hits on the post, so maybe someone WAS interested. (Of course, 42 of the hits were mine. I just love to read my own writing).

Anyway, when I was in high school, a bunch of us who were in a dance band together would crowd into someone’s car & make the (approximate) 40 mile trip from Newport Beach to Manhattan Beach (& this was pre the 405 freeway, so it was surface streets all the way) to go to the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was a nightclub that featured Howard Rumsey & His Lighthouse All-Stars. Rumsey was a bass player who had played with Kenton in the early days. He wasn’t a very good musician, but he had talked the management into hiring his group on a more-or-less permanent basis. When we attended, the group had been there for over five years.

Members of the group (a sextet) changed over the years. The initial group featured Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne & Jimmy Giuffre, but by the time we attended, they were long gone. The group I remember included Conte Candoli on trumpet, Bud Shank on alto (& flute), Bob Cooper on tenor (& oboe), Claude Williamson on piano & Stan Levey on drums. Later on, Candoli dropped out & was replaced by Frank Rosolino on trombone. Usually, when they recorded, they would add another brass player (trumpet or trombone depending on which was missing) & play as a septet.

Fortunately, at that time, most jazz bars would accommodate minors. Getting a Coke at 90 cents seemed like highway robbery (which kind of gives you an idea of how long ago this was), but it was definitely worth it for the music involved. However, we did get hauled in to the police station one night because (I think) of the curfew law. They just scared us a bit, but ultimately let us go.

Because of the confrontation with the city officials, we much preferred to go to the Sunday afternoon performances. These were particularly attractive because a lot of the top jazz stars would drop by to sit in… and this included musicians who were just in town temporarily. Miles Davis & Max Roach were just two of the big-names that occasionally showed up.

Rumsey stayed at the Lighthouse for ten years or more. He ultimately had a disagreement with the owners & moved on to another venue. The Lighthouse is STILL there, but only features jazz one day a week. Rock, folk & other types of music play on the other six days.

Usually, someone closes a reminiscence like this with the phrase, “Ahhh, if we only appreciated what we had then.” But, I honestly think we DID realize what a great musical opportunity we were being given.
"Nov Shmoz Ka Pop."
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George Kaplan
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Great reminiscence, Mort. It must have been a treat to hear these guys--some of the best of the West Coast jazzmen--when they were playing steady gigs. Luckily for the rest of us, they are well represented on records and cds. As I'm sure you're aware, Mosaic has been doing a terrific job of reissuing Shank and Cooper and many others.
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Chandu
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Just growing up in or around Newport Beach must have been a music lover's dream!! ;)
Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It's just little ol' me...
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mort bakaprevski
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Despite the inroads of the post-WWII bulding boom, Newport Beach (& neighboring Costa Mesa) were still pretty rural in the early fifties. As such, there really wasn't a lot of music available within the two towns. The Rendezvous Ballroom (previously mentioned) was pretty much it. Although the Rendezvous was extremely popular during the late thirties & early forties, it had fallen on hard times and during the fifties was only open during Spring break & Summer vacation... and then only on weekends. The "jazz scene" was pretty much exclusive to Los Angeles & vicinity... which was a fifty mile drive from Newport.
"Nov Shmoz Ka Pop."
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Chandu
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Live and learn! I really hate to admit this, :ph43r: but somewhere in my youth I apparently misread a record album cover (I'm sure that's where it came from) and somehow confused the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival, and all of this time I thought Newport Beach, CA was located on the Monterey peninsula and was where the Jazz Festival was held! :lol: It never even crossed my mind that the more well known Newport Beach, RI might have a jazz festival. :o Every time someone mentioned, or I read about anything having to do with the Newport Jazz Festival, I always pictured it happening on the Monterey peninsula. :blink: Now, even more embarassing, I discover Newport Beach, CA is nowhere near Monterey! :blink: It mightn't be quite so bad if hadn't lived on the west coast my entire lifetime! :ph43r: Sorry Mort, that's the reason for my dumb comment.
Not plane, nor bird, nor even frog. It's just little ol' me...
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mort bakaprevski
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I thought I might write a few words clarifying the so-called “West Coast Jazz” sound. A lot of verbiage was written, during those years & after, about the “cool” jazz of the west coast. I think that this somewhat mistaken concept came from three sources. Definitely Gerry Mulligan’s quartet & Red Norvo’s trio were relatively “cool”… but that was largely because of the instrumentation involved.

Another source of the term was that so much of the recorded jazz from the West Coast musicians was highly arranged. The Gerry Mulligan Tentette album obviously harkened back to Miles Davis “Birth of the Cool" & may have been the main reason for the “Cool” appellation. Shorty Rogers albums also tended to be big band or large small groups which emphasized the arranging more than the jazz soloing. Then there was The Lighthouse All Star album that featured Bud Shank on flute & Bob Cooper on oboe. Oh yes, can’t forget the Laurindo Almeida/Bud Shank album either. But what you heard on albums was not necessarily what you heard in the clubs.

The third reason was that even though there was some integration in jazz groups, the majority of black musicians played in the south central area of L.A. and, were not considered, for some reason, part of the West Coast movement. The white musicians were mainly graduates of the Stan Kenton & Woody Herman bands who worked in the motion picture & broadcasting studios. They tended to play together because they had known each other for years. It was this latter contingent that produced the very sophisticated arrangements that populated their albums… & largely created the “cool” sobriquet.

However, the groups that played the clubs were another matter entirely. Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne & the aforementioned Lighthouse All Stars fronted groups that were, more or less, straight ahead, bop oriented jazz. That is, ensemble for the first chorus followed by solos &, usually, finished off by the horns trading fours with the drums. As a matter of fact, some might even term the music a bit pre-bop (reminiscent of the Basie small groups). Certainly the reed players obviously emulated Lester Young more than they did Charlie Parker or Sonny Rollins.

The trumpet players were obviously more influenced by Miles Davis than they were Dizzy Gillespie & I’m sure that this added to the “cool” reputation. Pianists, with the exception of Hampton Hawes & Pete Jolly (both, at the time, members of the “funky” contingent) were definitely of the Bud Powell school (chord comps in the left hand & fast single note passages in the right). Although Stan Levey had once played with Charley Parker, both he & Shelly Manne’s primary background was with big bands (Kenton & Herman) & that certainly influenced their approach to small group percussion. Bass players varied from the virtuosic skill of Red Mitchell to the funky approach of Leroy Vinegar.

Certainly the West Coast approach was not as blistering as (say) Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. But, Art’s group was somewhat unique. It also might be validly argued that the East Coast groups (& that generally meant the black groups) were much more involved in perpetuating the bop revolution of the 40’s, while the West Coast (and, again, this usually referred to the white groups), tended towards an earlier era… at least insofar as the soloing was concerned.

I guess it’s just another example of how the “press” loves to reduce complex issues to a simple label… consisting of as few words as possible.
"Nov Shmoz Ka Pop."
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JazzGuyy
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You mentioned the studio musicians. In the '50s black musicians were beginning to get into the studios. Benny Carter had been around for a while, even doing a lot of movie work but in the '50s players like Ray Brown began to get studio calls.

Black musicians were even more successful in pop where Earl Palmer and Plas Johnson became significant studio players.
TANSTAAFL!
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mort bakaprevski
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Good point!! One of the "coolest" groups of the mid-fifties was the Chico Hamilton quintet (sax/flute, guitar, cello, bass & drums). The de facto musical director of this group was Buddy Collette, who was also doing a lot studio work at the time!!
"Nov Shmoz Ka Pop."
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JazzGuyy
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I was always a big fan of Hamilton's various groups. A lot of great musicians were members of his bands over the years. They also did a lot of very creative stuff. I have the Mosaic box set of Hamilton material and it's great.
TANSTAAFL!
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Greypilgrim
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Morty.......

Way back on the list, you mentioned how you were somewhat disillusioned because no one had responded to your post.

Brave heart, me lad. I, too, at first thought things weren't going well on the OTR site when Gravy first opened it up and I left all kinds of neat things that I thought people were sure to repond to......but no one ever did,

THEN I saw the area that said "viewed", and I felt better. I realized it wasn't how many RESPONSES I got, but how many VIEWS were listed per topic. It was THOSE numbers that I was writing to. THOSE numbers were what kept me going.

As long as people looked, and read, that was one more person who I made contact with. One more person who was aware of what I was saying for the masses.

I'm forever surprised at how many people read my stuff.

I sometimes wonder if I have a following that wait for me to post something new--like a fan club--a "SILENT" Majority.

Interesting thought, isn't it?

So hang in there...You ARE noticed.

We just don't HAVE to talk to you if we don't WANT to. :P :lol: ;)

However, it DOES seem that you're making up for lost time.

Congratulations!! :D
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JazzGuyy
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I'm a fan, GP. Don't always agree with you but usually find what you have to say is interesting and informative. I would say the same thing about Morty.
TANSTAAFL!
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Greypilgrim
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JazzGuyy
Feb 21 2008, 04:34 PM
I'm a fan, GP.  Don't always agree with you but usually find what you have to say is interesting and informative.  I would say the same thing about Morty.

Why, thank you, Jazzguy. It's good to hear some feedback of ANY kind.

(the payoff check is in the mail. ;) :D )

When I put something down it's not cause I'm loking for "yes" men, but just looking to stir things up in the conversation and idea areas. :D ;)

There are some things I say, that even I don't agree with, but it makes for a topic and some talk.

If we all agreed on the same thing, it would get pretty dull around here. :lol:
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mort bakaprevski
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Well, thanks to both of you. Obviously, we all come to those boards with different agendas… and backgrounds. I’m not personally interested in jokes, role playing, general chit-chat or top ten lists. Mind you, I’m not denigrating these areas, I’m just not interested myself. What I do like are facts I don’t know about subjects that interest me. I also like posters who know the difference between a fact & an opinion.

Because of my rather (ahem) advanced age, I feel I have some experiences that might be of interest to the (mostly) younger members. I remember when I was an adolescent, my best friend’s mother had professional singing experience back in the late 20’s & early 30’s. Needless to say, I hung on every word she uttered when she started to reminisce.

"Nov Shmoz Ka Pop."
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Greypilgrim
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That's absolutely fine, Mort. The Balcony is like a big clubhouse.

We come in here, mix with others for awhile, check out topics and posts for any new information, maybe make some comments, maybe throw out something that we found out along the way, and then go.

But it was only a short while back that something that happened to me that reminded me of exactly WHERE we are.

I belonged to a trivia chat room. They had a speaking moderator--one who we could hear when we turned our speakers on. For months I'd been a major force in this room...helping to moderate, ask questions, straighten out any troublemakers that barged in and tried to take over.

I made friends...lots of them. And we all got along fine together.

Then it came time for my daughter's birthday. She was going to be 9 at that time.

I asked the moderator if she would tell that fact to everyone and on my signal, they would all wish my daughter a big "Happy Birthday", and also list where they were from.

I got my daughter set up in front of the monitor and gave the signal.

I think I was most surprised of all.

There were over 200 greetings, and they came from EVERYWHERE in the world!!

The States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, India, Israel. South America, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, South Africa(!), Italy, Hawaii, ALL over!!

It was then I understood the World Wide Web.

And it's the same here.

Maybe we might think that we're just having a good time amongst ourselves, but in actuality, we're playing for the WORLD!!!

This is In The Balcony International!!

Even though a lot of people view and don't respond, doesn't mean that we haven't in some way affected them. Maybe they come to see who's doing what in the games. Or watching the friendly battles going on between some members. Or my soapboxes, or maybe they like the "readings" of the comics that Gravy gives--I know I do. Maybe they like some of the topics.

And maybe this is the high point to their day--their life--compared to what they may have going on around them.

But for whatever reason, whomever they may be, they'r out there. Watching. And reading our posts. And hopefully having a good time as much as we are.

And that's something to think about. :D

I'm ready for my close-up, Mister DeMille. :ph43r:
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