Wednesday, October 1, 2014

OCTOBER 22, 1954
© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

When Maynard Sloate and Joe Abrahams leased the space at 5510 Hollywood Boulevard and opened Mambo City they essentially kept everything the way it was when it was known as the Mural Room. The wall murals were left intact, the cocktail tables and dance floor were left intact, and the only change needed was the exterior sign.

For Jazz City they remodeled the front using glass blocks, added a large marquee where guest jazz artists could be announced, and a new neon sign proclaiming Jazz City.

(photo by Dave Pell for Bethlehem Records)

A gala opening was announced in the newspapers on the evening of October 22, 1954. The featured jazz artist was Barney Kessel with Art Pepper on alto sax, Sonny Clark on piano, Leroy Vinegar on bass, and Lawrence Marable on drums. Vinegar and Marable would continue to be part of the house rhythm section during jam sessions as well as backing visiting jazz artists. The new club received a glowing review from Bill Brown in The Daily News.

Art Pepper would remain with Kessel's group at Jazz City until the 18th of November when Zoot Sims on tenor sax replaced Pepper.

Barney Kessel had been an in demand guitarist on the jazz scene in Los Angeles for years, but finally emerged as a leader when Les Koenig signed him to his Contemporary label. Kessel had two ten inch LPs in release when Maynard Sloate tapped his old jam session friend as headliner at Jazz City.

Barney Kessel and Zoot Sims appeared on the AFRTS series, Bud's Bandwagon, while they were appearing at Jazz City. The host, Bud Widom, asked each about their background in jazz and inquired about Charlie Christian and his influence on Barney's playing and style. Their interview segment appeared on program #500 in the AFRTS transcription series.

Wardell Gray would frequently drop by Jazz City for the jam sessions. In the photo above he is hanging out with Zoot Sims between sets.

John Tynan's Hollywood column in Down Beat finally gave a nod to Jazz City in his year end look at what was happening on the jazz scene in Los Angeles:

HOLLYWOOD – December 29, 1954

GOODBYE 1954: Indications point to jumpin'est New Year's Eve here in years. Auld Lang Syners will find everything from Dixie to "modern sounds," and at all prices, though most hotspots are sticking to no-cover-no-minimum policy and figuring on volume for the pay-off . . . rounders looking for vintage jazz on the big night can savor several choice brands without getting far from Hollywood & Vine, with Kid Ory back in town at the Royal Room; Jerry Fuller (young clarinet man who has been with Pete Daily at Astor's) heading his new combo at the Hangover Club, where he recently replaced Rosy McHargue; Red Nichols unit at Beverly Hills' swank Sarnez Restaurant. Many hotspots now feature dancing as almost as important as drinking, even at Happy Roomer's 400 Club, where pianist Willard McDaniel, essentially a soloist and song stylist, keeps most of his numbers on a rhythm beat for couples who want to get up and dance . . . 

Celebrants who want to cover important modern jazz centers here on the big night will have farther to go but they will hear the best by covering Jazz City (Barney Kessel), the Tiffany Club (Lee Konitz), and still have time to get down to Hermosa Beach (45 minutes from Hollywood & Vine) for revelry with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars (current lineup: Rumsey, bass; Conte Candoli, trumpet; Bud Shank, alto; Bob Cooper, tenor; Claude Williamson, piano; Stan Levey, drums).

DOTTED NOTES: Harry James drawing mere billing in current stand at Cocoanut Grove than any bandleader in recent years at this supper spot . . . And the Grove has countered Statler hotel's imposing list of coming attractions by announcing early dates for Anna Maria Alberghetti, Lena Home, Tony Martin, and Freddy Martin . . , Record shop at Central & Vernon avenues faces "disturbing the peace" charge result of teen-agers ganging there for all-night r & b platter program presented by "Huggie Boy" (ugh!) Hugg . . . Horace Heidt, now doing local TV shows from his Trianon dancery here, grabs himself a sponsor and big-budget network spot on NBC-TV come Jan. 8.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

The "X" in the center of the vintage map of Hollywood at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue marks the spot where a space on the ground floor of the building at 5510 Hollywood Boulevard housed a succession of bars and nightclubs in the 1950s and 1960s.

The photo above from 1994 shows the space to the right of the main building entrance that was at the time unoccupied and vacant. Maynard Sloate recalled in an interview that there had always been an establishment at 5510 Hollywood Boulevard with a license to serve liquor.

In the early 1950s it was called The Mural Room and regularly featured music entertainment with bar service and a dance floor. The "mural" referred to decorative motif on the walls that wrapped around the room that featured musical instruments, top hat, cane, gloves, and other accouterments associated with the good life.

Maynard Sloate aspired to be a jazz drummer in his youth and earned a reputation as a good time keeper who could provide a kick to small combos and big bands alike. In fall and winter of 1946 he regularly presented a jam session at the SUSIE Q that attracted all of the top jazz musicians who happened to be in town. Depending on the musicians who showed up to jam, the music could be traditional, be-bop, or progressive; Maynard could keep the music moving regardless. In the 1950s the space at 6700 Hollywood Boulevard would become a bastion of traditional jazz known as The Royal Room.

Maynard Sloate recorded with Freddie Slack for Capitol in the late 1940s as noted in the discography above. He soon realized that although he was paying the bills and enjoying a good living as a jazz drummer, he would not get ahead as quickly as he hoped and began to explore the possibility of running his own club. 

The noun "city" had been used with modifying attributes over the years to define an entity that personified the ultimate of that "______" city.  New York and San Francisco both had their "Bop City" clubs and in the spring of 1952 Roy Harte and Remo Belli opened "Drum City" in Hollywood as the headquarters for all things drumming. Maynard and his new partner, Joe Abrahams, opened "Mambo City" at 5510 Hollywood Boulevard in 1954 and at the same time opened a burlesque club, "Strip City" at the corner of Western Avenue and Pico Boulevard.

The partnership at Strip City included Bill Robinson. The three partners billed themselves as Maynard "Bumps" Sloate, Joe "Peanuts" Abrahams, and Bill "Zoot" Robinson on ads for the club.

Mambo City was popular, having opened when the Mambo craze was sweeping across America, but Maynard and his partner soon discovered that the crowds they were attracting were more interested in dancing the night away, and did not run up a bar tab. Strip City was an instant hit and vied for customers with the other burlesque clubs that began to proliferate Los Angeles. But Maynard had an edge, his jazz background and knowledge of musicians working in Los Angeles allowed him to assemble the right combo to provide the right music to back the strippers.

In the fall of 1954 Maynard and his partner carpeted the dance floor, added more cocktail tables and chairs, and announced "JAZZ CITY."

Monday, September 29, 2014

© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

Frequent visitors to my blogs will have noticed that I feature the jazz photography of Ray Avery and Howard Lucraft. Both were contemporaries who documented the jazz scene in Los Angeles at recording sessions, jazz clubs, and concerts. 

A previous post to this blog documented two clubs that were owned by Chuck Landis, The Tiffany Club and The Surf Club. The next club that I will examine in detail was located at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, JAZZ CITY.  During its brief existence under the aegis of Maynard Sloate it became a major venue for the hottest jazz combos of the time. This detailed examination is possible thanks to Ray Avery and Howard Lucraft who visited the club frequently, cameras in hand.

Ray Avery traced his interest in photography back to 1945. He was on his way overseas as an Army Air Force pilot and received an Argus C3 camera as a going away gift from his father. Ray was stationed in central India where his primary duties required flying the “Hump” to central China every other day. This left little spare time to devote to photography which was just as well since laboratory processing facilities were nearly non-existent.

After being discharged from the service Ray spent a year trying to learn his father’s fur farming business. Fortunately for jazz and photography, the late forties signaled the end of an era in fur farming and Ray turned his attention to his first love, jazz music. He opened this first jazz record shop, The Record Roundup, in 1947 and ended his retail experience at Ray Avery’s Rare Records in 1986.

The record retail business allowed Ray the time to pursue his interest in jazz photography in earnest. His shop in Glendale became the “Mecca” for the serious jazz record collector. Record industry professionals and musicians were frequent visitors to the shop. Friendships developed which led to invitations to recording sessions, jazz concerts and parties for jazz musicians.

Ray traces his first jazz photos to the early 1950’s. Many of his early photographs document the birth of West Coast jazz and the artists who defined this period in jazz. Ray and his cameras had been in attendance at all but one of the Monterey Jazz festivals since it’s inception. He also attended several Nice, France jazz festivals, one of the official photographer’s for the Stars of Jazz television series, all of the Los Angeles Classic Jazz festivals, ten years of covering the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festivals, and the North Sea Jazz festivals in Holland. His photographs have appeared in over 100 jazz books, over 150 LP covers, over 100 CD covers and numerous jazz film documentaries.

In 1990, Ray founded the Jazz Photographers Association of Southern California and served as President and President, Emeritus. Ray’s photo book, “Stars of Jazz” was published in 1997 by JazzMedia, Copenhagen, Denmark. The television series ran for two years in the mid 1950’s and had as guests most of the major West Coast jazz artists who were active at the time. The “Stars of Jazz” also showcased leading touring jazz groups that were appearing in the Los Angeles area.

Howard Lucraft first came to fame in England as an orchestra leader for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In addition to regular national broadcasts with his own groups he composed, arranged, scripted and emceed special BBC shows. 

Lucraft emigrated to the United States to compose and arrange for sound recordings and television. Early credits include compositions and arrangements for Stan Kenton, Anita O’Day, Ray Noble, KTTV-TV and KABC-TV. Lucraft’s radio programs were aired over local Los Angeles radio stations KABC, KBCA, KCBH, KKGO, KLON and KNOB.

Lucraft was music editor for Daily Variety. His reviews, photographs and other music writing credits include Atlantic Records, Capitol Records, Crescendo International, Decca Records (MCA), Disc, Down Beat, Jazz Journal, Jazz Times, London Daily Herald, London Sun, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Los Angeles Times, Melody Maker, Mercury Records, Metronome, New Musical Express, Overture, Pacific Jazz Records, RCA Records, United Artists Records, Variety. Warner Bros. Records, and World Pacific Records.

Howard Lucraft had one of the first jazz TV shows anywhere. In the early fifties,on KTTV, Los Angeles, Lucraft’s ‘Jazz International Show’ ran every Saturday. In a ‘Jazz City’ club setting, Lucraft captured performers that included Billie Holiday, Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne and hundreds more. Lucraft interviewed and photographed celebrities at historic jazz venues, and in addition to recording sessions, his photography archive documents emerging jazz artists in Los Angeles in the 1950's and 1960's.

The photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of the Ray Avery Estate and the Howard Lucraft Collection.  The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Ray Avery Photo Archives and the Howard Lucraft Collection.  Please note that these photos remain the property of the Ray Avery Estate and the Howard Lucraft Collection and are used here with permission.  Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to:  Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

The recording date for the Pacific Jazz / World Pacific session that produced the above album has consistently been given as November 8, 1956 in jazz discographies. Jorgen Grunnet Jepsen's JAZZ RECORDS 1942-1965 Vol. 1: A - Bl entry was one of the first discographies to annotate the album.

This pioneering work was accomplished at a time when a letter was the best method for making contact with a record company to inquire about details of a recording session. Jepsen was able to list all of the fourteen musicians as they were noted on the back liner notes, and the date was most likely given by a person at Pacific Jazz / World Pacific responding to Jepsen's inquiry about the session.

Jazz discographies build upon the work of prior researchers. When Walter Bruyninckx published MODERN JAZZ, BE-BOP // HARD BOP // WEST COAST VOL. 1 A - D the November 8, 1956 date was repeated.

The latest CD-ROM edition of Tom Lord's Jazz Discography continues the November 8, 1956 date for this session and also includes the other releases that have been issued including the many CD reissues of this album.

Gary Carner’s recently published study of Pepper Adams, PEPPER ADAMS’ JOY ROAD - an annotated DISCOGRAPHY, Scarecrow Press, 2013, draws attention to the inaccurate dating of the Bud Shank / Chet Baker recording of theme music from the George W. George and Robert Altman documentary film, The James Dean Story. The date listed in most jazz discographies place it on November 8, 1956, six months before Leith Stevens composed the score and recorded it for the film. Carner also notes that Pepper Adams could not have been present in Los Angeles on November 8, 1956 as he was with the Stan Kenton band in San Francisco at the time.

The original film score was released on Capitol W881 around the same time that the documentary film was showing in theaters.

Leith Stevens previous film score for THE WILD ONE had been a popular vehicle for jazz improvisation as realized by Shorty Rogers.  Dick Bock and Woody Woodward approached Leith Stevens and secured permission to do a similar jazz treatment of Leith's score with Bud Shank and Chet Baker.

There were two recording sessions in August of 1957.  The first session at Radio Recorders took place on August 13th from 2:00 to 6:30 p.m. Bud Shank was noted as leader with Chet Baker, Bill Holman, Richard Kamuca, Herb Steward, Park Adams, Charles Mariano, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, Mel Lewis, and Mike Pacheco.

The second session took place the next day, August 14th, same location and hours. Bud Shank was noted as leader again with Chet Baker, Bill Holman, Park Adams, Milton Bernhart, Ray Linn, Don Fagerquist, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, Mel Lewis, and Mike Pacheco. The task of assigning which tunes were recorded on each day might be possible with an attentive listening for Milt Bernhart's trombone work as the 14th was the only session with a trombone in the line up.

Selections from this album were released on other Pacific Jazz / World Pacific LPs and 45 singles.

Dick Bock licensed selections from this album to Kimberly as well where they were released in mono and stereo versions.

One of the first CD reissues was on the Toshiba Japanese label in 1991.

It was reissued domestically in 2000 by Capitol/EMI.

The Tom Lord Jazz Discography notes the many additional CD reissues that have been released over the years. Fresh Sound reissued an LP edition of this album in the late 1980s on FSR 110. Fresh Sound also released an ambitious commemorative set in 2005 to mark the 50th anniversary of James Dean's death.

The first CD in the set contains the original documentary film score that was originally released on Capitol W881.

The second CD contains selections from original music scores for the three major films that starred James Dean, EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, and GIANT.

The DVD in the set contains the film documentary, THE JAMES DEAN STORY, and three television dramas that featured James Dean early in his career.

The set also includes an 80 page booklet with many rare and previously unpublished photos documenting James Dean's brief career.

The set can be ordered directly from the Fresh Sound subsidiary Blue Moon.

Pepper Adams' other appearance on Pacific Jazz was as leader for his album, CRITIC'S CHOICE, PJM-407. Both Jepsen and Bruyninckx list the correct date of this recording session for Dick Bock, August 23, 1957. The session was at Radio recorders from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. Unfortunately that date and correct information has not been retained in Tom Lord's current CD-ROM edition of his Jazz Discography that lists the session as happening on the dates of the Bud Shank / Chet Baker sessions for the James Dean album. Jepsen's information is correct (as of 1966).

The album cover art and labels for Pacific Jazz / World Pacific are © EMI, Capitol Music.