Saturday, March 15, 2014


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

The March 10, 1986 obituary for Chuck Landis in the Los Angels Times noted that he was a “burly, gruff man who survived in the hotly competitive nightclub wars of Los Angeles.”  He was best known for the rock and burlesque clubs that he owned toward the end of his career like Largo, a former supermarket on Sunset strip, that he turned into a lucrative burlesque house (the fate of many jazz clubs in the late 1950s and early 1960s). When the burlesque business faded he converted the club into The Roxy, heeding advice from Lou Adler and Whiskey owner Elmer Valentine.  The Roxy became one of the hottest rock clubs on the Sunset Strip. But before Largo and The Roxy, Landis ran the Tiffany Club and the Surf Club. Landis had a predominantly jazz policy for both clubs and the list of jazz artists who appeared at each venue was like a “Who’s Who” of jazz in the early 1950s. 

Newspaper ad from September 4, 1952

The Tiffany Club was located at 3260 West 8th Street between Normandie and Mariposa Avenues [2 on the map].  The Surf Club was a short distance away on the other side of Wilshire Boulevard at 3981 West 6th Street at the southwest corner of 6th and Manhattan Place [1 on the map]. The Haig was also close by at 638 South Kenmore Avenue where it dead ends at Wilshire Boulevard [3 on the map].  When Stan Getz and Bob Brookmeyer were sneaking up to The Haig to catch Chet and Gerry, they left the Tiffany Club walking two blocks up Mariposa Avenue to Wilshire and then a block and a half to Kenmore.  Another popular jazz club was located a block west of the Tiffany Club at the intersection of Irolo Street, The 400 Club, 3330 West 8th Street, a regular hang out for traditional jazz fans [7 on the map].  There were three other clubs that had live music on 8th Street, the 331 Club at 3361 West 8th Street [4 on the map], Peacock Alley at 3188 West 8th [8 on the map] and Agua Caliente at 3131 West 8th Street [5 on the map]. The Ambassador Hotel with the Cocoanut Grove nightclub [6 on the map] was located across the street from The Haig.

The interior of the Tiffany Club featured a mirror that was angled behind the piano to allow patrons to observe the keyboard.  If the drummer was positioned within the area covered by the mirror patrons could also watch that action.  The back wall on each side of the suspended mirror featured a pastiche of musical instruments, piano keyboards, vinyl albums, musical staff paper, and other music related memorabilia in a musical mural.  

The Nat King Cole Trio opened at the Tiffany Club on December 27, 1951, and his engagement continued until mid January of 1952. The Johnny White Trio was playing the Surf Club at the same time with Johnny White on vibes, Milt Norman on guitar and Bob Whitlock on bass.  White was a versatile jazz musician who never received the recognition due him.

The Oscar Peterson Trio with Barney Kessel on guitar and Ray Brown on bass took over from Nat King Cole in mid January of 1952, and over at the Surf Club the Art Pepper Quartet opened on January 18, 1952, after the Johnny White Trio exited the club.  Altoist Pepper was accompanied by Hampton Hawes on piano with Joe Mondragon on bass and Larry Bunker on vibes and drums.

The George Shearing Quintet followed the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Tiffany Club with Al McKibbon on bass, Chuck Wayne on guitar, Don Elliott on vibes, and Denzil Best on drums. Chuck Landis booked the Dave Brubeck Quartet into the Surf Club following the close of Art Pepper’s engagement.  The quartet was still widely known as Dave Brubeck and His Trio before Dave Brubeck settled on referring to his group as the Dave Brubeck Quartet.  Members of the quartet during their engagement at the Surf Club included Paul Desmond on alto, Fred Dutton on bass, and Herb Barman on drums.  The National Broadcasting Company regularly broadcast remotes from the Surf Club and the Tiffany Club with local deejays hired to emcee the broadcasts.  Los Angeles deejay and concert promotor, Joe Adams, was frequently the emcee.

The Shearing Quintet was followed by Billie Holiday in mid March of 1952.  Billie Holiday was backed by a combo led by Wardell Gray.  Bob Douglas, the photographer who took the photos below was one of the most gifted jazz photographers who regularly worked Los Angeles jazz clubs.  Before moving to Los Angeles in the early 1950s Douglas documented the jazz scene in Detroit, Michigan.  His excellent work can be seen in the history of jazz in Detriot, BEFORE MOTOWN, Lars Bjorn & Jim Gallert, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2001.

(Los Angeles Mirror, March 17, 1952.)

The Johnny Hodges Sextette replaced Billie Holiday on April 9, 1952 with Al Sears on tenor, Lawrence Brown on trombone, Joe Benjamin on bass, Sonny Greer on drums, and Emmett Berry on trumpet.  The Brubeck Quartet continued their run at the Surf Club through the end of April.

June Christy backed by a combo led by Vido Musso followed the Johnny Hodges Sextette into the Tiffany Club beginning the last week of April 1952 and extending into the first week of May.  Chuck Landis installed Nina Russell at the Surf Club.  Russell was an accomplished jazz organist who had recorded for the Juke Box label with The Sepia Tones and jazz violinist, Ginger Smock.

Howard Lucraft’s photo of Christy at the Tiffany Club caught Chris Connor joining June for a number with Jimmy Rowles at the piano.

The May 21, 1952 issue of Down Beat magazine noted that Cab Calloway had returned to the west coast for a series of gigs with a quartet format.  Chuck Landis booked Calloway into the Tiffany Club for two weeks.

Chuck Landis followed the Calloway booking with a brief one week fill with Harry The Hipster holding forth until the opening of Landis’ blockbuster booking of Charlie Parker.

A short column in Down Beat noted the booking of Charlie Parker at the Tiffany Club and announced that Landis had sold the Surf Club as he realized that he was competing with himself by operating two clubs in close proximity to each other and by booking the same modern jazz acts which he seemed to do regularly with Peterson/Pepper, Shearing/Brubeck, Holiday/Brubeck and Hodges/Brubeck.

The above ad from the Daily News of May 28, 1952 notes that the Charlie Parker engagement at the Tiffany Club commenced on May 29th for two weeks.  Parker was represented by the Shaw Artists Corporation who had their west coast representative, Cliff Aronson, handle the details of Parker’s engagement at the Tiffany Club.  Aronson contacted Donn Trenner who acted as the contractor to organize backing for Parker during the two week engagement.  A variety of jazz musicians appeared with Parker including Chet Baker, Harry Babasin, Lawrence Marable, and Helen Carr, Trenner’s wife at the time.

The Los Angeles Mirror and Daily News published a column in October of 1957 that announced the change of policy at the Tiffany Club.

The above photo was taken after the Tiffany Club had evolved into a burlesque club, with the booking of major jazz acts a thing of the past.

The above photo was taken in 1994 and shows some of the same exterior facade.

The image above, from Google maps, displays the current store front with essentially the same business that was operating in the space in 1994.

The photo of the facade of the former Surf Club was taken in 1994.  The building facade was remained fairly intact as seen in the current image from Google Maps, below.

The Howard Lucraft photos that greatly enhance this presentation have been provided courtesy of CTSIMAGES.  The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Howard Lucraft Collection.  Please note that these photos remain the property of 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.

The other photos above are © by the photographers noted.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


© James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
Classical music and jazz, or more specifically, chamber music and jazz have crossed musical paths a number of times.  Some practitioners have found their music included by jazz discographers in their oeuvre over the years such as Duke Ellington, John Kirby, Raymond Scott and the Dave Brubeck Octet, while others like the Alec Wilder Octet have all but been ignored by jazz discographers.

Allyn Ferguson left no doubt regarding the type of music he would be performing when he formed the Chamber Jazz Sextet in the mid 1950s.  He recruited a cadre of musicians who had been classically trained, but also were well grounded in jazz phrasing and interpretation.  Fred Dutton had been performing with the Dave Brubeck Quartet where he doubled on bass and bassoon before he was drafted in 1952.  Happily he joined Allyn Ferguson’s Chamber Jazz Sextet when he entered civilian life again.  Modesto Briseno was another exceptional addition to the sextet who played tenor and baritone saxophone as well as clarinet.  His early death deprived the jazz world of one of the most unique voices on baritone.

The Chamber Jazz Sextet appeared on the Stars of Jazz television series a total of four times, a testament to their popularity with viewers.  In the bay area they appeared numerous times at the Black Hawk, City Lights Books, and in the Los Angeles area they appeared at the Jazz Concert Hall where they had guest artists like Bud Shank and Art Pepper share the stage. 

Appearances at these clubs and two of the Stars of Jazz programs included Kenneth Patchen reciting his poetry, perhaps the apex of creative improvisation for members of the Chamber Jazz Sextet where a collaboration between Patchen and Ferguson guided the evolution of the music accompanying the poetry.

The Chamber Jazz Sextet recorded three albums for Archie Bleyer’s Cadence label.  A fourth LP album was recorded in 1957, but it never reached release at the time.  Albert Marx had been involved as producer of the Cadence releases and the masters for the fourth album lay dormant until the mid 1980s when an LP test pressing was made and it was scheduled for release as Discovery DS-896, titled YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM, and was listed as such on the Discovery Records inventory and order form for 1985.

Marx had reissued Cadence CLP-3004 as Discovery LP DS-858, and before that had reissued Ferguson’s PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION, originally on the AVA label, as Discovery DS-810.

YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM was released on compact disc when Marx combined Ferguson’s jazz interpretation of Mussorgsky’s PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION, with 21 jazz musicians, along with the 1957 Chamber Jazz Sextet session that featured five members of the sextet. 


This research was originally published in the Dutch discography journal, NAMES & NUMBERS, in their issue No. 44, January 2008, in slightly different form.

Fresh Sound Records reissued some of the Cadence releases on CD in 2007.

Borderland - Featuring Kenneth Patchen
Allyn Ferguson's Chamber Jazz Sextet
Featuring: Allyn Ferguson (p, frh, perc), Robert Wilson (tp, perc), Frank Leal (as, b-cl), Modesto Briseno (cl, ts, bs), Fred Dutton (b, bassoon, contra-bassoon), Tom Reynolds (d, tympani), Kenneth Patchen (poetry)


With the Chamber Jazz Sextet, composer, leader and conductor Allyn Ferguson set out to do what he saw was going to be inevitable – the bringing together of jazz and classical disciplines.

“The Chamber Jazz Sextet hopes to catalyze this inevitable fusion of jazz and classical attitudes,” he said. “Toward this end, the members of the group, both individually and collectively, are making use of their every available musical knowledge in attempting to render music both meaningful and legitimate for the listener.”

The results he achieved with this multi-instrumental group, in both the first half, where the focus is primarily on the sextet, and in the second, where it functions in an essentially accompanying role to poet Kenneth Patchen’s interpretations, are provocative, stimulating and rewarding. The group is well knit, with strong soloists and provided one of the most fascinating attempts of its kind to combine two musical worlds without compromising the inherent values and virtues of each.


01. Perplexity
02. What Is This Thing Called Love?
03. Borderland - Sextet For Contemporaries
04. 1st Movement – Adagio-Moderato
05. 2nd Movement – Lento
06. 3rd Movement – Vivace
07. In The Still Of The Night
08. Brand X
09. Surrey With The Fringe On Top
10. Canons For Funkies
11. Blue Winds
12. Fantasia On “Little Girl Blue”
13. The Murder Of Two Men By A Young Kid Wearing Lemon-Colored Gloves
14. The State Of The Nation
15. Do The Dead Know What Time It Is?
16. And With The Sorrows Of This Joyousness
17. The Lute In The Atic
18. Lonesome Boy Blues
19. Limericks
20. I Went To The City

Personnel: Allyn Ferguson (p, frh, perc), Robert Wilson (tp, perc), Frank Leal (as, b-cl), Modesto Briseno (cl, ts, bs), Fred Dutton (b, bassoon, contra-bassoon), Tom Reynolds (d, tympani), Kenneth Patchen (poetry on #13-20).

Tracks #1-12 orignally issued as "The Chamber Jazz Sextet" (Cadence 12" LP CLP-1020). Recorded at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, on February 26 & March 4, 1957.

Tracks #13-20 orignally issued as "Kenneth Pratchen reads his poetry with the Chamber Jazz sextet" (Cadence 12" LP CLP-3004). Recorded at Radio Recorders, Hollywood, on December 27 & 31, 1957.