Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Haig - Part Six

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The Bud Shank Quartet returned to The Haig at the beginning of 1957. The Ad Lib column in the January 9, 1957, issue of Down Beat noted that Shank's return gave a boost to business. The same column mentioned that the Jimmy Giuffre Three spent a week at The Haig in December.

Jimmy  Giuffre  Three; The Haig, Los Angeles

            If Gerry Mulligan's "new sound" of several years ago was the fortuitous spur-of-the-moment consequence of a pianoless gig, the equally unconventional sounds of the Jimmy Giuffre Three add up to an effect carefully planned, deliberately conceived.

            But it is a musically valid, ungimmicked end result—as was Mulligan's —that Giuffre has created with an in­strumentation of bass (Ralph Pena), guitar (Jim Hall), and clarinet-tenor-baritone  (Giuffre).

            All three have ample solo space in this format, but much of the real ex­citement lies in the group interplay. What Giuffre and colleagues achieve as a unit amounts to the most original jazz sound of the year—on the west coast, at least.

            At no time is there a melodic or rhythmic lag between solos, and rarely is a soloist completely alone; there is usually a secondary line being devel­oped by another voice. During a Pena bass break, for example, Giuffre's tenor or Hall's guitar may contribute little spurts of phrases, or riff in unison, so that the total effect is of constant movement.

            The Three's repertoire ranges from a quietly lovely Stella by Starlight to fast, kicking Parker tunes like Half Nelson and Now's the Time with bari­tone the dominant voice. A rubato Two Kinds of Blues finds happy and melan­choly moods explored with Hall wax­ing Spanish in his moody solo. Pena's Quiet Cook is taken very up, with rap­idly swinging bass solo lines chased by a fast passage on clarinet above Hall's comping.

            Hall, who has quickly developed into a truly outstanding guitarist, seems to function more freely in this trio than in any other previously heard context. His instrument sounds "liberated" and serves as another horn. Whenever indi­cated, he is joyously contributing punching chords on funky things like Rollins' Doxie. In Down Home he riffs Christian-like behind a subdued clari­net in an afterbeat groove drollishly in keeping with the tune's title.

            A delightful touch is the discerning choice of Jimmy's own Four Brothers as the trio's theme. Not only has this anthem become closely identified with the composer-leader, but the arrange­ment for tenor-guitar-bass is intriguing and attention-getting.

            With a first Atlantic album just re­corded and an extended road tour in the offing, 1957 bids fair to be the year for Jimmy Giuffre.

The new owners of The Haig continued to purchase space in Down Beat's "Where To Go" column that noted the Art Pepper Quartet continued to appear at the club on Sunday from 4:00 to 9:00 and Tuesdays from 9:00 until 2 AM.

The next issue of Down Beat announced that Bud Shank would be leaving The Haig when his Jazz West Coast European tour commenced in the spring. Bob Cooper joined Shank on the tour that included Mrs. Cooper (June Christy) who took a brief detour for a concert in Cuba.

The February 6th "Where To Go" column in Down Beat confirmed the Bud Shank Quartet was still in residence but the off night on Tuesday with Art Pepper's group was no longer as the club was closed.

Bud Shank departed The Haig later in February to appear at Zucca's Cottage in Pasadena. He took Don Prell with him on bass and hired Russ Freeman on piano and Larry Bunker on drums to complete his quartet for the gig. Claude Williamson remained at The Haig with a trio. Chuck Flores stayed with Williamson who hired Wilfred Middlebrook on bass for the trio. The Haig was robbed in February and Bud Shank's tenor saxophone was stolen. (note the misspelling of Claude's last name in the ad).

Don Prell, Claude, and Chuck Flores at a recording session.

The Max Roach Quintet opened at Jazz City on March 1, 1957. They remained the star attraction until the club closed on March 21st. The Haig stopped purchasing ad space in the "Where To Go" column in Down Beat, a sign that things were not going well for the club. Red Mitchell's quartet opened at The Haig in March. They would also be the closing act for the club.

Red Mitchell Quartet

Personnel: Red Mitchell, bass; James Clay, tenor; Lorraine Geller, piano; Billy Higgins, drums.
Reviewed: The Haig, Los Angeles; Zucca's Cottage, Pasadena, Calif.

            Musical Evaluation: In his newly formed quartet, Mitchell has chosen for his front-line horn tenorman Clay, one of the most discussed comparatively re­cent arrivals on the coast. Clay, 21, hails from Dallas, Texas, and jobbed around town before working a recent stint with the Jack Millman group. Potentially he is one of the major tenor players, but at this point his biggest problems appear to be limited technique and a lousy horn. These obstacles aside, however, Clay plays with such com­pelling drive and ceaseless invention that one tends to overlook these rela­tively minor weaknesses in favor of an impressively developing talent.
            Clay's treatment of ballads is nothing short of superb. Caressing yet as­sertive, lyrical yet masculine, he breathes into Our Very Own a life and virility that surely few approach. Again, on an untitled song by Mitchell he eloquently demonstrates that this form is his forte. His tone is big, rough, and unpolished, but what he has to say is something else.

            As leader, Mitchell is more than gen­erous solo wise; as bass player he is the group's heartbeat. On It's All Right with Me, for example his solo is an object lesson in jazz expression on up­tempo bass playing. In the rhythm sec­tion he is a giant, compensating for the inexperience of Higgins who has yet to gain confidence but who is a steady, tidy timekeeper.

          Lorraine Geller is a functional, ar­ticulate pianist who works out logically built solos and comps with funk in the section. Occasionally, however, her solo lines tend to get cluttered, but this is offset by a basically swinging concep­tion   manifested   particularly   in   her well-received version of The Man I Love, the hit of that particular set.

        The quartet has a good, varied book with such arrangements as Horace Sil­ver's Nica's Dream; Duke Jordan's Jordu; Out of the Blue (changes of Get Happy), and an altered-blues original of Clay's, Rainy Night, particularly notable.
        On the latter, incidentally, Clay re­veals that his proficiency on flute is not of mere second-instrument standing. With high-pitched, almost piping tone, he carries to the flute the same drive and imagination that characterizes his tenor work.
          Audience Reaction: Generally favor­able, particularly when Lorraine steps out to solo with bass and drums.

           Attitude of Performers: Onstand be­havior is exemplary, with Mitchell's announcements informative, brief, and to the point.
         Commercial Potential: This is a hard - swinging jazz group and will go over best in rooms adhering to such a policy. Clay's flute, moreover, lends necessary variety in this commercial-minded music world.
          Summary: Given more time working together, Mitchell and company should turn out a finished group of true jazz significance. At this point, Red is The Man, but with a good horn and a deal of woodshedding, Clay's already im­portant contributions should assume even greater worth.

The Haig was demolished a year later when the current owners obtained a permit from the city to bulldoze the structure to pave way for a parking garage.

When I visited 638 South Kenmore back in the 1990s the parking garage entrance had a sign over it proclaiming Wilshire Square. Today google maps shows some colorful graphics over the entrance, times change.

I thank my readers who have followed my examination of The Haig, its heydays and its demise. 

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