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Tom 1960

What Got You Into West Coast Jazz?

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I've always enjoyed the sounds of the west coast, specifically the 1950's. When I first began listening to jazz back in the late 80's guys like Chet Baker, Art Pepper and Shelly Manne were my entry points. I've always dug the feel and the groove of the music and still do to this day. Nothing against the east coast scene by any means since that encompasses a large part of my collection. It really wasn't till much later on in my listening ventures I began listening to the Lighthouse All Stars which opened up a bunch of new windows for me. A lot of guys like Stan Kenton, Shorty Rogers, Stu and Claude Williamson, Hampton Hawes, Pete Jolly, Lou Levy, Bill Holman, Conte and Pete Candoli, Gerry Mulligan, Terry Gibbs and many, many others were to follow. After a brief hiatus from the west coast scene, I have found myself picking a few albums here and there by Bud Shank,Marty Paich, the early Chet Baker/Mulligan/Russ Freeman recordings. I also own the fantastic Gerald Wilson Mosaic. Oh, did I forget to mention Frank Rosolino or Curtis Counce? You guys get the idea. I'm very enthusiastic about this time period. I guess what I'd like to ask you folks is where was your entry point to music of the west coast scene? Talk about guys you admire. Albums and artists you love. I'd like to keep away from any type of debate of east vs west. I realize that territory has been covered here I'm sure many a time. Have at it. I hope this becomes a fun and interesting thread?

Edited by Tom 1960

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My point of entry into West Coast jazz was a Mulligan Quartet EP of "Walking Shoes", "Bernie's Tune", Nights at the Turntable" and "Lullaby of the Leaves". It was on Vogue Records and looked something like this:

gerry-mulligan-gerry-mulligan-quartet-%5

This was in 1957 when, although recorded five years earlier, it was still the latest thing among young listeners in the UK, hard bop not really having come over the local horizon at that date.

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Although I already owned a number of "West Coast" albums by the likes of Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper etc, it was not until I read Robert Gordon's book "West Coast Jazz" in the 1980's that I realised the number of other artists that had recorded for West Coast labels. I ended up owning every recording identified in the pretty extensive discography in Mr. Gordon's book, many of which I still play regularly.

Edited by Head Man

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My entries into West coast Jazz (as a gradual expansion of my interest in jazz which has started age 14/15, starting with classic jazz and swing and then moving into bebop) came from tracks heard in jazz shows on radio which prompted me to search out the LPs that the tunes that really caught my ear came from.

Among my very earliest WCJ records bought were Shorty Rogers' "West Coast Jazz" on Atlantic and Shelly Manne 's "The West Coast Sound" on Contemporary, both of which I bought whan I was about to leave high school and go to University. Others that triggered my curiosity were original pressings of the "Assorted Flavors of Pacific Jazz" and "Something for Both Ears" Pacific Jazz samplers (as well as a more recent PJ compilation reissue) that came my way at a garage sale.

Gerry Mulligan's early quartet followed soon after (my first one was an original 10" French Vogue pressing of early PJ sesions which a fellow collector from our 50s rock'n'troll cicrcles came up with one day but as he was into straight 50s rock'n'roll this was "too far out" for him so I was glad to take it off his hands and swap it for something more up his alley).

Like the thread starter said, it probably was (and still is) the general feel and groove of the music that (within the scope of jazz) you imagine perfectly fits the idea you make yourself of sunny 50s California or a thoroughly jazz-flavored sunny summer feeling in general (no "angry young men" there ... ;)).

There are moments when the mood you want to be projected in the jazz you prefer to listen to at a given moment is captured best by WCJ (of oucrse there are other moments too, but ... ;))

And things went from there and still haven't stopped ... ;)

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For me it was just stumbling onto various LP's at flea markets and garage sales back in the 70's and 80's. I never thought too much about styles or schools or geographical factors until years later. One of the first things I found was "Chet Baker Sings" (PJ 1222, the 12" issue). I was only vaguely aware of who he was at that point, and bought it just as much for the song selection, some of which I had been wanting to learn. Oddly enough, this first find turned out to be probably my favorite west coast recording of all time.

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1327596455_paul-horn.jpg

Yep, thanks to you turning me onto that record it will now be accompanying me to my desert island.

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1327596455_paul-horn.jpg

Yep, thanks to you turning me onto that record it will now be accompanying me to my desert island.

My pleasure!

The more I think about and listen to this record, the production (by David Axelrod) is a huge part of its success. The leader's horns are actually somewhat recessed in the mix, and there's a somewhat exaggerated sense of spaciousness around all the instruments. This distant quality makes everything here sound even more lonely / pensive / "blue." I don't know how accidental or deliberate this was -- though Axelrod's other productions form this period (Land's THE FOX, e.g.) aren't quite as aestheticized as this -- or if Horn is more to credit (witness his later career "inside" various mythically resonant structures) but it is a bit part of the record's appeal... for me, anyway. Its a sound that replicates the sunshine-y melancholy peculiar to Los Angeles, if that makes any sense.

This is another one that helped me get into the "cool" LA scene...

Collaboration_West.jpg

Another word of appreciation for Gordon's JAZZ: WEST COAST, which was the book of record before Gioia's fine volume.

Edited by Joe

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Although I already owned a number of "West Coast" albums by the likes of Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Art Pepper etc, it was not until I read Robert Gordon's book "West Coast Jazz" in the 1980's that I realised the number of other artists that had recorded for West Coast labels. I ended up owning every recording identified in the pretty extensive discography in Mr. Gordon's book, many of which I still play regularly.

Got to get ahold of that book!

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A pianist I failed to mention is Carl Perkins. I really love the stuff he recorded with Curtis Counce.

Edited by Tom 1960

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My entry was a long-forgotten Chet Baker Pacific Jazz compliation album I got for something like 57 cents back in the early 70's.

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There may have been some others, but this one I specifically remember:

RogersS7234DW.jpg

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Shorty Rogers. Specifically, Martians Go Home.

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I don't recall a specific album, but I do recall television shows and movies from the late fifties and early sixties that featured jazz groups, and they were all playing cool jazz.

In the later sixties I saw some French movies including a number of Francois Truffaut items, and their soundtracks were cool jazz.

In 1969 I bought a Gerry Mulligan/Zoot Sims Limelight album called Something Borrowed, Something Blue. But it was not until 1987 when I placed my first Mosaic order and picked up the Mulligan/Baker box that I realized that those French soundtracks had borrowed heavily from the Mulligan/Baker sound.

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I kind of back doored it in the '50s/'60s meaning I discovered musicians and sorted the geography out later.

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Two things in particular: the Shorty Rogers Mosaic set & Ted Gioia's book West Coast Jazz.

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The simple fact that it was there and very popular when I got into jazz per se, in 1955.At first I don't recall making that much of an East Coast-West Coast distinction in terms of value, though I was aware that the musics sounded different and I had my favorites. Also, complicating the picture at that point was that I was listening eagerly to a lot of Swing Era and earlier jazz, which sounded different from most circa 1955 jazz from either coast. Then, when Hard Bop coalesced in the world at large and in my teenaged mind, I turned my back on a lot (but not all) West Coast jazz on the grounds that compared to Silver, Blakey, Rollins, et al. it sounded precious and effete (a claim that Silver himself made at the time). Eventually that way of listening and looking at things faded away for me, and while still recognizing that the music of, say, Shorty Rogers and His Giants came from one set of sensibilities and that of the Jazz Messengers from another, I found myself enjoying both.

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Hearing & digging Baker, Rogers, Giuffre, Edwards, Hawes............ & especially reading Ted Gioia's book West Coast Jazz.

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One of the LP:s my father used to play at home was 'Study in Brown' by the Roach-Brown band. I could recognize that album already in my pre-school years. Although it wasn't until my teens I started to explore jazz on my own 'Study in Brown' helped to define what jazz is for me and it still holds a special place in my heart.

I think it's amazing to realize how specific musical experiences in my youth is affecting my tastes in music to this day.

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Since the West Coast Jazz books by Robert Gordon and Ted Gioia were mentioned several times here:

After I had got hold of these in the early 90s these books prompted me to explore certain WCJ musicians in greater detail (Hampton Hawes, in particular, as well as the early Central Avenue acts beyond Wardell Gray whom I had been listening to for a long time) but in general were more of a source of in-depth background info on the music I had already been listening to.

My real eye-opener in reading up on the subject came a few years earlier thanks to the book "West Coast Jazz" by Alain Tercinet published by Parentheses in France in 1986. The musical and stylistic analyis in the book covers a huge range of recordings that even includes fairly obscure and "insider" artists (no doubt helped by the fact that at that time the vinyl reissue program by Fresh Sound was already in full swing). Too bad this book probably has remained under the radar of most jazz fans interested in WCJ because it was only ever published in French.

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WCJ was pretty big when I got into jazz in the 50s. I new about, Brubeck, Mulligan and Baker but my main memory was the first Pacific Jazz anthology . West Coast Jazz. A nice collection of swinging and happy bright sounding music.

1264939532_jazz_west_coast_anthology_vol

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Since the West Coast Jazz books by Robert Gordon and Ted Gioia were mentioned several times here:

After I had got hold of these in the early 90s these books prompted me to explore certain WCJ musicians in greater detail (Hampton Hawes, in particular, as well as the early Central Avenue acts beyond Wardell Gray whom I had been listening to for a long time) but in general were more of a source of in-depth background info on the music I had already been listening to.

My real eye-opener in reading up on the subject came a few years earlier thanks to the book "West Coast Jazz" by Alain Tercinet published by Parentheses in France in 1986. The musical and stylistic analyis in the book covers a huge range of recordings that even includes fairly obscure and "insider" artists (no doubt helped by the fact that at that time the vinyl reissue program by Fresh Sound was already in full swing). Too bad this book probably has remained under the radar of most jazz fans interested in WCJ because it was only ever published in French.

No, I never heard of that book. Before I discovered Gioia's book, I had already read Robert Gordon's Jazz West Coast, which remains an excellent point of reference.

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