Vol 4 No. Special Issue
A Newsletter Dedicated To Chet Baker And His Music
JAZZ WEST COAST FESTIVAL Lee Cohen, San Francisco
When I arrived at the Holiday Inn Redondo Beach, the site of the Jazz West Coast Festival, three guys in their 50’s wearing Hawaiian shirts and looking as if they had just stepped out of the old Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, were leaning against the hotel’s front desk. I moved closer to the young desk clerk and whispered, “Hey, see those guys? They’re the ones who really invented Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll’ you don’t know what you’re in for!” And it was true for the next four days the hotel was swinging as it never did before; nonstop with music, history, and old friends having one hellava good time.
I was here giving demonstrations of the jazz lane on the information superhighway which left me precious little time for the events. There were some I could not miss however. During the jazz film series given by Mark Cantor, I snuck in to see an episode of the Bobby Troup TV show with Art Pepper. Art’s my main jazz obsession (Pardon all you Chet fans), so was awestruck to witness Art playing in his prime (circa 1958). Larry Bunker was on piano, replacing Carl Perkins, who just days before had overdosed. Art played with beauty, intensity, and technique. We were all treated to him on clarinet also. Some say that had Art taken the time, his artistry on that instrument would have surpassed all others. This clip just confirms that opinion – truly masterful.
I got the chance to get to know Mark Cantor as a person, as will as a film archivist. While having an intense conversation with him in the lobby of the hotel, a very tall man came over to speak to Mark. I unceremoniously waved him off so I could finish making my point. I then discovered it was none other than William Claxton I had just rudely ignored. Undaunted by my social gaff, I invited Bill to see the Ray Avery exhibit now showing on the jazz lane of the information superhighway, and to see his own photo of Art Pepper which is part of an interactive catalog of Da Capo Jazz books. Bill’s very much the gentleman, and it was a great pleasure to meet him. There was a showing of his now famous book, JAZZ WEST COAST, with full poster-size blow-ups of the pages on the wall of one of the show rooms. There may be a reissue of the small book – will report.
The main event I witnessed was the Saturday night Lighthouse All Star reunion. Short Rogers was already very ill and was deeply missed. The evening opened with a tribute to the “Arrangers”, featuring the music of Gerald Wilson, Lennie Niehaus, Marty Paich and Jack Montrose. The first number was the Marty Paich arrangement of Anthropology from ART PEPPER PLUS ELEVEN. Gary Foster took the Pepper solo on clarinet. I love Gary – his duo date with Alan Broadbent made my top ten list in 1993, but he’s NO Pepper. Gerald came on and kicked the evening into higher gear. Gerald’s one of the great pieces of LA jazz history, especially the Central Avenue scene. Next, the stage was given to Paul Bley and Jimmy Giuffre. I enjoyed the interplay between the two, but the guy behind me kept saying, “The guy couldn’t play 35 years ago, and he still can’t play.” I disagree, but to each his own.
It was getting late, but the best was yet to come. They were setting up for the Lighthouse All Stars. Carlos Vidal’s congas were on the stage, but there were two drum setups. Bobby White, who has been slamming the skins at the Lighthouse for the last 45 years, came on and wowed the crowd with his double bass kicks and the energy and verve of a 19 year-old – truly amazing. The Lighthouse guys hit the stage running and burned through a couple of numbers. Then special guest Teddy Edwards was brought. Teddy of course was one of the first musicians Howard Rumsey brought into the Lighthouse. Teddy looked and sounded great. He must be doing something right.
All in all it was a wonderful evening. Missing was Shorty, Bob Cooper, Shelly Manne and I’m sure you can name others. All the more reasons this date was special. Thankfully, we have the recordings of Les Koening of Contemporary Records to re-live those afternoons at the Lighthouse which rolled graciously into the wee small hours.
Sunburned and Mai Thai’d at the beach in Hermosa – I’m too young to have really been there but oh, I can dream.
Lee noted that he was not able to make all of the different sessions that took place in Redondo Beach. Patricia Myers, writing in the March 1995 JazzTimes notes that, “The masterful musicianship of both Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck took top honors among the evening concerts. Mulligan was in a permanent groove-bag in a series of standards, then premiered an anagram titled ‘Midas Lives (Miles Davis)’, finally even singing his revisionist biography, “I Never Was a Young Man.” Brubeck’s solid set demonstrated his always-inventive keyboard dynamics, the performance contradicting the message of ‘Things Ain’t What They Used To Be’ and gaining audience agreement on ‘Who Could Ask For Anything More?’” Bill Smith, Jack Six and Randy Jones filled out the quartet.
The Stan Kenton Alumni Band was led by Pete Rugolo and recreated the Innovations in Modern Music group from the 1950’s. Slyde Hyde, Buddey Childers, Conte Candoli and Frank Szabo helped out in the band.
The Lighthouse All-Stars of Bud Shank, Conte Candoli, Bill Perkins, Bob Enevoldson, Teddy Edwards, Buddy Collette and Herb Geller with the Pete Jolly trio was another session. The West Coast All-Stars Big Band, The Bill Holman Orchestra and the Pete Rugolo Orchestra took care of the big band side of the festival while Buddy Collette, Conte and Pete Candoli, and Dave Pell handled the small group sessions.
Ken Poston of radio station KLON in Long Beach, California, produced the festival. Earlier Ken had produced the Stan Kenton “Back To Balboa” reunion in 1991 and the “Early Autum” Woody Herman 1993 reunions. Hopefully he will continue to produce these important events in jazz.
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Klaus dropped us a letter a couple of weeks ago for a couple of reasons. One, to let us know that the new CD CHET BAKER IN ITALY that we reported about in the last CHET’S CHOICE has some mistakes in the tune titles. For Minors Only is really Mr. B and Cheryl is really Sippin’ at Bell’s.
Klaus had read with interest the note from Carl Welge requesting information about Chet Baker’s funeral and burial place. Klaus notes that Jeroen de Valk describes Chet’s funeral in his book, CHET BAKER, which has not been translated into English as yet. In Klaus’ words:
“Jeroen writes (quoted not word-for word):”it was a pitiful funeral. Trumpet player Jack Sheldon had promised to play My Funny Valentine but he did not show up due to a 50 dollar gig somewhere in a shipyard. Russ Freeman and Christopher Mason were there as well as Carol Baker, her three children and (Chet’s) second wife Helema – and, according to the book, that was it. “I really do hope that this extraordinary book will be made available to you in the near future. The first issue was in Dutch only, later due to several requests a German publication was released. Once you have started reading it you can’t stop until you have finished it. Enclosed please find a photocopy of the invitation to Chet’s funeral, and a plan of the Inglewood Park Cemetery indicating the area ‘Elm’ (x) where Chet’s grave is located.”If you saw the movie LET’S GET LOST you will know that Carol and the children lived in Yale, Oklahoma. Now that the children have graduated from high school Carol has moved to Cushing, OK, a larger town in the same area of the state. She spends a lot of time in the northeast visiting son Paul, his wife and two sons.
Klaus further mentions that he has begun work on a discography for trumpeter Tom Harrell. Klaus would like any information our readers might have on Tom Harrell recordings, unissued tapes and discographical information. You can write him directly: