"Modern Sounds," or: Running a Marathon in Full Body Armor
The weekend's first concert, at poolside, was led, appropriately enough, by tenor saxophonist Dave Pell, an early exponent of West Coast jazz whose popular octet emerged in the mid-1950s from the Les Brown Orchestra, in whose ranks Pell served from 1947-55, and included such well-known artists as Marty Paich, Mel Lewis, Don Fagerquist, Pepper Adams, Art Pepper, Benny Carter,, Ronny Lang, Jack Sperling and Red Mitchell. This time around, the group included Pell, trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist Andy Martin, baritone Bob Efford, pianist John Campbell, guitarist Barry Zweig, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Frank Capp. The octet opened with "Jazz Junction" (which sounded to me like "Little Orphan Annie") and continued with (mostly) standards: "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "Have You Met Miss Jones," "Angel Eyes," "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Mountain Greenery" along with one original, "Crescendo Date." Most of the charts were by Paich. Soloists were first-class, with Martin featured on the ballad "If I Had You." I'd always thought Lorenz Hart was being facetious when he included the line "hates California, it's cold and it's damp" in "The Lady Is a Tramp," but seated at poolside for this concert I started to believe he was simply being honest.
The Rugolo concert was next up, in the Marriott's Marquis Ballroom. Altman had assembled a sharp and well-rehearsed band (with two capable subs: trumpeter Jeff Bunnell for Bijon Watson, drummer Chuck Flores for Ralph Razze) for a program that included a number of Rugolo's eloquent compositions and arrangements, opening with "Painted Rhythm" and closing with "Fawncy Meeting You." Sandwiched between were Sy Oliver's "Dreaming of You," the Kenton classic "Eager Beaver," "Nancy with the Laughing Face," "Minor Riff," "2/3 Oscar, 1/3 Pete's Blues," "Southern Scandal" and "Artistry in Rhythm." There were classy solos along the way by saxophonists Gene Cipriano and Roger Neumann, trumpeters Kye Palmer and Jeff Kaye, pianist Rich Eames and even tubaist Bryant Byers (whose father, Billy Byers, may have written "Fawncy Meeting You," perhaps for the Count Basie Orchestra; Bryant said he didn't know).
Films, panel discussions and other presentations were held in the Meridian Room, which is where James Harrod surveyed the history of one of the West Coast's most influential record labels, Pacific Jazz, founded in June 1952 by Dick Bock, Roy Harte and photographer William Claxton. After a five-year run in which the label recorded many of the West Coast's premier artists, from Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker to Paul Desmond, Gerald Wilson, Joe Pass, Bob Brookmeyer, Jack Sheldon, Chico Hamilton, Clifford Brown, Zoot Sims, Bud Shank, Jack Montrose, Jim Hall and Bill Perkins, Pacific Jazz was purchased in 1957 by Liberty Records, where it continued for another decade or so. Today, the label's jazz catalog is owned by Blue Note Records.
To its credit, the LAJI found a drummer who could sit in comfortably for Shelly Manne, which made the next concert, "The Peter Erskine Ensemble Plays Shelly Manne's
Shop for jazz: