Culture Clubs: A History of the U.S. Jazz Clubs, Part III: Kansas City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles & Beyond

Karl Ackermann By

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A commemorative "manhole" decorates the sidewalk on North Cahuenga, in Hollywood. Here, Shelly's Manne Hole was opened by the drummer in 1960, far from Central Avenue in location and spirit. Shelly Manne's club was the setting for a prominent series of live recordings that included sessions from Bill Evans, Les McCann, Milt Jackson, Cannonball Adderley, Keith Jarrett and others including Manne's own group. The club closed in 1972. The Lighthouse Café on the pier at Hermosa Beach opened to jazz performances in 1949 and was a landmark venue for West Coast jazz through the 1970s. The site of dozens of live recordings, it attracted top-tier artists such as Stan Getz, Chet Baker, The Jazz Crusaders, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lee Morgan, Joe Henderson and Elvin Jones, all of whom recorded live albums at the club. The Lighthouse Café remains open in 2017 but with jazz sharing the bill with many other genres.

The current jazz scene in Los Angeles may not come close to the city's great jazz years, but the music can be found with some searching. The Jazz Bakery is actually eleven different locations hosting the non-profit's impressive schedule of events. Every day of the week, top artists perform as part of the organization's mission to bring high quality jazz to new audiences in the Los Angeles area. Founded in 1992 by jazz vocalist and educator Ruth Price, who serves as artistic director, a recent stretch of two months featured shows from Alex Cline, Nels Cline, Monty Alexander, Diane Schuur, Ernie Watts, Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Scott Colley, Brian Blade, Edward Simon and Randy Weston. Herb Alpert's Vibrato Grill, Jazz, & Etc. doesn't have quite the star power of The Jazz Bakery but it offers a steady flow of solid local talent. Victorio's is an Italian restaurant in the San Fernando Valley. It occasionally features jazz artists but does not post an active calendar of events. Casey's Tavern in Canoga Park presents live jazz every Tuesday in the form of a house band that plays swing, bebop, and other traditional jazz. Perch Los Angeles is a fifteenth floor bistro with unobstructed views of downtown Los Angeles. They offer a full calendar of jazz, typically local musicians. The Federal in North Hollywood offers infrequent jazz performances in a calendar that runs the gamut from comedy to performance art.


Boston had the homegrown potential to be a great jazz city; it was the city that influenced its native sons Nat Hentoff and George Wein to dedicate their lives to jazz but its proximity to New York was a double-edged sword. What New York took in local talent rarely returned to Boston though the New England city benefitted through regular appearances from their New York colleagues. Jazz in Boston came into its own later than some other cities but in the 1940s, Massachusetts Avenue between Huntington and Columbus was a neighborhood of thriving jazz venues. Billie Holiday departed Count Basie's band in 1938, and joined the Artie Shaw Orchestra in Boston weeks later, remaining with Shaw for eight months. Shaw's group played the recently opened Roseland-State Ballroom on Mass Avenue two days each week for an extended period of time and CBS Radio broadcast the live performances throughout New England. Sabby Lewis, Jimmie Lunceford and Duke Ellington played Roseland frequently; Ellington's band featuring top saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney. In 1958, with big band music's popularity already well past its prime, Roseland was sold and the venue sharply veered away from jazz.

The Savoy Café was purported to be the most racially integrated club in Boston, a distinction that made it popular with a broader audience but less popular with city officials and police who struggled with racial issues. The club opened in 1935 on Columbus Avenue—a space too small for a dance floor. Roy Haynes started playing at the Savoy as a teenager and "Red" Allen, trombonist J.C. Higginbotham and clarinetist Edmond Hall played the venue. Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein was a pianist at the club, and on at least one occasion each, "Hot Lips" Page and Sidney Bechet stopped in to perform. As happened with Roseland, the downturn in big band popularity left a gap in club programming. The Savoy Café reverted to Dixieland in the mid-1950s and closed shortly afterward, in 1956.

The Hi-Hat opened in 1937 but didn't feature jazz performances until 1948 at its Mass Avenue and Columbus location. The opening trio had been pulled from a local orchestra and included saxophonist Charlie Mariano and drummer Joe MacDonald. Woody Herman later came to play and Sabby Lewis took advantage of being in close vicinity to Roseland. Around the same time period the club introduced regularly scheduled bebop shows. Popular with the locals, these shows were racially segregated and included Jaki Byard and Nat Pierce. Bostonian, Sonny Stitt played The Hi-Hat as part of an all-local quartet. The club brought in its share of distinguished talent in the 50s including Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk but was burned down in 1959.

The Jazz Workshop opened in 1953, when locals Charlie Mariano and Herb Pomeroy used their music school space for jam sessions. The venue moved from Stuart Street to Huntington Avenue one year later and then to Boylston Street in 1963. Over the years the club played host to an impressive array of jazz artists including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Ahmad Jamal, Stan Getz, Mose Alison, Keith Jarrett and the Sun Ra Arkestra. Another victim of the 1970s economic crisis, the club closed in 1978.


Under the Radar Karl Ackermann Benny Moten Count Basie Joe Turner Charlie Parker Sonny Stitt Dexter Gordon Miles Davis benny golson Walter Dickerson McCoy Tyner Marilyn Crispell Marc Copland Joe Chambers Uri Caine Charles Fambrough Stanley Clarke Melody Gardot Jimmy Heath John Coltrane Albert Heath Percy Heath Kenny Barron Bill Barron Michael Brecker randy brecker duke ellington Dizzy Gillespie Benny Goodman Tommy Dorsey Glen Miller Billie Holiday Art Blakey Cannonball Adderly Philly Joe Jones Thelonius Monk Nina Simone Yusef Lateef Nat King Cole Lester Young Ray Bryant Red Garland Paul Chambers Terell Stafford Orrin Evans Cecil Payne Sonny Rollins Frank Morgan Chick Corea Chuck Mangione Gerald Veasley Charlie Hunter Jelly Roll Morton Kid Ory Lionel Hampton Wardell Gray Art Pepper Charles Mingus Ella Fitzgerald Cab Calloway Louis Armstrong Lena Horne Billy Eckstein wynton marsalis Modern Jazz Quartet Shelly Manne oscar peterson Herb Ellis Lennie Tristano Gerry Mulligan Dave Brubeck Chet Baker John LaPorta Serge Chaloff Herb Pomeroy Les McCann Milt Jackson Cannonball Adderley Keith Jarrett The Jazz Crusaders Joe Henderson Elvin Jones Alex Cline Nels Cline Monty Alexander Diane Schuur ernie watts Bill Frisell Kurt Rosenwinkel Scott Colley Brian Blade Edward Simon Randy Weston Herb Alpert Artie Shaw Johnny Hodges Harry Carney Roy Haynes Sidney Bechet Charlie Mariano Jaki Byard Nat Pierce Mingus Big Band David Sanborn arturo sandoval Frank Foster Roland Hanna Donald Byrd Alice Coltrane James Carter Geri Allen Kenny Garrett Betty Carter Dewey Redman Joshua Redman George Shearing Joe Williams Woody Herman Jessica Williams abdullah ibrahim Terence Blanchard Chuck Israels Larry Bunker

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