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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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There are two historical markers, partially hidden in the overgrown brush in front of the former Dunbar Hotel. It is one of very few vestiges of the district's past. In the 1950s California began developing an extensive network of freeways taking businesses further away from the center of Los Angeles. Consequently, money began drying up for the Central Avenue District as the black population outgrew and left the district, to the extent that they were allowed. In 1964, South Central exploded. Race riots were triggered by the arrest of a black motorist in an incident that would be famously mimicked in the 1990s with the beating of Rodney King. When the rioting ended, Central Avenue resembled a war scene. In six days of rampaging, more than four-thousand troops and two-thousand police were called in; dozens of people were killed and almost one-thousand buildings—businesses and residences—were destroyed. The clubs whose structures physically survived were eventually repurposed but none as jazz venues. In less than a week, almost forty years of jazz had been wiped away.

Cool Jazz & West Coast Jazz in LA

The legacy of Birth of the Cool (Capital, 1957) implies that Miles Davis' 1949 and 1950 sessions were the incubator for "cool," and the recording did popularized the sub-genre among a wider audience. But it was Lester Young's detached, melodic approach, that most influenced the style from his time with Count Basie in the early 1940s. While Davis immediately moved on to hard bop, and later, modal jazz, Young became part of the Norman Granz Los Angeles-based Jazz at the Philharmonic, along with Cool Jazz and West Coast Jazz artists such as the Modern Jazz Quartet, Shelly Manne, Oscar Peterson and Herb Ellis. Despite the links with Young, Davis and a few others, Cool Jazz and West Coast Jazz had a distinctly white profile; Lennie Tristano, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck and Chet Baker were among the top West Coast Jazz players and were given the greatest access to recording contracts and club dates. With the exception of Brubeck, none were from the west coast, but then the LA link itself was a misnomer. One was just as likely to hear this style of understated jazz being played by reedist John LaPorta, baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff or trumpeter Herb Pomeroy, all in Boston during the same time period.

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.


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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