Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


The Lost Wave


Sign in to view read count
The Lost Wave
by Charles Underhill
Broma Books

Many jazz listeners cite Miles Davis albums such as Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson as the true origin of jazz-rock fusion. Others, such as critic Alyn Shipton, contend that fusion actually started in England a few years before these records came out. In the recently published book, The Lost Wave, however, author Charles Underhill offers a substantially different look at fusion's origin, arguing that its earliest recordings came from an independent record label in the early 1960s. Due to the limited release and lack of airplay, though, very few people are aware that these recordings existed. Also, since no one else has reissued the records, the potentially groundbreaking material has failed to get any serious recognition.

The Lost Wave explores the vision of Joe Palasota, better known as "Joe Pal." During the mid 1950s, he started his own record company in Dallas, Texas. Capitalizing on quality, high fidelity recordings, Pal named his label Magna-Fi Records. He managed to produce a few regional pop hits such as "Soda Pop Bop" by Betty Dean the Bop Queen and "Promise Ring" by The Brilliant Teens. In 1961, though, his vision took a dramatic turn. He was so impressed by Ornette Coleman's recording Free Jazz that he hoped to someday branch out and make his own jazz records.

One problem keeping him from recording a lengthy piece like Free Jazz, though, came from the available material. The recording plant he used to make his 45's was unable to produce 12-inch albums. This did not stop Pal from holding onto his vision, though, and in 1962, he got his chance to fulfill it. His first attempt at combining jazz and rock came about purely by accident. A surf group called The Del-Tonas had just cut a song for Magna-Fi called "Manta-Ray." While they were trying to figure out what to record for the B-side, Pal had an epiphany. He noticed that one of the musicians, George "Googie-Mook" Taylor, was playing a Fender Jazz Master guitar. This gave Pal an idea and triggered him into action. He made the group listen to Free Jazz over and over for hours, and then told them to just start playing. They recorded close to 30 minutes of manic surf-tinged jazz. Pal later edited the tape down to about four minutes to use for the flip side.

Underhill contends that this B-side, Big Chango, was actually the earliest known example of jazz-rock fusion. The real groundbreaking recordings, however, were yet to come. A few months later, Pal and the Del-Tonas began work on an ambitious project, which timed in at close to 80 minutes in length. Since the only way Pal could get the project on vinyl was to put them on 45s, he released the project as a 12 single box.

The Lost Wave discusses the Magna-Fi recordings and also features excerpts from newspaper and magazine articles along with interviews with the key players in the whole story. In a 1981 interview, for example, keyboard player, Clyde Harrington, Jr. discusses Pal's unique concepts, "Joe loved jazz, but he wasn't a snob about it. When it came to making a jazz record, he sure didn't want to put out something that sounded all pretentious. He just wanted straightforward stuff, that's it."

The group's first boxed recording, Inter-connected Explorations into the Hermeneutics of Non-verbal Dream Manifestation delivered such a pure sound. Unfortunately, considering that this was one continuous piece spread out over 12 individual singles, many potential listeners were less than enthusiastic to check out what Magna-Fi was offering. Also, as guitarist, Bruce "The Brucester" Lamar puts it, "people were gettin' tired of crazy jazz and they quit wantin' to hear surf music after a while, too. So basically we were fightin' a losing battle." The Del-Tonas went on to record three more singles boxes before finally calling it quits in the fall of 1964.

Some critics claim that the quality of these early recordings prohibits them from being seriously considered as true jazz. With the interviews, Underhill allows the musicians to make their points concerning these complaints. Lamar defends the material "I really don't think people were really ready to hear jazz coming from a bunch of rock guys. And a lot of people just thought we couldn't cut it. Well, maybe we weren't the best players, but hey, at least our guitars were in tune." Harrington also addresses this issue, "I'll admit, the Farfisa organ just doesn't have the same grandeur as a Hammond B3, but man it got the job done."

April fools!


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The Politics Of Improvisation Book Reviews Listening For The Secret: The Grateful Dead And The...
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 10, 2017
Read All That's Jazz Book Reviews All That's Jazz
by Phil Barnes
Published: December 6, 2017
Read Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine Book Reviews Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and...
by Doug Collette
Published: November 18, 2017
Read Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend Book Reviews Claude Ranger: Canadian Jazz Legend
by David A. Orthmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read Softly, With Feeling Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good" Book Reviews The Blues: Why It Still Hurts So Good
by Doug Collette
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz" Book Reviews Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge" Book Reviews Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 21, 2017
Read "Softly, With Feeling" Book Reviews Softly, With Feeling
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 24, 2017
Read "The Free Musics by Jack Wright" Book Reviews The Free Musics by Jack Wright
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: May 10, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!