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Jump for Joy- African-American Jazz in California

February 12, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Jump for Joy

During the early months of 1941 Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra was the featured attraction at the Casa Mañana Ballroom in Culver City. The Casa Mañana was the new name for what had been Sebastian’s Cotton Club. One night in February, after the last set at the Casa Mañana, Duke Ellington and the Orchestra were guests at a party in the
Hollywood Hills at the home of screenwriter Sid Kuller. Kuller was under contract at MGM and responsible for creating zany bits for the Marx Brothers.

It was a typical Hollywood party that lasted until dawn and included a mixture of movie stars, musicians, composers, writers and comedians. Guests that night included John Garfield, Lana Turner, Hal Bourne, Groucho Marx, Paul Francis Webster, Jackie Cooper and Mickey Rooney. As the guests mingled, Duke and the band jammed in the background. At one point Sid Kuller looked around and loudly exclaimed “Hey, this joint sure is jumping.” “Jumpin for joy” responded Ellington from across the room at the
piano bench.

Kuller immediately exclaimed “what a great idea, a musical by Duke Ellington.” By the time the sun came up the American Revue Theater had been formed and $20,000 pledged by those present. As the ideas for the show started to formulate it was determined to present a show that would allow the artists to present satirical material from the point of view of black people looking at whites.

This was extremely revolutionary in 1941. Over the next few months Duke and Billy Strayhorn worked on the music while Sid Kuller, Paul Francis Webster and others
worked on the skits and the lyrics. The show opened the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles on July 19, 1941 and ran for 12 weeks. Performers included
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra with featured vocalists Herb Jeffries and Ivie Anderson. Joe Turner was added to the cast to sing the blues. The cast included comedians such as Wonderful Smith and Paul White as well as performers like Marie Bryant and Dorothy Dandridge.

The show was timely and some of the sketches were controversial. During the first week of the show’s run a number of phone calls came through to Sid Kuller claiming to be
members of the Glendale Ku Klux Klan. They demanded that “I’ve got a passport from Georgia” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a Drive-in Now” be removed from the show.
Even with the threat of violence the show carried on. Several Ellington classics were premiered including “I’ve Got it Bad and that Ain’t Good,” "Rocks in My Bed," "Brown Skin Gal in the Calico Gown" and the title number "Jump for Joy."

It was a monumental achievement and a show that was way ahead of its time. In the 1960s a group of demonstrators challenged Ellington as to his position on civil rights asking him “why don’t you ever make a statement?” Ellington replied “I made my statement in 1941 in 'Jump for Joy' and I stand by it”.

The Early Years of Lionel Hampton- African-American Jazz in California

February 10, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The Early Years of Lionel Hampton

Lionel Hampton began his career playing drums for the Chicago Defender Newsboy Band. During the mid-twenties he moved to Los Angeles and began making a
name for himself as an outstanding drummer. He recorded with Reb Spikes and Paul Howard and most significantly joined the Les Hite Orchestra at Sebastian’s Cotton Club.

It was with Hite that Hampton became a local star. The band worked nightly and fans would flock to the Cotton Club just to see Hamp put on a show at the drums.
In 1930 Louis Armstrong played an extended engagement at Sebastian’s with Les Hite’s band as his accompaniment. Armstrong recorded several sides for Victor with Hite during his stay. At one of the sessions Lionel Hampton started fooling around with a set of vibes that was in the studio. Louis heard him and ask him to play it on the recordings. It was the first time the vibes were used on a jazz record and "Memories of You" became a hit.

By 1936 Hamp was leading his own groups around Los Angeles and continuing to play the vibes. He was working the Paradise Cafe while Benny Goodman was nearby at the Palomar Ballroom. John Hammond had heard about Hamp and went to the Paradise one night to see him. He was so impressed that he convinced Goodman to come by after the last set at the Palomar. Goodman loved what he heard and brought Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa with him the next night. They jammed on stage for hours and after that Goodman was sold. He wanted to add Hamp’s unique voice to the small group.

The Goodman band was scheduled to record during their stay at the Palomar and Hamp was asked to join them. He recorded with the big band and the quartet and also took part in a date under the leadership of Teddy Wilson.

From that point on, through the rest of the thirties, Hamp travelled the country with the Goodman band. It was historical and extremely important because the addition of Teddy
Wilson and Lionel Hampton to the Goodman band made them a racially integrated ensemble. They broke the color barrier in music and paved the way for others to follow.

Lionel Hampton became a huge star with Goodman and appeared on countless recordings, radio broadcasts and motion picture appearances. At the end of 1940, with Goodman’s encouragement Hamp decided to form his own big band. He came back to Los Angeles and put together a band featuring the cream of the crop of young west coast musicians:
Marshal and Ernie Royal, Dexter Gordon, Jack McVea, Sir Charles Thompson, Joe Newman, Karl George and Illinois Jacquet.

The Lionel Hampton Orchestra became one of the most popular big bands during the swing era and had one of the periods biggest hits in "Flying Home." Hamp led a big band for the rest of his life and garnered innumerable awards and accolades. His band was a training ground for an incredible array of jazz musicians over the years.

He was a true jazz immortal whose career began right here on the west coast.

African-American Jazz in California- The King Cole Trio

February 10, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The King Cole Trio

Nathaniel Adams Cole was born in Montgomery Alabama but grew up in Chicago. He learned to play piano from his mother who was the church organist at his father’s baptist church.

As a young man he used to sneak out of the house at night to hear the likes of Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Noone who was working in Chicago clubs. The musician that he heard that had the biggest influence was Earl "Fatha" Hines who was playing the Grand Terrace in Chicago.

In 1937 he was part of a travelling revival of Sissle and Blakes' "Shuffle Along." They got as far as Long Beach, CA where the show folded and he and his new wife were stranded.
He scuffled up and down the west coast from San Diego to Bakersfield before landing at the Century Club in Santa Monica.

From there he moved to The Swanee Inn on LaBrea where he was ask by management to put together a trio. His new friend Lionel Hampton suggested guitarist Oscar Moore and
bassist Wesley Prince. Lee Young was slated to be the drummer but it turned out that the drummer-less trio worked best in the small club setting. It influenced countless others and became known as the “cocktail combo.” Others may have emulated the instrumentation but nothing else matched the sound of the trio.

The King Cole Trio was revolutionary. Three musical minds working together as one in a way no one had ever heard before. As the trio progressed Nat began singing which garnered much attention.

By 1938 the trio began recording for some transcription services and eventually Decca Records where he recorded his first big hit "Sweet Lorraine." The records were an instant sensation and Nat King Cole had a rapid rise to stardom.

In 1943 they signed with the newly formed Capitol records and reached new heights. Hit after hit helped put Capitol on the map. In addition to his amazing singing voice, Nat was one of the great jazz piano players. He became so famous as a singer that his importance as a piano player was lost through the years. Plus he became so in demand as a vocalist that eventually the trio format was dropped in favor of larger ensemble settings.

He went on to become one of the biggest stars in the world. Among his many accomplishments included being the first African-American to host his own television show in the late 1950s.

Today we celebrate the early years of the Nat King Cole Trio formed right here on the west coast.

African-American Jazz in California- Sebastian's Cotton Club and Les Hite

February 7, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Sebastian's Cotton Club and Les Hite

Although prohibition was in full effect during the 1920s, Culver City was the primary location in Los Angeles where that law was largely ignored. In 1926 local businessman Frank Sebastian purchased a large building that had been The Green Mill nightclub. He re-named it Frank Sebastian’s Cotton Club which was not, in any way, related to the Harlem Cotton Club.

Sebastian’s Cotton Club quickly became one of the most popular clubs in Southern California. It was located at Washington Blvd. and National Blvd. and was very much ahead of it’s time. The booking policy was to feature African American bands exclusively. Between 1930 and 1939 the house band was led by Les Hite who created one of the most outstanding bands in the country but remained little known outside of Los Angeles.

It was one of the best jobs in town for a musician with steady employment 7 nights a week. This gave Hite his pick of the best musicians in town and the band served as an important training ground for many jazz musicians who would go on to make big names for themselves.

Being near Hollywood led to the band making numerous appearances in motion pictures. During the 30s they appeared in 65 films. The 1930 band alone included Lawerence Brown, Marshal Royal, Red Mack Morris, Lloyd Reese and Lionel Hampton who was billed at the time as “the world’s fastest drummer."

LLoyd Reese may not be a household name but he was an extremely important behind the scenes figure as a master teacher. His students though the years included some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus and Buddy Collette to name just a few.

Although the band worked constantly there were no recordings made under Hite’s name until 1940. The band did record though in 1930 under the leadership of Louis Armstrong. Louis came to Los Angeles for the first time in 1930 for a nine-month engagement at Sebastian’s Cotton Club. He was a huge sensation which led to a return engagement in 1931.

Louis Armstrong and his Sebastion New Cotton Club Orchestra recorded 10 sides for Okeh in 1930 and 2 more in 1931. Several of the west coast records were hits including I’m a Ding Dong Daddy from Dumas, I’m Confessin that I Love You and Shine.

During the engagement Louis experienced a scary incident. At intermission he and drummer Vic Berton were outside the club smoking pot and were busted by two plain clothes detectives. Louis was worried that the detectives might take them somewhere and rough them up and was concerned it could damage his lip. As he was in the car terrified where they might take him, it turned out the detectives were big fans who listened to him on broadcasts from Sebastian’s. Louis ended up doing 9 days in jail and was released with a suspended sentence.

It was during his time with Les Hite that Lionel Hampton rose to prominence. He was the biggest star of the local jazz scene. People would come just to watch him do tricks with the drum sticks while he was playing. He had also fooled around with the vibes leading to playing that instrument for the first time on a couple of the Louis Armstrong 1930
recordings.

In 1936 Lionel Hampton was leading his own group at the Paradise Cafe at 6th and Main in downtown Los Angeles. Benny Goodman was in town at the Palomar Ballroom and was brought in to hear Hamp. He was so excited that the next night he brought Gene Krupa and Teddy Wilson where they joined Hamp for hours. Benny was so excited that before long the Benny Goodman trio became the Benny Goodman Quartet and Lionel Hampton soon became an international star.

Les Hite disbanded for good in 1943 and became an agent.

African-American Jazz in California- The 1920s

February 6, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The 1920's

By the early 1920s the New Orleans transplants that had established a jazz scene in Los Angeles started to move on. Jelly Roll Morton left in 1922
eventually ending up in Chicago where he started to make a name for himself on a national basis. Kid Ory left in 1924 ending up in Chicago as well.

Throughout the rest of the twenties there were three bandleaders that dominated the growing Los Angeles jazz scene: Sonny Clay, Paul Howard
and Curtis Mosby.

Sonny Clay first arrived on the west coast in 1921 after touring the southwest with a number of bands including Jelly Roll Morton. Once in Los Angeles he played with Reb Spikes and King Oliver before starting his own Plantation Club Orchestra. He also formed The California Poppies, The Stompin’ Six and the Dixie Serenaders.
It was the time of prohibition across the United States but Culver City operated as a wide open town with alcohol flowing freely at a variety of venues including the Plantation Club which was located on Washington Blvd.

Clay came to prominence as leader of the Plantation Club Orchestra recording several sides for the Vocalion label. He also did several live broadcasts on the newly licensed KFI radio which brought gained even more noteriety.

Saxophonist Paul Howard had been in Los Angeles since 1911 where he played with a number of bands including the Black and Tan Orchestra. In 1924 he got a job at The Quality Cafe and formed Paul Howard’s Quality Four. He worked for a short time with Sonny Clay then formed The Quality Serenaders which included Lawrence Brown, George Orendorff, a young Lionel Hampton and Charlie Lawrence.

Lawrence composed and arranged much of the bands material which can be heard on several outstanding recordings made for the Victor label in 1929.

Curtis Mosby, later known as the mayor of Central Ave, came to Los Angeles in 1923. He eventually owned several clubs on Central Ave. including the Apex Club which later became the famous Club Alabam.

Curtis Mosby’s Dixieland Blues Blowers became one of the most important bands in town and somewhat monopolized the scene including appearances in several motion pictures.

The star soloists in the band included trumpet player James “King” Porter and pianist Henry Starr who made a couple of sides under his own name for the experimental Flexo record label in 1928.

African-American Jazz in California- The Spikes Brothers and Kid Ory

February 5, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The Spikes Brothers and Kid Ory

One of the most important figures in early Los Angeles music history was Benjamin Reb Spikes. Early in his career Spikes was
billed as the world’s greatest saxophonist while working in San Francisco with the So-Different Orchestra. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1919 where he and his brother
opened a music store at 12th and Central Ave. Spikes also formed the Major and Minors Orchestra and opened the Dreamland Cafe at 4th and Central.

The Spikes Brothers store became the central location for the African American music scene in L.A. at that time. They also started a publishing company as well as a booking agency that operated out of the store. His Dreamland Cafe became an important venue for early jazz on the west coast. A little later they teamed up with Jelly Roll Morton to open Wayside Amusement Park at Leake’s Lake in Watts.

Around the same time Spikes landed in Los Angeles, the great New Orleans jazz pioneer Kid Ory moved to Los Angeles as well. He brought cornetist Mutt Carey with him. Before long Ory sent back to New Orleans for more musicians and began playing at the Dreamland Cafe.

The Spikes Brothers store was the only place in Los Angeles where recordings by black artists could be purchased. Business was so big that they decided to form their own label: Sunshine Records.

In 1921 they ask Ory to make records for their new label by backing two local blues singers. Ory agreed as long as he could do some of his own music as well.
The recordings were made at the experimental Nordskog studios in Santa Monica. There were no pressing plants on the west coast at the time so the records were actually pressed in Orange, New Jersey.

When the records came back from the plant the label read Nordskog Records featuring Kid Ory and his Seven Pods of Pepper. Spikes had to paste his own Sunshine label over the Nordskog label. There were less than 5,000 pressed and they were all sold at the Spikes Brothers store. Today, the original 78s are very rare especially with the pasted on Sunshine label intact.

Even though the Original Dixieland Jazz Band had made the first jazz records in 1917, the Kid Ory recordings are the first by a group of the true New Orleans jazz pioneers.

 

African-American Jazz in California- Jelly Roll Morton

February 4, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton on the West Coast 1917-1922. After Bill Johnson established himself in Los Angeles several other New Orleans musicians
travelled to the west coast. Most notably was Jelly Roll Morton who arrived in Los Angeles sometime in 1917.
Jelly Roll was one of the earliest New Orleans pioneers to leave the crescent city and take the
music on the road.

His companion was Anita Gonzales who happened to be Bill and Dink Johnson’s sister.
Once in Los Angeles he began running shows at the Cadillac Cafe which was located at 553
Central Ave. His shows featured a number of other entertainers including Florence Mills and
Ada “Bricktop” Smith. He wasn’t happy with the local musicians ability to play his music and sent back to New
Orleans for Buddy Petit, Frankie Dusen and Wade Whaley. He also added Anita’s brother Dink
Johnson to the ensemble.

In 1918 he and Anita set up shop in San Francisco by opening a club called The Jupiter which
was at Columbus and Pacific. After San Francisco he formed a “ Creole Orchestra” in San Diego for a short time with side
trips to Tijuana. During 1919 and 1920 he worked mostly in San Franciso and also ventured further north into
the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Throughout 1921 he spent time in Los Angeles, San Diego and Tijuana.

In Los Angeles he worked at the Paradise Gardens which drew many celebrities. His “Tango”
and “The Crave” were big hits in Hollywood. At this time he also teamed up with The Spikes Brothers and opened the Wayside Amusement
Park at Leake’s Lake in Watts. In November he played an extended engagement in San Diego at the US Grant Hotel. He also
played regularly in Tijuana at the Kansas City Bar. One of his most famous compositions: Kansas City Stomp was named for the Tijuana saloon.

There were no recordings of Jelly Roll Morton during his stay on the west coast. In 1923 he
relocated to Chicago and began a substantial recording career including a number of
compositions written while living on the west coast.

He returned to Los Angeles at the end of his life where he passed away in July of 1941 at the
age of 50. He’s buried at the Cavalry Cemetery in Los Angeles.

 

African-American Jazz in California- Bill Johnson

February 3, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Bill Johnson

Most people associate jazz on the west coast with the well known Los Angeles scene of the
1950s. There was however jazz on the west coast in the very early years of the music’s
beginnings and it was brought here by a group of New Orleans transplants.

The story of jazz in California begins with bass player Bill Johnson. Johnson was working in
the New Orleans Storyville district between 1903 and 1905 at the infamous Tom Anderson's
saloon. He also worked with a variety of New Orleans ensembles including Frankie Dusen’s
Eagle Band and the Peerless Orchestra.

Around 1908 he formed a band and travelled to California to introduce New Orleans music to
the west coast. They played a one month engagement at The Red Feather tavern in Los
Angeles followed by Johnson returning to New Orleans. The cornet player he brought with
him to Los Angeles, Ernest Coycault, stayed on the coast and became a significant musician in
the area.

Back in New Orleans, Johnson formed his “Original Creole Orchestra”, a seven piece group
that toured the Southwest. In 1912 he re-formed the band in Los Angeles and set up
permanent residence. Over the next couple of years he fine tuned the personnel which
required importing some musicians from New Orleans.

Members of the Original Creole Orchestra included his brother Dink Johnson, clarinetist
George Baquet and most notably cornetist Freddie Keppard.

Keppard followed Buddy Bolden as the next great New Orleans cornet player and had been
enjoying much success with the Olympia Brass Band and Frankie Dusen’s Eagle Band.
Johnson convinced him to come to Los Angeles which was a major addition to the group.

Around 1914 the Orchestra auditioned for the Pantages vaudeville circuit and ended up touring
the country between 1914 and 1918.

Since there are no recordings it’s hard to know for sure what the group played on the vaudeville
circuit but it is likely that this was the group that introduced the New Orleans sound to a good
portion of the United States.

In 1915 they played an extended engagement at New York’s Winter Garden theater. Victor
records approached them with an offer to record. Freddie Keppard didn’t want to take the
chance of having other musicians “steal his stuff” so they turned Victor down.

If they had accepted Victor’s offer they would have made the first jazz recordings.
Unfortunately today the pioneering group is mostly unknown.

 

Sinatra at the Sands Fundraising Concert

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:January 28, 2020

TONIIGHT AT 7:30PM is your chance to relive one of the most celebrated concerts ever to be recorded. Sinatra at the Sands. Esteemed Drummer and Conductor Michael Berkowitz will be leading the KSDS Jazz Orchestra for a night you will not forget as he and the band will be playing the original arrangements from this famous engagement. Singer, Ned Rifken, one of the foremost Sinatra-styled vocalists, is billed as the “Ambassador of Swing” and he will transport you back in time with his interpretations of these Sinatra-Basie classics. The show is SOLD OUT! The box office opens at 6pm. Doors open at 7PM. All tickets can be claimed at will call. Here is the parking pass (FREE PARKING) for the concert. You can park anywhere on campus with the pass but Lot 8 is closest to the theatre which is located on C street across from 14th street. Here is a map.

VIP (DINNER) ATTENDEES- Please arrive at the Old Spaghetti Factory (275 Fifth Ave.) between 4:30-5pm. You will check in with a Jazz 88 staff member.

Any questions or for more information about tonight Just call 619-388-3301 or e-mail us at info@jazz88.org.See you there!

KSDS Fundraising Concert- The Cookers

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:January 10, 2020

TONIGHT at 8pm will be a concert for the ages and a one-time only KSDS Fundraising Event. The Cookers come to the Saville Theatre! This is truly a band of Modern Jazz Heavyweights- Billy Harper (ts), Cecil McBee (b), George Cables (p), Eddie Henderson (tpt), Donald Harrison (as), David Weiss (tpt), Billy Hart (d). The concert will be at the Saville Theatre here at City College. FREE PARKING (no pass required). The concert is SOLD OUT. Please arrive around 7pm to get your tickets at will call. If you have questions or need more information about this event please e-mail us at info@jazz88.org or call 619-388-3301.