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Bebop- African-American Jazz in California

February 20, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Bebop

Bebop invaded the west with the arrival of Billy Eckstine’s Big Band in February of 1945. They were booked for an extended engagement at the Plantation Club, which was located at 103rd and Central Ave. in the Watts section of Los Angeles. The band featured a number of young bop oriented musicians including Fats Navarro, Gene Ammons, Tommy Potter and Art Blakey. Although the band was a vehicle for Eckstine’s lush vocals, there were a number of bebop charts in the book written by the likes of Tadd Dameron, Jerry
Valentine and John Malachi.

In December of 1945 Billy Berg booked Dizzy Gillespie for his new Vine Street club. Dizzy had already received a lot of publicity and was considered the face of the new music. Dizzy put together a group that included Charlie Parker, Al Haig, Ray Brown and Stan Levey for the multi-week engagement. He also brought along the young vibraphonist Milt Jackson. The Berg contract called for five musicians to be on stage at all times and Dizzy knew there would be occasions where Charlie Parker would be late or not show up at all.
Jackson was an insurance policy to make sure the contract was always fulfilled.

The group left New York from Pennsylvania Station in early December and arrived in Los Angeles on December 10 (Al Haig traveled separately and met them there).
When Dizzy and Bird arrived in Los Angeles they found that the new music was already being played by a group of young musicians working with trumpeter Howard McGhee. McGhee had come to Los Angeles several months earlier as part of Coleman Hawkins Quintet. McGhee decided to stay and formed a group that included Teddy Edwards, Sonny Criss, Roy Porter and eventually Hampton Hawes.

That group debuted in May at the Downbeat Club on 42nd and entral which became their home base. The club was managed by “Pop” who was the father of gangster Bugsy Siegel.

They were playing bebop and broadcasting from The Streets of Paris in Hollywood Blvd. when Bird and Dizzy began Billy Berg’s engagement. Berg’s engagement drew lots of interested listeners during the first couple of weeks. One of those listeners was Ross Russell who owned the Tempo Record Shop which was located just a few blocks
from the club. Ross had been a die-hard traditional jazz fan but was won over to the new music when he heard Bird and Dizzy. He decided to form his own company in hopes of recording Charlie Parker. Dial Records was born in early 1946 and became one of the important labels documenting modern jazz on the west coast.

When Dizzy and the rest of the group went back to New York in early 1946 Bird stayed behind. He signed with Dial records and began working with the young like-minded musicians on the coast. The Finale Club in the Bronzeville section became a center point of Bird’s activity as well as the after hours scene on Central Ave.

Bird suffered his infamous breakdown during a Dial session that summer and spent the next few months "Relaxin at Camarillo." In the meantime modern jazz continued to take hold at various venues throughout southern California and featured a number of young modernists including Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Howard McGhee, Dodo Marmarosa, Barney Kessel and Erroll Garner.

By the end of the forties the Central Ave and Bronzeville clubs were shutting their doors. Ross Russell moved the Dial Records operation to New York and the bebop era on the west coast was coming to an end.

Gerald Wilson- African-American Jazz in California

February 19, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Gerald Wilson

Gerald Wilson first came to prominence as a member of Jimmie Lunceford’s trumpet section and as a composer and arranger for the band. He wrote several important arrangements including "Hi Spook" and "Yard Dog Mazurka." After Lunceford he did a stint in the Navy’s Great Lakes Band which included Clark Terry and Willie Smith among others.

After the Navy he ended up in Los Angeles.

In 1944 he was asked to put together his own big band for an engagement at Shepp’s Playhouse in the Bronzeville district of Los Angeles. The band was supposed to be for Herb Jeffries but Jeffries had to cancel which thrust Gerald into the spotlight as the leader.

Bronzeville had been Little Tokyo prior to World War 2 but was transformed into an African-American business district after the Japanese-American business owners and families were evicted from the area and sent to internment camps. In October of 1943 African-American businessmen formed the Bronzeville Chamber of Commerce and declared that the area was no longer “Little Tokyo.”

Along with “Central Ave,” Bronzeville became an area with an active nightlife scene highlighted by a number of breakfast clubs that stayed open all night to serve the war workers and general public. Shepp’s Playhouse was the biggest and best known.

Once tasked with forming his own band, Gerald scouted out the musicians he wanted which included Vic Dickenson, Melba Liston, Hobart Dotson and his old friend from the Lunceford days, Snooky Young. With Gerald’s cutting edge arrangements the band became an instant hit with the local audience. Within a few months they recorded for both the
Excelsior and Black and White record labels.

From that point forward Gerald more or less always had a big band but there was a big gap in recording between the 1940s sessions and theband’s resurgence for Pacific Jazz in the 1960s.

In addition to his own band Gerald was in tremendous demand as an arranger and wrote for many artists including Count Basie and Duke Ellington. He also wrote for film and television, hosted his own radio show and was a pioneer jazz educator.

Jazz at the Philharmonic- African-American Jazz in California

February 18, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Jazz at the Philharmonic

Jazz at the Philharmonic, or JATP, was a series of jazz concert tours and recordings produced by Norman Granz. JATP started in Los Angeles in 1944 and became the most successful jazz series of all time. Almost every great jazz artist from the forties and fifties were part of Granz’ stable of stars.

Granz was born in Los Angeles and became a jazz fan at an early age. He noticed injustices to the African American musicians who were his heroes and vowed to do something about it. He began staging organized jam sessions in 1942 at Billy Berg’s Trouville Club. He made sure that both the audience and the bandstand were racially integrated. He continued the jam sessions at a few other venues waiting for the right time to move to a larger space. That opportunity came in 1944.

Two years earlier there had been a murder that took place in Commerce, California near a swimming hole known as the Sleepy Lagoon. After a body was discovered the LAPD went into east Los Angeles and arrested 17 Mexican-American youths as suspects. There was no evidence but they were all held without bail on charges of murder.
The trial ended in January of 1943 with 12 of the young men convicted and sent to San Quentin. The other 5 were convicted of lessor offenses. It was obvious that the young men that were convicted likely had nothing to do with the murder and the public unrest led to the Zoot Suit riots that plagued east l.a. during the summer of 1943.

Concerned citizens formed the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee to try to help the convicted men. Norman Granz was outraged as well and decided to do a larger jam
session to raise money for the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Fund. He rented the Philharmonic Hall in downtown Los Angeles and held the first concert on July 2, 1944. The line up included Illinois Jacquet, Les Paul, Jack McVea, J.J. Johnson, Nat King Cole, Red Callendar and Lee Young among others. Because of the location it was called Jazz at the

The concept and the event was a huge success. By October they were able to get the case heard by the state court of appeals and the convictions were reversed. Granz didn’t stop there though. The momentum continued and led to more concerts and eventually nationwide tours. The Jazz at the Philharmonic name stuck. Many concerts were recorded and issued on Asch and Mercury. Granz became so successful that he eventually formed his own record companies Clef and Norgran and started issuing the recordings on his

In 1956 he consolidated the two labels into Verve Records. Granz home base was an office in Beverly Hills. It was one of the biggest jazz enterprises of all time. He managed several artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson plus his record label recorded hundreds of classic albums. The JATP tours expanded to Europe in 1952 and
continued to be major successes.

In the sixties, Granz sold Verve, relocated to Europe and eventually retired the JATP tours. His crusade for civil rights resulted in many positives for the music business. He refused to allow segregation of any kind at his concerts and he made sure his artists were well paid and well treated.

In the early seventies, although happily retired, he recognized that many of his former artists such as Basie, Ella and Oscar had no record contracts.To remedy this he decided to start a new label which he called Pablo records.He followed his original pattern of tours and recordings to great success and rose to the top of the jazz world once again.

Christopher Hollyday and Telepathy Release New Dialogue on Jazz Live San Diego

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:February 17, 2020

Jazz Live will welcome back Alto Saxophonist Christopher Hollyday and his Telepathy band to the Saville Theatre TONIGHT at 8pm. His band will be stellar- Gilbert Castellanos on Trumpet, Joshua White on Piano, Rob Thorsen on Bass and Tyler Kreutel on Drums. This concert will be the album release of 'Dialogue' AND Christopher's 50th Birthday so it's not to be missed. The show is SOLD OUT, but the broadcast starts at 8pm.  The box office will open at 6pm and unclaimed tickets will be available beginning at 730pm. As always, thanks to Big Front Door Sandwich Shop, located in University Heights (Park Blvd.) for providing food for the Jazz Live artists. If you are going remember that good ole' parking pass!

Christopher Hollyday and Telepathy Jazz Live San Diego 2020.2.10

Full Concert Audio - Christopher Hollyday and Telepathy

Lee and Lester Young- African-American Jazz in California

February 17, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Lee and Lester Young

Our President’s Day Black History spotlight is on Lee and Lester Young. Towards the end of 1940 Lester Young left the Count Basie Orchestra to go out on his own.
The story that was printed in the press at the time said that Basie had a recording session on Friday the 13th and that Lester refused to participate. Lester supposedly said that Friday the 13th was no day to play music. While It’s doubtful that event ever took place it has been part of Lester Young folklore since the 1930s.

In reality Lester was ready to go out on his own. He played several dates around New York in early 1941 before deciding to join his younger brother, Lee, on the west coast.
Lee was an outstanding drummer who had established himself on the Los Angeles scene in the late 30s working with Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton among others.
Lee was forming a band to play Billy Berg’s Club Capri and Lester came west to join him.

For the first six months of the engagement, Lester was forced to appear as an act due to union rules. In November his transfer was approved and the group became known as Lee and Lester Young’s Orchestra. No commercial recordings were made but a handful of the original radio broadcasts have turned up which give us an idea of what the band
sounded like. In addition to Lester Young on tenor the group included Bumps Meyers also on tenor, Paul Campbell or Red Mack Morris on trumpet, pianist Jimmy Rowles, Red Callendar on bass and Lee Young on drums.

The Club Capri was the first of five Los Angeles clubs owned by Billy Berg. In 1942 he opened a new club in the Beverly Fairfax district called the Trouville. Berg moved the Lee and Lester Young band to the Trouville where they played six nights a week. At the Trouville the band accompanied Billie Holiday for a lengthy engagement and broadcast over station KHJ.

It was during this engagement that a young jazz fan named Norman Granz approached Berg with the idea of opening the club on Sundays for an organized jam session. Granz stipulation was that the club and the bandstand had to be racially integrated during the Sunday sessions. Berg agreed and the first session took place in June of 1942 with Lester
Young headlining.

Those sessions were the beginnings of what would grow into Jazz at the Philharmonic. Granz also produced a memorable recording session featuring Lester and
Nat King Cole during the summer of 1942.

Los Angeles was Lester’s home base for a couple of years until he eventually re-joined the Basie band. By 1944 he was back in Los Angeles continuing his association with
Norman Granz. Granz produced, what is considered the greatest jazz film of all time, “Jammin the Blues” with Lester as the featured star. Lee Young lived in Los Angeles the rest of his life and was one of the busiest drummers in town for many years. He appears on many motion picture soundtracks and was the first African American musician to work
for a major Hollywood Studio.

Benny Carter- African-American Jazz in California

February 14, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Benny Carter

Benny Carter was one of the most important jazz musicians of all time and one of the true pioneers of both jazz arranging and of the alto saxophone. As an arranger he was one of the pioneers who, along with Don Redmond, established big band orchestration in a jazz setting.

As a composer he wrote many jazz standards such as "When Lights Are Low" and "Malibu." He also helped Capitol Records get off the ground providing the labels first hit with "Cow Cow Boogie."

As a soloist he was one of the first models for the instrument along with Johnny Hodges. He was equally adept as a trumpet soloist which was as unique then as it is today.

He was very successful during the twenties and thirties working with Fletcher Henderson, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and his own big band both in the United States and Europe.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1942 and remained there until his death in 2003 at the age of 96.

Once in Hollywood he continued with his own big band that featured many young players such as Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, Max Roach,Art Pepper, Gerald Wiggins, Dexter Gordon and Al Grey. In 1943 he worked on the film "Stormy Weather" which began a long career writing for motion pictures and television. He kept the band going until 1946 working regularly at Billy Berg’s Swing Club on Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood.

During the time he was working at the Swing Club he decided to buy a house in Los Angeles but many neighborhoods had restrictive covenants that kept certain areas racially segregated. He fought against it and won which was a major victory for equal rights.

He dropped the big band in 1946 and began concentrating on playing and writing. He was in huge demand as a vocal arranger and wrote for everyone including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan. He got more and more busy in the film studios and was one of the first black musicians to help break down the racial barriers on that side of the business. Los Angeles had two musicians unions, one for black musicians and one for white. Benny fought to consolidate the two into one which happened in 1950. The consolidation led to much more work for black musicians in all genres.

His band was never as popular with the general public as Basie or Ellington but he was one of the most revered artists in the history of the music. His legacy is immense. He left a massive body of work and his reputation among his peers is unequalled.

Jubilee- African-American Jazz in California

February 13, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: Jubilee

On May 26, 1942 the War Department of the United States created the Armed Forces Radio Network also known as AFRS. The AFRS was one of many initiatives to boost the morale of service personnel during WW2.

It started out being headquartered in New York but very quickly moved it’s base of operations to Hollywood. Shows were broadcast on shortwave radio and recorded transcription discs were sent to outposts around the world. The programs were written by the best writers and featured top name entertainers, all donating their services to the war effort.
There were several AFRS programs that all had a specific approach including Command Performance, One Night Stand, Mail Call, Jill’s Juke Box, Downbeat, Spotlight Bands and Jubilee.

Jubilee was unique in that it showcased exclusively African American entertainers aimed at African American service personnel.  In the beginning, shows were done live on Monday nights at NBC studios at Sunset and Vine.  They were done in front of a live audience, recorded and edited into half hour shows.  All the great local artists as well as travelling groups took part.

This includes Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Lena Horne, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Benny Carter, Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and many others.

The jovial emcee was Ernie Bubbles Whitman whose jive talking commentary became synonymous with Jubilee. 

Many of these programs happened between 1942 and 1944 while commercial records were not being made due to a strike between the musicians union and the record companies.  

Fortunately all 300 plus of the programs have survived and are important historical documents.


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.