Surfin’ Pacific Jazz: Roy Haynes’ People (1964)

People is a very obscure album from Roy Haynes, a prolific jazz drummer and, at 91 years old, still regularly gigging and recording. A one-off for Pacific Jazz, it finds Haynes in a very comfortable setting of standards and pop songs that he and his band, including the incomparable (and highly underrated) Frank Strozier on alto. Ably supported by Sam Dockery on piano and Larry Ridley on bass, the band pack a lot of punch into these pop tunes, as evidenced by the title track:

Strozier just melts into the melody and then delivers the kind of deceptively smooth yet biting solo that made his name in the jazz underground of the 60’s & 70’s. Great stuff from him! The rhythm section is all taste and laid back swing. On “Invitation” business picks up a bit with another crisp solo from Strozier and Haynes a solid chance to shine on the kit for Haynes:

Producer Dick Bock loved these types of one-off sessions, luring touring artists whose base was usually back East into an L.A. studio for a nice quick and fun session for Pacific. Some of these albums have languished though and People is just the sort of breezy session that hardcore enthusiasts take for granted. Give People a chance!

Kick back, more Surfin’ Pacific Jazz is coming your way soon!

Surfin’ Pacific Jazz: Wilton Felder’s Bullitt (1969)

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As a huge “Bullitt” fan, and overall 60’s/70’s crime/heist film buff, I absolutely had to hear this cover of the Lalo Schifrin theme by Wilton Felder:

Admittedly cheesy, very soul-jazz pop kitsch in arrangement and execution, I still found myself diggin’ it. This was after the The Jazz Crusaders dropped the jazz and became simply The Crusaders, with a such more pop bent to their playing. Felder on tenor here with fellow Crusader Wayne Henderson on trombone but the other players are unlisted.

Here is the Schifrin original:

If you’ve never seen Peter Yates film, it features one of the greatest car chase sequences ever:

Felder also covers the theme to a similar, but much more obscure, crime film: “The Split”:

What a cast in that one, wow! Couldn’t find a video of Felder’s version of the theme but it is pretty good.

Keep your eyes on the screen for more Surfin’ Pacific Jazz!

Surfin’ Pacific Jazz: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers’ Ritual (1957)

Information about Art Blakey’s Ritual appears hard-to-come-by. Seemingly a one-off for Pacific Jazz, I see that it has been issued by various labels with varying track listings. Was this even meant for Pacific Jazz? It having been recorded in New York definite lends credence to the assertion that this was a label swap of some kind. Art had records out in close proximity to this one on Blue Note, Columbia, & Savoy so it seems likely. Either way, Ritual is a rather fun little record. Obscure by Jazz Messengers standards but well worth the hunt, especially as it features a very young Jackie McLean on alto. McLean and Blakey, along with Bill Hardman on trumpet, Sam Dockery on piano, & Spanky DeBrest on bass have fun with Duke Jordan’s “Scotch Blues”:

The record is most known (where it is known at all) for the title track, an extended percussion freak-out complete with a brief spoken word introduction:

Here is a look at some alternative cover art:

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Several of these tracks have been re-issued under the title Once Upon A Groove too (note the similar cover to above):

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Again, an obscure session with a muddled provenance that is still worth catching for some formative McLean and Art being Art (he barely has any bad records).

Hang in there — more Surfin’ Pacific Jazz will be coming up soon!

Surfin’ Pacific Jazz: The Jazz Crusaders’ At The Lighthouse (1962)

Man, I just dig me some Jazz Crusaders! It has been a long time since I spun them but hot damn are they fun! And that is the key word: fun; The Jazz Crusaders play with an exuberance that is rarely matched in jazz. Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers had it and it is no coincidence that The Jazz Crusaders were often held up as a West Coast analog to Art’s fine group.

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Topping that, this session is the J.C.’s live at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, CA in 1962, when the band was reaching an early creative peak. I love recordings from The Lighthouse, there was a warm intimacy to most of these live sessions. The J.C.’s in particular seemed to thrive there. Check out their driving rendition of “Congolese Sermon”:

The line-up here is Wayne Henderson (tb), Wilton Felder (ts), Joe Sample (p), Victor Gaskin (b), & Nesbert ‘Stix’ Hooper (d). This was just before Buster Williams joined on bass (I believe Victor Gaskin was just temporarily filling in on this gig). The gig features almost entirely original material like the tune above — the only standard being Jackie McLean’s challenging “Appointment In Ghana”:

Their version belies the idea that West Coast bop couldn’t stand up to the challenge and complexity of their East Coast peers. The Jazz Crusaders took the measure of all comers, producing jazz that was heady yet inviting, sure to please even the toughest crowds and critics. The J.C.’s must have liked playing The Lighthouse as they recorded there again in 1966 & 1968, albums that might turn up again on Surfin’ Pacific Jazz!

 

 

Surfin’ Pacific Jazz: Curtis Amy’s Way Down (1962)

Curtis Amy had a very interesting jazz career. A well-known, well-regarded West Coast bop player, Amy’s biggest success was in rock-n-roll with his solo on The Doors “Touch Me.” He also directed the Ray Charles orchestra, featuring with his wife, the singer Merry Clayton. Clayton also had rock-n-roll success for her vocal performance on the Stones “Gimme Shelter.” None of this is to diminish Amy’s jazz work, which was quite robust and personable. I really dig his Way Down album, which features a very young Roy Ayers on vibes. Ayers went on to have a huge career so it is fun to check out these early, formative performances. Dig “Liberia”:

  • Curtis Amy – tenor saxophone
  • Marcus Belgrave – trumpet
  • Roy Brewster – valve trombone
  • Roy Ayers – vibraphone
  • Victor Feldman – piano
  • George Morrow – bass
  • Tony Bazley – drums

We’ll touch on Amy again as he recorded one absolute stone-cold monster of an album, Katanga!, that I am sure will feature here soon. Stay tuned for more Surfin’ Pacific Jazz!

Surfin’ Pacific Jazz: Ravi Shankar’s Improvisations (1962)

Ravi Shankar was born on April 7th, 1920 so it felt fitting that we celebrate his birthday by celebrating the fact that Shankar made his American recording debut on a jazz label!

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Dick Bock, president of Pacific Jazz, and subsidiary World Pacific, was instrumental in bringing Shankar to American audiences. He sponsored performances and recorded him frequently — first on Pacific Jazz and then on World Pacific, which he created specifically for Shankar and other, soon to join, artists.

Here is a selection from Improvisations, Shankar’s second album for Pacific Jazz:

This record features Shankar on sitar and Kanai Dutta on tabla and is an excellent example of Shankar’s early work. Indian ragas are improvisational in nature, making them akin to jazz, though structurally the two forms of music couldn’t be more different. Shankar was a huge hit in California with jazz musicians, hippies, and surfers. Shankar recorded in the same studio as The Byrds, who then introduced him to The Beatles and the rest of that famous relationship is history. Though his influence on rock was huge, Shankar had an outsize influence on jazz as well; particularly in his relationship with the Coltranes. John and Alice were very moved by Shankar and named their son after him.

Stay tuned for more Surfin’ Pacific Jazz!

Happy Birthday, Billie Holiday!

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Billie Holiday was born on this date in 1915. She is still, without a doubt, the greatest jazz singer of all-time.

As always, WKCR is doing its 24hr Billie Holiday birthday broadcast:

https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/