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California Jazz

California Jazz
Artist Description


The Early Days During the late 20s and early 30s, many of the name bands of the day made the trip out west to play in the clubs and dance halls of California, but many smaller groups, including a fair sprinkling on this disc, were locally based. Some were well known, others not. Eddie Frazier and his Plantation Orchestra were one of the latter, of unknown personnel and recording only two sides for the obscure Sunset label, which existed in California from 1924 to 1926. Carlyle Stevenson’s El Patio Orchestra, however, were a popular local orchestra who made a number of sides for Sunset, including the jazzy number on our second track. With the third track we move up a notch, as Abe Lyman was one of the best-known bandleaders on the West Coast at this time, reversing the trend in moving eastwards to Chicago and New York for some of his recordings.

Whilst much of his output was commercial dance music, some was definitely not, and ‘Shake That Thing’ is a superb example. Almost equally as well known in the twenties was Henry Halstead and his Orchestra, playing for dances in Oakland but also recording some good hot sides for Victor, including this one in L.A. Curtis Mosby, Tom Gerunovitch (more usually known as plain Tom Gerun) and Paul Howard were three further locally based bands, the latter being of interest today for the appearance of a young Lionel Hampton on drums on ‘Quality Shout’ and also vocalizing on ‘California Swing’. With the appearance of Louis Armstrong on this set, we get the first of the big names visiting California. Louis was in L.A. from the summer of ’30 to spring ’31, recording for Okeh with his Sebastian New Cotton Club Orchestra (sic).

The sessions in L.A. included such classics as ‘I’m a Ding Dong Daddy’ and ‘Confessin’, and all, including the couple here, feature Louis’ inimical vocals – they also feature Hampton again on drums and vibes. The next four tracks - by the Dixie Serenaders, Candy and Coco and Bobby Gordon - were all by pick-up groups who made just a handful of records in the Los Angeles area, the Gordon group being particularly obscure. After that, however, we are in the big time again! Goodman had been in New York in July ’35 recording some of his famous Trio sides, (‘After You’ve Gone’, ‘Body and Soul’ and others), and came to Hollywood in September to cut three sides, including ‘Madhouse’ arranged by Jimmy Mundy. Like Goodman, Lionel Hampton, here at last in his own right, flitted between New York, Chicago and Hollywood for recording sessions, these two tracks being by his Orchestra and Sextette respectively.

For the rest of the tracks on this disc we are in the mid-40’s and the trad revival is in full swing. Wingy Manone, the one-armed trumpeter, had been ploughing his own individual furrow for a number of years and ‘Tailgate Ramble’ is interesting for being a joint Manone/Johnny Mercer composition, on which Mercer sings the vocal. The Zutty Singleton is a very pleasing trio track, but with Kid Ory, we are in true ‘New Orleans Revival’ land, with a band of veterans. After hearing Manone again on the Lamare track, we are getting more ‘modern’ …with Slim Gaillard. Slim and Slam’s jitterbug efforts were changing the sound of music and, with Howard McGhee on trumpet in ‘Travelin’ Blues’, we’re heading for the bop era. However, with the final track, we are firmly back to a trad jazz sound, the Yerba Buena Jazz Band being composed of San Francisco locals, who send us stomping to the end of the disc. A far cry from the ‘West Coast Sound’ still to come.