Friday, June 15, 2012


Chapter 14 of Kevin Starr's 2009 Book, "Golden Dreams" is entitled "Brubeck! Jazz Goes to College."  It was at tiny little George Pepperdine College at 79th and Vermont in LA where I first heard of progressive or "cool" jazz.  The big bands of the late '40s and early '50s that sent swarms of couples onto the dance floor were being moved out by a smaller groups of jazz musicians whose followers listened instead of danced, according to Starr.  In 1954, '55 and '56 I started listening too.  The college was right in the middle of this west coast music development and we were able to hear what was going on at Shelly's Mann Hole in Hollywood and at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.  Later in 1955 I discovered Chico Hamilton and his Quintet at the Strollers night club in Long Beach.

To read Starr's book, particularly the 14th chapter, is to take me on a visual treat back during those years.  There were a lot of people who didn't think that what these fellows were playing was music.  But to use an old phrase, it was music to my ears, then and now.

Through the years I've had various recordings of these jazz legends: Dave Brubeck, of course, Charlie Mingus,  Buddy Collette, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Cal Tjader, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Mann, Oscar Peterson, Chico Hamilton and jazz cellist Freddie Katz.  There were others, but these were the ones I teethed on.

The post-college years of marriage, children and work opportunities took me out of the little hole-in-the-wall jazz venues, but I've always had that time in my life - the college years - still lurking around in my soul, reminding me of good times, good friends and good music.  However, for the most part whatever recordings I had in the past - 78s, 45s, LPs and then tapes - all disappeared. When CDs appeared there was never a section set apart in Sam Goody's and other music stores for much of a cool jazz selection, and finally music stores themselves disappeared.  Except for finding a nice 2-CD set of Dave Brubeck, I had to depend on my memory for the rest of the good stuff.

However, recently I was given an iPod and I decided to load it up with whomever and whatever I could find from those "cool jazz" years.  And I pretty much have been able to give myself an "aural" treat to go along with Starr's "visual" treat.  These were my first, and favorite, choices!

I found Cal Tjader:

I found Chico Hamilton & His Quintet (with "Fred" Katz):

I found Stan Getz:

I found Chet Baker:

And here's Dave!

I cannot listen to these recordings as "background" music.  I've discovered that I need to sit somewhere comfortable, plug in my ear buds, close my eyes and simply listen.  Anyone passing by may be startled by my visage, thinking that perhaps I died sitting there, or have segued into a catatonic condition.  No, it's just me, still living and enjoying it, being transported back to being that young 18-19 year old college student, not yet old enough to drink but sitting in a quiet little club somewhere in LA getting acquainted with the most remarkable music!

1 comment:

Olga said...

Nearby Burlington just had its annual Discover Jazz Festival. I am not a huge fan like yourself, but I do enjoy the ambiance.