Chet Baker (trumpet) Bob Brookmeyer (valve trombone) Bud Shank (baritone saxophone) Russ Freeman (piano) Carson Smith (bass) Shelly Manne (drums) Radio Annex, Los Angeles, CA, September 9 & 15, 1954
Tommyhawk or Tomahawk? Typical mid ’50s West Coast jazz, strong-swinging, format AABA: melody statement (A), repeat (A), contrast series of instrument solos in turn (B), followed by repetition of the melody (A).
Brookmeyer’s valve trombone and Shank’s baritone sax harmonies fill the lower register, paired against Bakers clean pure trumpet, a quite different chemistry to the East Coast smog-filled tenor-driven quartet/quintet. Baker’s tone is perfectly formed, not yet ravaged by narcotics and the grit of life. The solos are eloquent and passionate, melodically efficient to fit the time constraint rather than exploring the harmonic potential. In all a delightful ’50s innocent mood (overlooking the narcotics, of course), with added Californian sunshine.
Vinyl: (PJLP-15) UK Vogue L.D.E I59
UK Vogue edition of Pacific Jazz PKLP-15. The original labels (cover art is same): This UK Vogue edition:
Photography “pixel-peepers” note: This one stubbornly refused to give up its etchings without a fight, hence some rogue reflections. The Decca mechanical stamp VMG number is no problem, but the relatively shallow Pacific Jazz-related hand etchings, which I guess were added at the point of mastering, relate to the internal PJ identifiers, and the delta and four digits, which is entirely unfamiliar format, is anyone’s guess. . If anyone can decipher these, I’ll be impressed.
Cover back liner notes by British jazz writer and critic Alun Morgan, cleverly rendered readable in full screen with new sharpening technique (sponsored by Specsavers)
Sadly (for us Brits) the original PJLP back cover is just a hairs-breadth better. Well quite a lot of hair really, a full head of hair, if you insist. (sponsored link by Regain, for men)
(sob) Well at least we can write…
Unintentionally, purchased at exactly the time Roudolf was crafting his 10″ transition master work, so I couldn’t resist a segue, now you can hear a 10″ vinyl as well as look at it.
I’ve decided, they can be rather cute, provided your ear is attuned to that early ’50s mode of jazz, one which predates the new condenser microphones that arrived soon after, and revolutionised audio recording. (Call me out!) This doesn’t sound at all bad, in fact, it sounds very good, benefitting from superb Decca engineering. New Malden, our answer to New Jersey.
A few other 10″ers have turned up, but in the process I have discovered you have to be wary of a couple of things. 1955 was not a good time for home record players – heavy tonearms were quite unforgiving and did bad things to vinyl when jogged. Worse, you have to watch for recording studio’s penchant for adding strings to anything they can, providing lucrative employment twenty violinists and more important, for arrangers. Arrangers seemed to be held in awe, somewhat like DJs today. They could read music, score different instruments, and in my view, kill off the essential spontaneity of jazz and turn it into a regimented military exercise. A roll call of jazz luminaries on the credits gives little indication of what you will find within.
10″ vinyl are long-playing records – just a tad shorter. I was mistaken in my original judgement of the format, and I am kicking myself for spurning so many offers over the last few years. You need to be highly selective as there is quite a lot of very dated and unappealing material out there, but some gems too. Now they have caught my interest, however, they seem to have disappeared. One suburban record store manager told me his 10″ stock took up too much shelf space (and didn’t justify it) so had removed them to storage. Another told me he had just sold the last of them, wasn’t expecting more.
I hear the cassette is making a comeback. What next, a revival in wax cylinders?