Chet Baker: Sextet (1954-5) 10″ Pacific Jazz/ Vogue


Selection: Tommyhawk


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): PJLP-15_16-labelsThis 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…

Collector’s Corner

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?

14 thoughts on “Chet Baker: Sextet (1954-5) 10″ Pacific Jazz/ Vogue

  1. I love the “Tommyhawk”! The arrangement is great, as are the solos. I was in high school when this stuff came out. Pacific Jazz became one of my favorite labels. I have between 300 and 350 10-inch Jazz LPs.


  2. I love the 10″ format. I have a handful of originals. The one that stands out is “Afro-Cuban” by Kenny Dorham on Blue Note 5065. I was pondering to get the 12″ version, but the true original release of this material is on the 10″, with the original cover art as well. So, as I’m a 1st pressing fundamentalist, it was a no-brainer to get the 10″ LP of this title. Looking to collect a lot more ten inchers in the future. Nice post! I love Chet Baker, and I’m going to try and get all his 10″ Pacific Jazz material. Superb stuff. Love the first one PJLP-1 with Mulligan which I have. Great cover art on that. One of my favorites.


  3. I really enjoyed that track. Terrific piano from Russ Freeman too. He sold 30m records, you know, and in the early-60s appeared on virtually every major TV variety — no, wait…


  4. Funny you should mention the cassette making a comeback. A couple weeks ago, I was surprised by an email advertisement from a record store for their “cassette day sale”. I’m not quite sure what niche this format will occupy. Must be nostalgia…and audio stores trying to unload their stacks of used ’70s and ’80s vintage cassette recorders.

    Having said that, I still have two cassette decks in my home, although currently not connected. Plus boxes and boxes of cassette tapes I recorded during the college years. Thinking back, I was exposed to a tremendous amount of jazz through the cassette…


  5. Lovely post, thanks.
    I put my 10″ on shelves of 30 x 67 cm. The 12″ are in 37 x 67 cm space. They insists to be kept apart. It’s cosy.
    Photographer William Claxton in 1992, reminiscent of the P.J. 14, 15 and 16 period, said: “These covers all were created in the darkroom by projecting light patterns on the printing paper. The actual lights were the overhead stage lights on the stage of the Capitol Records studio on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.”
    An alternate take of “Stella by Starlight” was used on the EP issue (EP 4-24).
    Tommyhawk: there is pun intended here. Who is Tommy? A similar, obvious one on Baker’s P.J. 9 (the Ensemble): Bockanal (for Producer Richard Bock)..


  6. I have only one jazz 10″ in my collection, quite a problem as i just don’t know where to put it…need some more, urgently !


    • I had the same problem, pack them in a twelve inch jacket they lose their “special ” status. Am I being size-ist? I created a special section on the shelf for the half dozen10″ I have. They get together famously when every one else has gone to bed, chat about the old times, California sun and where to make the best connection.


      • The “Tommyhawk” sounds fantastic. — Thanks for posting. — If you are digging 10″-es, you are not very far from going after their older, err, “brothers”, the 78’s, heavy, but a very good alternative if you have the right equipment to play them.

        — I did it once (it’s mainly a space problem), and purchased a shellack via ieBuy (sorry, but I won’t promote them), because every 12″-release of a certain track was spoiled by RCA with reverb: “Jumpy Nerves” with Wingy Manone & His Orchestra, featuring Leon “Chu” Berry. It’s weird, but this was the only track I needed. It’s a 1939-remake of Wingy’s “Tar Paper Stomp” (1930) which is the very first tune, sporting the famous “In The Mood” riff.


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