Chet Baker | Two new books on Jazz concerning the West Coast

donte

Donte’s jazz club was one of the great jazz joints of all time — Chet worked there in the late 60s —— alas, there is nothing there but a car sales lot nowadays —- photo by Mark Weber

It was Emerson who prophesied that Americans would eventually write their personal accounts of their lives and even foresaw masterworks like Studs Turkel’s WORKING (1972) and even Charles Reznikoff’s depositions (in poem form) TESTIMONY (1968).

These two wonderful memoirs add depth and dimension to the story of West Coast Jazz that has yet to be completely written. The two extant histories are both essential: Robert Gordon’s JAZZ WEST COAST (1986), and Ted Gioia’s WEST COAST JAZZ (1992).

click the cover if you are interested in buying this book...I’m speaking of the books THEY CALL ME STEIN ON VINE (2o14) by Gary Chen, and CHET BAKER: THE MISSING YEARS (2o14) by Artt Frank.

It was Chet who gave Artt that extra T in his name. Artt Frank is a drummer and Chet had three other Arts in his address book, so he distinguished between them by adding the T, so we learn in the book. Chet was lucky to have found a friend like Artt Frank, a principled and decent, honest, human being, for this is a very human book, about friends. The “missing years” mostly represent 1968-1970 when Chet and his family lived in Los Angeles (Redondo Beach). There are at least six biographies on Chet out there, counting his own account (diary entries) posthumously published. Frank’s book works as a corrective in a sense. He has unconditional love for Chet and Chet’s music, even as he treads perilously close to what is said in AA: “We take hostages,” he avoids being sucked under — He’s a life-long practicing Christian. There are a lot of stories floating around about Chet Baker and this one is a breath of fresh air. And in the best of all possible worlds what could be better than to have a Foreward written by the great Bobby Shew, who has recently given a couple concerts here in New Mexico honoring the songs of Chet Baker. It was during one of these concerts that Bobby told his story of regret, his Almost Played With one his heroes.

“It was [at] AT MY PLACE in L.A. ( Santa Monica ). It was the last night of Chet’s lengthy tour organized by trumpeter Luis Gasca. The group backing him was Don Menza on tenor, Frank Strazzeri (pno), Joel DiBartolo (bs), and Nick Ceroli (dr). I would NEVER even think of trying to sit in with someone of his caliber and influence on me, so naturally no horn in the car. I kick myself still over that missed opportunity. Don’t recall the date but I’d guess late 70’s. It was Clora Bryant who introduced me to Chet on the break between sets and he immediately asked me to sit in. I was flabbergasted to say the least that he even knew who I was. One never know, do one?” [Bobby Shew email 1dec14]

The story of West Coast Jazz has only barely been told —— re-issue labels like VSOP and Fresh Sound have revealed the true sound that was coming out of Los Angeles on small record labels in the 1950s. Gary Chen’s memoir of working at Stein On Vine music store is priceless. The book is built up with little vignettes: splendiferous stories about all the musicians over the years that popped into Maury Stein’s music store (brother to songwriter Jule Styne). This is almost a bygone era that flows out of these pages, what a great scene was Los Angeles in those days. His book seems to cover the 70s and 80s (both books are a little weak on dates, which are helpful in historiographies.)

Mark Weber 3dec14

The Lighthouse on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach (that's the pier and the Pacific Ocean) --  June 26, 2o11 -- opened in 1949 and still has a little jazz these days (I was there on this Sunday to  catch the Lanny Morgan Sextet) the marquee has something going about karoake -- Chet Baker's  earliest known recording is "Get Happy" (1949) recorded in performance at The Lighthouse -- photo  by Mark Weber

The Lighthouse on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach (that’s the pier and the Pacific Ocean) — June 26, 2o11 — opened in 1949 and still has a little jazz these days (I was there on this Sunday to catch the Lanny Morgan Sextet) the marquee has something going about karoake — Chet Baker’s earliest known recording is “Get Happy” (1949) recorded in performance at The Lighthouse — photo by Mark Weber

11:23 a.m. -- Hollywood, California -- May 31, 2o14 -- photo by Mark Weber

11:23 a.m. — Hollywood, California — May 31, 2o14 — photo by Mark Weber

Local 47 Musician's Union, Hollywood -- this shot I'm standing directly in front of  Professional Drum Shop -- May 31, 2o14 --  (the Med Flory Memorial was getting  under way at the Union) -- photo by Mark Weber

Local 47 Musician’s Union, Hollywood — this shot I’m standing directly in front of Professional Drum Shop — May 31, 2o14 — (the Med Flory Memorial was getting under way at the Union) — photo by Mark Weber

Stein on Vine -- summer of 1979 -- photo by Mark Weber

Stein on Vine — summer of 1979 — photo by Mark Weber

John Tirabasso Quintet at the Right Track, Pasadena, California -- November 26, 1979 -- Lew Ciotti, tenor saxophone; Frank DeLaRosa, bass; Steve Huffstetter, flugelhorn & trumpet; John Tirabasso, drums; and Frank Strazzeri (electric piano) on baritone horn ---- photo by Mark Weber ------ on page 136 in Artt's memoir he tells the story of Frank and Chet playing baritone-trumpet duets on gigs in the late 60s, clarinetest Bill Payne, who worked with Strazz in the 80s, says that Frank brought that baritone horn on to gigs often back then, and that he also liked to play tenor saxophone (but, not on gigs)

John Tirabasso Quintet at the Right Track, Pasadena, California — November 26, 1979 — Lew Ciotti, tenor saxophone; Frank DeLaRosa, bass; Steve Huffstetter, flugelhorn & trumpet; John Tirabasso, drums; and Frank Strazzeri (electric piano) on baritone horn —- photo by Mark Weber —— on page 136 in Artt’s memoir he tells the story of Frank and Chet playing baritone-trumpet duets on gigs in the late 60s, clarinetest Bill Payne, who worked with Strazz in the 80s, says that Frank brought that baritone horn on to gigs often back then, and that he also liked to play tenor saxophone (but, not on gigs)

Maury Stein sits in with Don Menza's Big Big Band for a tenor battle with Ray Pizzi -- May 26, 1980  at Carmelo's, North Hollywood -- photo by Mark Weber -- Nick Ceroli, drums; Frank DeLaRosa, bass;  trumpets: Don Rader, Ron King, Chuck Findley, Frank Szabo, Bill Stapleton; trombones: Bill Moffett,  Mayo Tiana, Charlie Loper, Bill Reichenbach, Dana Hughes; saxes: Jay Migliori, Ray Reed, Gary Herbig,  Jack Nimitz and Don Menza out front; and Frank Strazzeri, piano

Maury Stein sits in with Don Menza’s Big Big Band for a tenor battle with Ray Pizzi — May 26, 1980 at Carmelo’s, North Hollywood — photo by Mark Weber — Nick Ceroli, drums; Frank DeLaRosa, bass; trumpets: Don Rader, Ron King, Chuck Findley, Frank Szabo, Bill Stapleton; trombones: Bill Moffett, Mayo Tiana, Charlie Loper, Bill Reichenbach, Dana Hughes; saxes: Jay Migliori, Ray Reed, Gary Herbig, Jack Nimitz and Don Menza out front; and Frank Strazzeri, piano

As we stood around Gerry while he signed autographs someone further  back in the crowd, half in jest, yelled, "Hey, Gerry, where's Chet?" -- July 30, 1980 --  photo by Mark Weber ---- Hollywood Bowl evening of Bless the Bird: A Tribute to  Charlie Parker ---- (obviously, at this juncture Gerry and Chet hadn't played  together since that 1974 reunion at Carnegie Hall which itself had been years -- 20? --  since they had last played together -- this guy who good naturedly had hollared was  possibly a habitue of the early 50s Haig days of the Quartet)

As we stood around Gerry while he signed autographs someone further back in the crowd, half in jest, yelled, “Hey, Gerry, where’s Chet?” — July 30, 1980 — photo by Mark Weber —- Hollywood Bowl evening of Bless the Bird: A Tribute to Charlie Parker —- (obviously, at this juncture Gerry and Chet hadn’t played together since that 1974 reunion at Carnegie Hall which itself had been years — 20? — since they had last played together — this guy who good naturedly had hollared was possibly a habitue of the early 50s Haig days of the Quartet)

My wife Dr Janet Simon with two of her patients: George Cables and Bobby Shew --  October 4, 2o14 at The Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque -- photo by Mark Weber

My wife Dr Janet Simon with two of her patients: George Cables and Bobby Shew — October 4, 2o14 at The Outpost Performance Space, Albuquerque — photo by Mark Weber

10 Comments

  1. Interesting to find out that Chet was a singer before he was a trumpet player —— his overly devoted mother entered him into singing contests when he was still a kid in Oklahoma and soon as they relocated to Los Angeles (age 10) against his wishes she was dragging him around Hollywood to singing contests all over again

  2. Yo Mark,

    Really nice review of Artts’ book. I am sure he and publisher Valerie will appreciate it. Thanks for the little kudos my way as well. I’m always flattered by your considerate support.

    Bobby

  3. Mark.
    Thanks so much for your insightful review of my book of memories about my closest friend, bandmate and confidant, “Chet Baker: The Missing Years” I’m so glad you liked Bobby Shew’s foreword.

    I also wanted to let you know that volume II of my book of memoirs about Chet will be published with a release date around or on, Valentine’s Day, 2015- The title of this one will be called, “Chet Baker: The Man Behind The Horn”

    I will keep you informed. I’d like to have your email address.

    Thanks and GOD bless you & family in YESHUA, (JESUS)
    Artt & Lisa Frank.

  4. I asked the tuba maestro William Roper to verify this “baritone” horn that Frank Strazzeri is playing in the photo. William collects tubas and all the low end horns. His Comment follows.

  5. Mark,
    You can call it a baritone horn, but it is not. Not baritone horn or euphonium. You are asking because it doesn’t fit the bill of either, correct? I would say that it is quite clearly a valve trombone in an unusual shape. You see that there is absolutely no taper on the thing until you get to the bell. It is a valve trombone. If you print that you will get all kinds of arguments from people who don’t really know what they are talking about, including trombone players, guys who played with him, etc. That is only to be expected; most of them don’t know the difference between a baritone and a euphonium.

  6. Michael Vlatkovich

    December 5, 2014 at 8:05 am

    mister ZerX,

    I think it’s an e-flat horn. It’s not a baritone horn. The Brits used a lot of these weird instruments in marching bands. Mister Roper would be more helpful.

  7. Mark, You the man. When is YOUR book coming out?

  8. All I can say is that I love it all!!! The writing, the music and the comments…

  9. Nice review of Chet Baker books —

    Mark, I think that guy is playing a stradivarius bowless baroque valved violacrumbhorn, which can make quite a scratchy but voluminous sound on Christmas Carols but usually more mellow on Christmas Cathies.
    It was a nice review, nice photos and it’s time to start on your Califas Jass Book. Maybe after the Bobby Bradford book.
    We head off on the 14th for California, get back just before New Year.
    I hope you and Janet have a nice mid-winter space in existence.
    Cheers, Ken and Jeanie

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