Wednesday, July 24, 2013

West Coast Showcase

Two of LA's finest working out at a Pacific Jazz recording date. Art Pepper and Bud Shank also moonlighted for Decca in 1957, under the direction of composer Howard Lucraft. William Claxton photo

Here's a recording I came across in the stacks a few months back that I realized I'd never listened to (got quite a few like that!). I'd judged it by its cover when I acquired it a few decades back, thinking it was just another attempt by a major label to sell "jazz" to a mainstream audience with syrupy arrangements and restrained soloists. Wrong.

Lucraft with Lady Day during her
appearance on his "Jazz Inter-

national" TV show.
I'd never heard of Howard Lucraft, the album's arranger, composer and anonymous guitarist, before finding this LP. Despite my initial misgivings, he turns out to be a musician of some stature, and a very fine arranger/composer in the mainstream modern jazz vernacular. He also was an accomplished journalist, writing for jazz pubs like Down Beat and Metronome, a correspondent for the London Daily Herald and host of his own jazz radio and TV shows. He was also a very fine photographer, mostly of other jazz players.

A renaissance man, in other words.

Born in London during the first world war, Lucraft arrived in Los Angeles in 1950 and decided to stay. He worked in the studios, wrote, composed, arranged, broadcasted and even played out a bit. In '54 he hooked up with Stan Kenton and formed "Jazz International," an organization that promoted America's classical music worldwide. He even found time to make a few records.

This album didn't set the world on fire, but it's a fine, swinging affair with very tasty performances from the cream of the West Coast crop in 1957. Present are Bud Shank, Art Pepper, Conte Condoli, Bob Cooper, Buddy Collette, Pete Jolly, Red Mitchell, Stan Levey, Mel Lewis and others. It's almost as though Lucraft and Decca hijacked a Pacific Jazz session for this date. While the results are somewhat less adventurous than a typical PJ recording, the performances are excellent, and Pete Jolly's accordion is an added treat. The guitarist isn't really John Doe, by the way – it's Lucraft himself. Chalk up another skill for the multi-talented Brit.

This gem required no cleaning of sound, so what you hear is pure vinyl – taken directly from the original, of course.

Showcase for Modern Jazz
Howard Lucraft & Outstanding West Coast Jazz Men
Decca DL 8679

Collective personnel: Conte Condoli, Stu Williamson, tp; Bud Shank, Buddy Collette, Art Pepper, Charlie Mariano, Bob Cooper, reeds; Frank Rosolino, tbn; Pete Jolly, Claude Williamson, p; Howard Lucraft, g; Red Mitchell, Monty Budwig, Leroy Vinnegar, b; Mel Lewis, Stan Levey, Shelly Manne, d. (see cover for specific personnel)
Los Angeles, CA; 1957

1. Blue Moon
2. I'll Never Say Never Again
3. California Zephyr (Lucraft)
4. I may Be Wrong
5. Larrissa (Lucraft)
6. Midnight Sun
7. Smog a la Mode (Lucraft)
8. Jazz for Gene (Lucraft)
9. Two Part Contention

Find it here:


  1. Thanks!

    Track 3 (California Zephyr) appears to be missing...

    1. Oops! Must have left that one out, JH. I'll reload the file later today. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. OK, gang, the missing "California Zephyr" is now available (see link above). I've uploaded it as a separate file so if you've already downloaded the original offering, you won't have to do it over again. Sorry about the omission!

  3. Thank you for this one David. What a great collection and some outstanding West Coast players.

  4. Glad you like it, JC. I've had it for many years and never really gave it a listen until a just before deciding to post it. I was pleasantly surprised -- a really fine jazz LP! Guess I should listen to my records more often ...

  5. Hey, Mr. Gems...Mr. Double D.
    I'm a long-time jazz lover, back to the mid 60's in NYC, when I was in High School, so finding your corner of the Jazz Universe is very sweet. You got some great taste in tunes, and even if RapidShare has gone to the Clouds, they still work for you and others, so I'm a very happy camper.
    As to your comment "I was pleasantly surprised -- a really fine jazz LP! Guess I should listen to my records more often ..." yeah, true that, for all us record collectors.
    And just a koinkidink, I was reading Gene Lees' Friends Along the Way, chapt. 6 The Pittsburgh Connection: Stanley Turrentine... he was saying to Gene...
    "Then Alfred Lion approached me. He wanted to record me. I started recording with Blue Note and stayed about fifteen years. They've put those records out on CD now. The only way found out was from a little kid. I was playing a festival in California. I think it was at Long Beach. A kid came up with about ten CDs. He said, "Oh, Mr. Turrentine! Would you autograph these- your new CDs?" And I looked at them, and there were things from 1960, 1964. But they were new to that kid."

    Dig. This is the place where the greats still play. And it's new to the kid. And it's new to you, too. And me. And jazzcat1228 and anybody in the world lucky enough to have the connection, the freedom to use it and the desire to hear.

    So, it's always new somewhere. And right now, as I write this, I'm listening to Basie at the World's Fair...yeah, the Maine one, up your way. So congrats on getting into the blog, and sharing all the good times and arrangements, and just letting the good times roll for us, with a lot of work on your part.

    Best wishes from a fellow collector, who got his first jazz record in the A&P at the age or about 10 or so... you remember those, the compilation 10" EP's that were the History of Jazz by decade. I thought Miff Mole, and Mound City Blue Blowers were like, cartoon characters.

    OK, you catch my drift. All good. New to the kid.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Den NC USA

    1. Welcome aboard, Den! Very nice to hear from you, and what a great note! I didn't know the A&P sold records back then, but I guess nearly every venue did at one point. Prescient observation too about the newness of things hoary but unheard. From that perspective, we're all blessed to hear "new" things every day. I know I do. Then I share 'em here on Gems. All the best to you and yours!

  6. Excellent stuff! One I've been looking for from this master is his 1960 release "Intensity" - fantastic album/release (because it's the old "i loaned it to a girlfriend who promptly dumped me and kept all my great cd's" scenario.....). Great great selections here.

    1. Don't have that Art Pepper album, anacondon, sorry. But if it's Pepper you're into, try this blog. This fellow's got plenty of great Art (and other stuff, too):

  7. Here's a fixed link to the upload for this offering:

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Thank you very much for your amazing blog. One small thing on this LP: As a long time jazz guitarist, I'm quite certain that Howard Roberts is playing here and that the strange credits were necessary because Decca was unable to obtain a release to use his services. In any event, the lines, touch and tone are pure HR. Thanks again!

    1. Damn, stringbender, you've got good ears. I admit I was quite impressed by Lucraft's versatility, assuming he was the guitarist. But the other Howard makes more sense. Duly noted. Thanks!