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Sunday, November 11, 2012



Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved

The September 10, 1956 TV Guide listing for Stars of Jazz gave top billing to the appearance of Julie London.  The future-to-be Mrs. Troup was accompanied on the program by Barney Kessel on guitar plus Ray Leatherwood on bass singing Gershwin’s ‘S WONDERFUL and David Raksin’s LAURA.  Al Viola also appeared on the program performing a guitar solo of Howard Dietz’s and Arthur Schwartz’s ALONE TOGETHER.  The instrumental combo headlining the program was the Hampton Hawes Trio with Hampton Hawes, piano, Red Mitchell, bass and LeRoy McCray, drums.  The trio would perform A NIGHT IN TUNISIA, BODY AND SOUL and a Hampton Hawes original, COOLIN’ THE BLUES.

Robert Gordon’s JAZZ WEST COAST: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s, London, Quartet Books, 1986, pp. 118-120, provides a synopsis of Hampton Hawes background:

Hampton Hawes was born 13 November 1928. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother played piano for the church choir, so Hawes grew up steeped in the music of the black church. He took up piano at an early age, teaching himself to play by listening to pianists like Freddy Slack, Fats Waller and Earl Hines on the radio, picking out melodies on the parlor piano. By the time he was in high school, Hawes was playing professionally. He recalled:

In 1947, I graduated from Polytechnic High School, split out the back of the auditorium (thinking, Damn, I'm free, got my diploma and didn't fuck up, can sleep till twelve tomorrow), threw my cap and gown in the back of the Ford and made it only fifteen minutes late to the Last Word where I was working with the Jay McNeely band. A few months later I joined Howard McGhee's quintet at the Hi-De-Ho. Bird had worked his way back from the East Coast and joined us. [Hampton Hawes and Don Asher, Raise Up Off Me, New York, DaCapo, 1979, pp. 12-13]

In the next several years Hawes made jazz time with just about all the regulars on Central Avenue - often in the company of Wardell Gray or Sonny Criss - and began to acquire a growing, if local, reputation. He moved to New York for a short time, then went on the road with Wild Bill Moore's band, and later worked with Red Norvo in San Francisco and Happy Johnson in Las Vegas. By the early fifties he was back in Los Angeles, playing Sunday sessions at the Lighthouse. In 1951 he was pianist on the Shorty Rogers 'Popo' session, and the following year he recorded with Art Farmer and Wardell Gray ('Farmer's Market') for Prestige and Art Pepper ('Surf Ride') for Discovery. In September 1952 Hawes got his own session for Discovery, recording 'Jumpin' Jacque', 'Don't Get Around Much Anymore', 'It's You or No One' and 'Thou Swell' backed by Joe Mondragon and Shelly Manne. Then, just as things were moving into high gear, he got his notice from Uncle Sam.

When he was finally released from the army in 1955, Hawes returned to LA to re-establish his credentials as a musician. His luck finally turned for the better. First, Shelly Manne introduced Hawes to Lester Koenig, who was anxious to record the pianist on his Contemporary label. Then, by sheer serendipity, the Hampton Hawes Trio was formed. As Hamp remembered it:

Next day John Bennett, owner of The Haig on Wilshire Boulevard, phoned and said if I'm available he wanted me to come in with a trio and there was a bass player standing right next to him who would be perfect for me. Things were happening-, I wasn't forgotten. I drove down there and the bass player said, 'I'm Red Mitchell and I think we might have fun playing together.' I said, 'Well let's go in and see.' Four bars into 'All the Things You are' I turned to him and said, 'I think we're going to have fun playing together.' With Mel Lewis on drums, and then Chuck Thompson who had played in the Happy Johnson band with me, we began a two-week engagement that stretched to eight months. I can't remember a happier time. [Ibid, pp. 77-78]

A few months later Hamp felt ready to record. The session was held in the gymnasium/auditorium of the Los Angeles Police Academy in Chavez Ravine, an isolated (in those pre-Dodger days) setting several miles from downtown Los Angeles, and lasted from midnight to dawn on 28 June 1955. 'They had a good Steinway there that Arthur Rubinstein used,' Hawes explained, 'and Lester [Koenig] wanted to get away from the cold studio atmosphere, experiment with a more natural sound. It was a relaxed session, the lights were low, Jackie [Hamp's wife] and Red's wife Doe sipping beer at a table behind the piano while we played ..., [Ibid, 78] Lester Koenig expanded on this in the liner notes of the resulting album:

It was agreed Hamp would just play sets as he did on the job, letting the tunes run as long as he pleased. We got a balance while he warmed up, and when he was in the mood, the recording machines were turned on. Between sets we listened to a few playbacks, had a few drinks, made additional takes on a couple of tunes, and so the pre-dawn hours passed quickly and pleasantly. [Notes to Contemporary 3505]

The album, Hampton Hawes Trio, Vol. 1, was a best-seller for Contemporary, and established Hawes's credentials on a national level.  In the next year Hampton Hawes recorded two more trio albums for Contemporary and went on a nationwide tour which included an extended stay in New York.

When Hampton Hawes made his appearance on Stars of Jazz he was booked into an extended gig at Jack Tucker’s Tiffany Club.  The Down Beat Critics Award for New Star in the piano category had been awarded to Hampton Hawes and the award would be presented to Hawes by Jack Tucker at the end of the Stars of Jazz program.

(Julie London, Hampton Hawes, Jack Tucker)

Julie London’s debut on record was on a Bethlehem LP entitled “Bethlehem’s Girl Friends” where she shared billing with Carmen McRea and Chris Connor.  Julie was backed on that album by an instrumnetal combo led by Bobby Troup that included Buddy Collette on alto sax and flute; Howard Roberts on guitar; Bob Enevoldsen on bass; Don Heath on drums and Bobby Troup on celeste.

Bobby Troup had recorded two LPs for Bethlehem following his debut on record with Capitol Records.  Harry Babasin had recorded Bobby’s trio live at the Celebrity Room and the session was to be the first release in a new series on Nocturne Records under the banner, Music in Hollywood.  Harry Babasin and Roy Harte had launched Nocturne Records in 1954, initially with a vocal release aimed at the pop market, and then with a Jazz In Hollywood series featuring jazz artists not being given a nod by the existing record companies.  

Nocturne Records folded in 1955 and the assets were acquired by Liberty Records.  The Bobby Troup Trio session would be released on Liberty, and Bobby Troup was instrumental in bringing Julie London to the label where he produced Julie London’s first two Liberty LPs, JULIE IS HER NAME (Liberty LRP3006) and LONELY GIRL (Liberty LRP3012). CRY ME A RIVER from Julie’s first Liberty album became a million seller soon after its release.  Julie’s accompaniment on the Stars of Jazz program was quite deliberate, Barney Kessel and Ray Leatherwood had backed Julie on her first Liberty LP, and Al Viola’s appearance was deliberate as well.  Al Viola on Spanish guitar had been the sole accompaniment to Julie London on her second Liberty LP.

SHOW #12
SEPTEMBER 10, 1956
The Hampton Hawes Trio: Hampton Hawes, piano; Red Mitchell, acoustic double bass; LeRoy McCray, drums. Al Viola, guitar. Julie London, vocal; lip syncing to her Liberty recording with Barney Kessel, guitar, Ray Leatherwood, bass.

Production credits:
Host: Bobby Troup
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Director: Norman Abbott
Technical Director: Bob Trachinger
Lighting Director: Vincent Cilurzo
Audio Engineer: Chuck Lewis
Video Engineer: Tom Sumner
Cameramen: Claire Higgins, Jack Denton

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