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Sunday, March 24, 2013


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

The TV Guide listing for the November 19, 1956 edition of Stars of Jazz noted that Annie Maloney was making her west coast debut on the program. Her appearance evidently did not achieve the desired effect of advancing her career in the music business, an outcome that would befall many hopeful vocalists who would make their one and only public appearance on Stars of JazzBobby Troup did not introduce the members of Buddy Collette’s quartet and the TV Guide listing is at odds with the information listed in most jazz discographies that credit Dick Shreve on piano and Bill Dolney on drums. In his autobiography with Steven Isoardi, JAZZ GENERATIONS, Buddy Collette confirms that the members of his quartet that played The Haig and made this appearance on Stars of Jazz included Dick Shreve, piano; John Goodman, bass and Bill Dolney, drums. 

The TV Guide editors might have taken their information from the billboard outside of The Haig that clearly credited Joe Peters on drums and Don Friedman on piano during their engagement at The Haig, and perhaps the same personnel appeared on Stars of Jazz.  Buddy Collette's recollection might have also been influenced by the CD reissue of his appearance on the program by Fresh Sound Records of Spain.  The Fresh Sound CD listed Dick Shreve on piano and Bill Dolney on drums along with John Goodman on bass for the November 19, 1956 appearance on Stars of Jazz.

Buddy also recounts that during their engagement at The Haig they were approached by Creed Taylor, the A&R head at ABC Paramount.  Taylor told Collette that he liked the music he was hearing from the quartet and asked Buddy to go ahead and make a recording, send Taylor the tape and details regarding payments due.  The resulting album, calm, cool & COLLETTE was issued on ABC Paramount around the same time that Buddy’s second album for Les Koenig’s Contemporary Records, NICE DAY WITH BUDDY COLLETTE came out.

Buddy Collette had been active in the Los Angeles jazz scene since the mid 1940s when he returned after serving in the armed forces.  He recorded several sides with Darby Hicks on the Gem and Indigo labels, with Ivie Anderson for Black & White Records, with his friend and student Charles Mingus for Swingtime, Johnny Otis for Excelsior Records, several sessions with Joe Swanson for Recorded In Hollywood, and several more sessions for Dolphins of Hollywood as leader and with Charles Mingus.  

Buddy Collette was a regular member of the studio orchestra for Groucho Marx’s YOU BET YOUR LIFE, thanks in large part to Jerry Fielding who directed music for the program.  Buddy Collette would be an integral part of the Jerry Fielding Orchestra that recorded several albums for Trend Records and Decca.

Buddy was equally at home in the recording studio playing west coast cool sessions with Jack Millman for the Jazz Studio series or esoteric twelve tone compositions with Lyle “Spud” Murphy, but his own music was in neither camp and had more in common with straight ahead jazz with an emphasis on composition.

Buddy’s association with his childhood friend Chico Hamilton as part of Chico’s quintet garnered him critical recognition and acclaim.  He would be an integral part of the original quintet that gained attention initially during a long engagement at Strollers nightclub at 27 Locust Street, Long Beach.  Buddy describes the formation of the quintet in JAZZ GENERATIONS.

Chico was always out looking for work and promoting the band. The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach was going strong at that time, always packed. So Chico went to a beer bar called Strollers, just south of Hermosa in Long Beach, and convinced the owner, a guy named Harry Rubin, that he should have live music. The only problem for me was that I was working with Scatman Crothers at the Tailspin Club in Hollywood and I had to give him two weeks notice. So I was going to be about one week late. Chico arranged to get Bob Hardaway to sub for that week and then I joined the band later.

When I finally got there, I couldn't believe the place: nothing but beer drinkers, the six-pack crowd. I told the guys, "I quit my job in Hollywood to join you and this is what you're getting me into?" It wasn't a good spot at all and it took an hour-and-a-half to get to Long Beach from Los Angeles during this pre-freeway era.

The first week I was there, it was kind of quiet, but the band began to play quite well and we really sounded pretty good. We had a three week contract or something like that. Although it had been kind of quiet. Harry apparently was breaking even. "Well, guys, your three weeks are up, but why don't we just try it a little longer. I do like the band and what you're doing. I'll contact KFOX and see if we can put in radio." He was always a promoting kind of guy. He'd try anything; that's why he always made it. The group was good and whatever publicity he was doing before, it wasn't reaching the people that we needed to reach. So Harry got the radio spot and got Sleepy Stein, who was a good disc jockey, to come in and do a show right from Strollers. That week we were on the radio half-an-hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.

We couldn't believe the next weekend. People were standing around the corner to get in the club. Our music was different and it just drew them. People would come in and say, "We were on our way to San Diego and we just had to find out where this place was with this kind of music." With most music you could predict what was going to happen, but ours was different. We didn't know what we were doing half the time, but we were having fun and the group kept getting better and growing.

At this point Fred was playing cello, not piano, all the time and that came about by accident. At first, he'd play solo cello during the intermissions, and Fred's the kind of guy who would play a long time. He'd play half-an-hour, if you let him. Fred's very energetic. But we only needed fifteen minutes. The bandstand was so small and the piano was in the back. After fifteen minutes or so we'd just get on the stand while Fred was playing cello, deep in meditation, and then all of a sudden he'd open his eyes and we'd all be there. Chico was ready to do something with his sticks and would start a number, usually improvised. Fred would stay where he was, because he couldn't get back to the piano unless we got off and let him walk through. So he'd continue playing on the cello, trying to find some of the lines that he'd been playing on the piano. All of us at the same time began to realize that we were going to get him away from the piano, because as he played the lines on cello, the group sounded completely different.

This gave Jim Hall more freedom to play his way. Jim is a very sensitive player. When Fred was playing piano, Jim would not play as much guitar. Fred's very aggressive and he fills in everything. Jim was just saying, "Well, if you're playing that much, I'll stay out of your way." But we knew what Jim could do. Occasionally Chico used to call "concerts in miniature," where we might do something with just guitar, bass and me, or a smaller combination. Now, without the piano and Fred on cello, suddenly we could hear the guitar, and the overall group sound was much cleaner. We loved that, though without saying it. We just kept writing things that kept Fred on the cello and that's how it started. With Jim playing the chords, we had more freedom. We didn't need two sets of chords going, especially since both guys didn't play chords at all alike. They were in two different worlds. Fred's a very classical type of guy in his approach to just about everything. Jim's got the classical background, but he's into jazz; he thinks that way and he plays that way. And he plays very sparse-like. He knows just what to do and when; he has sensitivity. He's listening to you and accompanying you in the best way. When that sound came together, we knew where we were going and we started to write in that same way.

The Chico Hamilton Quintet did what could be considered chamber jazz, and although we all wrote, we did more improvisation. We didn't even need music, although we did have a lot of things written down. Fred Katz liked to write everything out. Jim Hall sometimes would write pieces out. But 50 percent of the time we'd just play, improvise, not even discussing what we would play. Somebody would start a line and the line would continue with answers, fugue statements, recapitulations, and those kinds of things. The ideas would move around and come back at you like an echo. It might have begun with just a look, and before we knew it, all our minds would be locked into one. We'd frequently get requests for certain pieces, but couldn't play them again for any amount of money. They were one-time-only pieces that depended on what our experiences had been to that point and what we felt at that moment. Even pieces that were written would continually change, because of the way we approached the solos. A day or a week or two later, we might have found a different way to approach a tune. Although the listener would hear the same melody, the piece would change.

There was great sensitivity in each musician. Chico, the leader, was very unusual with his rhythms and was always sensitive to what the group was doing. Whenever we were improvising, he seemed to find the right balance. If I was playing flute, clarinet, or tenor, he knew the right approach with his instrument. We were that close; we phrased and lived together; knew each other's habits, just like family life. It really paid off, because we began to extract our style from improvisation and then most of our writing was centered around that. Everyone had music; everyone was writing. Two or three times a week, in the afternoon, we'd rehearse at the club to get this new music together. We'd run over three or four numbers for the night; we all had time to do it and liked doing it. Then we'd go have dinner and hit the bandstand.

© 2000 Buddy Collette and Steven Isoardi

© 1956, Down Beat, Maher Publications

SHOW #21
NOVEMBER 19, 1956
The Buddy Collette Quartet: Buddy Collette, alto sax, clarinet, flute; Dick Shreve, piano; John Goodman, acoustic double bass; Bill Dolney, drums. Annie Maloney, vocal; Eddie Beal, piano.

Production credits for this show:
Host: Bobby Troup
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Writer: Bob Arbogast
Director: Norman Abbott
Audio: Chuck Lewis
Cameramen: Jack Denton, Sal Folino
Technical Director: Gene Lukowski
Lighting Director: Vince Cilurzo
Video: George Hillas

The Howard Lucraft photo that greatly enhances this presentation has been provided courtesy of CTSIMAGES.  The author would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to Cynthia Sesso, Licensing Administrator of the Howard Lucraft Collection.  Please note that these photos remain the property of the Howard Lucraft Collection and are used here with permission.  Any inquiries regarding their use, commercial or otherwise, should be directed to:  Cynthia Sesso at CTSIMAGES.

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