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Friday, May 4, 2012

THE PJM-WPM SERIES


THE MARK IV SERIES
© James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

By 1957 the retail price on World Pacific’s 1200 LP series was $4.98.  Dick Bock decided to introduce a series of jazz LPs that would have a suggested retail price of $3.98.  The in-house code name for the series was Mark IV for the four dollar price point.  The series was short lived with only twelve albums in the line.  Many of these albums would be repackaged and added to the 1200 series.  The 1958 catalogue lists a run down of the retail prices on the current lines offered by World Pacific.


Initial releases in the Mark IV series had maroon labels with an M and a IV in the background.  This concept was abandoned when the World Pacific name change was introduced and the remainder of the albums produced in this series used a blue label with the World Pacific logo.  The PJM prefix would eventually be changed to a WPM prefix as well.


ALL LABEL IMAGES © EMI CAPITOL MUSIC












ALL LABEL IMAGES © EMI CAPITOL MUSIC

Noted jazz critic, broadcaster and author Will Thornbury interviewed Dick Bock at length in 1963 and 1984.  In one interview segment Dick Bock stated that they never achieved success in marketing the Cy Touff / Richie Kamuca sessions.  The album never reached the level of sales that it should have achieved.  Bock felt this was due in part to not having a well known ”star” as neither Touff or Kamuca were well known nationally and neither had toured fronting their own groups.  On the other hand the album was highly regarded among all musicians and several jazz DJs selected tracks as their theme music for their shows. “HAVIN’ A BALL” was the second attempt to market this album and it would be repackaged again in the 1960s as “KEESTER PARADE” in the new Pacific Jazz series, PJ-42.  Johnny Mandel wrote many charts for Pacific Jazz sessions, these were among, if not, his finest.

The following liner notes from the original release, PJ-1211, are © EMI CAPITOL MUSIC.


PJ-1211

CY TOUFF, HIS OCTET & QUINTET
FEATURING RICHIE KAMUCA, HARRY EDISON,
PETE JOLLY, & RUSS FREEMAN

Liner notes by Woody Woodward

Ordinarily the planning and production of a jazz album is a relatively simple matter taking perhaps four or five months from the planning stage to its subsequent arrival at the record counter.  The history of this album's development is quite a different story.

It all began in September 1953, when Richard Bock, John Mandel and I found ourselves engaged in a conversation regarding four arrangements Mandel had done for Terry Gibbs.  To Bock and me they were like a breath of fresh air.

As Bock had a thriving young record company at his disposal, it followed that his interest was more than casual—particularly when it came to John Mandel and the prospects of recording his music.  John was broached on the subject—would he consider doing some arrangements of this sort for Pacific Jazz?  He most certainly would.

We proceeded to discuss the plans; how the material should be handled, who could best play the music in the way John had in his mind without subverting their own musical personalities.  The music wasn't a great problem as John had clear cut ideas about that.  It would be rather simple in structure, loosely arranged—extroverted and infectious in nature.  The underlying Basie concept.

The musicians were another matter.  Of course, Harry Edison came to mind immediately.  Who could better play the jazz trumpet parts than the man who had spent more than ten years in that role with Basie himself.  As for the others, the choices were vague—we had to give the matter a great deal of thought.  We departed, each going his separate way, with no concrete plans beyond Bock's invitation to discuss it further at a later date.

In the months that followed, we came in occasional contact, each time the subject was touched upon, nothing important developed.  After almost a year had gone by, the whole thing was all but forgotten.  Then in the summer of 1954, Woody Herman brought his new band through Hollywood and with it an exciting new jazz voice—a 26 year old bass trumpeter form Chicago named Cy Touff.  He played with the dynamic attack of a lead trombonist on the "shouters" and the delicacy of a muted mellophone on the ballads.  Bock went several steps out of his way to meet and talk to Touff—the subject being records.  Cy's name was placed alongside that of Harry Edison.  It was another year before anything further developed.

On Wednesday afternoon, September 1, 1955, I received a phone call from Cy.  He had just arrived in Hollywood and asked me to meet him at Capitol Studios where they were rehearsing the new Herman Octet.  There, I renewed an old acquaintance with a young tenor player from Philadelphia, Richie Kamuca.  That afternoon and during several rehearsals that followed I had the opportunity to hear Richie at length—he was impressive.  On Tuesday night, September 6, Bock heard him during a rehearsal and substantiated my opinion.  There was no question about it—Richie Kamuca was our man.

During those rehearsals, another musician made quite an impression—drummer Chuck Flores.  He had been with Herman for several years—proof enough of his ability.  But it wasn't until those rehearsals, propelling, kicking, and sparking the Octet that the point was driven home—that Chuck Flores was one of the most exciting young drummers in the nation.  Flores was included in our plans.

Needless to say, Cy greatly influenced our decision to use Kamuca and Flores.  He had been working with them for more than a year and regarded them as outstanding jazz musicians and as an asset to the album.  Cy further suggested using bassist Red Mitchell, and pianist Pete Jolly.  Since both Kamuca and Jolly were under contract to RCA Victor it was necessary to secure permission to use them.  On Thursday night September 8, the Herman Octet opened at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas for an undetermined length of time.  Unless something unforeseen came up, we expected to record early in November.  On October 6, we received a telegram from RCA Victor:  "You have permission to use both Pete Jolly and Richie Kamuca."-signed Jack Lewis, Director Jazz Artist and Repertoire.

On Thursday night October 13, I flew to Las Vegas to confer with Cy Touff.  Cy and Richie played me some things they had worked out for the two horns—the idea was born to record half the album utilizing these head arrangements.  I also learned that the band would be in Hollywood the last week in November.

Now, for the first time we had something concrete to go by and a tentative deadline.  Mandel was contacted and informed of what to expect in the way of time.  He was writing for five horns and three rhythm:  Two trumpets, a bass trumpet, a tenor, an alto or baritone, and piano, bass and drums.  He decided to use the additional two horns (a trumpet and alto or baritone) purely for ensemble voicing, thereby leaving the jazz choruses to the rest of the band and having two instruments available at all times for the written passages.  The arrangements were under way, Touff, Kamuca, Edison, Flores, Jolly and Mitchell were set—six down and two to go.

From our earliest discussions with Cy, he voiced an interest in recording someplace other than a regular recording studio—some place with natural acoustics like a large auditorium.  He believed the musicians would be more relaxed under such conditions and anyway he was tired of the dead sound of the usual recording studio.  All through the month of November we scouted around for a suitable location—it seemed a large vacated theatre might be the best bet.  After investigating five or six, Bock found a promising theatre—the Forum, on West Pico Boulevard.  The 1500 seat theatre had since fallen into limbo along with silent pictures and extravagant Hollywood premiers.

On Friday morning, November 25, Cy called from Las Vegas; he, Riche, and Chuck would arrive in Hollywood on the following Tuesday.  Arrangements were made for the record dates to take place on Sunday, December 4 at 11:00 a.m. for the Octet, and Monday at 1:00 p.m. for the Quintet.

Mandel was called again.  Everything was going smoothly with the arrangements; three of the four were nearly completed.  The fourth had been delayed because he had been snowed with arranging jobs during the last week of November.  Under the conditions he didn't see how he could do justice to the last arrangement with so little time left.  John mentioned that Ernie Wilkins (arranger and saxist with Count Basie) would be staying with him over the weekend and suggested he do it.  Wilkins was invited to do the fourth arrangement.  To complete the band, John proposed using Conrad Gozzo, possibly the best lead trumpeter in the business, and Matt Utal, who had played lead alto with Billy May, Gordon Jenkins, Xavier Cugat, Jerry Gray, and a number of other bands.

With four days to go, it appeared that Red Mitchell would be unable to make the dates as several last minute record dates had been called for the Hamp Hawes Trio, with which he was working.  A disappointment that greatly softened when we learned that Leroy Vinegar was available.  Next we learned that Pete Jolly would be out of town with Shorty Roger's Giants at the time we had scheduled the recording of the Octet recording.  He was still available for the Quintet date, but we had to get another pianist for the Sunday session.  The decision to use Russ Freeman was not a difficult one—besides recording frequently for Pacific Jazz, he was also working with Vinegar on the Manne Quintet.  Now the band was complete.

At 10:30 Sunday morning on December 4, we assembled at the Forum while the first heavy rain of the season fell outside.  Out front sat perhaps a dozen interested onlookers swallowed up in the dim reaches of the spacious auditorium.  On the lefthand side of the stage sat Richard Bock at the mixing controls and Phil Turetsky before the portable Ampex, and in the center of the stage eight musicians.

Those rare moments when a jazz group "catches on fire" are seldom captured on record.  The inescapable pressures of the recording studio and the inevitable formal gathering of musicians, technicians, and executives cause even the veteran jazz musician to withdraw somewhat.  The success of their music is so dependent on complete realization and the extroversion of the performers that it requires a live response to raise it to its full potential.  This comes from a genuine communion between performers and audience.  One feeds upon the other until it seems the excitement is unbearable.  Under ideal conditions, when the musicians are in the right frame of mind—coaxing each other to greater heights—and the others they are working with are responsive, a recording session can glow with an undefinable beauty.

As the date progressed, we experienced that special kind of glow.  It was relaxed—as Cy had predicted.  It swung, and it felt good.  On Monday it was the same story.  Each date produced a performance that required but one "take"; on Sunday it was "Keester Parade," and on Monday, "A Smooth One."  Maybe it was the welcome rain that fell both days, or the pressureless aura of the theatre.  Maybe it was the genuine sense of anticipation that had built up after months of waiting-whatever, December 4 and 5, 1955, will remain a memorable experience to all of us.


The Forum Theater was at 4050 West Pico Boulevard.

The Forum Theater in the mid 1950s

John Tynan profiled The Forum Theater for Down Beat

Some frames from the proof sheet of the session.

More frames from the session.

© James A. Harrod, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.






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