Teddy Charles (vib, p), Shorty Rogers (tp), Frank Morgan (as), Wardell Gray (ts), Jimmy Giuffre (ts, bs), Sonny Clark (p), Dick Nivison, Curtis Counce (b), Lawrence Marable, Shelly Manne (d)
Reference: FSRCD 413
Bar code: 8427328604130
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In 1952, Teddy Charles, one of the foremost vibists in the jazz scene at the time, became one of the leaders in a new movement away from the cluttered closets of bop to a new and more serious development —a synthesis of jazz and "serious" music. Early in 1953 he moved to the West Coast where he soon had ample opportunity to watch musical developments in the Coast and discover younger players like Frank Morgan, Sonny Clark and Lawrence Marable, who worked together for the first time on these recordings.
Later, the fortunate combination of Charles experience with the talents of Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, and Curtis Counce produced very effective, swinging jazz within a strikingly different medium. Hall Overton said: The challenge of the new materials serves as a spur to greater excitement. Charles reached a major achievement with these performances, that clearly established him as one of the important figures of the post bop transition period.
"In early 1953, I started to A&R for Prestige Records. Bob Weinstock, the label’s founder, asked me to move to the West Coast and put dates together. As an A&R guy, you picked the artists, you decided what music to play, and you often arranged the songs.
When I got to California, Red Norvo helped me a lot. In Los Angeles, musicians were supposed to sweat out their union card—meaning you couldn’t take a steady gig in a club for six months. This rule was in place so you didn’t come in and take away another musician’s job. Red kept me busy during this period by having me play with a mambo orchestra. Then I started playing casually at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach.
Red was great. He showed me how to use the four-mallet technique without having to change my grip. Four mallets are ideal for a big background sound since you're playing chords instead of notes. I adapted easily to the technique given my experience as a pianist.
During this period I was leading Teddy Charles and the Westcoasters with Frank Morgan, Wardell Gray, Sonny Clark, Dick Nivison and Larance Marable. We recorded a bunch of sides for Prestige. Sonny was a young kid then, and Wardell and I were buddies from Benny Goodman’s band. Wardell was a great tenor player and a good guy. In Benny’s band, we used to go upstairs at New York's Paramount Theater where they had a basketball court for employees and jam. Benny sat in on a couple of those.
By mid 1953, I recoded a date at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. Stan Getz sat in. Bob Cooper was there, Jimmy Giuffre, Russ Freeman, Howard Rumsey, of course, and Shelly Manne. Giuffre was very creative. He always came up with new stuff. The Lighthouse was a hopping place. Lots of chicks.
In August 1953 I recorded in Los Angeles with Shorty Rogers on trumpet, Curtis Counce on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. By this time, I was writing even more complex music. I remember I was rehearsing this group I was going to record for Prestige. The group included Chet Baker, Stan Getz and Al Haig. But the only one who was into the music was Al Haig. Chet had a good ear and Stan could play anything, but Chet couldn't read music and Stan wasn't into it. He wanted to play that kind of laid-back music all the Lighthouse guys were into then. New music wasn't his bag.
Around that time Chet asked my advice on whether he should go to New York. I said no, that he wasn’t ready. He was so naïve then. Chet was convinced he was in Miles’ league and went anyway. There was something about him that drove musicians nuts. He made it all look too easy. So musicians would go out of their way to make him look bad, like getting him hooked on junk.
Of course, individuals choose to take drugs. But someone put pressure on him just to throw him off his game. When he got to New York he played Birdland and soon afterward the country boy was all screwed up. What a shame.
In 1954, I decided to return to New York [...]"
—Teddy Charles, in his own words
Interviewed by Marc Myers for JazzWax (November, 2007)