Posting by Jim Harrod on Jazz Westcoast
If you also subscribe to the Chet Baker list on e-groups you will
have seen the following post which I made yesterday in response to a
member's request for more background on the newly released Chet Baker
live tracks on the new CD from BlueNote. Please forgive the
duplication -- Bobvl asked me to share it with this group as well.
I met Cecil Spiller in 1994. I had started research on the history
of Pacific Jazz and I needed a 78 turntable so that I could listen to
the first releases on 78 from Pacific Jazz. I asked Ray Avery if he
knew anyone who might have a spare turntable and Ray introduced me to
Cecil. I went out to Santa Monica to visit Cecil at his home and he
took out behind his house to his workshop.
Cecil was a thinking man's tinkerer - his workshop was piled high
with bicycle parts, electronic apparatus of every description,
ancient debris, vacuum tubes, spare electrical parts, speakers,
microphones, tools, grease, dust, the kind of place that the wife
refuses to enter to fear of getting lost. There were scores of tape
cartons, records everywhere, and yes, there was an ancient turntable,
a re-conditioned REK-O-KUT transcription model that could play 16"
transcription discs (another requirement as many Pacific Jazz
sessions were released on Armed Forces radio transcription discs). I
Later I bought a TEAC tape deck from Cecil that could handle 15ips
and studio size reels. Cecil had spare tape recorders, turntables,
amplifiers, preamps, a veritable junk yard of audio equipment -- but
Cecil had taken most of these apart and reconditioned them so that
they were in good working order.
I needed the TEAC deck so that I could listen to a batch of Pacific
Jazz studio tapes that had surfaced at a storage facility auction.
As it turns out these did not have any new material. Most seemed to
be working copies or back up copies that Richard Bock had made.
Over the next few years I would visit with Cecil on a regular basis.
He was very active on the jazz scene in Los Angeles in the late 1940s
and early 1950s. Cecil was also active in the "Muscle Beach Scene"
around this same time. He was a fine photographer. He built his own
tape recorder and used it to record the early releases of the
Lighthouse All Stars which he sold to Les Koenig.
And he went to a Teddy Charles concert at the Carlton Theater in
August of 1953. Cecil was interested in selling some of his early
recording efforts and made me a cassette tape of the concert. The
Teddy Charles group included Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, Howard
Roberts, Curtis Counce, and Shelly Manne. Russ Freeman was on piano
behind the Charles group and a Lighthouse grouping of Giuffre,
Rogers, Counce, and Manne. But the half time concert caught my
attention - it was Chet's Quartet - and it was the earliest live
recording of the group that I was aware of - of course the wonderful
thing about doing research like this is that next discovery. So I
always have my hopes up that another treasure is just waiting to be
found before it is given to the junkman and sent to a landfill.
Cecil was quite a marvel. He was in his 80s when he passed away -
still bicycling daily, and skiing. Cecil also recorded some early
Lenny Bruce which I understand will be released by Rhino Records.
When I heard this tape I realized that Chet's quartet had to have
been together for longer than a few weeks - using the dates in Jepsen
- and now we know that his first session for Pacific Jazz was on
December 15, 1952, and the next session was in mid April of 1953.
Chet was actively forming his own quartet during the time he played
with Gerry Mulligan.
Hopefully this will dispel the widely publicized notion that Chet
began to form his own group only after the breakup of the Mulligan
Quartet when Gerry was arrested and incarcerated.
>Very interesting. Curious to know what will happen with the Teddy Charles and
>the Lighthouse group recordingds on your (Cecil's) tape. Any plans?
>"James A. Harrod" a ?crit :
Yes -- the deal is still in the works. But hopefully we will see
this released soon. Cecil also recorded the LHAS at a local college
in 1956 -- Rosolino, Cooper, Shank, Clark, Levey, and Rumsey.