Pure Jazz Magazine is a semi annual magazine featuring in depth Jazz stories, interviews plus other information you may find interesting. Based in Brooklyn, USA for the world.
The Los Angeles Jazz Scene Featuring Bassist Henry “The Skipper” Franklin By Arlene Hayes Is Jazz alive and well in Los Angeles, California? A good question coming from those of you who luckily inhabit the cold streets of New York City where there is no question about jazz being alive and well!!! According to The Skipper, “Los Angeles was once a center of jazz. The bustling Central Avenue Jazz Scene, the Jazz Mecca, ended in the late 50’s but 30-40 jazz clubs were alive and well. Musicians were working 5-7 nights a week during this great era you might call the Renaissance of Jazz.” But that was then. This is the reality of now! A completely different scene. Jazz clubs that we knew and loved have closed and continue to close. Jazz lovers are holding Jazz Salons in their homes. There are a few functioning jazz clubs but many of our favorites are gone. Those of us who love jazz are strategically trying to figure out a planwhich will happen! The tenacious lovers of jazz in this city will not give up because Los Angeles is still the proud city of great, and I mean great, jazz players. We love to hear them play and will go anywhere to hear them. I could give you a long list of names-players you may or may not have heard of… great players…straight ahead players…make you think you’re listening to former greats such as Miles and Coltrane. We’ll start with one great player, a bassist, named Henry Franklin, “The Skipper”. The Skipper was born Oct. 1, 1940, which he says was “the perfect time to be born in that city.” He graduated from Manuel Arts High School in 1958 and he immediately immersed himself in the jazz culture of the city along with colleagues in his age group: Bobby Hutcherson, William Henderson, Roy Ayers, Herbie Lewis, Carl Burnett, Albert Stinson, to name just a few. The local pace setters were: Harold Land, Billy Higgins, Frank Morgan, Hadley Caliman, Herman Riley, Leroy Vinnegar, Red Mitchell, Horace Tapscott, Shelly Manne, Hampton Hawes, Lawence Marabo, Scott LeFaro, Curtis Amy, Teddy Edwards, Elmo Hope, and more. According to The Skipper, “Back in my day all the young cats would go listen to learn from the elders. I’m not so sure that this is still happening! Anyway, in those days bands came from the East to work in our city and I made it my business to go hear every bass player who entered the city, to observe and hopefully ask questions” and consequently the players from the East and West Coasts developed a rapport and friendship. The guys in Henry Franklin’s age group began getting calls from East Coast band leaders to come and work in their bands. The Skipper got a call in 1963 from Willie Bobo to come and join his band. “With blessings from my family I packed my bags and moved to The Big Apple to seek fame and fortune. I fortunately was able to move in with my good friend Roy Ayers, who got his call a few years earlier from Herbie Mann. As it turned out Mr. Bobo was not working regularly so it gave me time to hang out with ‘The Cats’ and work a little bit. The highlight for me was working with Archie Shepp at the Fillmore East! “ Page 18 - Pure Jazz Magazine
If I may digress a bit, this was when I met Henry, The Skipper. I was lucky enough to be in NYC with someone who knew Roy Ayers so I was thrown in to the jazz scene…heard everyone there was to hear. Went everywhere there was to go…You name it…I was there and heard them. There were Betty Carter and Elvin Jones at the Five Spot, Sun Ra and Herbie Hancock at Slugs, Count Basie at Count Basies’ uptown, right next to Wells ,where you could eat great food and listen to music. There were great horn players like Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, and of course Miles at the Vanguard. And of course…there was Coltrane. I am so blessed to have been a part of the most remarkable era in jazz there ever was, or ever will be, in my humble opinion. So back to The Skipper, “I stayed about one year with Willie and when we got to Los Angeles to work in a club there I gave him my two week notice. Ironically, the last night Hugh Masakela was in the audience and he pulled me aside and asked me if I’d like to join the new band he was forming! Of course I said “Yes” and for the next four years I saw The World through Rose Colored Glasses. We had a platinum record, Grazing in the Grass, which kept us in ‘tall cotton’ for a long time.” “It’s now 1969 and time to move on. I free lanced around home, working with Bobby Hutcherson, John Carter, Bobby Bradford, Shelly Manne, Teddy Edwards, etc., doing a lot of recording and working with my own band. In 1970 my pianist friend, Gene Russell, formed a record company, Black Jazz Records, and asked if I would be the house bassist. I did two albums with him, one with Doug and Jean Carn and two with Calvin Keyes. I recorded my first album ‘The Skipper’ on that label, with Oscar Brashear, Charles Owens, Michael Carvin and William Henderson. Henry “The Skipper” Franklin “In 1971 I got a call from Sonny Rollins to work The Monterey Jazz Festival with him and after that work a couple of other appearances. Shortly after that I joined Gene Harris-The 3 Sounds- with Carl Burnett and, back on the road for another fun three years. We recorded three albums for Blue Note. Then I got my first call to go to Europe…with Hampton Hawes Trio. We started in Montrouex and worked throughout Europe for three months. I worked on and off with Hamp until his death about four years later, in 1975. I was also working with another giant, Freddie Hubbard! I’ve really been fortunate to have worked with such geniuses throughout my career.” “Around that time I was disappointed with the recording companies and I decided to form my own company, SP Records. I have released 28 CD’s and I have 24 CD’s/Albums of my own so far on this label. I’ve been lucky to have travelled to 60 countries with Dutch pianist Rene Van Helsdringen, violinist Luluk Puwanto and Los Angeles drummer, Donald Dean. I’ve worked in Japan seventeen times so far and worked in China three times with Bill Heid and Danny Woody. In Oct. 2015 I worked in Yervan, Armenia, with Willie Jones III and Louis Van Taylor.” “Although there are a very few clubs left to work in Los Angeles, I find myself keeping busy with Azar Lawrence West Coast Band, Theo Saunders’ band, my band, recording sessions and record company business. My latest CD is “Three More Sounds” and watch out for the upcoming “High Voltage”. Pure Jazz Magazine - Page 19