Weekend Extra: Shorty Rogers On TV

Bassist Chuck Deardorf called my attention to a video from the early 1960s, when jazz on the west coast of the US was attracting attention around the world. Many big band sidemen settled in southern California in the 1950s, joining the Los Angeles jazz community that had been vibrant for more than a Shorty Rogersdecade. The former Woody Herman and Stan Kenton trumpeter Shorty Rogers was one of the spark plugs of what critics decided to label West Coast Jazz. By the time Oscar Brown, Jr. hosted Rogers’ quintet on his Jazz Scene USA television show, Rogers had had become influential as a composer, arranger and leader in L.A.’s recording, film and TV studios.

Jazz Scene USA production is a bit stiff. The show is made to appear as if it had a live audience, but the applause smacks of having been dubbed later. In their closeups when Brown introduces them, the guys in the band exhibit their police lineup faces. But the music, the video and the sound are excellent. In this 25-minute segment of the telecast, Rogers, saxophonist and flutist Gary LeFebvre, pianist Lou Levy, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Larry Bunker play “Greensleeves,” “Time Was,” the blues “Martians Go Home”—which for a time in the mid-fifties had been a modest hit for Rogers— and Lefebvre’s edgy “The Outsider.”

Peacock, the survivor of that group, has been a member of the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio since 1983.

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  1. Charlton Price says

    It was a golden age and time in the west for the music. Part of the migration was of the Tonight Show and Merv Griffin Show bands, which moved from New York, both with all-star personnel. Much from both bands in those years is on YouTube. Note that Steve Allen was executive producer of Jazz Scene USA via Meadowlane Productions, named for Steve’s wife, Jayne Meadows.

    So what happened to Gary LeFebvre?….

    • Doug Ramsey says

      After living in Europe for a time, in the mid-1980s LeFebvre returned to San Diego, where his family had moved from the Midwest when he was a teenager. He taught in San Diego and worked regularly with, among others, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos and bassist Bob Magnusson. He died last August at the age of 74. For an obituary, and a video of LeFebvre leading and soloing on alto saxophone with his big band, go here.

  2. John Putney says

    Marc Myers also has a background piece on LeFebvre on his JazzWax blog

    Gary LeFebvre: Ghost Great
    Posted: 25 Apr 2014 03:57 AM PDT

  3. dave bernard says

    Jazz Scene USA and Jazz Casual came during the awful dry spell of Boston’s club closings, and the end of all the great live local club radio b’dcasts, and national network jazz specials. Jazz Casual had a random schedule on National Education Television, and WNAC was the local outlet for Jazz Scene, noon Saturdays in 1964, quite a bit after its 1962 debut. One little footnote about Jazz Scene is that the intro/outro theme, ‘Give Irving My Love,’ was played by every guest in an arrangement reflecting the group’s style. In spite of Mr Allen’s cheeky title, it’s a nice vehicle for many styles. It would be interesting if someone released a disc of the theme from the 26 episodes that would include Shelly Manne, Kenton, Rosolino, Nancy Wilson, Phineas Newborn, Jimmy Smith…

  4. Don Conner says

    Terriffic video. Lefebvre is extremely good. It’s nice to hear the wildly underrated Lou Levy again.

  5. John Bartholomew says

    I’m curious if anyone else hears traces of Art Farmer in the solo Rogers plays on “Greensleeves.” Gary LeFebvre is one jazz guy I’ve not previously encountered; he seems to have been neglected. Great player. Lastly, it’s quite a pleasure to see video footage of Lou Levy!

    Odd, isn’t it, how when Rogers introduces the band members to the audience, they are all so stone faced!

  6. Paul Steinle says

    It’s a thrill to see these guys again. Rogers’ version of “Isn’t It Romantic” is still one of my all-time favorites. It formed my personal template for West Coast jazz.. I wish it had been captured here.

    How sad that television never effectively embraced jazz or legitimate big bands after the “60s. I can still remember Stan Kenton as a summer fill-in on one of the networks in that era. Wow, I miss that energy.

  7. Jim Brown says

    Many of the Jazz Casual and Jazz Scene USA shows have been issued on VHS and DVD, usually two 30-minute shows to a DVD. While they are generally worth owning, I find the music uneven, and production values (sound, video, direction) are mostly far below what has been released from European broadcasters in the same time frame. There are some gems, though, especially in Ralph Gleason’s interviews.

    While it’s great to be able to roam YouTube and enjoy snippets of this stuff, we really should try to support those who have dedicated their own funds to making it commercially available by buying their DVDs when we can find them. .