So, on a record shopping excursion a few days back I happened across two sealed records released under the Jazz Chronicles imprint. I had heard of none of the players nor the label. But hey, I’m a sucker for private press releases and I’ll buy almost anything sealed if it’s cheap enough.
After some internet research (and again, I don’t know how anyone found out about anything pre-internet), I find that the label was founded, in part, by this guy Harry Babasin. Now I’ll never be able to do this guy justice, but his resume is pretty staggering. For starters, he went to North Texas State, a university that was highly regarded for its program. He played with several big bands (and legendary players) throughout the 40’s before joining the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1945. Babasin recorded the first-ever cello solos in jazz in 1947. In the late 40’s, he meets Laurindo Almeida on the set of Danny Kaye’s jazz-steeped “A Star Is Born” and then hooked up with Roy Harte (who he would continue to work with throughout his career) and Bud Shank, subsequently releasing some 10″ bossa nova discs in 1954, predating both Getz and Jobim’s work by quite some time.
The early 50’s found Babasin and friends – Shank, Marty Paich, Howard Roberts – finding no love from existing labels and starting their own label, Nocturne Records. Nocturne was home to three Jazzpickers records, a combo started by Babasin and focusing on guitar and cello interplay. Still relevant two decades later, Harte and Babasin then started the non-profit Los Angeles Theaseum, a non-profit archive focusing on the preservation and continuation of west coast jazz. The pair of records in question were released under the Jazz Chronicles imprint, under the auspices of the Theaseum.
The first is a 1954 recording from the Jazzpickers, entitled “1st Time Out” (JCS 103). The band went into the studio to more or less jam, trying to get a handle on whether the recording technology they were using was going to effectively reproduce what they were doing in the studio. The recordings featured Bill Dillard on guitar, who would tragically pass away in a fire a couple of years later. And the recordings sat around until this record was issued in 1978.
The second recording is a 1976 improv session from Harte, Babasin, Del Bennett on trumpet and John Banister on piano and synth. It received the appropriate title “See What Happens” (JCS 76 – 1 & 2) as there was very little conversation before entering the studio as to what would happen once they did. And to close the circle, Babasin’s last tour was in 1985 with John Bannister, the man who nicknamed him “The Bear.”
So there ya have it. An education for both myself and you. But mainly me. If you want to know more, just check out the parts I didn’t steal from either allmusc.com or wikipedia.org. One last thing about the records – both jackets are on the VG+ side of things, primarily due to seam wear, small corner issues, etc. Methinks the copy of “See What Happens” might have a slight dish (it feels like that is the case), so a turntable with either clamp or vacuum would probably be advised. Both of these LP’s are super hard to find and are $35 each.