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Jazz Remembered


Richie Kamuca


Saxophonist Dave Keen writes from Canada suggesting we remember saxophonist Richie Kamuca.


Richie Kamuca


'It is so tragic that Richie Kamuca died so young - he was a force to be reckoned with. In my view, he was up there with Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. He was a consummate, straight ahead tenor saxophonist; he always took care of business in a very melodic, rhythmical way and played accurately over the changes,' Dave says..

'There's a pecking order for me when I listen to a player. Number one is the Sound, (he had such a great sound), 2: Articulation. It aintsamuch what ya say but how ya say it, dyathink? And three, Content - doesn't matter how good the content is, if you can't get past the sound and you can't articulate the content, it's probably not gonna get listened to, at least not by me'.


Dave suggests this video of Shelly Manne and his men featuring Richie Kamuca and Conte Candoli:




Richie Kamuca was born in Philadelphia and became a saxophonist associated with the West Coast style of jazz, that cool music that emerged around Los Angeles and San Francisco during the 1950s. Richie's early playing developed touring with the big bands of Stan Kenton and Woody Herman where he became one of the later 'Brothers' line-ups with Al Cohn and Bill Perkins.


Richie Kamuca The Brothers



Here they are playing Blixed in 1955 with Hank Jones (piano), Jimmy Raney (guitar), John Beal (bass) and Chuck Flores (drums).





Kamuca continued playing on the West Coast with smaller groups, including those of Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson and Shorty Rogers.

Listen to Little Girl from 1956 by the Chet Baker and Art Pepper Sextet with Chet Baker (trumpet), Art Pepper (alto sax), Richie Kamuca (tenor sax), Pete Jolly (piano), Leroy Vinnegar (bass) and Stan Levey (drums).






Richie Kamuca



In 1957 and 1958 he was a member of the Lighthouse All-Stars and recorded with his own and other groups. According to Wikipedia: '"Verpilate's" restaurant is Hermosa Beach, California, was built at 30 Pier Avenue in 1934, and it was converted into "The Lighthouse", a bar, in 1940 ("Café" was added to the name only several decades later). The club first began showcasing jazz music on May 29, 1949, when owner John Levine permitted bassist/band leader Howard Rumsey to start a recurring Sunday jam session on a trial basis. The experiment was a success.

Rumsey became club manager soon after, and put together a house band called the Lighthouse All-Stars ... that had among its guest musicians Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and Miles Davis. The longest-running members of the Lighthouse All-Stars were Bob Cooper (tenor saxophone), Conte Candoli (trumpet), and Stan Levey (drums)'.






There is an archive video of Richie Kamuca's Quintet playing Cherry in Los Angeles in 1958 with Frank Rosolino (trombone), Scott LaFaro (bass), Victor Feldman (piano) and Stan Levey (drums).




In 1959 Richie joined Shelly Manne and stayed with him until 1962 when he went to New York to work with with Gerry Mulligan, Gary McFarland and Roy Eldridge.

This video of Richie with Shelly Manne playing Straight, No Chaser is from from Frankly Jazz, a regular television programme hosted by DJ Frank Evans in Los Angeles in the early 1960s - Conte Candoli (trumpet), Richie Kamuca (tenor sax), Russ Freeman (piano), Monte Budwig (bass), and Shelly Manne (drums).




In 1972 Richie went back to the West Coast where he recorded and played for five years until July 1977 when he died of cancer in Los Angeles the day before his 47th birthday.


In February 1977, Richie Kamuca recorded his album Drop Me Off In Harlem with Herb Ellis (guitar) and Ray Brown (bass).Listen to the track Dear Bix, from the album. Richie takes the vocals with Dave Frishberg's lyrics.


"I wonder, Bix, old chum,
When you reminisce in years to come,
Will you ever hum that someday song
You've been looking so long to find?"




This short 'remembered' profile is just a taste of the wealth of Richie Kamuca's music from his own recordings and his work with others that you can find on YouTube and elsewhere.



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© Sandy Brown Jazz 2017

You might also like these pages:

More Jazz Remembered
Tracks Unwrapped
Jazz As Art
Name That Tune

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