In the forties Stan Kenton, originally from the West Coast, combined swing with the spirit of 20th century Europeans composers. While they may have contributed to the frequent bombast of his work, his classical leanings - he pastiches both Stravinsky and Ravel - served as crucible for West Coast jazz.
Indeed, it was in California that the principal players - Art Pepper,Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne and Frank Rosolino - met, all of them white and equally fascinated by Charlie Parker and Lester Young.
|Stan Kenton & His Orchestra, "Night Watch" in 1951|
From 1947 on Woody Herman made the 'Four Brothers' famous by putting the four unrelated sax players (three tenors and a baritone) at the centre of this band. The best known of the 'brothers' will always be Stan Getz. Discovered because of his solo in ' Early Autumn' in 1948, he set him self up as the apostle of fragility and romanticism that typified the West Coast style.
Even though the majority of the West Coasters emerged from the ranks of Stan Kenton's and Woody Herman's big bands, it would be dangerous to reduce this style to a single current. Before anything else, it was a question of a geographic place where young musicians came together, more attracted by the gentle California life-style than by the hard edges of New York. Technically able musicians, they found work in Hollywood studios and shared a taste for the subtlety and writing style that they had developed under the influence of Miles Davis' nonet.