In late 1962, Sammy Davis, Jr. made an appearance on Frankly Jazz, a local Los Angeles television program featuring jazz musicians. In this clip below, after introducing his regular road musicians Terry Rosen (guitar), Reunald Jones (trumpet), Michael Silva (drums) and George Rhodes (piano), he plays the vibraphone with them for an 8-minute jam session.
Frankly Jazz was hosted by disc jockey Frank Evans (picture right), a jazz aficionado who hosted his own daily radio program on KRHM-FM. Born and raised in New Jersey, Frank studied dramatic arts at New York University. He was an actor on Broadway and played drums in a combo before taking his passion for music to a career in radio. (He obviously liked a pun, given his music program was called For Evans’ Sake and his commentary program was titled Frankly Speaking.)
Evans brought his family to LA in 1951 to pursue radio and an acting career. The 1950s in California were a transformative time for a jazz style that would come to be known as ‘West Coast’ jazz, which featured a less frenetic, calmer style than bebop or hard bop. Evans would regularly feature this music on his radio show. Pioneers of the style included Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Bud Shank, and Dave Brubeck. Marty Paich was an arranger who worked regularly with a West Coast jazz ensemble, and Paich started working with Sammy Davis, Jr. in 1961.
Evans got to transfer his radio show to TV in 1962, with a half-hour slot at 10pm Saturday nights on KTLA. Given Sammy’s love of the West Coast style, it’s not surprising that Sammy would dig Frank Evans’ TV show, and want to be on it. While Sammy would regularly have a bit of a jam session in his live act, on TV Sammy generally only ever played the vibes enough to make the point that he could play them, so it’s great to see him get the chance for a slightly extended stint at the mallets! Sammy regularly played variations on the same piece (titled “Sam, By George”), and that piece is the basis here as well.
You can also see more West Coast jazz clips from Frankly Jazz on YouTube.