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West Coast jazz is a form of jazz music that developed around Los Angelesmarker and San Franciscomarker at about the same time as hard bop jazz was developing in New York Citymarker, in the 1950s and 1960s. West Coast jazz was generally seen as a sub-genre of cool jazz. West Coast jazz also often contains elements of bossa nova.

It featured a less frenetic, calmer style than hard bop. The music tended to be more heavily arranged, and more often compositionally based. While this style was prominent for a while, it was by no means the only style of jazz played on the West Coast, which exhibited more variety than could be conveyed by a simple name.

The Pacific Jazz Records and Contemporary record labels were two of the best known that carried West Coast jazz, just as Blue Note was the biggest hard-bop label. Some of the major pioneers of West Coast jazz were Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Jimmy Giuffre, Shelly Manne, Bill Holman, Manny Albam, André Previn, and Dave Brubeck with Paul Desmond.

Some jazz critics, such as French critic Hugues Panassié, looked down upon West Coast jazz as inauthentic, due to most musicians in the style being white. However, there were a sizable number of African American musicians who played in the style, such as Curtis Counce, Chico Hamilton, Buddy Collette and Hampton Hawes. Regardless of the race of the musicians who played it, much of the music has withstood the test of time, as shown by numerous reissues on CD of West Coast jazz recordings dating back many decades.

See also


  • Gioia, Ted. West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945-1960 (Oxford University Press, 1992)
  • Gordon, Robert. Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s (Quartet Books, 1986)

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