It would be easy to hear the ensemble cohesion, flawless execution and attention to dynamics on this album and conclude that the L.A. 6 enjoys a residency at some venue. Those slow-cooked elements that differentiate a band from an occasional aggregation are all here. But while these six musicians know each other well from bandstands, studios and informal jams, this is not a continually working group that hones material and arrangements and battle-tests it on the stand over a long period of time. It just sounds that way.
Comprised of musicians based in Los Angeles, California, the L.A. 6 are a group of seasoned professionals who came together fifteen years ago with one common bond, a history and affinity for West Coast Jazz and Frame Of Mind is their homage to the contemporary straight ahead style made so popular in the '50s and early '60s. Though the group borrows music from such icons as Sonny Stitt and Oliver Nelson among others, the album reflects a modern version of the tradition with a blend of standards and originals from members of the band. Originating from the music played at the Wenatchee Jazz Workshops in Washington State, the group has evolved stabilizing in 2009 as a modern sextet performing regularly at the five-day workshops today.
There is something about West Coast-based jazz that has always struck a chord with me. The golden period for jazz based on the West Coast was in the 1950s and 1960s, but there has continued to be a place for studio musicians based in Los Angeles, who can do TV and movie studio work during the day time, and have their evenings free to play the music they love. It has often been an amalgam of a swinging mix of tight ensemble playing, musical “heat” when needed, but with a relaxed groove that combines “cool” playing with a less frenetic hard bop edge. It’s not really from the soul jazz found in the gospel church, but capable of the same feelgood mood that its East Coast counterparts brought during their heyday. Hard to describe and pin down, but you know it when you hear it. It’s the reason that Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson, and the Jazz Crusaders found that the LA sunshine could cause them to put up roots when they reached the City of Angels.