Alto saxophonist and flutist Bud Shank (1926-2009) helped define the "cool jazz" sound that developed on the U.S. West Coast in the 1950s. Later he was the among the musicians who introduced North American audiences to Brazilian music.
But a series of albums Shank recorded for World Pacific in the 1960s had little to with jazz and everything to do with appealing to a pop audience and garnering radio airplay. That's not to say these were bad albums -- they weren't.
But with titles like Michelle, Girl in Love, A Spoonful of Jazz and Magical Mystery listeners knew exactly what to expect -- jazz-flavored easy listening versions of current pop hits. Tracks from these LPs turned up regularly on the playlists of radio stations that featured what was then known as "good" or "beautiful music" -- in other words easy listening with a heavy emphasis on instrumentals. Jazz stations also played these albums, but mainly in the daytime.
Shank's cycle of pop-oriented albums began with California Dreamin' (1966). Interestingly he had played a flute solo on the Mamas and Papas original recording in 1965, but here Shank sticks mainly to alto although there is a brief flute interlude. Trumpeter Chet Baker contributes a few licks as well.
Shank's California Dreamin' album has appeared on CD only on a Japanese import, which goes for anywhere from $23 to $40. It's also not available as a legal download in North America though a version does appear on iTunes in the U.K. I can almost guarantee that the releasing company didn't have access to the World Pacific master recordings, so proceed with caution.
Used vinyl copies of California Dreamin' have appeared recently online for a s little as $5. And if you live near a good used record store (or two) check them out as well. You shouldn't have to pay more than the aforementioned five bucks -- and perhaps even less.
Here's another cut from Bud Shank's California Dreamin'.