The closest thing the West Coast jazz scene has to its own actual flora and fauna would be drummer Chuck Flores, and not just because of the sound of his surname. He has been involved almost exclusively with the growth of creative music in this part of the United States through several generations of stylistic developments, not only laying down the groove for Los Angeles legend Art Pepper but giving drum lessons to young Chad Wackerman prior to the latter drummer's ascension into the Frank Zappa dynasty. Flores had a pretty good teacher of his own back in the early '50s: drummer Shelly Manne, who later opened one of the most famous modern jazz venues on the West Coast, Shelly's Manne-Hole.
Flores' earliest employers were bandleader Ike Carpenter, with whom he gigged in sunny Balboa, and trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who flipped around and flagged Flores for the vacant drum chair in friend Woody Herman's big band. This kept Flores occupied through the mid-'50s. Then he became a noted freelancer, especially suited to the subtle demands of West Coast jazz improvisation. He performed and recorded with saxophonist and flutist Bud Shank as well as with the aforementioned Pepper; a Mosaic reissue of the former artist's collaboration with tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper plus a string section has garnered Flores much desired critical reappraisal, the consensus being that he is underrated.
In 1974 Flores became part of a group with bossa nova guitarist Laurindo Almeida plus Shank and the great bassist Ray Brown -- dubbed the LA Four, this evolved into one of the essential combos from Southern California. Flores recorded a pair of albums as a bandleader in the '70s, the pick of which is the 1977 Drum Flower on the Jazz Concord label.
As impressive as all of that is, the following excerpt from a 1957 Stan Kenton tour diary is a much more exciting way to conclude this biography, referencing two of the most entertaining pastimes known to mankind, sight-reading and sex: "Chuck Flores, who was not noted for being a good sight-reader, had to spend hours privately rehearsing all the arrangements, prior to the main rehearsals. He also lost his virginity in Melbourne, thanks to the Australian musicians, who were more than delighted to procure a girl for his 'night of nights.'" ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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