Julie Kelly at Catalina's Bar and Grill

Julie Kelly at Catalina's Bar and Grill

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Lighthouse Café And [Other] West Coast Jazz Classics



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The Western Regional Office [AKA: The Guest Room that serves this purpose] recently received an upgrade in the form of a new TV set and an up-scaling DVD player [more dpi’s].

In order to test out the latter, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles once again viewed Ken Koenig’s excellent film -  Jazz on the West Coast: The Lighthouse Café – the title of which is perhaps a more appropriate context in which to understand the role of the club.

As a note in passing, in a recent conversation with Ken Koenig, the producer of the Lighthouse Café film, Ken mentioned that he was down to the last 100 or so DVD copies and that he was not planning on reordering more once this batch was gone.

Should you have an interest in seeing a trailer of the film and/or wish to have information about how to order it, both can be located via this link to RoseKing Productions.


It’s hard to imagine Jazz on the West Coast or as some prefer, West Coast Jazz, without the role that this famous beachfront club located at 30 Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, CA played in its development.

Under the musical direction of bassist Howard Rumsey and with the support and patronage of club owner John Levine, Jazz was on prominent display at The Lighthouse Café from Sunday, May 28, 1949 until after Mr. Levine’s death in 1971.

In addition to Ken’s wonderful film, there is lots more information about The Lighthouse Café, the musicians that worked it during this 22 year period and the nature of the music that was played there in these three, excellent books, although Mr. Tercinet’s treatment requires that you bring your best French language skills along in order to read it.


Mr. Gioia’s book is still available as are some used copies of Mr. Tercinet’s, but unfortunately, Bob Gordon’s book is no longer in print.  However, you can find its chapters displayed successively on JazzProfiles beginning here.

From time-to-time, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute [LAJI] captures the flavor of the music played at The Lighthouse Café with 3 and 4-day festivals during which it occasionally pays tribute to the club and the music that was performed there with featured concerts, films and panel discussions.


You can check out more information about the about the LAJI by clicking here.



Here’s an excerpt from the May, 1999 Jazz West Coast II program that indicates the variety of tributes that the LAJI sponsored in celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Lighthouse Café:


The first-rate JazzProfiles photography staff took this snapshot of some of the former Lighthouse All-Stars who participated in the panel discussion about the significance of the club and the music created there that was moderated at the May 1999 event by Ken Poston, who heads-up the LAJI.


This YouTube will provide you with a sampling of the type of Jazz that was on offer at The Lighthouse Café:



The album covers and photographs for many of the West Coast Jazz recordings from the 1950 and 1960s form a unique genre which is fairly well-documented in the following, largely pictorial books.



Around the same time that preparations were being made to observe the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Jazz at The Lighthouse Café, Michael Cuscuna was reissuing the following Pacific Jazz LP’s as part of the West Coast Classics, Blue Note CD series.

[Pacific Jazz along with a number of other primarily Jazz labels including Blue Note had been acquired by EMI by the time these albums were released as CDs.]

Bud Shank & Bill Perkins - CDP 93159
Jack Sheldon Quartet & Quintet – CDP 93160
Jack Montrose Sextet – CDP 93161
Cy Touff : His Octet & Quintet – CDP 93162
Bill Perkins Octet : On Stage CDP 93163
Chet Baker & Russ Freeman Quartet – CDP 93164
Original Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker [2 CDs] – CDP 94407
Bud Shank-Bob Copper: Blowin’ Country – CDP 94846
Bob Brookmeyer: Traditionalism Revisited – CDP 94847
Teddy Edwards: Sunset Eyes – CDP 94848
Earl Anderza: Outta Sight – CDP 94849
Curtis Amy-Dupree Bolton: Katanga! – CDP 94850

You can see the cover art for all of these albums in the following video beginning at 3:36 minutes.

Entitled West Coast Jazz: A Tribute, this video offers an indication of the wider range of music and musicians playing Jazz on the West Coast in the 1950s and 60s, many of whom were also featured at The Lighthouse Café as guest artists.


Here is a discography of recordings by the Lighthouse All-Stars as well as some annotated remarks about the group and its music from Richard Cook and Brian Morton’s always helpful Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD: 6th Edition [p. 1281]

Sunday Jazz A La Lighthouse
Original Jazz Classics OJC 151 Rumsey; Shorty Rogers (t); Milt
Bernhart(tb); Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Cooper (ts); Hampton Hawes,
frank Patchen (p); Shelly Manne (d). 7/52-2/53.

Volume 3
Original Jazz Classics OJC 266 As above, except add Rolf
Ericsson (t), Frank Rosolino (tb), Bud Shank (as&f), Herb Geller
(as), Max Roach, Stan Levey (d), Carlos Vidal, Jack Costanza
(perc). 7/52-8/56.

Sunday Jazz A La Lighthouse Vol. 2
Original Jazz Classics OJC 972 As above, except add Chet Baker
(t),Russ Freeman, Lorraine Geller, Claude Williamson (p); omit
Kosolino, Levey, Vidal, Costanza, Geller, Hawes, Patchen. 3-9/53-

Oboe /Flute
Original Jazz Classics OJC 154 Rumsey; Bob Cooper (ob, ts);
BudShank (f, as); Buddy Collette (f); Claude Williamson, Sonny
Clark (p); Max Roach, Stan Levey (d). 2/54-9/56.


In The Solo Spotlight
Original Jazz Classics OJC 451 Rumsey; Conte Candoli, Stu
Williamson (t); Frank Rosolino (tb); Bob Enevoldsen (vtb); Bud
Shank Lennie Niehaus (as); Bob Cooper, Richie Kamuca (ts);
Bob Gordon, Pepper Adams (bs); Claude Williamson, Dick
Shreve (p); Stan Levey (d). 8/54-3/57.

Volume 6
Original Jazz Classics OJC 386 Rumsey; Conte Candoli (t);
Frank Rosolino (tb); Stu Williamson (vtb); Bud Shank (as); Bob
Cooper (ts); Claude Williamson (p); Stan Levey (d). 12/54-3/55.

Lighthouse At Laguna
Original Jazz Classics OJC 406 Rumsey; Frank Rosolino (tb);
BudShank (as,f); Bob Cooper (ts); Claude Williamson,
Hampton Hawes (p); Barney Kessel (g); Red Mitchell (b); Shelly
Manne, Stan Levey (d). 6/55.

Music For Lighthousekeeping
Original Jazz Classics OJC 636 Rumsey; Conte Candoli (t);
Frank Rosolino (tb); Bob Cooper (ts); Sonny Clark (p); Stan
Levey (d). 10/56.

Mexican Passport
Contemporary 14077-2 As for OJC 151, 266,406 and 636
above. 52-56.

“Rumsey … was a canny organizer, and his Lighthouse All Stars - the name which all these CDs go under - offered the pick of the West's best in the mid-'50s. Their Sunday afternoon concerts are still talked about by veterans of the Hermosa Beach scene, effectively 12-hour jam sessions that started in the afternoon and went on into the small hours. There are live sessions on OJCs 151, 972 and 406 (though the latter was cut at Laguna Beach) and part of OJC 154; the rest are studio dates. To catch the excitement of these sessions, the best is Sunday Jazz A La Lighthouse Vol. 2: a buzzing crowd, band­stands full of the hottest players; with 25 minutes of previously unreleased material, this one's a best buy. Sound is at times more atmospheric than accurate, but it's a terrific document of those sessions. The first volume is also excellent, with some fine work by Hawes, but the Laguna set is more like a formal concert, with a guest spot by Kessel and two tracks by the Hawes-Mitchell-Manne trio.

The studio dates are more in the familiar West Coast language and are rather more efficiently styled. Considering the stellar line-up, In The Solo Spotlight is a shade disappointing, with too many of the features emerging as glib showcases. While none of the others really stands out, followers of the style will find much to satisfy, not least in the consistently superb drumming by Manne and Levey. Mexican Passport compiles the various Latinesque tracks which the band made across their albums.”

For those of us fortunate enough to have experienced the musical magic that took place during the 22 years that the Lighthouse Café featured Jazz on a regular basis, I’m sure you will find it easy to join with me in giving Howard Rumsey a big “Thank You” for his role in making all of this happen.



And thank goodness for the books, photographs, films and recordings that make it possible for everyone, then and now, to gain an appreciation of Jazz at the Lighthouse Café and Jazz on the West Coast during the vibrant and creative years of their glory days.

Given the poor documentation of so many periods in the history of Jazz, it’s a relief to know that this one wasn’t missed.