Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Lighthouse All-Stars and the Early Days of FM Jazz Radio

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

“We're very fortunate that these broadcasts exist, especially when you consider the state of FM radio in 1957.  FM was still somewhat a novelty and programming was mostly classical music, easy listening and other non-popular programming. As a matter of fact, most popular brands of radios that were available at that time didn't even have an FM band.

AM was still king and would remain so for another 20 plus years. Besides the fact that FM wasn't widely listened to, this was a local broadcast that aired at 11:30 pm on Wednesday nights. It was a live broadcast so the only way for these programs to survive was for someone to record them off the air.

Luckily, we have two collections at the Institute which include "off the air "recordings from the program - the Charles French collection and the Bob Andrews collection.

Between the two, we have 10 different Nightlife broadcasts from the Lighthouse. The earliest is from November 6, 1957, and the last from March 5, 1958, which was the final program in the series.”
- Ken Poston, Director, Los Angeles Jazz Institute

From its beginnings in 1949 until the famed Jazz club in Hermosa Beach, CA went to a visiting “name” group policy, the resident version of the Lighthouse Café All-Stars [LHAS] generated a great deal of original music.

Bassist Howard Rumsey, who led the All-Stars and served as the musical director for the club, encouraged everyone in the band to write compositions.

For some, like trumpeter Shorty Rogers and saxophonist and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, composing and arranging was a continuation of what they had done previously as members of the Stan Kenton and Woody Herman orchestras. Only the small group setting was different.

For others, like tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper, composing original music and arranging tunes from the Great American Songbook was a new experience.

Bob took to it like a duck takes to water.  In the four years or so that he was with the LHAS his output was prodigious. One could almost go so far as to state that during his time on the band, Bob Cooper was the sound of the All-Stars.

Today, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute [LAJI] under the direction of Ken Poston, serves as the repository for much of the music that was created over the years exclusively for the LHAS.

It is sad that this music hasn’t had a wider audience because much of it is on a par with the music of Tadd Dameron, Horace Silver, Sonny Clark, Hank Mobley and a number of other contemporaneous composers who predominantly worked in New York and therefore had a greater exposure to the general Jazz-going public.

Recently, the LAJI issued Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars: On The Air, 1957 as a members-only, bonus CD.

The disc contains 16 tracks of music and commercials from FM radio station KMLA’s regular, Wednesday night broadcasts from the Lighthouse Café.

You can located more information about the LAJI and the CD by going here.

All of the music on Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars: On The Air, 1957 is either composed or arranged by Bob Cooper.

Here are two audio-only examples from the CD that demonstrate Bob Cooper’s artistry [November 20, 1957 KMLA FM radio broadcast].  It is a shame that his music has not had more exposure over the years.

And here’s a video tribute to Howard and the Lighthouse All-Stars which is set to Topsy from the December 18, 1957 KMLA FM radio broadcast.

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