Lighthouse All Stars
In 1949, Howard Rumsey, the former bassist with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, talked the owner of the Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach (near Los Angeles) into featuring jazz. By 1952, the Lighthouse All-Stars were recording for Contemporary and making the Lighthouse world-famous.
Rumsey’s band featured some of the top jazz musicians of the 1950s, players who came off the road to settle in Los Angeles and work in the studios. Their music helped to define cool jazz, yet it was never sleepy or overarranged, giving the musicians plenty of opportunities to stretch out.
Such players as trumpeters Shorty Rogers, Rolf Ericson, and Conte Candoli; trombonists Milt Bernhart and Frank Rosolino; altoists Herb Geller and Bud Shank (doubling on flute); tenors Jimmy Giuffre and Bob Cooper (who also played oboe and English horn); pianists Marty Paich, Claude Williamson, Russ Freeman, Sonny Clark, and Victor Feldman; and drummers Shelly Manne, Max Roach, and Stan Levey were among the most significant sidemen. They formed the Who’s Who of West Coast jazz.
In addition to playing regular hours during the week, the Lighthouse All-Stars were featured at infamous weekly 12-hour Sunday jam sessions, from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday Jazz à la Lighthouse; Sunday Jazz à la Lighthouse vol. 2; and Miles Davis’s At Last! gives one a sampling of how those marathons sounded. The band’s regular albums for Contemporary (Lighthouse at Laguna, Oboe/Flute, Volume 3, Volume 6, Music for Lighthousekeeping, In the Solo Spotlight) feature the various versions of the Lighthouse All-Stars and shows how exciting a band this was during its prime years.
By the early 1960s, the Lighthouse All-Stars had run its course and broken up. In 1989, to celebrate their 40th anniversary, many of the key survivors reunited, recording Jazz Invention and working together for a few more years, showing that their brand of West Coast Jazz was timeless.