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Night Lights Classic Jazz

The Lighthouse All-Stars

Exploring a musical cornerstone of the 1950s West Coast jazz movement.

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Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars

Photo: Album cover art

Hit the beach: the Lighthouse All Stars' album covers evoked a laidback California lifestyle.

In 1949 former Stan Kenton bassist Howard Rumsey began a series of Sunday afternoon performances at the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, California, a club that had formerly catered mostly to merchant marines and other sailors. These jam sessions eventually spawned the collective known as the Lighthouse All-Stars, featuring many of the 1950s’ best West Coast jazz musicians–Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, and others. (Ken Koenig has made a documentary film about the Lighthouse in its heyday.) The group made a number of albums for the Contemporary label, and we’ll hear selections from those, including “Witch Doctor,” “Blue Sands,” “Topsy,” and many more.

Here’s a later incarnation (1965) of the group, led by Bob Cooper, performing “One for Buck”:

Howard Rumsey passed away on July 15, 2015 at the age of 97. You can read Marc Myers’ 2009 three-part interview with him here:

Howard Rumsey interview

Music Heard On This Episode

Bud (the Whippet)
Lighthouse All-Stars — In the Solo Spotlight (Contemporary, 1954)
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Bud (the Whippet)
Lighthouse All-Stars — In the Solo Spotlight (Contemporary, 1954)

Notes: Composed by pianist Claude Wiliamson.

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Luau
Lighthouse All-Stars — Sunday Jazz a la Lighthouse V. 2 (Contemporary, 1953)

Notes: Composed by Shorty Rogers.

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Sunset Eyes
Lighthouse All-Stars — Sunday Jazz a la Lighthouse V. 2 (Contemporary, 1953)

Notes: Teddy Edwards composition.

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Out of Somewhere
Lighthouse All-Stars — Lighthouse All-Stars V. 3 (Contemporary, 1952)

Notes: Jimmy Giuffre composition.

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Witch Doctor #1
Lighthouse All-Stars — Lighthouse All-Stars V. 3 (Contemporary, 1953)

Notes: Bob Cooper composition.

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Blue Sands
Lighthouse All-Stars — Oboe/Flute (Contemporary, 1956)

Notes: Buddy Collette composition, featuring Collette on flute.

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East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)
Lighthouse All-Stars — Lighthouse All-Stars V. 6 (Contemporary, 1955)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Mambo Las Vegas
Lighthouse All-Stars — Music for Lighthouse Keeping (Contemporary, 1956)

Notes: Bill Holman composition.

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Topsy
Lighthouse All-Stars — Music for Lighthouse Keeping (Contemporary, 1956)

Notes: Song from the Basie book.

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Swing Shift
Lighthouse All-Stars — Lighthouse All-Stars V. 3 (Contemporary, 1952)

Notes: Shorty Rogers composition.

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Prelude to the Queen
Lighthouse All-Stars — Jazz Rolls Royce (Fresh Sound, 1957)

Notes: Bob Cooper composition.

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Jubilation
Lighthouse All-Stars — Music for Lighthouse Keeping (Contemporary, 1956)

Notes: Bob Cooper composition.

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