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”:

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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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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