Among the birthplaces of the so–called “West Coast sound” in Jazz back in the ’50s and ’60s was bassist Howard Rumsey’s fabled Lighthouse at Hermosa Beach, which served as home base from time to time for such musical legends as Shorty Rogers, Art Pepper, Shelly Manne, Conte Candoli, Bud Shank, Frank Rosolino, Maynard Ferguson, Bob Enevoldsen, brothers Claude and Stu Williamson, Lou Levy, Rolf Ericson, Jimmy Giuffre, Hampton Hawes, Max Roach, Marty Paich, Bob Cooper, Sonny Clark, Stan Levey, Bill Perkins, Pete Jolly, Monty Budwig, Herb Geller, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Rowles, Richie Kamuca, Victor Feldman and a roster of special guests that included Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Clifford Brown — well, you get the idea. The spirit of those and other Jazz giants is reanimated in Live at The Lighthouse, the third release by tenor saxophonist Phil Norman’s all–star tentet and the first recorded in front of an audience, appropriately at Rumsey’s hallowed beach–front bistro. The players seem truly inspired by The Lighthouse and its remarkable history, and that motivation shines through on every number, producing the necessary spark of imagination that upraises any musical experience well beyond the ordinary. Indeed, there is nothing ordinary about this concert, from its brief introductory theme through pianist Bob Florence’s thundering “Y2K Express.” Florence also composed “Phyllis” (for Norman’s wife) and “Killer Phil” while trumpeter Carl Saunders wrote “Theme for Jobim” and “Friends Ballad” and baritone saxophonist Roger Neumann contributed “Just the Ten of Us.” Completing the program are Quincy Jones’ tasty “Stockholm Sweetnin’,” Kim Richmond’s crisp arrangements of “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud,” and Florence’s fresh looks at Claude Debussy’s enduring “Claire de Lune” and the standard “Tenderly.” As everyone in the group is an outstanding soloist, and almost everyone has more than a few chances to blow, there’s no advantage in singling anyone out for special praise. The charts, however, must be loudly applauded, as they are uniformly commendable, blending wondrous voicings with passages that swing as lustily and as often as one could desire. Sound quality is exemplary, playing time as generous as can be. The tentet’s first album ( On the Town ) was excellent; the second ( Yesterday’s Gardenias ) was perhaps even better; but there can be no doubt that Live at the Lighthouse is the best yet. Recommended? Without pause.
Track listing: Intro Theme; Just the Ten of Us; Tenderly; Daahoud; Phyllis; You Stepped Out of a Dream; Friends Ballad; Killer Phil; Stockholm Sweetnin’; Claire de Lune; Theme for Jobim; The Y2K Express (75:46).
Carl Saunders, Ron Stout, trumpet, flugelhorn; Rusty Higgins, alto, soprano sax; Phil Norman, tenor sax; Roger Neumann, baritone sax; Andy Martin, trombone; Bob Florence, piano; Dave Koonse, guitar; Trey Henry, bass; Dick Weller, drums; Don Williams (8, 11), percussion.
Contact: Sea Breeze Records, P. O. Box 11267, Glendale, CA 91226