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Dave Pell: Sunday Jazz at The Lighthouse

Jim Santella By

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Dave Pell Octet
The Lighthouse Café
Hermosa Beach, California
February 20, 2005

Sunny Hermosa Beach has played host to great jazz for over 50 years. Originally, it was the regular Sunday jam sessions lasting from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. that brought overflowing crowds to The Lighthouse in the early 1950s, as members of Stan Kenton's Orchestra descended upon the beach community for weekly jazz outings. Howard Rumsey and a group of Southern California artists helped pioneer the West Coast Jazz sound that has continued to claim loyal fans the world over. Weekly events still draw appreciative fans and enthusiastic musicians to these shores from all over. Whether it's the mild beach climate, the casual shop atmosphere, or the fine dining, jazz has a great home when it comes to this small Southern California town.

Dave Pell's Octet appeared at The Lighthouse Café on Sunday for a recording session managed by Woofy Productions, Inc. Formed in 1993, the label captures live performances of West Coast Jazz artists when and where they appear. Recent additions to Woofy's catalog include Carl Fontana, Pete Christlieb, Conte Candoli, Andy Martin, Don Menza, Arno Marsh and Lennie Niehaus.

For his afternoon recording session, Pell received a standing-room-only audience of loyal followers. After all, this February weekend included heavy rains in Southern California, and no one but a dedicated fan would dare venture out in such weather. Theresa, the club's manager, sparkplug, and dedicated jazz enthusiast, added extra tables to the room for this performance and made sure all interested parties had a chance to enjoy in comfort.

Actor Warren Stevens sat at a front row table with friends, enjoying and evaluating every number of the afternoon's session with rapt concentration. Many remember this noted celebrity from his roles in Star Trek , Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea , Forbidden Planet and Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers , but few know how much jazz means to the 85-year-old veteran of television and film. His first union job was playing the saxophone at age fourteen. Like most of us, Stevens has had to split time during his lengthy career doing what he likes and doing what pays the bills. Like most of the audience, his love for jazz was apparent in his face all afternoon.

Pell's octet included trumpeter Carl Saunders, trombonist Bill Reichenbach, baritone saxophonist Bob Efford, guitarist Grant Geissman, pianist Bob Florence, bassist Jim Hughart, drummer Peter Donald and the leader on tenor saxophone. The day's program featured arrangements from noted West Coast veterans such as Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Wes Hensel and Shorty Rogers. Everybody soloed and everyone was cooking in a smooth, West Coast Cool kind of atmosphere.

Pell soloed with a soft, buttery texture that set the tone for each piece. Saunders and Geissman followed with mellow tones and a fluid technique, complementing the octet's session gracefully. Efford's bottom capers helped recall vivid memories of the contributions that have been infused into West Coast Jazz by saxophonists such as Bill Perkins, Med Flory, Bob Cooper and Bud Shank. He and Pell made a cohesive tandem.

Florence's piano solos followed a logical pattern. He began each of his free-form stretches with wide spaces and built them gradually into a dramatic close. Hughart and Donald combined with Florence to create a healthy rhythmic structure and stepped up with dynamic solo sections of their own.

The program included melodies familiar across the board as well as those familiar only to West Coast Jazz aficionados: "Lady is a Tramp," "It Never Entered My Mind," "On a Slow Boat to China," "42nd Street," "Time After Time," "Paris in the Spring," "Jazz Goes to Siwash," "Young and Healthy" "Klump Jump," "Sing for Your Supper," and "Why Do You Suppose?" Like Warren Stevens, this dedicated audience of jazz lovers enjoyed their Sunday afternoon jazz brunch in style.


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