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Film Review

Jazz on the West Coast: The Lighthouse


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Jazz On The West Coast: The Lighthouse
Rose King Productions

Jazz on the West Coast: The Lighthouse is a time capsule/oral history of the legendary Southern California venue active throughout the '50s. A collaboration between impresario John Levine and bassist/musical director Howard Rumsey, the Hermosa Beach club became the hotspot of the cool school, regularly featuring such artists as Hampton Hawes, Teddy Edwards, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, Buddy Collette, Jimmy Giuffre, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Holman, Chet Baker, Elmo Hope, Benny Carter, Joe Gordon, Harold Land, Stan Levey, Frank Rosolino, Bud Shank, Conte Candoli, Bob Bryant, Doug Sides, Bob Cooper, Art Pepper and Max Roach (and many others).

The DVD release provides perspective on the Lighthouse scene through photos, choice cuts on the virtually continuous soundtrack and interviews with a variety of active participants: photographer William Claxton (responsible for many of the iconic images gracing Pacific Jazz album covers); a former bartender; Ross Levine (John's son); jazz historians and journalists; and key players such as Shank and Rumsey. Also included are video clips of Shorty Rogers burning down the changes to "Viva Zapata and a 1962 television spot featuring Rumsey and the boys at full swing.

One of the most fascinating bits (included as an "extra feature) is an hour-long interview with Rumsey. Presented with a stack of Lighthouse All-Stars recordings, the aging bassist often takes a minute or two to collect his recollections of the people and particulars involved in each session, yet invariably retrieves an anecdote as informative as it is entertaining. Once the musical lynchpin of all-things-Lighthouse, Rumsey, who turns 80 this month, is a living history of jams-gone-by: a witness to those players, patrons, producers and fans who "walked into the beautiful jazz world.

The Lighthouse illuminates the story of two men who, on the basis of a handshake, set the stage for twenty-two years of good music and times. For those of us who weren't there, the video provides a taste of the flavors we missed.

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