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Peter Stenshoel's Album of the Week: Miles Don't Do Hawaiian Shirts

Peter Stenshoel's weekly contribution from his record library:

At Last! – Miles Davis and the Lighthouse All-Stars

This time we have a terrific piece of Southern California history. Specifically: Hermosa Beach and its celebrated jazz club, “The Lighthouse.”  (It still exists as The Lighthouse Café and apparently jazz can still be heard there Thursdays and Sundays). 

For all the “sidemen” Miles Davis fostered in his brilliant, protean, career as a charismatic star, here we hear the young, yet-to-be lionized trumpeter between jobs. (He had recently finished a stint with Charlie Parker, where his work was given approval by jazz critics.) Presumably Miles was quite content to have a chance to “sit in” with the (mostly white) Lighthouse regulars: Bud Shank, Rolf Ericson, Bob Cooper, Lorraine Geller, Howard Rumsey, and what was Max Roach’s first week as the latest addition to the house band. The sides on this LP are from September 13, 1953. It was the “all-day jazz Sunday” at what then was a free-wheeling, anything goes, kind of place. 

Miles played a borrowed trumpet without his trademark mute.  That alone should have jazz historians ready to analyze the result. One cut on the album features Chet Baker, not Miles, on horn, but it was also recorded on the same day. I imagine each trumpeter sitting in the audience digging the other. 

For a final comment, I quote the anonymously-penned liner notes: 

The location recording was done by Cecil Charles Spiller*, a jazz-fan photographer who often turned up with his monaural tape machine at The Lighthouse (he’s also responsible for the photos you see on the jacket). Listeners who grew up on multi-track multi-mike recording may look askance at what seems like primitive technique, but the fact that the club was a room designed for listening certainly helps considerably, and its atmosphere comes through clearly.

Until next time, happy waxing.

-- Peter

(*Cecil Charles Spiller also helped in the execution of music by Harry Partch.)