In the early 1950s, Don Prell was deep in the scene where a whole school & industry of “west coast jazz” was being created. He spent copious amounts of time playing and hanging at venues like Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach and the Haig in downtown L.A., just two of many clubs where the musicians cooked up tunes with intricate harmonies and rhythms in a cool mode that drew eager listeners to the music — though hard bop was equally entrenched in the set lists.
At the Lighthouse, twelve-hour Sunday sessions that ran 2 pm to 2 am packed the place and put the club on the map, and the house band went through several iterations, first with major players from LA’s Central Avenue scene including Teddy Edwards, Hampton Hawes and Sonny Criss, black jazzmen eventually harassed out of town by the local authorities. White musicians were more easily tolerated in the little beachfront town, and great players associated with Stan Kenton’s and Woody Herman’s big bands like Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre were at the core of the next edition of the All-Stars, followed by Don’s crowd that included Bud Shank and Bob Cooper as well as the formidable drummer, Max Roach.
In downtown L.A. across from the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire, was the bungalow-turned-nightclub called The Haig, following much the same trajectory as The Lighthouse. Ask Don for his story about the club owner sending a runner to fetch the liquor Lena Horne requested for her drink, and the genesis of the pianoless quartet cooked up there by Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. He’s also itching to talk about some of the movies he appeared in, including National Velvet and The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer — when scenes called for a tony big band or a little combo off to the side.
We’llÂ alsoÂ get trumpeter Al Molina, who will be on the bandstand with Don this Friday, to spill some of what he remembers of the jazz scene up here in San Francisco in the ’50s and ’60s.
Jazz in San Francisco is making its own history as we speak.
Come hang and be part of it!
Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.
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Gigging musicians! You have nothing to lose but your lack of a collective voice to achieve fair wages for your work!
The IMA can be a conduit for you, if you join in to make it work.
Read more here - Andy Gilbert's Feb 25 article about the IMA from KQED's site