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'Jazz West Coast' Offers Panels, Screenings


The allure of hearing such jazz greats as Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck, Harold Land, Bud Shank and Teddy Edwards is undoubtedly the main attraction of "Jazz West Coast," the four-day, KLON-FM-sponsored symposium that began Thursday at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza Hotel in Redondo Beach.

However, the event is also composed of numerous panel discussions and three film screenings, says producer Ken Poston.

"They'll add historical perspective," Poston says. "We wanted the event to cover several different aspects."

The 12 panels look at everything from the musically rich Central Avenue era in the mid-'40s to early '50s, to the hard bop scene that thrived in the Southland in the late '50s. Poston says the discussions, moving naturally from one chronological era to another, will spotlight almost all of the 100 musicians performing at "Jazz West Coast."

Additionally, some past greats who no longer perform--such as drummer Stan Levey, who played with Charlie Parker, Stan Kenton and the Lighthouse All-Stars--will take part, as well as arrangers, record executives and disc jockeys.

Today's panels--held in various venues at the Crowne Plaza--begin at 9 a.m. with "The Lighthouse," a discussion of the famed Hermosa Beach room where bassist Howard Rumsey fronted the Lighthouse All-Stars from 1949 until the early '60s. On the panel will be Rumsey, trumpeter Conte Candoli, trombonist Milt Bernhart, Shank, Levey and others who will reminisce about the room, which was perhaps the central meeting point for jazz musicians in Southern California during that time period.

"The All-Stars was the gig that got me to leave Stan Kenton and come to California," Candoli, an Indiana native, said of his decision to join Rumsey in 1954. "It was a great job. We got to play jazz every night, and we got $120 a week, which was a lot of money then."

Mulligan, clarinet-tenorist Jimmy Giuffre and trumpeter Shorty Rogers are scheduled for an untitled panel today at 3:30 p.m., chaired by Poston. "These men were the key figures in the West Coast movement," says Poston, "and they'll talk about how it got ushered in, say by Gerry coming out here from New York to start the quartet with Chet Baker."

"The Record Companies," held Saturday at 9 a.m., will discuss how the West Coast scene was recorded; and Sunday at 9 a.m., the discussion will focus on late '50s changes in jazz in Los Angeles. During that era, avant-garde altoist Ornette Coleman first received notice--playing with a quartet that included drummer Billy Higgins and bassist Charlie Haden--and several other players, trumpeter Jack Sheldon and saxophonist Land among them, emphasized the ardently swinging style of hard bop.

Haden recalled hearing Coleman for the first time, when he sat in with Mulligan's quartet in 1957 at the Haig, a club in the mid-Wilshire area. "This alto player gets up on stage, and he had a white plastic alto," says Haden. "Boy, I mean as soon as he started playing, you could hear a pin drop. Then the musicians asked him to stop, and he stopped. And I thought, 'I've got to meet this guy.' " Haden did, joined Coleman and still plays with him to this day.

The rush and feeling of the West Coast scene will also be brought to life by screenings of films from the archives of collector/historian Mark Cantor. At 11 a.m. today, Cantor will offer clips that show some pre-West Coast performers, including a rarely seen short with Lester Young and others playing "Pennies From Heaven" from the late 1940s. Then he'll show footage of the era, including a 1958 TV piece featuring the Lighthouse All-Stars and a 1961 film that spotlights the wondrous Gerry Mulligan-Ben Webster quintet--with Jimmy Rowles, Leroy Vinnegar and Mel Lewis.

Cantor's final screening, on Saturday at 10:15 a.m., "picks up the pieces," he says, "where I'll show clips of important people that we haven't covered thus far."

Panels and screenings, offered at $8 each, may be purchased separately. For information or tickets, call (310) 985-5566, or 985-7000.


Vibes and Vocals: Remarkable vibist Gary Burton, justifiably acclaimed for his splendid four-mallet work, and jazz singer Rebecca Parris appear Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Wadsworth Theater in Brentwood. Altoist Christopher Hollyday is the opening act. Information: (310) 825-2101, (213) 365-3500.

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