Five Historic L.A. Jazz Spots | West Coast Sound | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Five Historic L.A. Jazz Spots

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Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge THE LIGHTHOUSE CAFE
  • The Lighthouse Cafe
Have you hugged a jazz musician today? You should. For the second year in a row, April 30th has been declared International Jazz Day by no less a reputable organization than the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This year's host city is Istanbul.

But why not L.A.? After all, jazz matured simultaneously with the City of Angels and throughout the last 100 years some of the most important jazz musicians have lived and worked here. While clubs like the Blue Whale and the Jazz Bakery keep the spirit alive, many ghosts still swing in the dark corners of our desert grid. Here are five of the very best Los Angeles jazz landmarks.

click to enlarge ContemporaryRecordsCollage.jpg
Contemporary Records

8481 Melrose Place, West Hollywood

Lester Koenig's Contemporary Record label was probably the most vital chronicler of the Los Angeles jazz scene in the 1950s and '60s. The label recorded local legends like pianist Hampton Hawes and saxophonist Harold Land, as well as visitors like Sonny Rollins (Way Out West) and Ornette Coleman (Something Else!), the latter of whom lived briefly in Los Angeles, notably working as an elevator operator at Bullock's department store in downtown L.A.

The most impressive feat of Koenig's operation was that many of his releases were recorded in the wee hours of the morning at his distribution warehouse on Melrose Place, under the guidance of engineer Roy Dunann. It is unlikely that the shoppers in what is now a rather ritzy shopping district have any idea of the brilliance that once echoed in those streets.

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