Celebrating its 21st Anniversary, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival is this weekend! Friday and Saturday, July 30th and 31st. It’s free, all are welcome, and there’s a lot to celebrate…both the history and the present state of jazz in Los Angeles!
There are two outdoor stages, plus a set-up in the lobby of the historic Dunbar Hotel. Music gets underway about 11:30am both days, and the players range in age from middle- and high-school kids in the Jazz America program…
...to the veterans like Ernie Andrews (88 years old). Dig this video of Ernie singing about "Old Man Jazz," which kicks off with a spoken intro by the VOICE OF JAZZ IN LOS ANGELES for 50 YEARS... Chuck Niles!
And Kenny Burrell (84 years old). Kenny will be featured with his Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited, under the direction of Bobby Rodriguez and Charley Harrison.
Kenny Burrell solo
THE LOS ANGELES JAZZ ORCHESTRA UNLIMITED
In between the youngsters and the vets, the players include a great mix, from the teenage guitar phenom, Ray Goren...
And the recent Berklee College graduate, tenor saxophonist Aaron Shaw...
...To the mixed-generation Clayton Family Jam Band, to former Tonight Show drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith’s band, to great Latin jazz legend, Justo Almario and his Afro-Columbian Jazz Ensemble, and so much more!
One of the highlights will be vocalist/actor T C Carson, star of the popular sit-com, Living Single:
Originally called The Hotel Somerville (after the owner, John Somerville, the first black graduate from USC), what became The Dunbar Hotel was financed and built by the African-American community of central L.A. in 1928. After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Somerville had to sell, and for a brief time, the hotel was owned by a group of white investors. It was renamed “The Dunbar Hotel,” in honor of the poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, who was among the many dignitaries and celebrities who stayed there. But it soon went back into the hands of the community, and became the focal point of entertainment. The clubs next door and across the street, as well as the bar inside the hotel, all featured the best musicians of the day: Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton!
Lester Young’s brother, drummer Lee Young, led a band at the Club Alabam (next door to the Dunbar), and he is quoted as saying, “The fellows in the band – Charles Mingus, Art Pepper, all of us -- would hang out between sets next door at the Dunbar . . . Between the club and the hotel you'd see movie stars and all the big show business names of the day.”
In 1995, tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards, along with Jose Rizo, began booking musicians for a revival of the jazz scene around the Dunbar. Teddy played every year, along with Gerald Wilson's orchestra -- both of whom were major players on the Central Avenue Jazz Scene in its hey-day. Today, the lone champion of those original years is Ernie Andrews, who made the scene when he was only a teenager, and is still going strong at 88! Be sure not to miss him!
Over the years, there has been more and more participation from Latin jazz musicians, reflecting the mix of cultures in the area. And, just as it was in the height of the Central Avenue scene, the younger players are learning from and playing with the masters. The vibe is strongly community as people bring their kids and there are activities of all sorts. Local businesses have booths, there's all kinds of food, and there's music all over the place!
More information is available centralavejazz.org