By Ricky Richardson, Contributing Writer
Los Angeles — How time flies. It is hard to believe that we have reached the first quarter, fourth month of the year. April is an exciting time of the year, with its pleasant spring weather.
April is Jazz Appreciation Month
April is Jazz Appreciation Month (aka, “JAM”) was created to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz for the entire month of April. Jazz Appreciation Month is intended to stimulate and encourage people of all ages to participant in jazz in some form- to study jazz, attend concerts, listen to jazz on the radio and jazz recordings, read books about jazz and more.
Normally, this time of year, jazz concerts, festivals, and workshops would be taken place across the United States and internationally. The COVID-19 Pandemic has halted attendance at in person concerts.
One can listen to jazz on the radio 24/7. Los Angeles based radio station KJAZZ, 88.1FM, and on the internet https://jazzandblues.org Spice up your weekend with a little Latin Jazz (Friday and Saturday evening) as well some down-home blues (Saturday and Sunday afternoon), you have the ingredients to be designated as “America’s #1 Jazz Station.” There is a popular saying “Jazz Made in America, Enjoyed by the World.”
You do not have to travel far in order to listen to jazz recording. I invite you to visit your parent’s basement or attic. Please walk gently as to not set off their motion sensors guarding their vintage collection of LPs. (smile). If you want to start your own collection, there is a wide selection of LP’s, CD’s, and DVD’s to be found at your local record store, online, garage sales and or local 2nd hand Thrift stores.
Due to the Pandemic, libraries have pivoted to curbside pick-up of books ordered in advance online. This is a valuable resource to read about jazz. You can also purchase books about jazz online from your local, national bookstores. There are variety of movies about jazz that you can stream online, check out from your local library, or purchase online.
Look no further than your family tree for great stories about jazz musicians, festivals, concerts, jazz venues etc. There is a good chance that someone in your family was/is a jazz musician, or a patron of the local jazz scene.
Jazz Legends of Leimert Park
Sankofa Passage was dedicated and unveiled November 30, 2007. The Sankofa Passage honors many past and present creative channels who left a lasting impression that continues to influence the spirit and cultural fabric of Los Angeles and the global village. Check out the Sankofa Passage next time that you visit Leimert Park. A spiritually enriching row of diamond shaped bronze plaques, in the shape of a pyramid, is on display on the sidewalk between The Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center and the Hot & Cool Café. Each Sankofa Passage honoree have a pyramid with their name, artistic discipline, and place of birth. The Sankofa Passage Jazz Musician honorees consists of Billy Higgins, Horace Tapscott, Harold Land, Sr., Dexter Gordon, Eric Dolphy, Hampton Hawes, Clora Bryant, Marie Bryant, Melba Liston, Juno Lewis, Charles Mingus, Gerald Wilson, Buddy Collettte, Elvira Redd, Ernie Andrews, and Roy Porter. This is another culturally rich resource to learn about jazz musicians, artists, teachers, scholars, etc., who have left an indelible mark felt in the greater Los Angeles area and the world. An image of the mythical Sankofa bird with its head turned back
(symbolizing a reverence for the past) and symbols of branding irons used in slavery border the perimeter of each plaque.
The Future of Jazz
The future of jazz is looking bright. Students at the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center is carrying the torch of jazz, performance arts or whichever career path they follow forward into the future. The Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide quality performing arts instructions to at-risk youth and help them build self-esteem, develop civic responsibility, and achieve academic success. The teachers provide a program filled with structure and well-planned curriculum to serve all students with a desire to learn and grow their talent. I have had the pleasure of seeing and hearing this talented group on several occasions around town. Their commitment and dedication are apparent in their tight arrangements of pop and jazz standards.
Jazz Venues in Leimert Park
Los Angeles is home to many world-renowned jazz musicians as well as rising stars in the genre. When it safe to do safe, local venues will be there to welcome everyone with open arms. Let’s hope that these venues can re-open, following City, County and State health guidelines in the Summer. The World Stage is an educational and performance space in Leimert Park Village, the heart of Los Angeles African American cultural community. It was founded in 1989 by the late world-renowned master jazz drummer Billy Higgins and poet and community arts activist Kamau Daaood, in an attempt to fill a cultural void in the L.A. community. The World Stage has blossomed to assume a pioneering and pivotal role in South Los Angeles music and arts landscape. The World Stage host virtual, social distance concerts. Visit http://www.theworldstage.org to the calendar for upcoming events.
Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center established in 2009 by Grammy-nominated Jazz & Blues legend Barbara Morrison. The BMPAC provides an intimate space for creators and Los Angeles audience to enjoy theatrical productions, live comedy, jazz, vocal workshops, dance lessons, and music classes for kids. Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center is hosting an array of virtual jazz concerts for Jazz Appreciation Month. Visit https://barbaramorrison.com for event schedule.
Hot & Cool café is another venue where one can go to hear jazz music, spoken word performances and live DJ sets. Due to the Pandemic, shows are held outside in The Alley. Everyone heeds to safety protocol- face masks, social distance etc. Check out The Alley Leimert Park Instagram for more information.
Let’s not forget the historic and legendary Regency West. I’m sure that this venue brings back a lot of fond memories for you or your parents back in the day. KAOS NETWORK is another awesome establishment where creators can produce and showcase their talents. I can’t overlook the Vision Theatre which is undergoing renovation. This will be another performing arts venue when it reopens in the future. Important side note, actress Marla Gibbs used to own the Vision Theatre as well as the former Marla’s Memory Lane & Jazz Superclub.