By Ricky Richardson
Los Angeles - Summer attire is appropriate for this time of year. The temperatures keep rising as the long days of summer continue. Attendees at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival felt like we were in the Caribbean.
This weekend, Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th, the most historic and hottest jazz festival was held in Los Angeles. The 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was held on the streets, outside of the world famous Dunbar Hotel. Back in the day, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival was the premiere location of African American urban history and culture on the West Coast.
Councilman Curren D. Price Jr, 9th District and Coalition for Responsible Community Development (Mark Wilson, Executive Director) hosted the 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival.
Once a year, America's #1 Art form, Jazz is celebrated during a family, friendly event. Thousands of jazz enthusiasts gathered for two days to enjoy a harmonious blend of the pure sounds of jazz, Latin jazz and the blues. This festival also served as a high school class reunion and reunion of old friends and neighbors.
The rich history of Central Avenue lives on in "The New 9th," Councilman Price continues to celebrate the history of jazz. "For two decades now, this iconic event has helped celebrate our community's rich cultural past, our present and future" said Councilman Curren D. Price Jr.
This year the festival expanded to incorporate three stages of continuous live music, various pavilions focused on health and wellness, children's activities and business and employment services, along with food and merchandise vendors.
A Resource Fair and vendors lined both sides of Central Avenue. The crowd sat underneath a huge canopy and lined the adjacent sidewalks. The synergy from the heyday of Central Avenue could be felt throughout the weekend.
Veteran jazz icons wowed the lively crowd with a set of original tunes and some jazz standards. Fulfilling this bill were Henry Franklin "The Skipper" and Crew, Barbara Morrison, John Beasley and MONK'estra, Kenny Burrell Big Band and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra directed by Dr. Bobby Rodriguez. The 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was dedicated to the memory and legacy of Gerald Wilson. A plaque was presented to the Gerald Wilson family. A section on Central Avenue will be dedicated Gerald Wilson Square in the future.
The festival also featured some talented up & comers of today who are carrying the torch of jazz forward into the future. The featured artists were LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band, Jazz America, Aaron Shaw Quintet, Tony White Quintet, Braxton Cook Quartet, Jamael Dean Quintet, Ryan Porter Group, A Place Called Home, Beyond the Bell Combo and Devin Daniels. Ray Goren prescribed a potent dose of blues.
The 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival spiced up the proceedings with hot Latin rhythms and infectious beats. Salseros (salsa dancers) contributed to our enjoyment of this wonderful festival.
Entertainment was provided by an incredible young saxophonist Christopher Astoquilca A-Tet. Christopher was in a celebratory mood. He celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Central Avenue Jazz Festival and the 194th Independence of Peru with an outstanding scorching set of Bolero's, Cumbia, Merengue, Salsa and Latin Jazz. Their set consisted of the tunes "Blue Bossa" (Bossa Nova), "Es Mentirosa" -merengue, "Love for Sale"-salsa, a fast rumba version of "Caravan" with arrangements by Christopher, and "Flor de La Cadera" with a special guest appearance by guitarist Jose Louis Caballero. Antonia P. Sanchez, President/Founder-Comunidad Peruana Los Angeles Sur de California, Jessica Vanegas, Miluska Morales, Alec Christopher Marken and Sarah Aisha performed traditional dances during Christopher Astoquilca A-Tet set.
Quincy Jones presents Alfredo Rodriguez. Alfredo is an amazing piano wizard from Cuba. He teamed up with Henry Cole on drums as they held the crowds rapt attention throughout their set. People immediately felt the groove as the duo exploded onto the stage with the tune "The Invasion Parade." The tempo slowed down on "Quizas, Quizas, Quizas." The duo revved up the throttle once again on "Timbe Robot," and "Guantanamera."
Ain't no party like a Poncho Sanchez party? Everyone knows that Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band is going to throw it down deep, dirty and funky, with a soulful stew of Latin Jazz, Salsa, R&B and soul marinated in hot sauce, to close out day one of the festival. Salsa dancers left the festival with enough pep in their steps to continue partying at a club, into the sizzling nights.
Violinist Dayren Santamaria is blazing her own trail in Afro-Cuban jazz. She was aided by a group of musicians who are leaders or legends in their own right. The band was made up of Dayren Santamaria-violin, Oscar Hernandez-piano/keyboards, Jimmy Branley-timbales, Joey de Leon-congas, Alfredo Ortiz-vocals/percussions, and Sawa on bass. Dayren Santamaria & Made in Cuba continued the celebration with a high energy set of original tunes from her latest CD, Belleza with arrangements by Oscar Hernandez. The salseros were thrilled as they dance to the following tunes "Made in Cuba," "Belleza," "Mantazas," "Dayren's Nostalgia," and "Cubana Y Tampana" about her early years in my home town of Tampa, Florida.
My enjoyment of the 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival concluded with another excellent set of Afro-Cuban jazz by Arturo O'Farrill Quintet from New York. This tight band featured Arturo O'Farrill on piano, Adam O'Farrill-trumpet, Livio Almeida-saxophones, Carlo De Rosa-bass and Zachery O'Farrill on drums. Their fiery set consisted of the tunes "Siboney," "Industrialistic"-a gumbo of various genres of music, written by Adam O'Farrill, and closed with "Not Now, Right Now."
The Kenny Burrell Big Band closed out the 20th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival on a rousing note to the delight of the crowd.