Ernie Andrews

*Los Angeles City Councilmember Jan Perry (9th District) welcomed thousands of constituents and visitors alike to 43rd and Central Avenue for the 15th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival, July 24 and 25, 2010.

It is hard to believe that we were celebrating the 15th Anniversary of this popular festival. I had the pleasure of attending the last thirteen years of the festivals. Jose Rizo, James Janisse and Michael Dolphin served as Master of Ceremonies.

The weather Gods look down favorably upon this event. Festival goers were treated to a sunny weekend with a nice breeze. This was a welcome respite from years past.

The two-day event, Saturday, July 24 and Sunday, July 25, was held from noon to 6PM. The festival celebrated and paid tribute to the rich culture and heritage of the “Avenue” as it was known during its heyday from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. The entire city was invited by Councilmember Jan Perry (9th District) “to partake in some great food, browse through stall of arts and crafts and to listen to some outstanding musicians playing blues, jazz and Latin jazz.”

Clora Bryant is a celebrated trumpeter and Billy Diamond shared fond memories of the “Avenue”. Clora also regaled the crowd with her version of “Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.

The LAUSD All-City High School Jazz Band erased all doubt about the future of jazz. This tight band were swinging hard like seasoned professionals on “Perdido,” “The Jodie Grind,” “Blue Monk,” and “Blue Bossa” to name a few.

Lady Walquer presented a tribute to Nina Simone, which she will be performing a full show at the Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill.

The Azar Lawrence Quintet was on fire throughout their set. The group is touring in support of their latest CD Mystic Journey. The band consisted of Azar Lawrence on saxophone, Theo Saunders on piano, Gilbert Castellanos on trumpet, Tony Dumas on bass and Tony Austin on drums. The band romped through “Mystic Journey,” “Quest,” “and the best rendition of “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane. The band received a well deserved standing ovation.

The Latin jazz and salsa scene in Los Angeles sizzles all year round. The scene is getting a bit hotter as DJ/Radio host Jose Rizo presented Mongorama. This band revisits the explosive and contagious sounds of Mongo Santamaria. Everyone was dancing to “Baco So,” “Ese es la Vida,” “Blu Changa,” “Que Maravilloso,” “and “Bubba Boogaloo” for fellow radio host Bubba Jackson from KJAZZ America’s Number one jazz station. The band consisted of Otmaro Ruiz-keyboards, Danilo Lozano-flute, Dayren Santamaria on violin, Rene Camacho-bass, Giancarlo Anderson-congas, Ramon Banda-timbales, Angelo Rodriquez-bongos, Justo Almario-sax and Freddie Crespo on vocals.

Guitarist Roy Gaines and His Orchestra were on the money with their set of blues and jazz to close out the first day of the festival.

The future of jazz is securely in place. Thanks to Buddy Collette, Richard Simon, Roger Neuman, and Sal Cracchiola and other jazz educators affiliated with Jazz America. The kids honed their skills under the tutelage of the above mentioned jazz educators. The results were fully on display as the talented students showcased their professional skills to kick off day two of the festival. The band received thunderous applause after each tune “Moten Swing,” “Walking and Swinging,” “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be,” “Conga,” “I Didn’t Know About You” with the truly amazing vocalist Ashley Searles, “That Warm Feeling,” and closed out with a swinging version of “Take The A Train.”

The festival continued with more straight ahead modern jazz from The Gathering and Henry “The Skipper” Franklin and the big band sounds of the Gerald Wilson Orchestra. Mr. Entertainment-Ernie Andrews lived up to his title and took it up a notch higher to the delight of all who witnessed his set. He is in that rare category of legendary jazz vocalist.

The 15th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival drew a large crowd of young and old jazz enthusiasts over the weekend. This festival also attracted people from all segments of Los Angeles County. All weekend, I witnessed people greeting each other whether they were other family members, neighbors, friends, high school classmates, co-workers etc.

The event was made possible in partnership with the Office of Councilmember Jan Perry (9th District), The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), The Department of Cultural Affairs and KJAZZ, FM 88.1.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]