ellia english

Ellia English performs at California African American Museum Black Music Month celebration event on Sun, June 5, 2011

*Los Angeles – Black Music Month takes place each year in June. Former President Jimmy Carter, who on June 7, 1979, decreed that June would be the month of Black Music. Every President after Mr. Carter, have announced to Americans that we should celebrate Black Music Month. (wikipedia)

Every June, America and the world celebrates Black Music Month. This recognized the enormous contributions African Americans have made in the world of music. A quick google search showed events taking place all across the United States and on an international leval as well.

The California African American Museum, Target Sunday’s at CAAM, celebrated Black Music Month on June 5, 2011. The theme was “Bee Bop, Doo Wop, Broadway and the Blues.” Several hundred people experienced a nice Southern California afternoon, enjoying the exhbits at the California African American Museum, and the musicians who performed on the Main Stage.

The day got under way with professional artist and educator Teresa Tolliver leading attendees in an art project. This was an engaging project that was enjoyed by the entire family.

DJ N’Namdi played an eclectic mix of tracks throughout the day to compliment the music program. Jeffrey Anderson Gunther and Ms. Florence LaRue served as Co-host of the program.

Violinist Chris Woods captivated the crowd with his arrangement of “Summertime” by George Gershwin. His set continued with an improvised tune with strands of “My Favorite Things” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”. The latter tunes were inspired by Mr. Woods checking out the exhibit Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing- How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment, on view June 2-September 4, 2011 at the California African American Museum www.caamuseum.org Mr. Woods’ set featured a mesmerizing version of “Amazing Grace” and he rocked out to end his set with Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

Author Toyomi Igus read excerpts from her latest book I See the Ryhthms of Gospel. This book comes with a music CD. Drawings/ paintings in the book were by Michele Wood.

“Philly Soul” singer Robert Gee opened his set with “Harvest for the World” and delved into a tune from the Broadway play Dreamgirls entitled “When I First Saw You.” He closed his entertaining set with “All My Love” the titled track from his debut CD, and “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love.” Mr. Gee was accompanied by Darryl Alston on piano.

Everybody knows that you can’t lose with the blues. Actress/vocalist/author Ellia English belted out “Love is Like a Faucet” that left the crowd wanting more from this dynamic actress/vocalist.

Actor/vocalist Lavan Davis accompanied by Darryl Alston on piano was simply amazing on the gospel tune “He is Alive” and raised the roof on “Nessun Dorma” performed in Italian. A standing ovation greeting Mr. Davis at the conclusion of his set.

The Harold Wheeler Tribute for orchestrator, conductor and arranger Harold Wheeler featured several surprise guest vocalist. The first to perform was Nina Whittaker who sang “The Greatest Love of All” followed by K.B. Solomon to sang “The Impossible Dream.” Mr. Wheeler and his wife Hattie Winston were moved by this musical tribute. CAAM Executive Director, Charmaine Jefferson presented an Award to Mr. Wheeler for his tremendous contribution to the music world.

The crowd and I were in for a double treat. Ms. Florence LaRue performed several tunes from the 5th Dimensions songbook “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine In” and closed with “If I Could.” Mr. Gunther sang Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”

Nate Lee, singer, guitarist, and composer closed out the prgogram with material from his latest CD Follow A Dream. This is a fitting title for todays program. All of the African American musicians who gave and continue to give of themselves musically were following a dream.

DJ N’Namdi played additional tracks until the museum closed for the evening. Visit www.caamuseum.org or call (213)744-7432 for more information about future programs, events and exhibits at the California African American Museum.

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