antonio fargas & danielle withers

Antonio Fargas & Danielle Withers

*Los Angeles – The 17th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was held on Saturday,July 28th and Sunday,July 29th,2012 on Central Avenue and 42nd Street,outside of the historic Dunbar Hotel.

Los Angeles City Councilwomen Jan Perry,9th District,welcomed a diverse crowd of several thousand jazz fans.The festival celebrates the bygone days of the once vibrant Central Avenue during the 1920’s-1950’s.Many jazz and blues luminaries performed and/or stayed on Central Avenue while touring on the West Coast.

For the past several years,the festival has gotten under way with some talented youths who are doing an excellent job of keeping the flames of jazz alive and striving in Los Angeles.

The Thelonious Monk Institute/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Band came out swinging hard.This group is co-led by Dr.J.B.Dyas and Tony White.Their opening tune was a swinging version of “Perdido” by Duke Ellington,written by Juan Tizol.They continued in this swinging mode with “Sham Time” by Eddie Harris, “I Mean You” by Thelonious Monk and “Duke’s Place.”

Vocalist Diana Holling Band opened with several tunes from the Antonio Carlos Jobim songbook.One of the highlights featured the tune “One Note Samba.” Her entertaining set continued with “Summertime,” “I’m Beginning To See The Light” and a swinging version of “Can’t Buy Me Love” by the Beattles.She was backed by a stellar group of musicians with Jeff Collela on piano,Ben May on bass,Ron Eschete on guitar,Kendall Kay on drums,and Bob Shepherd on sax/flute.

The Sons of Etta:Tribute to Etta James with Donto James,Thelma Jones and Jimmy Z.Their set also honored the legacy of Johnny Otis.Jimmy Z got the crowd worked up with the opening tune “Shotgun” by Jr.Walker and continued to get the crowd involved on “Hand Jive.” Vocalist Thelma Jones joined the band for a heartfelt version of “Something Got a Hold of Me,” “Spoonful,” “I’ll Rather Go Blind,” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Donto James came out for a duet with Thelma Jones on “Roll With Me Henry,” and ‘Tell Mama.” Their set served as the pefect segue for the next band to hit the stage.

The New Jump Blues Band(featuring actor Antonio Fargas and Danielle Withers) they put on a high class Las Vegas style musical show without the glamour.Their engaging,energetic set of jump blues featured the tunes “Good Rockin’ Daddy,” “Cow Cow Boogie,” “One Mint Julip” and several Calypso tinge tunes “Working for the American Dollar” and “Sugar.”

The Gerald Wilson Orchestra was on fire as they closed out day one of the festival.Mr. Wilson is a veteran from the early years of Central Avenue.He continues to produce some classic jazz tunes and lectures at UCLA.

Day two got under way in grand style with Jazz America.This is another talented group of young musicians.”This group was started eighteen years ago,co-founded by school board member Valerie Fields,arts consultant Michael O’Daniel and jazz legend Buddy Collette.Their mission:to perpetuate jazz through youth education and community awareness” stated Richard Simon in the August issue of L.A.Jazz Scene.The current roster consist of promising young musicians.Trombonist Ricky Lucchese will be furtering his studies and career at an exceptional program held in Spain.Jamael Dean is a young piano wizkid.He has already performed as a leader on several local gigs.Saxophonist Christopher Astoquillca is another wunderkinds.He wails like a youthful Charlie Parker.Darynn Dean,the cousin of Jamael Dean,recently won a Bronze Medal during the NAACP ACT-SO Competition in Houston.This group sounded like seasoned professionals on “Night in Tunisia,” “I Didn’t Know About You,” “Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me” with Darynn Dean on vocals.Their set continued with “Miss Fine” by Oliver Nelson, “Harlem Nocturne” with Christopher Astoquillca as featured soloist and “Blues for Yna Yna” by Gerald Wilson.

Ernie Andrews,Mr.Entertainer captivated and enchanted the crowd.Mr. Andrews is another legend of Central Avenue who started his career when he was 17 years old.Today,he is so youthful at the ripe young age of 84 years.He also had an All-Star band with Bobby Pierce on piano,Richard Simon on bass,Fritz Wise on drums,George Bohannon on trombone,Dr. Bobby Rodriguez on trumpet and Richie Cole on saxophone.Mr.Andrews entertained the crowd with the following tunes “Now’s the Time,” “Trying to Find A Women to Grow Old With Me,” “Time After Time,” another crowd favorite was “If I Were You,Baby,I’ll Love Me,” “Next Time You See Me” and “Parkers Mood.” A well deserved standing ovation greeted Ernie Andrews at the conclusion of his set.

Trombonist Phil Ranelin kept up the momentum in a set of straight-ahead jazz from his most recent CD’s Inspiration and Perseverance.The featured tunes performed during their set were “Beyond a Memory,” “Freddie’s Groove,” and a Latin flavored “Jamaican Sunrise.”

The Ray Goren Band is evidence that the future of Blues is in good hands.Thirteen year old blues guitarist Ray Goren was making a return engagement to the Central Avenue Jazz Festival,this time as a leader,to blow the crowd away.He plays and sang as if he has a old soul.It also helps to have B.B.King,Jimi Hendrix,Buddy Guy,Eric Clapton,and Freddie King as influences.The crowd and I were ambused with a non-stop assault of fiery guitar pyrotechnics on the tunes “I’m Going Down” and “Ain’t No Sunshine When She Is Gone” just to name a few.Look for The Ray Goren Band to hit the ground running next year during the Blues Festival season.Remember that you heard it from me first.

Poncho Sanchez closed out the festival with his own barrage of fireworks with an incinerary set of Latin jazz drenched in soul and funk to the delight of the salseros that were present for his set.

Michael Dolphin and James Janisse served as co-MC’s,with Jose Rizo serving as Musical Director for the 17th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival,outside of the historic Dunbar Hotel.

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