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Central Avenue Jazz Festival Showcased Eclectic Mix of Music

Magazine,Entertainment, Ricky Richardson

Thousands of jazz aficionados, foodies and history buffs gathered on Central Avenue, between Vernon Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard for the 24th Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival. The festival was started in 1996 to celebrate the legacy of Central Avenue and has regularly featured several prominent jazz, blues and Latin Jazz musicians.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr., Ninth District, teamed up once again with Coalition for Responsible Community Development, in Partnership with Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles and Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. It takes a village to put on this vibrant culturally relevant event that brings live jazz to the Historic Central Avenue, all day, Saturday, July 27th and Sunday, July 28th, from 11:00-7pm.
Attendees enjoyed musical performances on three stages, in addition to inside the lobby of the historic Dunbar Hotel. A well balance mix of high schools, University and professional groups entertained the huge crowds. A diverse selection of culinary experiences, as well as inter-active Pavilions for Art, Business and Employment Resources, Health and Wellness and Youth for enjoyment and engagement.
“This year’s Central Avenue Jazz will be an experience you won’t forget,” stated Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr., who has hosted the signature event in District 9. “It is a celebration of music, history, and community. It was important to me that we pay homage to the historical predecessors while integrating diverse musical groups. From traditional to contemporary sounds, fusion and Latin Jazz, we’ve developed a line-up like no other.
Saturday, July 27th- The lyrics to the song Hot Hot Hot reverberates in my head as I write this review. This popular tune has been recording by many artists. This song accurately reflects the scene at this year’s Central Avenue Jazz Festival. The weather was hot, several of the hottest Afro-Cuban groups were on the bill, playing some of the hottest tropical rhythms, at one of the hottest festivals going for this past weekend.
Radio Personality LeRoy Downs, aka, The JazzCat served as Master of Ceremony on the Chico Hamilton Stage near Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard. ALAJE (Afro Latin American Jazz Ensemble), from USC Thornton School of Music. The band is under the direction of Aaron Sefarty. As the name implies, these talented students fired up the festival with a set of Afro-Cuban styles of music with jazz sensibility of the 70’s and 80’s. They performed compositions by Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades and Ray Barreto to name a few.
I’ve had the honor of watching and listening to Christopher Astoquillca when he burst on the jazz scene as a kid. This amazing young man continues to blaze a trail of his own, while also honoring the past. He led a quintet inside the lobby of the historic Dunbar Hotel. His set featured tunes honoring the legacy and legends of jazz, several who performed on Central Avenue back in the day.
Justo Almario’s Afro Colombian Ensemble took the entertainment up a notch during their energetic set of Afro-Latin Jazz and a bit of funk for good measure. Justo Almario is a master of soprano and tenor sax, clarinet and flute. He was accompanied onstage with Nando Perez and Oscar Cartaya, band leaders in their own right.
The Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet Latin Jazz Ensemble was quite new to me. The award-winning ensemble is led by Gil Flores-Band Director. The band has wowed audiences at several major music festival throughout Southern California. Check this band out live, if the opportunity presents itself, you will not be disappointed.
Singer, songwriter, musician, producer and actress Shelea performed on the Ella Fitzgerald Stage in front of a captivated crowd. She showcased her sultry vocal stylings on tunes combining traditional pop, jazz, R&B and soul to the delight of an appreciative audience.
I would have witnessed embers of smokin’ tropical rhythms if I had returned for Day 2 of the Central Avenue Jazz Festival. I would no doubt have enjoyed John “Dandy” Rodriquez and the N.Y L.A. Salsa Dream Team. I could only imagine their explosive set of Salsa burning on all cylinders.
L.A. Descarga All-Stars, I’m sure would have revved up the throttles of Salsa and Latin Jazz throughout the afternoon on the Improv Stage.

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