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Hot Fun In The Summertime: The Leimert Park Jazz Festival Celebrates The Culture Of Black Los Angeles

Chuck Koton BY

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When Diane Robertson moved into LA's Leimert Park neighborhood (the cultural center of Black Los Angeles), she knew she wanted to do something to celebrate the community and bring the people together. So, in 2015, she organized the first Sutro Avenue Summer Soiree. But after a great deal of thought and hard work, in 2020 Robertson, along with Dwight Trible and The World Stage, transformed this street party into the Leimert Park Jazz Festival. Sadly, due to the Covid crisis the first annual event was limited to "streaming," but on Saturday August 28th the Leimert Park Jazz Festival went "live" and in person at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

Blue skies, mild temperature, and a cool breeze cooperated to make this a glorious day long celebration of African American music, art and culture for the estimated thousand people in attendance, most of whom were masked. Hosted by Southern California's favorite jazz DJ, LeRoy Downs, the music kicked off with the multi-cultural, Afro-centric rhythms of the mostly female band, Adaawe. Vocalist extraordinaire and Executive Director of The World Stage, Dwight Trible, then brought his band up to the stage where his searing and dynamic, signature singing style energized the afternoon crowd.

Later, veteran saxophone master Azar Lawrence electrified the listeners with a set of the "fire" music that had baptized him nearly fifty years ago when, upon his arrival on the New York City jazz scene, he first joined Elvin Jones' band followed by more than five memorable years with McCoy Tyner. On this night Lawrence grabbed hold of the audience's ears with a soulful rendition of the John Coltrane classic, "Naima," and never let go. After the sun went down, the evening segment of the festival featured the "sabroso" Latin jazz sounds of Mongorama followed by the straight ahead jazz of veteran drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath's band with guest guitarist, Jacques Lesure.

Then finally, after more than six hours, the last notes faded into the air, the crowd dispersed and the lights went out on a very successful Leimert Park Jazz Festival.
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