The Leimert Park Jazz Festival unites the community

Leimert Park attended its jazz festival in full force, with hours of jazz artists performing from start to finish. The festival was held at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on the upper deck of the car park. He saw tents galore, full of art, vendors, merchants and activities for members of the neighborhood and beyond.

The Leimert Park Jazz Festival began in 2015 as the annual Sutro Avenue Summer Soirée block party, but was renamed after the overwhelming excitement surrounding the addition of a jazz stage in 2018. (Jason Lopez Lopez | Daily Trojan)

Although this is the third annual LPJF, the roots of the event date back to 2015, when executive producer Diane Robertson began hosting the neighborhood Sutro Avenue Summer Soirée in Leimert. She noticed that although the neighborhood had a deep and rich jazz scene among the city’s wealth of festivals and concerts, there was no eponymous jazz show held in Leimert.

To fill the void, she approached her friend and Executive Director of The World Stage at Leimert Park Village Dwight Trible to ask him to put on a jazz stage at the event. After its introduction in 2018, the stage became so popular that the block party was renamed Leimert Park Jazz Festival in 2020. Throughout the event’s growth, contributors say the spirit of the original block party is rest.

“It started as a block party,” said Cima Lawson, a volunteer with the Leimert Park Aboriginal Festival and Jazz Festival. “Diane Robertson kind of started the festival, started it in her neighborhood as just a community. Everyone was invited, but it was just a block party – it still had a lot of great performers and vendors. People from the community came out and then it got bigger every year… And now it’s a wonderful event with sponsors and community leaders coming out.

In the center of the festival grounds was an art exhibit featuring local works, with the main stage supported in front of hundreds of chairs and tables. The sea of ​​socializing space was filled with people connecting, meeting new neighbors and listening to the variety of festival artists perform. With Leimert Park being predominantly black, the festival was an ideal space for black artists and bands to showcase their talents to a diverse crowd.

The festival hosted a variety of black businesses and vendors, providing a great atmosphere to match and enhance the music. Some of the companies that attended the event were Sole Folks, Nappily Naturals, Sika, Queen Aminah’s Clothing and more.

Each LPJF vendor brought a message with their merchandise. Sole Folks, for example, is a clothing store on Degnan Boulevard that creates more than clothing for the community. The store is used to fund their non-profit organization of the same name, which focuses on supporting and building over 50 global black businesses.

Sole Folks, a clothing and entrepreneurial co-op, was one of many local black businesses at the Leimert Park Jazz Festival. (Sebastian Dominguez | Daily Trojan Horse)

“We work with designers, creatives and entrepreneurs, to essentially give them a playground to get ideas out of their heads and launch them into real-world markets,” said Sole Folks Cooperative Member Himyo Green. .

As for dining options, there was a wide variety available to the public, with Jammrok serving Jamaican cuisine, D’Ville’s Grille serving soul food, and Hot + Cool Cafe serving vegans, among many other options. local kitchens from Leimert.

The listening audience saw nine sets of different styles of jazz, spanning generations and subgenres. Among these were several standout performances: the groovy jazz set of MONK’estra by John Beasley, and the spoken word jazz performance of Kamau Daáood and A Band of Griots, and about 10 minutes from the Latin jazz artist nominated for Grammy Awards Pete Escovedo.

There was plenty of world-class talent in attendance at the festival, with the aforementioned Escovedo co-headlining the event along with fellow Grammy-nominated artist Patrice Rushen – who is also chairman of the popular music program at the USC – Ernie Watts, Marvin “Smitty” Smith and Edwin Livingston.

The festival started at 12:20 p.m., with the first two sets, the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Youth Jazz Band and the SHINE Mawusi Women’s African Drum Circle, lasting around 20 minutes each. After that, the Leimert Park Experience played their set for 40 minutes, followed by a 30-minute tribute set for Barbara Morrison and Derf Reklaw, who both made their names in LA jazz and passed away this year . Then came the two aforementioned sets, followed by the two headlining sets, capped off by a Jungle Jazz performance from Munyungo.

From start to finish, you could see an abundance of people shaking their heads to the beat of the music and, if they were comfortable enough, dancing their hearts out to some great live jazz. There was also a bit of fun for those in attendance, with an unlisted appearance from Grammy-winning jazz singer Dianne Reeves coming out for a song alongside John Beasley’s MONK’estra.

Additionally, a plethora of volunteers were always on hand to help ensure the festival ran as smoothly as possible.

“There’s nowhere else I would sign up for a five-hour volunteer shift,” Lawson said, “My favorite part so far, even though I’ve worked, was [when] Dianne Reeves came out and performed and she wasn’t on the program. So it was a nice little surprise. I love him as a jazz artist.

Full of good vibes, the Leimert Park Jazz Festival on Saturday spotlighted three of the neighborhood’s most prized qualities: jazz. Community. Culture.

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