What a wonderful surprise to find Leimert Park spewing with the sounds of straight ahead jazz. Ken Moore, of Howling Monk fame and one of the true rebels who strive to keep great jazz on the forefront, invited me down to the Lucy Florence Coffee House and Gallery to see pianist Bobby West perform. Arriving a bit early, I could not help notice that in the other direction, some great sounding jazz was coming from The World Stage.
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As I walked up an empty street, I wondered if I could be fooled by a loud recording. From the distance I could see the door to “The Stage” cracked open with a faint light making its stain on the sidewalk. The music was getting louder and it was definitely the sound of live musicians creating sounds that only remind you of the 60’s. On the door of the stage I saw a poster with a picture of Billy Higgins that read, “Billy Higgins Jazz Walk Fest”. I was a bit confused because the only person walking for jazz was me!
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Inside however, Azar Lawrence, who I had not seen in quite some time, was on stage wailing. I had wondered what had I stumbled upon and why was it by accident. On stage were some of the great burners of Los Angeles; Nate Morgan on piano, Reggie Carson on bass, and Cornell Fauler on drums.
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Azar played with McCoy Tyner back in the 70’s and still remains to display all of the sensibilities and fire that I am used to hearing from the great tenor player. Nate Morgan is killin’ on the piano. Such beautiful solos from each member of this very tight rhythm section. Man, I don’t know what is going on but, EVERY SINGLE TIME I come down to the World Stage, I am filled with the most energetic, enthusiastic, passionate and creative jazz that you can imagine. My man Reggie Carson is back from his pilgrimage to New York and making his known in a big way once again. Cornell! Cornell! Mr. Fauler and I always seem to run into each other on the jazz scene and have the most intriguing conversations about what is really going on with this music. He is a brotha who stands up and speaks the truth about this music and you can hear that love and dedication in his playing. These cats take the music and the spirit right back to the days when jazz music was sought out by the masses. People should be filling the streets in droves to experience such a sound like no other.
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The Leimert Park experience is absolutely vital if you are in Los Angeles and you call yourself a lover of jazz. I can only imagine what it was like on 52nd street with cats playin’ their ass off with all of their heart and soul. If you could, imagine being in hedonistic jazz heaven. A place where Trane reigns supreme with love, “Miles Smiles” and Chalie would definitely let you know that, “Now is the Time”! Where you leave the club drenched with expended energy. The audience screamin’, hollerin’, ranting, raving and falling out like satin was being strangled by the fist of the Almighty.
Well, Leimert Park could and should be the place where you can go and have that feeling. The small jazz venues are there, the musicians are there, the music is there but, the only thing that seems to be missing is YOU. Tonight everyone is breathing hard, the musicians and the audience. This is an interactive jazz experience and no, you can’t use your mouse. You must be present to see and feel the vortex of jazz history open up and allow us to transport ourselves to a time and place where the music mattered. Where people live, breathe and crave the blessings that jazz can bestow. People were honored to be dipped in the waters and have our souls cleansed by the spirit of the music. That great music!!!
If I had wishes, one would certainly be that everyone cared and understood what I am talking about. There are a few who do. There is a special one who we all honor that lived and died to keep the music thriving in this neighborhood. Billy Higgins love, smile, passion, kindness and talent will forever grace the streets of 43rd and Degnan. A festival that graces his name should no doubt be well attended. The word of “The World Stage” does not broadcast far beyond its epicenter. The radius is small and the signal loses its strength quickly outside its domain. Unfortunately the information will not get to you so it will be up to you to seek the knowledge. Find out what is happening in Leimert Park, visit and become familiar with the venues and come down to support the music!