Encore for South LA’s Dunbar Hotel

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre helps revive a historic jazz landmark on Central Avenue.


Marisa Labog and Joe Schenck rehearse on the balcony in the lobby of Dunbar Village. | Christina Campodonico


By day, a “For Lease” sign hangs in the window of the Dunbar Hotel’s empty storefront on Central Avenue, but on Saturday night this barren room came to life as dancers from the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre kicked up dust from the concrete floor, grabbed onto the room’s barred windows and clung to its steel columns, captivating a crowd of dance-lovers and community leaders who descended upon the historic South Los Angeles landmark to see “Dancing at Dunbar.”

Hours earlier, at 5 p.m., the troupe previewed its choreography for a handful of residents living at Dunbar Village, the affordable housing development on site with the Dunbar Hotel.

An air of easy comfort pervaded the lobby. Some audience members relaxed in large leather armchairs, nibbling on fruit and cookies. Others milled in and out of the lobby with their bikes and grocery bags, pausing briefly to look up at dancers Marisa Labor and Joe Schenck as they wrapped themselves around columns and bannisters on the second-level balcony overhead. [Read more…]

Sights and sounds from the Central Avenue Jazz Festival

The 19th annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival last weekend brought out crowds of L.A. residents to enjoy authentic Mexican and soul food, local crafts, and, of course, the sweet sounds of jazz. This year, the Jazz Festival was bigger than ever, with two music stages, kids activities and a plaza offering health screenings, stands representing local organizations and businesses, and artists making and selling a variety of crafts.

Watch the audio slideshow below for the sights and sounds of the festival. 

Visit our Flickr for photos from the event.

Jazz day at 24th Street Elementary

By Lauren Jones

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageThe Los Angeles Jazz Society is hosting concerts at three LAUSD elementary schools as part of the Black History Month celebration. These concerts are a part of a larger initiative to bring jazz programs to public schools.

The sounds of Louis Armstrong, Count Bassie, and Ella Fitzgerald filled the 24th Street Elementary School auditorium. Students received a unique crash course on the history of jazz in America.

Delbert Taylor is a piano player and a member of the Los Angeles Jazz Society. He performed this morning with a band that included people from all walks of life.

He emphasized the importance of jazz as a part of American culture, but he made sure to explain that this style of music is a melting pot much like his band members.

“Jazz doesn’t care what country or language you speak,” said Taylor. “It doesn’t care what your ethnicity is, it’s all playing the music from your heart.”

Taylor says artistic expression is an important part of the educational experience for students. Budget cuts have eliminated many public school’s music programs.

“With jazz and not only jazz, but with dance, acting, making paintings and things of that nature, these are all very important or a child to be able to get out there and express themselves,” said Taylor. “This is just one mode of expression that we’re championing at this point.”

Taylor explained the evolution of music and how jazz evolved as a product of African-American people’s struggle in the United States.

“A long time ago, a very bad thing happened here and that thing is slavery,” said Taylor. “Out of that bad thing something good came like songs, music, negro spirituals, then Gospel, then Swing, then Jazz, then Rock n’ Roll, R&B, Hip Hop and Rap.”

By the end of the performance, students were singing along, clapping, laughing and raising their hands to answer trivia questions. As the exited the auditorium many of them stopped to thank their teachers.

Renee Dolberry is the principal at 24th Street Elementary School. She says this program is one of the only times her students are exposed to music in school.

“This year our music teacher was cut, so we do not have a music program at 24th this school year,” said Dolberry. “This is such a great opportunity for our boys and girls to be exposed to the jazz music.”

Exposing kids to jazz is music to the ears of Robert Smith. He is a Jazz Studies professor at the University of Southern California and a recording artist.

“The more we can expose kids at an early age to music and particularly the music of our culture, the more it will become a component of substance in our culture,” said Smith. “It has to be bred, cultivated, and nurtured.”

Smith says college campuses are experiencing a wave of students interested in traditional American Jazz. It is an integral part of American history and is still weaving itself into contemporary culture.

The jazz world mourns Buddy Collette

imageListen to the audio story here:

Buddy Collette was born into a family of musicians in Los Angeles. He grew up dreaming of a career in jazz; he got that and much more. Collette played the saxophone, the clarinet and the flute, but he was also a jazz educator.

Collette was a key figure in the thriving Los Angeles music scene on Central Avenue in the 1950s. He helped keep Bebop alive, and he played a key role in the development of the Cool Jazz movement.

He was also a pioneer and a civil rights activist in the fight against segregation in the music industry. Collette was the first African American musician to play live on television.

Frank Potenza performed with Collette. He is now the chair of the studio/guitar jazz program at the University of Southern California. He said Collette is an iconic figure in Los Angeles and in the history of jazz.

Collette will always be remembered for his great music. One of his favorites was Blues for Torrance, a song he wrote as a tribute to California.

Image courtesy of BuddyCollette.com