(2008–Brick’s Picks, LA Weekly)
There is a lot of jazz this week, but if we have to pick a fave it’ll have to be Jesse Sharps’ Gathering at the Jazz Bakery this Sunday. Jesse—a key player in the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra—released The Gathering a couple years back, an excellent slice of Leimert Park jazz featuring a couple dozen of the neighborhood’s finest all blowing like mad on some great compositions and nice arrangements. He’s gathered them up again for this show, and besides his own sax playing, there’s reedmen Charles Owens and Kamasi Washington, each capable of extraordinary fireworks (this is Eric Dolphy’s hometown, after all), trombonist Phil Ranelin and the incredible vocalist Dwight Trible. So good to see the great tradition of Leimert Park jazz alive and kicking.
Bit of a shame, though, it has to do its lively kicking out in Culver City, a long way from Degnan Avenue. Or that Jesse Sharps has to come all the way from Germany to get the ball rolling. Leimert Park is probably this town’s last living jazz neighborhood. Central Avenue is but a memory brought brilliantly to life once a year at its jazz festival, and downtown and Little Tokyo exist only in fond memories and some books; the older days are utterly gone. No memory, no history, no names, nothing. But Leimert Park is still here, charming and lovely and full of life. You can tell that jazz was once everywhere….but it’s often hard to hear any now. Now the music of Horace Tapscott echoes over at the Bakery while the spirit of Billy Higgins inhabits a too often empty World Stage. So sad. Perhaps some of our local politicians whose election posters still grace the walls around there will deign to take notice. Or perhaps not. Jazz is a hard luck story, no matter who wins elections. But we digress….