By Ricky Richardson
The Leimert Park Jazz Festival returned on August 28, 2021. The festival was held outside on the upper deck parking lot of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The inaugural live and in-person celebration set the foundation for this to be a signature event and a destination festival for jazz aficionados and music lovers from all over the City, State, Country and Internationally. The event was re-branded as the Leimert Park Jazz Festival in 2020 and, due to COVID-19, it was presented as a virtual festival that premiered on Facebook Live and YouTube.
Nearly one thousand music lovers were in attendance for this awesome music festival to usher out the end of Summer. The audience consisted of a large multi-cultural, diverse crowd from all walks of life.
Word spread near and far about this year’s Leimert Park Jazz Festival, which is a celebration of jazz, community, and cultural heritage of Leimert Park. People arrived with enthusiasm and excitement by Metro buses and trains, cars and some even walked over to the venue.
The mission of the Leimert Park Jazz Festival is to build and strengthen community while celebrating and showcasing the artistic and cultural spirit of the historic Leimert Park neighborhood in South Los Angeles. Leimert Park Jazz Festival, will play an important role in ensuring the vibrant South LA community of Leimert Park remains culturally significant for years to come!
The weather Gods looked down favorably upon the festival. It was sunny and cool, without the usual summer heat and humidity.
LeRoy Down returned to host the Leimert Park Jazz Festival. Diane Robertson, the festival’s Executive Producer made welcome remarks and thanked everyone for attending the festival.
DJ Ad complimented the festivities. DJ Ad was on deck of the ones and twos, spinning global beats and classic R&B hits that had the audience dancing in between acts.
The festival got underway with a captivating performance from singer/songwriter Sy Smith. Sy Smith thrilled the crowd with her unique blend of funk, jazz and soul. Smith’s set featured the tunes “Free” by Deniece Williams, and yes, she hit all the high notes throughout the song. Sy continued with an original “Camelot,” from her latest CD, followed by “So in Love With You.” She added her unique vocal touch to “Feeling Good,” by Nina Simone, mixing in some funk, jazz and a dash of blues. She concluded her set with the classic ” Let’s Stay Together,” which has become a viral video recorded with the legendary Pete Escovedo.
Adaawe has performed extensively entertaining audience with enthusiasm, superb musicianship that is empowering. The crowd was feeling the upbeat vibration of world beat tunes performed by the group- “Waka Waka” by Fela Kuti, “Jingo” by Santana, along with “Siriya,” “Yankadi” and concluded with “Amampondo” by Miriam Makeba.
Dwight Trible, singer/songwriter extraordinaire sent lyrics high up into the stratosphere with his tight band. “Little Sunflower,” and “Its All About Love” were the highlights from his brief set. The crowd felt the love and rewarded Dwight Trible with a standing ovation.
Katalyst Collective, The Azar Lawrence Experience, Jose Rizo’s Mongorama and Albert “Tootie” Heath with Jacques Lesure contributed splendid sets to ensure that this year’s festival left a lasting memory for the audience.
Diane Robertson, Executive Producer of the Leimert Park Jazz Festival should be applauded for her leadership and vision for the growth of the festival. 10th District Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas acknowledged and recognized her commitment and dedication by presenting her with a Congratulatory Certificate on behalf of the City of Los Angeles. The Leimert Park Jazz Festival sprouted out from the Sutro Avenue Summer Soiree, an annual community block party that began in 2015 on a residential street in Leimert Park that drew a culturally diverse, family-friendly audience. A jazz stage was added to the soiree in 2018 and 2019 and was enthusiastically received by guests. For more information