The Jazzcat

Billy Higgins Jazz Walk Festival in Leimert Park

by on Nov.02, 2004, under News


Additional Photos

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!


LeRoy Downs


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