The Jazzcat

The Los Angeles Jazz Collective Launches its First Festival!

by on Apr.06, 2008, under News


Photo Slide Show

Young minds on a musical mission for peace, unity, love and

appreciation in the music; those are always key ingredients when it comes to

jazz music. In an effort to revitalize the jazz scene and switch the focus from

Bush, gas, the economy, the war, mindless television and Reverend Wright to the

nourishment of the soul, an new alliance has formed among the creative youth in

Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Jazz Collective has come banded together to

uplift, promote, support and educate but most of all, they are on a mission to

entertain the Los Angeles Community with a vast array of organic, original

concepts in music, Jazz Music!


I have been asked to host the two-day festival, which took

place in Pasadena and in the Artists district in downtown Los Angeles. The

first night jumped off at the Pasadena Jazz Institute located in the El Paseo

Plaza in Pasadena. It was my first time at the venue and I must say it is quite

a spectacular place with photographs, paintings and old vinyl albums on the

walls all dedicated to jazz music.


Here at the Pasadena Jazz Institute you can dine and watch

the show, hang at the bar or on a separate outdoor patio and even have more of

a secluded dining experience in their extra dining rooms with plasmas to watch

the performance if that is what you desire. But with the variety of jazz

tonight, this spot is the hottest place to be especially tonight with a special

cover price of only $10. That is not only a bargain but also one hell of a no



Many of these artists in the Collective you may not be

familiar with but, once you spend some time listening and supporting their

effort, you will see that these players are here to make a statement about jazz

and to get the rest of the city to recognize the value of live creative music.

Tenor player Ben Wendel is up first with Adam Benjamin on piano and keys and

Nate Wood playing bass and drums. Yes, I said bass and drums!


Cognitive concepts in the music go a long way in jazz. The

idea is not to keep playing the same old thing but to enhance experiences and

take the people to different places where new elations can be found. Ben has

great tone and direction with his trio slash quartet doing their own version of

walking on the moon teleporting us into a weightless atmospheric musical



Damon Zick and friends have that wonderful straight-ahead

texture that we all love. They warm you over with some double “A section” love

and they head right for the stratosphere! Adam Benjamin, who is playing piano

and keys tonight with a number of bands is killin’! John Diversa is sportin’

that wonderful looking red trumpet that is reminiscent of Dewey and speaking a

language that serenades. Damon leads his band with a collective feel. He trusts

his musicians and allows freedom and space inside his compositions and allows

the music to breathe. Oxygen is not the only complex element that this band is

breathing. They drive a truck with a hemi and the sweet harmonies cross

dissonant roads at many corners but the ride is impeccable. This is the first

time I am hearing these musicians and I can’t believe they live here in my own



Drummer Bill Wysaski is next to work the audience with his

trio of Josh Nelson on piano and Greg Swiller on bass. You know that whenever a

drummer leads the band the tempo is going to be on point. Josh plays so lovely

and is dancing all over the piano with melodic runs that spark the romance in

your soul. Bill is storyteller and offers of a spicy description of his tune,

“Meet me on 4th Street”. Greg keeps the vibe on solid ground and

when the time comes for him to solo, the cool calmness of his delivery

resonates in the cerebellum. I have rarely experienced a vibe like this in Los

Angeles; this mini festival feel is an overwhelming success. We all hoped that

people would show and they are continuing to pour in!


Brian Swartz is the cat that approached me about being the

MC for the LAJC and with a concept of supporting and promoting players here in

Los Angeles I am all in! Brian along with about thirteen other band leaders

makes up the core of the collective

. The great thing about the Los Angeles Jazz

Collective is that they have a policy and that is that each and every member of

the Collective will represent the music on the highest level with the utmost

integrity for their craft. So, you can be guaranteed that when you go to a LAJC

event you will get nothing but the best in new concepts and approaches to this

ever evolving art form. Brian’s Gnu Sextet lays down some serious grove with the

brass section just melting your heart with its harmony. Brian performed a

couple of his own compositions, “Pastorian Fantasy,” and “I’ll See You in

Spring” but, my favorite tune by the Gnu Sextet is “Down with Downs”, ring a

bell. Yes my very own tune and it is pretty hot! This was written as a gift for

playing great music on the radio every night when I used to work at 88.1 FM

KKJZ.  As quiet as it is kept, that

certain bit of nostalgia may have its resurgence soon, but for now, you did not

hear it from me!


Trumpet player Josh Welchez brings another sextet to round

out the evening. Again, a number of fine Los Angeles players; Matt Zebley on

alto, Matt Otto on tenor, Christian Wonderlike on guitar, J.P. Maramba on bass

and Mike Green on drums. Peaceful, soothing breezes blow from the front line

riding on the melodic chords and strings of Christian’s guitar with J.P and

Mike marching to rhymining from the bottom up! Josh, whose last name has two

syllables not just one, amasses sounds of pastels in his warm delivery of tonal

temptation, a mellow way to wind down an extremely wonderful night of

insightful, aspiring, original music.


Just when you thought it was all over, the second half

begins another small world away in downtown Los Angeles. Café Metropol is located

in the Artists District and if you have never been, it could be quite tricky to

find but, once you arrive you reach an oasis and the music is not a mirage!


The great Rocco Sommazi runs, books, cooks, schedules,

serves, seats and delivers great food and well as an eclectic array of jazz

music for you palette. Yes, Rocco has a number of jobs and no he is not

Jamaican, he is just one of our proud patron saints of this music and is

dedicated to preserving the legacy of the music, ‘By Any Means Necessary”!


I used to live in this neighborhood and it is nice to have

jazz music represented well in the old digs. Today the LAJC shows its strength

and the will power of its mission with a whole new cast and crew of players.

The set of music starts early today so the sun is shining inside as well as

out. Since the Metropol is located in a residential building, the music must be

over by 10PM so as MC Hammer would say, “Let’s get it Started”!


The Fukushima, Senzaki, Mcgillicuddy trio is the first to

hit to a near capacity audience here at Café Metropol. Say that five times fast

and we will give you a CD! Gary Fukushima is one of the founding members of the

LAJC and his passion to make this organization a reality has come to fruition

and the session is in progress. Searching, seeking, finding and exploring

cognitive worlds with the melody as the forager through the time and space of a

revolving rubix cube of possibilities, Gary, Miles and Ryan transition

seamlessly and smoothly through the matrix of the music like the

Nebuchadnezzar(Google it)!


Each of the nights of jazz has been recorded live by a

wonderful engineer named Masa who has been on it all weekend so if you missed

the festival, I am sure that you will have the opportunity to experience the

essence of the live performance on a later CD. However, there the LAJC has put

out a sampler disc, designed by guitarist and Collective member Jamie Rosen and

it features all of the core members of the Collective.


Matt Otto is next to lead his quartet of Steve Cotter on

guitar, Jason Harnell on drums and Ryan McGillicuddy once again on bass. Guitar

always has a peaceful way of riding above the rhythm. Steve along with Matt on

tenor sweetly delivers waves of soothing sound while Jason and Ryan travel

through the arteries supplying the blood to pump the heart. So many groups with

such a variety of independent sound; definitely dim sum and then some!


Space is a little limited here at the Metropol but, no one

minds because we all want to support Rocco and it is the smaller venues like

this one here in Los Angeles that are the backbone of the system. This falls

well within the mission of the collective and the support of the music is



I asked the audience if they had the three options, what

type of music would they like to hear, Rock, Heavy Metal or Jazz? They chose

“Option 3” with Joe Bagg, Jamie Rosen and Mark Ferber and yes Joe is taking the

organ and burnin’ em up! Each of these cats are playing’ each other’s tunes and

passing around the love inside the music. The organ has such a wonderful and

distinct sound that resonates so well with our bodies. Mark is on the brushes

at the moment and Jamie’s chords on guitar are lush and comforting. The

voicings and phrases speak the story and take you on the journey of feeling



Robbie Marshal and his Electric Group is the last band

standing tonight to close out a phenomenaly successful weekend of jazz music

here with the LAJC. These cats are plugged in and ready to go. I have been

hearing so much about Tigran Hamasian who is a wizard on the electric keyboards

and he along with funky drummer Louis Cole and bass player Gabe Noel got the

heads rockin’! Robbie brings it on easy, adds some effects on the horn, and

taps into the soul of today and yesterday to deliver some groove base,

funkified concepts that could turn Metropol into Studio 54!


That’s it baby! If you want more, keep your eyes peeled for

The Los Angeles Jazz Collective. These cats have a plan and a mission to

deliver the music to you and with the successful start of this weekend; they

are well on their way!


LeRoy Downs

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