The musical and social history of Los Angeles's black community from the 1920s through the early 1950s comes to life in this exceptional oral history collection. Through the voices of musicians who performed on L.A.'s Central Avenue during those years, a vivid picture of the Avenue's place in American musical history emerges.
By day, Central Avenue was the economic and social center for black Angelenos. By night, it was a magnet for Southern Californians, black and white, who wanted to hear the very latest in jazz. The oral histories in this book provide firsthand reminiscences by and about some of our great jazz legends: Art Farmer recalls the first time Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie played bebop on the West Coast; Britt Woodman tells of a teenaged Charles Mingus switching from cello to bass; Clora Bryant recalls hard times on the road with Billie Holiday. Here, too, are recollections of Hollywood's effects on local culture, the precedent-setting merger of the black and white musicians' unions, and the repercussions from the racism in the Los Angeles Police Department in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Central Avenue Sounds fills a major gap in California's cultural history, and it shows the influence of a community whose role became as significant in the jazz world as that of Harlem and New Orleans. The voices in this book also testify to the power and satisfaction that can come from making music.
The authors are members of the Central Avenue Sounds Editorial Committee, which includes seven musicians represented in the book: Clora Bryant,Buddy Collette,William Green, Jack Kelson, Horace Tapscott, Gerald Wilson, and Marl Young. Steven Isoardi is researcher/interviewer for the "Central Avenue Sounds" project of the UCLA Oral History Program.
"From Buddy Collette's brilliant ruminations on Paul Robeson to Horace Tapscott's extraordinary insights about artistic production and community life . . . this collection of oral testimony presents a unique and memorable portrait of the 'Avenue' and of the artists whose creativity nurtured and sustained its golden age."—George Lipsitz, author of Dangerous Crossroads
"If ever the West Coast enjoyed its own equivalent of the Harlem Renaissance, it was here on Central Avenue. This too-often forgotten setting was nothing less than a center of cultural ferment and a showplace for artistic achievement. Finally its story has been told, with a richness of detail and vitality of expression, by those who helped make it happen."—Ted Gioia, author of West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California
"What a wonderful, comprehensive volume, full of knowledge and insight about an important time and place in jazz history. This book is a needed and welcomed addition on the rich African-American musical heritage of Los Angeles. It is well written and edited by people who were actually involved in the creation of the music, along with others who have a deep concern for preserving that legacy. This work gives the reader a truly in-depth look at the musicians, the music, and the social and political climate during that important development in American culture."—Kenny Burrell, jazz guitarist and Director of the Jazz Studies Program and Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles
1999 Book Award for outstanding use of oral history, Oral History Assocaition