Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles / Edition 1

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Realizing that the history of Central Avenue resided in the experiences and voices of the people who lived and played there, Steven Isoardi set out to capture the music, the place, and the time, through extensive interviews with nineteen musicians who were part of the Central Avenue scene. Isoardi and seven of those musicians came together as the Central Avenue Sounds Editorial Committee. Together they culled the transcripts from hundreds of hours of recordings to produce Central Avenue Sounds. With individuality and flair, the interviews offer enthralling eyewitness accounts of critical episodes in the history of Los Angeles: life in rural Watts before its incorporation into greater L.A., the rise of Hollywood in local culture, the often neglected role of female musicians, the drug scene, the after-hours clubs and the institutionalized fears of "race mixing" that led the Los Angeles Police Department to crack down on Central in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Most of all, however, the voices in Central Avenue Sounds speak of their joy in making music: playing together in their early years, succeeding with the most important bands in the nation, experimenting with new musical styles, and producing innovations of their own.
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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World
A vital mosaic of Jazz in Los Angeles.
United News Service
"This volume is a loving learning experience, please by all means buy it and learn about living and jazz."
Kirkus Reviews
With a long list of editors, this oral history is the product of a committee, composed mostly of musicians who lived and worked in Los Angeles during the heyday of the Central Avenue jazz scene. Today, Central Avenue largely consists of empty lots, burned-out stores, and terrible slums—the heart of the area known as South-Central L.A. Once, though, it was the vibrant heart of black Los Angeles, a street whose music clubs gave birth to a myriad of jazz and rhythm-and-blues talents and showcased virtually every major African-American popular musician of the 1930s and '40s. The history of jazz in California is woefully underdocumented, and this volume is a major contribution to redressing that imbalance. Under the auspices of the Central Avenue Sounds Committee (the volume's editors), Steven Isoardi, an interviewer for the UCLA Oral History Project, spoke to 30 musicians; 19 of those conversations appear in this book. Certain themes recur: the importance of family bands as a breeding ground for young musicians; the significant support youngsters received at the local Jefferson High School from a serious and dedicated music faculty; the importance of Central Avenue as a gathering place and training ground for players; and the importance of the struggle to open up the segregated local musicians' union. Many of the interviews are a delight to read. Jack Kelson waxes rhapsodic in painting a word picture of the avenue after dark. Marl Young offers a witty, hard-headed recounting of the union fight. The importance of these testimonies is inestimable. But the decision to preserve each interview as a separate chapter is a misguided one. The book that results is often repetitive andoccasionally dull. An important book for jazz historians, but it could have been so much more. (b&w photos, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520220980
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 470
  • Sales rank: 1,444,467
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

Maps of Central Avenue area
Introduction: The Formation of Los Angeles's Black Community 1
Pt. 1 The Emergence of Central Avenue 15
Marshal Royal 22
Lee Young 51
Fletcher Smith 74
Pt. 2 The Watts Scene 89
Coney Woodman 94
William "Brother" Woodman, Jr. 103
Britt Woodman 114
Buddy Collette 134
David Bryant 164
Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely 179
Pt. 3 The Eastside at High Tide 195
Jack Kelson 203
William Douglass 233
Melba Liston 255
Art Farmer 261
Horace Tapscott 282
Pt. 4 Drawn by Central's Magic - New Faces 305
Gerald Wiggins 311
Gerald Wilson 324
Clora Bryant 342
William Green 369
Marl Young 381
Conclusion 401
Notes 407
Bibliography 415
Index 421
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