From the early 1900s to the 1950s, Central Avenue was the epicenter of the Los Angeles music scene, especially jazz and rhythm & blues. With music as its binder, Central Avenue quickly became the heart and soul of the African American community in Los Angeles.
Now in its 24th year, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival is a homage to the musical and cultural history of the area. The free two-day community festival presents a diverse lineup of food, art, culture and vibrant music. The festival takes over several blocks of the historic street in the Vernon-Central neighborhood with food vendors, exhibiting pavilions, and stages featuring an eclectic range of live music performances.
The first Central Avenue Jazz Festival took place in 1996 and drew an estimated crowd of 5,000 people. Today, the festival welcomes more than 30,000 guests of all ages and cultures. Presented by the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) in conjunction with Councilman Curren D. Price Jr., the festival continues to feature prominent L.A.-based jazz musicians, rising stars, and local talent from the high school bands and choirs.
The most famous Central Avenue landmark is the Dunbar Hotel, which was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1974. Once the focal point of L.A.’s African American community in the 1930s and '40s, the hotel served as a temporary home to many visiting African American celebrities during the era of segregation. The Dunbar hosted legendary jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who performed in the hotel’s Club Alabam. Jazz artists from all over the country would play at the Dunbar’s after-hours and at other notable venues along Central Avenue.
In 2008, the property was converted to senior citizen housing for members of the local community. In fact, many of the current residents used to frequent the establishment in their youth. In 2012, the hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation spearheaded by Thomas Safran & Associates and the CRCD. The Dunbar Hotel is the centerpiece of Dunbar Village, an 83-unit affordable housing community. The award-winning renovation maintained the best historic features of the Dunbar while offering a comfortable space for senior citizen housing. The Dunbar Hotel remains an iconic landmark for the Central Avenue Jazz Festival, which seeks to preserve the memory of the historic music community.
Live performances will take place throughout the weekend on four stages: the Ella Fitzgerald Stage, Chico Hamilton Stage, Improv Stage, and the Dunbar Hotel. Download the full schedule of music at the festival website.
Music highlights include:
SATURDAY, JULY 27
- Barbara Morrison & The Bu Crew
- The Baylor Project
- Justo Almario
SUNDAY, JULY 28
- Azar Lawrence
- Chris Dave
- Cassandra Wilson
- Darynn Dean
- John “Dandy” Rodriguez and the N.Y. L.A. Salsa Dream Team
Four pavilions along Central Avenue will showcase community organizations and businesses offering information and services related to Youth, Health & Wellness, Art, and Business/Employment Resources.
BALFOUR BEATTY YOUTH PAVILION
Arts & crafts, jumpers, interactive music activities, and educational demos.
- City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks activities - Jumpers, face painting and airbrushing, an instructor led drum circle with bucket and hand drums, and a rock climbing wall (Sunday only).
- LACMA workshop and photo op - Free printmaking workshop for all ages by LACMA teaching artists and Urban Light photo backdrop. Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm.
- Art Active presents Paint in the Park - Acrylic on canvas class led by master painter Estrella Fernandez. Sessions on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30pm, 2pm and 4pm.
HEALTH & WELLNESS PAVILION
Take advantage of a variety of free health and dental screenings for children and adults, as well as guides for a healthy lifestyle and preventative health tips.
- Basic health screenings, blood pressure checks, diabetes/sugar, Anemia/Hemoglobin, BMI and general consult with a physician provided by St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm.
- Immunizations for children, blood pressure screenings for adults, and health education provided by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm.
- Good Samaritan Hospital Comprehensive Stroke Center will be providing free blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol screenings. Information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and how to prevent stroke will also be provided.
- Dental screenings provided by the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. Saturday only 11am-5pm.
Health Talks - For the first time in its history, the festival has partnered with local medical experts to host a series of workshops to help you learn best practices and tips on how to improve your and your family's well-being.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT & EMPLOYMENT RESOURCES PAVILION
Resources and information will be available on site for emerging businesses, entrepreneurs, job seekers and employers.
CLENT BOWERS PRESENTS ELLA FITZGERALD: THE LADY, HER MUSIC & ME
Central Avenue Historic BID in partnership with A Place Called Home and the Central Avenue Jazz Festival presents a special concert performance, starring Tina Fabrique as Ella Fitzgerald and Jazz Trio conducted by Richard Turner Jr. (keyboards), Ronald Turner Sr (drums) and Harvey Estrada on bass. Performances on Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28 at A Place Called Home - Bridge Theatre at noon and 3pm. Free shuttle service will be provided. Shuttle pick up times from the Dunbar Hotel (42nd Place & Central Ave) to the Bridge Theatre (29th Street and Central Avenue):
- 1st Show - 11:40am and 11:55am
- 2nd Show - 2:40pm and 2:55pm
Return shuttle times from the Bridge Theatre to the Dunbar Hotel:
- 1st Show - 1:30pm and 1:45pm
- 2nd Show - 4:30pm and 4:45pm
Festival parking is extremely limited. Go Metro or use Lyft to travel to the festival.
- Metro: Visit the Metro Trip Planner or call 1-800-COMMUTE to find the best route. The closest light rail station is the Metro Blue Line Vernon Station.
- Lyft: Enter promo code LYFTJAZZFEST19 for 25% off your ride to and from the Central Avenue Jazz Festival.