Los Angeles used to be a major jazz hub. From the 1920s until the 1950s a small strip of Central Avenue, around Vernon Avenue, played host to every major jazz figure passing through town, including Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. These days almost every building from that era is gone, save for the Dunbar Hotel, which housed many of those aforementioned musicians. Seventeen years ago, however, an initiative to preserve the region's jazz heritage began. A great oral history CD titled Central Avenue Sounds was released, the Dunbar is under renovation and the Central Avenue Jazz Festival was born. The free, two-day festival held each July now features legends and younger cats alike, and attracts thousands of people. It's a great annual reminder of this town's once-vibrant jazz scene, as well as a hint of what it could be again. 42nd Street and Central Avenue, South L.A. centralavejazz.org.
—Sean J. O'Connell
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