Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival
Los Angeles- The local jazz community was out en mass at the Watts Towers on September 28, 2008. There was a two-fold reason for the mass gathering of jazz enthusiasts. We were out to enjoy the music featured at the 32nd Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival. Many people were in attendance for the grand opening ceremony for the new Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center.
Mingus Family members Graham Mingus (grandson of Charles Mingus) and Sharon Mingus (daughter-in-law), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Councilmember Janice Hahn, 15th District, Councilmember Wendy Gruel, 2nd District, Olga Garay, Executive Director, DCA and Rosie Lee Hooks, Director, WTAC and CMYAC welcomed the community to this wonderful occasion. Official Proclamations were presented from the City of Los Angeles as well as Council District 15, which will be displayed in the new Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center.
One could hear music of Charles Mingus in the background about 100 yards away. The sounds were provided by LA Multi-School Alumni Jazz Band directed by Reggie Andrews. Guided tours of the facility were provided after the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. The grand opening of the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center also kicked-off the Charles Mingus “Son of Watts” Musical Caravan. This nine-month program will include additional performances and exhibitions at various other Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) venues and were made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
As part of the NEA-sponsored Charles Mingus “Son of Watts” Musical Caravan, there will be three major jazz concerts in Los Angeles focusing on the music of Charles Mingus. Mingus Big Band Concerts, October 3 at Madrid Theater and October 4, at Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro. Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Hollywood will host a symposium on April 18, 2009. A Gala Night-Tribute to Mingus Concert is scheduled for May 1, 2009 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. The concert performances, part of a year-long Los Angeles tribute to MINGUS is made in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts American Master Program, and produced by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs in association with Sue Mingus and Jazz WORKSHOP, Inc. Info: (213)847-4646 or visit www.culturela.org.
The theme for the 32nd Annual Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival was “A Tribute to Charles Mingus: Past, Present and Future.” Mr. Mingus grew up nearby and used to play in what is now the location of the Watts Towers.
The Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival featured some splendid and superb sounds of Alaadun, The Soul Seekers, LA Multi-School Alumni Jazz Band, Billy Mitchell, Ray Bailey and Friends featuring Kevin Brandon, Nedra Wheeler’s Bass Choir with arrangements by James Leary. The festival concluded on a rousing note with the Jazz Mentorship Orchestra conducted by Patrice Rushen and Buddy Collette.
Several Awards were presented throughout the day. The Charles Mingus Award was presented to trumpeter Nolan Shaheed and drummer Kharon Harrison. Jerry Quickley was presented with the Poet Laureate Award 2008/2009. Lillian Mobley, President of Watts Towers Community Action Council was also presented with a prestigious award.
There were plenty of activities featured all day for the entire family. Brenda McGee was in charge of the Piano Students Recitals. World class musician Roberto Miranda led the String Bass Workshop. Giant Puppets roamed around the festival grounds provided by Michelle Berne of The Center for Celebration Arts to the delight of the kids. People enjoyed guided tours of the Watts Towers. Matt Gibson III led the Universal Drum Circle. Prof. Peter Abilogu, Stilt walker was also featured, along with supervised children’s arts and crafts activities, fabulous food court, yoga classes and other arts and crafts merchandise.
The Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival (September 27) and the Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival were sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the Friends of Watts Towers Arts Center.