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Central Park | Here is the Central Avenue Jazz Park sign located at the intersection of 42nd Place and Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. This is the site of the Central Avenue Jazz Festival that takes place at the end of July each year. (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Ledesma)

Jazz Remnants Keep Rich Music History Alive

By Jeffrey Ledesma
The Central Stories Project

Los Angeles -- As you look down Central Avenue toward downtown, dozens of pedestrians weave their way through the crowded sidewalks.

There at the intersection of 42nd Place and Central Avenue there’s a blur of mothers pushing baby-filled strollers, students in purple polos and khaki pants hauling book-stuffed backpacks, and children wearing jerseys carrying soccer balls.

Central Avenue in South Los Angeles was once the soul-jerking heart of the west coast’s Jazz movement in the 1930s and 1940s. The prominently African-American community once moved to the smooth moves of the saxophone, the deep sounds of double bass, and the pounding keys of the black and white.

Clearly, the cultural landscape has change.

However, the history of that culture seems to thrive in the public art displayed throughout the community.

The HeArt Project teamed up with local students in the neighborhood to bring to life the jazz history of the area via public art. Their work was revealed in 2005 as a 17-foot-long tile mural featuring several jazz greats like Ray Charles and Billie Holiday.

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"I think it's great to see artwork everywhere," said James Morales, a resident of the neighborhood. "Especially since the community was so involved in making this place what it is today and remembering what it was yesterday."

Morales, 29, was sitting on the concrete stage watching his son and daughter run around the play equipment surround by a moat of sand at the Central Avenue Jazz Park.

"I come here all the time and I hope there are more projects like this one," he said pointing to the tile mural behind him.

As he turned up the music playing from a portable radio, Morales said that music has been very important in the history of this place he calls home.

And just across the street stood the Dunbar Hotel which was once compared to the "Ritz-Carlton." It was a place that many famous jazz musicians stayed at while they were working in the Los Angeles area.


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Blast from the Past | The Dunbar Hotel sign still hangs proudly in South Los Angeles even after the the famed hotel has been transformed into low-income housing. It was once the hotel that many famous jazz musicians went to when they were working in the Los Angeles area. (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Ledesma)

View Key Jazz Sites in a larger map
Key Jazz Sites | Here is a map showing a couple key jazz sites in South Los Angeles to help map out the layers of history and see how the neighborhood is attempting to keep those histories alive. (Map Credit: Jeffrey Ledesma)

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Highlight Jazz History | The HeArt Project brought teens, artists, and the community together and created a tile mural commemorating the area's Jazz history in the Central Avenue Jazz Park across the street from the Dunbar Hotel in South Los Angeles. (Video Credit: Jeffrey Ledesma)

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Muscial Mural | Here is a mural that highlights the jazz history of the area showcasing a jazz musician. This mural is located right off of Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. Murals like this one are woven throughout the neighborhood. (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Ledesma)