Jose Rizo’s Mongorama added the spicy ingredient of Afro-Cuban Jazz to the St. Andrews Jazz Festival




 

— Story and photos by Ricky Ricardo —

The quaint, tree-lined, well maintained St. Andrews Park in Los Angeles was transformed into “Party Central” on Sunday, June 30, 2019. The occasion was the 4th Annual St. Andrews Jazz Festival, presented by the City of Los Angeles and hosted by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson and the Empowerment Congress Southwest Area Neighborhood Development Council (ECSWANDC).
.
The festival was held on a beautiful, sunny day with a slight breeze. This was a welcome respite from the June gloom of the previous week. On a musical note, June 7, 1979, President Jimmy Carter decreed June as Black Music Month. In 2009, the commemoration was renamed African-American Music Appreciation Month by President Barack Obama. In his 2016 Proclamation, President Obama noted that African-Americans’ music and musicians have helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.”
.
7,000 music aficionados gathered in St. Andrews Park in a day-long celebration of jazz, smooth jazz, Latin jazz, Soul and R&B, culture, and mouthwatering cuisine. Brent Page, Chairperson of the ECSWANDC, stated before the show: “We are happy to provide a safe, family friendly event for the entire community.”
.
Yes indeed, this family-friendly festival offered a day of Jazz and Rhythms and Blues, providing the perfect setting for a fabulous and fun day in the park. The Children’s Village engaged the little ones with activities and food. The Senior Tent provided the elders with seating, shade, and an afternoon meal.
Alonzo “Lonzo” Williams, The Godfather of West Coast Hip Hop, DJ, and Producer, served as Master of Ceremony and DJ. Lonzo enhanced the festival going experience with his awesome choices of old and new school jams that propelled the crowd to bust out their best dance moves from back in the day, throughout the park.




The Washington Prep High School Jazz Combo under the direction of Christopher Estrada was the opening act for the day. It does my heart good to see and hear youth taking the jazz baton and keeping the genre alive for generations to come. The group performed superbly with their arrangements of “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock, followed by Song for my Father” by Horace Silver, “Little Sunflower” by Freddie Hubbard, and concluded their set with “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock. The band featured Markus Donnell-keyboards, De’Andre Garrett on drums, Luis Costello-bass, Melissa Torreblanca-alto sax, Varusa Garcia-tenor sax and Joseph Fabian on trumpet.
.
The sunny weather with its tropical breeze provided the perfect ambiance for Jose Rizo’s Mongorama. This band “continues to explore and integrate jazz with Cuban charanga rhythms, inspired by early 1960’s music of Mongo Santamaria, Cuban Master conguero.” Mongorama spiced up the proceedings with the tunes “Bluchanga,” followed by “Que Maravillosa,” “Son Wambari,” “Baila Que Baila,” and concluded their smokin’ set with “Tin Marin.” Mongorama consist of Danilo Lozano-Musical director/flute, Joey De Leon-congas, Justo Almario-tenor sax, Joe Rotundi-piano, Dayren Santamaria-violin, George Ortiz-timbales, Rene Camacho-bass, James Zavaleta-vocals and Alfredo Ortiz-bells/guiro/vocals.

(FYI, on Friday, July 26, at L.A. Live, in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, East LA Meets Napa will take attendees on a journey to the vineyards of the famed Napa Valley. Over 50 top LA chefs, restauranteurs, award winning Napa wine-producers and premium spirits distributors will serve generous tastings while patrons enjoy the live music of Jose Rizo’s Mongorama throughout the evening. Now in its 14th year, East LA Meets Napa has become AltaMed’s premier fundraising event. Find more information here.)

 

Loose Ends featuring Jane English took the live entertainment up a notch with their classic and timeless hits. Passengers flying over the park heading to LAX could easily see that attendees at St. Andrews Jazz Festival were rockin’ with this band. Their high-octane set consisted of the tunes “Stay a Little While Child,” “Gonna Make You Mine,” “Don’t You Ever Try & Change,” “Watching You,” “Mr. Bachelor.” They slowed down the tempo to perform a heartfelt rendition of “Can’t Stop the Rain.” They revved up the engines again for “A Little Spice,” “Nights of Pleasure,” “Cheap Talk,” “Hangin’ on a String,” and “Slow Down.”

Jazz in Pink is a dynamic and extremely talented all-women band. The crowd and I were jammin’ and vibing throughout their awesome set of smooth jazz with a heavy tinge of soul, funk, and R&B. Their groovin’ set featured the tunes “BreadSandwiches/Kat Girl Intro,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Back & forth,” Bass Jam,” and they all cut loose/rocked out on “Knee Deep/One Nation Under a Groove” by Parliament/Funkadelic.
African-American Music Appreciation Month and the 4th Annual St. Andrews Jazz Festival concluded on a brilliant musical note with a set by Lakeside with Mark Wood. Lakeside delved into their catalog of classic hits and showcased some newer material. The crowd and I took a trip down memory lane along with the tunes “Raid,” “It’s All the Way Live,” and “Fantastic Voyage” to name a few.
.
Soledad Enrichment Action, Inc. (SEA) were on site to provide attendees with a free, might I say, delicious BBQ dinner that consisted of hot links, tri-tips BBQ, hamburger, potato salad, chips and water for FREE! Since 1972, Soledad Enrichment Action, Inc. (SEA) has offered high-risk youth and their families alternatives to gangs, drugs and violence by providing a wide variety of social, mental health, and educational support services that address the often-complex needs of youth and their families.
.
Throughout the day organizers of Jazz at St. Andrews honored community leaders who dedicate themselves to bettering the community. The honorees were recognized for going above and beyond to empower, strengthen and invest in the kind of community that we are deserve. Visit this page to read about this years amazing honorees and be inspired!
###
.
.
.