The Central Avenue Jazz Festival 2018 moved Angelenos’ feet and spirits

  • Story by Ricky Ricardo
  • Photos and videos by Cal Sakaniwa (unless otherwise noted)

Boogaloo Assassins on stage at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival 2018

The 23rd annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival was held on the hot weekend of July 28 and 29, 2018, from 11 am to 7 pm, on Central Avenue between King Boulevard to the north and Vernon Avenue to the South, in Los Angeles. Back in the day, Central Avenue was the hub of jazz in our city, and many of the legendary icons of jazz performed there in its heyday. Those who attended this year’s Central Avenue Jazz Festival were fortunate to experience the amazing energy of the area. The event allowed them to re-imagine and celebrate the culture and legacy of Central Avenue.

The festival consisted of seasoned jazz musicians as well as rising jazz performers who are keeping the flame of jazz alive and moving it forward. Entertainment was held on four energetic stages: the Etta James Stage, the Tito Puente Stage, inside the lobby of the Dunbar Hotel, and at the Jazz Improv Stage.

The LAUSD Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band got the show underway with an amazing set of jazz standards. The youth must be saluted for showcasing their talents on the main stage. Vocalist and pianist Betty Bryant then graced the Etta James Stage. The band consisted of Betty Bryant-vocals/piano, Richard Simon-bass, Robert Kyle-sax, and Kenny Elliott on drums. The group was on point with their set of jazz and blues, which was fun and entertaining. Their set featured the tunes “He May be Your Man, But He Comes to See Me Sometimes,” “I Remember You,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Exactly Like You,” “Catfish Man,” and “I Got Rhythm.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the Blues is alright. Zac Harmon got down in the gutter with some smoking hot, down home funky blues to the delight of the audience.

TC Carson is a jazz vocalist, voice over artist, and actor that is best known for his portrayal of the debonair Kyle Barker on the hit sitcom “Living Single.” He took it up a notch by fusing his vocal stylings with several jazz and pop standards that left the crowd wanting more.

The entertainment on the Tito Puente Stage was cooking with the beautiful sounds of Brazil and the contagious, infectious rhythms of Latin Jazz and Salsa. Katia Moraes and Brazilian Hearts allowed the audience to go on a musical journey through the beautiful country of Brazil with the sounds of Samba, a tribute to Carmen Miranda, and a mixture of other wonderful Brazilian sounds. Their set list consisted of “Falsa Baina,” “Moits Cariocas,” “Boco de Siri,” “Palpiti Infeliz,” “Batendo a Porta,” “Men Radio e Meu Mulatto,” “Como Que Roupa,” and “Feira de Mangaio.”

Katia Moraes and Brazilian Hearts / Photo by Ricky Ricardo

The heat was turned up on the burners throughout the fiery set presented by Boogaloo Assassins. Southern California Salseros were rewarded with an hour long set of tunes consisting of “Mi Jeva,” “Right On,” “Creation,” “Arana Negro,” “No Te Vuelvo,” “Diablo,” “Para Mi,” “Bomba,” “Be My Baby,” and the popular arrangement of the reggae tune “No, No, No” by Dawn Penn.

  • This is a link to 138 photos from Cal Sakaniwa’s camera of Boogaloo Assassins & the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Band on Saturday, and of lots of dancers / See also videos below

Sy Smith performing with the Pete Escovedo Latin Band / photo by Ricky Ricardo


The slow burner was working at full capacity as the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Band took the stage. The band performed material from their latest album “Back to the Bay” with guest vocalist Sy Smith. They opened their tight set with “In the Stone,” followed by “Don’t You Worry About a Thing,” and “Let’s Stay Together,” featuring Sy Smith. They continued with “What You Won’t do for Love,” featuring keyboardist/vocalist Tracy Carter. Pete and his sons – Peter Michael and Juan Escovedo – stretched on the tune “La Cuna” followed by “Angel in Disguise” and concluded their set with “Whatcha Gonna Do.”

The entertainment continued on the Tito Puente Stage on Sunday with the Francisco Torres Latin Jazz Band and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, plus Havana Jazz Project on the Jazz Improv Stage.


The Spanish Harlem Orchestra on the stage on Sunday

  • This is a link to 114 photos from Cal Sakaniwa’s camera and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra on stage on Sunday and of lots of dancers / See also videos below

The 23rd Annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival featured four pavilions with information and activities for community members: Balfour Beatty Youth Pavilion, Grow Annenberg Health & Wellness Pavilion, Arts Pavilion, and The New 9th Business & Job Pavilion.

The event was presented by Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr., The City of Los Angeles, the New 9th, in conjunction with Coalition for Responsible Community Development, in partnership with Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles and the Department of Cultural Affairs City of Los Angeles.



Boogaloo Assassins


Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Band


Spanish Harlem Orchestra