Jay Boykins plays the saxophone at the festival

*Los Angeles-Leimert Park Village was all abuzz throughout Labor Day Weekend. The occasion was the 2nd Annual Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival. The 2010 theme was “Community Counts.” Throngs of people from the community and beyond enjoyed some soulful music, dance and had a nice poetic experience. I was one of many who were in attendance all three days of the festival, September 4, 5, and 6, 2010.

The Leimert Park Group encouraged all to chill, while being thrilled with the talents of internationally known musicians as well as local favorites. The entire back lot of the Vision Theatre was turned into a vibrant, colorful African bazaar, with an international food court, kid’s area, authentic African Arts and crafts and a lively and exciting auction.
Torre Brannon-Reese served as Master of Ceremonies.

The entertainment on the stage featured musicians performing jazz, reggae, blues, R&B, spoken word, smooth jazz and some rock and roll. The lively and rhythmic performances of the musicians offered up a real treat for the public.

Saturday- each day of the festival opened with Libation. JJ Kamabasi performed this important blessing to kick of the festivities. The highlights on Saturday featured a performance and dance by Tionne paying tribute to Michael Jackson. The Visitors is a talented gospel group who entertained the crowd with some acapella songs “No Turning Back,” “Coming Back to Jesus,” and “There’s a God in Your Heart.” We stayed in an acapella mode with Renaissance performing Do Wop like singers used to do back in the good old days. The crowd were mesmerized by the groups set list of “Magic Moment,” “A Lovers Question,” “Under The Boardwalk,” and “It’s Alright.”

Kelly Love Jones is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who is deserving of wider recognition. I’m sure that the accolades will come in due time. She performed about four songs from her self titled CD. She also sold out all of the CD’s that she brought to this gig. This is a true testament to her talents.

Saxophonist Derrick Edmonson and his lovely wife Debora Simmons Edmonson were celebrating their fifth year anniversary on this day. They performed as a duo and delivered a solid set on “What You Won’t Do For Love,” “I Just Want To Be Close To You,” “Tell Me If You Want Me Too,” and “Master Blaster” before leaving to celebrate their anniversary in style.

Kamasi Washington closed out day one with a set of straight ahead jazz for the jazz purist in the audience.

Sunday-Shine Muwasi had the honor of performing the Libation on day two. The audience and I were taken on a musical journey down memory lane. Vocalist Faleisha Reese sang “Honey, I Love You,” “Hypnotized,” “Rock Steady.” Vocalist Dee Bradley was also great as he performed two selections from the Frankie Beverly and Maze songbook. Nostalgia billed itself as a Temptations Revue. They were dressed to the nines, were excellent in their synchronized dance moves and wonderful singing “Get Ready,” “Ain’t to Proud to Beg,” “Stay,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

I’m continually amazed at how versatile vocalist Maia is. We were able to witness another aspect of her delightful spiritual life as she sang and played the harp for an attentive crowd. Wadada worked the crowd up in a frenzy with their infectious African and reggae rhythms. Audiences throughout the Globe have this same experience when ever and where ever Wadada performs.

Earl R. Johnson, Jr. performed material from his current CD Juicy. His band backed festival headliner Randy Crawford. Her radiant smile lit up the stage and the festival grounds as she spread joy through her lyrics. You could have heard a pin drop as Ms. Crawford’s angelic voice could be heard singing “Respect Yourself,” “At Last,” “Since I Fell For You,” “Street Life,” “God Bless The Child,” and capped off a marvelous evening with “Every Day I Have The Blues.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the group who performed Libation on Monday the final day of the festival. Anthony Aquarius rocked the festival grounds as he took on the persona of Jimi Hendrix in wardrobe, speech, singing, guitar playing-with his teeth, behind his back, between his legs. He was spot-on on Hendrix’s tunes “Foxy Lady,” “Purple Haze,” “Red
House,” “Voodoo Child,” and “Machine Gun.”

Foxy For You were stellar in their tribute to the Supremes with the tunes “Dreamgirls,” “Stop In The Name of Love,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Mr. Postman,” and had the crowd jump to their feet with “Dancing In the Streets.”

I concluded my enjoyment of the 2nd Annual Leimert Park Village African Art & Music Festival listening to Jay Boykins. This is a rising star in the smooth jazz/adult contemporary music community. You will continue to hear more from this dynamic saxophonist in the future. Kelly Love Jones made a return engagement to the festival. She was welcomed back by popular demand. The festival also featured the blues performed by Wali Ali, some modern jazz by Michael Session and Azar Lawrence
and concluded with the rhythmic African drumming of Nijite.

The Leimert Park Group should be commended for their first class cultural festival. They have filled a huge void in the cultural landscape for the community during Labor Day Weekend. This is quite significant when one notice the absence of both the African Marketplace and the Long Beach Blues Festival that typically were held on Labor Day Weekend. The Leimert Park Group consists of Yevette Renee Nelson, Sika Wilkinson, Jackie Ryan and Amaechina Doreen.

The festival was made possible by the generous contributions of resources and time. The 2010 supporters were Council member Bernard C. Parks, 8th District, Union Bank, The Getty, Sparkletts Water, and Time Warner Cable. Official radio sponsors are KJLH Radio Free 102.3FM, and KPFK Radio 90.7FM. Additional sponsors were The Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles and Community Build.

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]