Ufahamu, Harold Land Jr.,

Ufahamu, Harold Land Jr.,

*Los Angeles – Residents of the greater Los Angeles area are fortunate to have so many options to enjoy for Memorial Day Weekend.

I joined a community of creative people and visitors for St. Elmo’s Village 45th Anniversary Celebration with the theme “Celebrating the Art of Creative Survival.”

The celebration got underway on Saturday, May 24th with an eclectic musical line-up featuring DJ Nnamdi spinning tracks, guitarist and vocalist Rei Fukuda, solo jazz piano of Greg Bryant, poetry recited by Mark-Anthony Johnson, Damon Turner, V. Kali and Patrisse Cullors.

The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to percussion instruments and the world beat sounds showcased by Munyungo Jackson & the Groove Tribe All-Stars, Marcus L. Miller’s Project World Drum and Leon & Da Lion, funk, soul, African drumming.

As luck would have it, I was delighted that Sunday, May 25th program was dedicated to jazz and blues.

The day got underway with a swinging set by Ufahamu 45th Anniversary Band on the tunes “Green Dolphin Street,” “Seven Steps to Heaven,” “Freedom Jazz Dance,” “Up Jump Spring,” “Half Nelson,” and “Bird Like.”

clarence johnston quartet

Clarence Johnston Quartet

DeeDee NcNeal Quartet

DeeDee NcNeal Quartet

The Clarence Johnston Quartet continued in an up tempo, straight-ahead mode. The group consisted of Clarence Johnston-drums, Clarence Robertson-bass, Clarence Webb-saxophone, and Sabine on keyboards. They played a brief three song set with the highlight being the swinging tunes “Soul Eyes,” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.”

Dee Dee McNeil and her Quartet took it up a notch for a fun and thoroughly entertaining set. The band featured Dee Dee McNeil on vocals, Llew Matthews on keyboards, Luther Hughes on bass, Quentin Dennard on drums and Rickey Woodard on saxophone. As you can tell, this is an All-Star stellar band of renowned musicians. The crowd was captivated throughout their set on the tunes “Lullabye of Birdland” a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. Their set continued with “In Walk Bud,” “Man From Ipanema”-with Los Angeles area tennis courts substituting for beaches in Brazil, “Reaching” a motivational tune, “Sugar,” and closed with “Hard Knocks.”

Guitarist and vocalist Rei Fukuda made a return engagement with a large fan base to wow the crowd with some original compositions.

Lovers of music should be familiar with the saying “you can’t lose with the blues.” Gregg Wright Blues Band fired up the crowd and the festivities with a set of electrifying blues to conclude the celebration on a rousing note.

St. Elmo Village is a place of creativity and a place for people to explore and develop their creativity. The Village emphasizes pride in self as well as in our environment, which instills a desire to build up, rather than lament the present. The spirit of openness and inclusion at St. Elmo Village inspires ones best effort in the present and an excitement about the future. St. Elmo Village is a credit to the human spirit. It is an inspirational example of what can be created when a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural people come together for the good of all.

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