2nd Street Jazz - Jazz & More in Little Tokyo

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, April 18, 2007 02:50pm | Post a Comment

2nd Street Jazz (or LAND, as it's otherwise known as) is a Jazz club
and bar located in downtown LA's Little Tokyo. It's an inconspicuous
spot, unassuming, situated on a corner between a couple of sushi restaurants and an American Apparel. Actually, it's very easy to miss. However, it's a spot that has been gathering ample attention not by
flyers or ads, but through word of mouth.

2nd Street Jazz was founded six years ago by former trumpet player and
entrepreneur, Kohei Matsumoto. Kohei was a businessman whose passion
for jazz inspired him to open a jazz club in Little Tokyo. Unfortunately, after having achieved his dream, Kohei passed away. However, his son Koichi soon took over and is keeping his father's vision alive.

The week starts off on Monday night, which tends to be a little tamed. You can find your usual suspects enjoying a cold 24oz. Sapporo and speaking with Koichi or the bartender Lisa, from my hometown of Gardena. On Tuesdays, 2nd Street hosts an open jam session that attracts many of L.A.'s up and coming jazz musicians. Wednesdays are reserved for local Jazz groups playing mostly original compositions. In fact, in the multiple times that I have been there on a Wednesday night, I have yet to witness a single mediocre act.

Other nights are reserved for different events, my favorite night being an amateur night with the participants being some of the regulars from the bar. It's funny, some people will surprise you with their talent and others, well… it's amateur night. It's never boring. The acts cover various musical styles: R&B, rock, samba, hip-hop... etc. Lots of cover songs that range from the musical tastes of Alicia Keys to Michael Franks (remember "Popsicle Toes"? ah… yeah, that one) to Miles Davis.

Having been to Japan twice, this spot reminds me a lot of the night clubs in Tokyo. The neon colors reflecting from the sign, the drinks and the hospitality... flood my mind with memories of Japan. Speaking of hospitality, the people who work there make you feel right at home. They are just as fond of East L.A. oldies as much as they are of Traditional Jazz. (After all, they are on the cusp of where the 1st Street Bridge takes you into East Los Angeles.) It's definitely a far cry from the pretentiousness that comes from clubs west of 2nd Street Jazz. That's what I like about this place -- its homey love mixed with highbrow music. At some point people started to treat jazz as a museum piece and it became more about the past than the present. It's time to bring jazz back to the local scene for a whole new generation to appreciate it.

LAND On 2nd Street is located at 366 E 2nd Street, off the corner of Central and 2nd in Little Tokyo, downtown Los Angeles. Phone#: 213-680-0047

Upcoming events:

April, 23 2007 - Kai Kurosawa/Vinny Golia's Friday Nite Band
April, 25 2007 - Richard Sears/Harris Eisenstadt CD RELEASE/Phil Fiorio
May 17th De Volada! featuring DJ sets from DJ Luz, DJ Pan Dulce and Gomez Comes Alive!
Every Tuesday: 2nd Street Jazz Jam Session featuring Gary Fukushima, piano; J.P. Maramba, bass; Miles Senzaki, drums. No cover, 1 drink minimum to play.

Wax Poetics - A Must Read for the Vinyl Junkie

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, April 16, 2007 05:00pm | Post a Comment

Issue #22 of Wax Poetics is out now! Included in this issue is an in-depth interview with Pharoahe Monch, whose long overdue album comes out in June. Also included is a feature on the outspoken Betty Davis, who paved the way for future female funk artists such as Macy Gray & Erykah Badu. Way ahead of her time, the former wife of Miles Davis never got full credit for changing the face of funk in the 70’s. Other great articles of note include features on Too Short, Joao Donato and Ornette Coleman, plus a tribute to the late Alice Coltrane. One of my favorite regular features in Wax Poetics is called "Re:Discovery," where the magazine contributors write about five favorite rediscovered albums, twelve & seven inch singles. I often feel a variety of emotions when I read this feature, from jealousy (I wish I had that!) to regret (damn, I used to have that!) to pride (man…I’ve had that for years!). This magazine is a must for people who love digging through Amoeba's vast World, Reggae, Soul, Electronica and Hip-Hop vinyl sections!

Sloe Poke - LA's Resident DJ

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, April 11, 2007 11:47am | Post a Comment

There are three things you need to know about DJ Sloe Poke: 1. He doesn’t mess around with any of the artsy stuff. 2. You won’t hear him tactlessly scratching and 3. He goes to a club to rock it.
What makes Sloe Poke one of L.A. ’s best DJ’s is that he can spin several styles of music with ease. Sloe Poke attributes his skills to the years of spinning for people with diverse tastes, ages and cultures. Most DJ’s can spin two or three different genres of music but get lost when it comes to Latin music. This is where Sloe Poke excels. He’s the kind of DJ that can entice the older generation to go out on the dance floor and put a younger crowd to shame. He can mix a Salsa classic like Joe Arroyo’s “Rebelion” with Celso Pina’s Sonidero hit, “Cumbia Sobre El Rio,” then follow those songs with Thalia’s poppy, “Piel Morena” and Frankie Cutlass’ club fave, “Puerto Rico,” making it all flow together somehow.

Because of Sloe Poke’s range, he can spin almost anywhere in the city. Besides being a resident DJ at places like Little Temple and the Rhythm Lounge, he spins at clubs like Sonido, playing Dub, Dancehall & Lover’s Rock. At the Root Down on Thursday nights he plays funk alongside some of L.A. ’s best funk DJ’s. At ¡DESCARGA! Sloe Poke keeps the floor moving with Salsa, Merengue & Cumbia. When he’s DJing at The House of Blues in San Diego, he compliments whatever act is headlining. He has opened for shows as diverse as Mos Def, David Lee Roth, Yellowman & Jaguares. It really doesn’t matter who or what genre Sloe Poke is spinning for -- he always has the perfect mix.

Catch Sloe Poke on Saturday, April 14th @ ¡Descarga! Along with Resident DJ’s—Loslito (The Root Down/The Rebirth/Kajmere Sound), Bobby Soul (Soul Hustlers), Azul (213/ Firecracker/Bridges), Mexican Dubwiser (Chicle/Dubwise Sessions) & Mando Fever (From The Soul Recordings)

Also performing will be Gabrielito (Quetzal, Sonora Santanera) with his all-star group performing original music & classic salsa jams.

¡DESCARGA! CLUB @ LITTLE TEMPLE every 2nd Saturday, is located at 4519 Santa Monica @ Virgil (Silver Lake); April 14th - $10 all night. Doors 9pm-2:00am. 21 + over.

Hot New Compilation - Si Para Usted: Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba Vol. 1

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, April 8, 2007 01:07am | Post a Comment

Si Para Usted is a well put together compilation of Cuban artists from 1970-1980. The now legendary artists such as Irakere, Los Van Van and Juan Pablo Torres were the new wave of Cuban music that broke away from the traditional Cuban sound and started their own thing. Influenced by the sounds that were prominent at that time (Jazz, Afro-Beat, Rock, Funk and Brazilian Tropicalia), this compilation shows a hip side of Cuba that may not be known to many people, especially those who think Cuban music is played strictly by little old men dressed in Guayaberas. (Thanks, Wim Wenders & Ry Cooder!)

Here is a video of Irakere playing a red-hot version of “Bacalao Con Pan,” which is the second track on Si Para Usted. The thing that strikes me about the video is that although the Puertorriqueños were already doing this sort of music in New York for many years, Irakere style had an Afro-Beat feel to it. Most of the funkier tracks on this compilation have that same African vibe as well. Also, the drummer is playing on a trap set, which was pretty rare for the time.

Celia Cruz - La Vida Es Un Carnaval

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, April 4, 2007 12:04pm | Post a Comment

No club or bar frequented by Latinos would be the same without it. Neither would any wedding reception, quinceañera or backyard party. In fact, if you were to drive through the L.A. barrios, my guess is that you would hear the song at some point in your journey.

Celia Cruz’s “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” was originally released in 1998 and it hasn’t left the dance floor since. The song was an international hit for both Celia Cruz and for recent Cuban expatriate Isaac Delgado, who released his version in 1999. Isaac’s slightly melancholy version is good but Celia’s version is bombastic. It maybe pop music but it’s good pop music. The horn lines are catchy to point that you will be humming them all day. The tempo is perfect. Not too fast for novice dancers and not too slow for the experts. It is a song that mixes well with other forms of Latin music. I’ve have heard versions done in Reggaeton, Banda, Cumbia, & Merengue style.

Then there is the chorus. It is the chorus that hits home for most people.

Ay, no ha que llorar,
Que la vida es un carnaval,
Es mas bello vivir cantando.
Oh, oh, oh, Ay, no hay que llorar,
Que la vida es un carnaval
Y las penas se van cantando.

Which roughly translates to:

Ay, no need to cry
Life is a carnival
It's sweeter to live singing
Oh-oh-oh ay, no need to cry
For life is a carnival
And singing relieves the pain

“La Vida Es Un Carnaval” makes me think of people I used to work with in the factories in my teens. My co-workers were mostly undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Philippines. Most of them came to the U.S. to make money to send back home. Some escaped from the wars in Central America during the 80’s. Others saw no future where they were and came to the U.S. to try something new. Regardless why they came, they had to give up family and homeland to come here and work.

All day my co-workers would sing along to the songs on the radio. They said it made the day go faster. Most immigrants hate crybabies. The last thing they want to hear is a privilege person complaining. To an immigrant, the fact that you were an American citizen was privilege enough. When the American in me would complain when we would get too much work, my co-workers would simply say, “No lloras” (don’t cry) I had no reason to cry compared to them. To my co-workers crying about life only made it worse. That is what most of us get out of Celia’s song. Life is a trip and it is better to enjoy the journey than to complain.

Celia Cruz had a career that spanned over four decades before she passed in 2003. She had many, many great moments during that time. Beside her solo career, she had stints with La Sonora Matancera, Tito Puente, The Fania All-Stars, Willie Colon and Johnny Pacheco. It was great to see her become even more popular just before she passed. Too many legends are forgotten as they get older. When I look at this montage video I see Celia  enjoying the last years of her career just as much as her past moments.

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