by Gary Fukushima
Those of you who are discovering our little start-up non-profit organization for the first time might be surprised to know the Los Angeles Jazz Collective has been an entity for nearly a decade. It began as a group of like-minded musicians getting together over coffee and breakfast at the Coffee Table in Eagle rock on Friday or Saturday mornings, to discuss what was then a real malady in Los Angeles. Jazz musicians who lived in LA circa 2006 can remember the utter lack of any available opportunities to play original, progressive jazz in this city. The conversations we had about what we could do collectively to try and change both the realities and perceptions of what it meant to be a jazz musician in Los Angeles were the impetus for forming what became the LAJC.
At the time, we were just a few individuals seeking to promote our own work and call attention to the fact there was actually creative jazz being written and performed by people under the age of fifty in LA. Over the years, our vision and purpose has shifted to the needs of the growing community of young jazz musicians who are surviving and in some cases, thriving in what has been a resurgence of creative improvised music in this city. Things are better now then a decade ago, with the rise in talent resulting in an overflow of good music coming out of new venues willing to give jazz a try. We don’t claim any direct responsibility for this uptick, and it would be arrogant to do so. Yet we have tried our best to be a catalyst for an environment such as the one which seems to be developing.
Another fortuitous thing that happened is those who came to those early meetings developed strong friendships that have lasted over the years, and quite a few bands came together from those relationships. One such band involved drummer Jason Harnell, guitarist Jamie Rosenn, keyboardist Joe Bagg, and bassist Ryan McGillicuddy. These four friends were part of what we deemed the “Core Collective”, that is, those members who were part of the LAJC from the beginning and were the most actively involved. Apparently, these guys surmised that the core must be made of molten chocolate. Sigmund Fudge has been on hiatus for a number of years, since their Ryan left LA to take a teaching position in Seoul, South Korea, returning stateside for a professorship at Moorehead State University in Kentucky. Ryan still visits Los Angeles from time to time, and we are excited to reunite him with his fellow fudgemates. If there was ever a ‘sound’ that defined the early years of the LAJC, this band would be the one to listen to.
We no longer have a Core Collective, or even a membership, as our organization has now expanded in scope and vision to attempt to reach out across Southern California, finding shared commonality and community in the diverse spectrum of jazz here. Yet everyone loves a good origin story, and you can find out a little bit more of our history at this show on Thursday.