For decades, Leimert Park has served as the cultural heartbeat of Black Los Angeles. It is the home of legendary institutions such as The World Stage, The Vision Theater, Barbara Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center, and Art + Practice.
Leimert Park Jazz Festival Executive Producer Diane Robertson sat down with the L.A. Sentinel to pay homage to the community. The festival takes place on Saturday, August 27, at 11:30 a.m., at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall, 3650 West MLK Blvd., in South Los Angeles.
L.A. Sentinel: Take us back to 2015 before the festival became one of LA’s premier summertime events.
Diane Robertson: I moved to the Leimert Park community in 2014 and I inquired with neighbors about the existence of a block club. There were two operating concurrently, but both had been inactive for years. I wanted to do something to bring the neighbors together, so I suggested we resurrect the block clubs and combine them in order to harness our collective resources. Together we discussed a relaunch. I was voted president, and in the summer of 2015, we launched the inaugural Sutro Avenue Summer Soiree. It was rebranded Leimert Park Jazz Festival in 2020.
LAS: The festival was forced to go virtual in 2020 due to COVID. What gets you excited about this year’s festival?
DR: Last year, we had about 900 people [in attendance]. I believe we would’ve had more, but there was a lot of hesitancy around social gathering even though the city [had] opened back up. Now, we have more vaccines and boosters and people are more willing to get out and socialize again for their mental and emotional health. So, I’m targeting 3,000 guests this year – tripling the number from last year.
LAS: You’re the executive producer. What, in your experience, are the most important qualities in an EP?
DR: Reliability, self-starting, resourcefulness, competence and patience. I’m still working on that last one.
LAS: Among this year’s line-up of artists, you’ve got the pride of Alain LeRoy Locke High School and USC, four-time Grammy-nominee, Patrice Rushen.
DR: I’m so excited to have her on the line-up. [We] attempted to book her last year, but she wasn’t available. I’m thrilled it worked out this year.
LAS: You’re an entertainment attorney and quite active with the Langston Bar Association, the Los Angeles Conservancy, and so many others. How do you stay balanced?
DR: That question assumes that I’m balanced! My yoga practice has suffered recently, but I try to carve out time to take walks, which helps me to get clarity. I’m also a spa girl. For at least an hour-and-a-half, there’s nothing else to do but sit back, relax and get pampered.
LAS: What will concert-goers get from visiting your website?
DR: Admission is free. The full performance schedule is on our website, as well as important “things to know before you go.” Co-headlining this year are Patrice Rushen, Ernie Watts, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Edwin Livingston, and Pete Escovedo and family. We also feature a Kids Zone for families with children. It’s going to be a wonderful day.
To learn more, visit leimertparkjazzfestival.com.