Their images line the walls, jazz and blues legends alike and that’s just how Barbara Morrison likes it. At The California Jazz and Blues Museum (CJBM), the legends are on display for everyone to come, see and hear. Morrison started the museum as she saw the need was great for the community to recognize the jewels within it.
“I noticed that there were legends just walking in the [Leimert Park] Village,” said Morrison. “And people didn’t know who they were.
“And along the street, down Degnan in front of my building, for a whole half a block… was the Sankofa Passage and it had all the stars, African American stars, of jazz and blues.
“I said ‘wait a minute, we need a brick and mortar to let people know what these people were about’, some people didn’t even know who they were and I’m not even from California.
“We need a museum so people can put picture with a face, with a name on that walk of fame.”
The Michigan native saw a need and commenced to fill that need and birthed a one-of-a-kind museum. April was Jazz Appreciation Month and CJBM opened in true form with Stix Hooper of the jazz group, the Crusaders and Charles Wright of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. “Broadway in Leimert Park” welcomed a whole month of jazz and blues greats along with concerts, lectures and tributes to Billie Holiday Max Roach, George Benson and many others.
A local legend in her own right, Morrison can be seen crooning classic tunes at The Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center (BMPAC) along with a list of talent. In 2009, she opened (BMPAC) in Leimert Park to give creative artists a venue to express themselves while providing arts exposure and opportunity in the underserved community of Los Angeles. CJBM builds on what BMPAC has established by introducing the community to rich local history.
“We had 1,200 kids coming from throughout the city to get music lessons and on the other side of the street, we have Fernando Pullum, who has a performing arts center, with a ton of kids,” said Morrison.
“They can walk into this museum and meet these people—some of them are still alive. And they can touch them, and they can talk to them and they can learn who they’re learning their music—these little kids are studying jazz and blues.”
CJBM welcomes guests with photos galore of jazz and blues artists as well as inspired art. The museum also offers lectures and information directly from artists. Morrison would like to invite the community to come visit the museum, which is a rarity within the already rare arts culture of Leimert Park.
“It’s one-of-a-kind and in order for it to survive, come by and support us,” said Morrison. “Come by and see us.
“This is the 100th year of Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Lena Horne and Dizzy Gillespie; if they were alive, they all would’ve been 100-years-old this year and we celebrate them every Monday night at 7PM at 4317 Degnan at the California Jazz and Blues Museum.
“Keep jazz alive in Leimert Park.”
For more information on the California Jazz and Blues Museum or the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, please call (310) 462-1439 or visit www.californiajazzandbluesmuseum.com or www.barbaramorrisonpac.com.