– Story and photos by Ricky Ricardo –

Jazz enthusiasts, commuters, and passersby assembled at the iconic Union Station for the inaugural Downtown Jazz Festival. Metro Art, in conjunction with America’s #1 Jazz Station, KJAZZ 88.1FM, presented this exciting evening of jazz.

Some of you may know that April is Jazz Appreciation Month. This special occasion began to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage of jazz during the entire month of April. Jazz was born in America and is now celebrated around the world. Google search International Jazz Day to find out about events taking place all over the world this April 30th.

Jazz Appreciation Month is intended to stimulate and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz. Suggestions include to study the music, attend live concerts, listen to jazz on the radio (www.jazzandblues.org) or KJAZZ 881.FM, listen to rare recordings from your parents or uncles record collections, read books about jazz and view jazz related movies online.

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LeRoy Downs

Metro Arts Presents: DTLA Jazz Tracks at Union Station was presented Saturday, April 6, 2019 from 4:00 pm  to 9:00 pm in the historic Ticket Hall. This wonderful and extraordinary evening of free live jazz showcased the next generations of artists and was hosted by KJAZZ personality, journalist and producer LeRoy Downs, aka “The JazzCat.”

The evening featured four eclectic and contemporary jazz performances, a gallery space featuring photography from legendary jazz photographer Ave Pildas, an exhibition of jazz memorabilia from historian Sean O’Connell, jazz merchandise, poetry, and a jazz lounge.

The line-up of talented artists consisted of Sara Gazarek, Black Nile, Ryan Cross’s Jazz Eclectic and headliner Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.

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Sara Gazarek and Miro Sprague

Vocalist Sara Gazarek has generated a lot of buzz in the jazz community. She has been hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “the next important jazz singer.” She has released four critically acclaimed albums and her latest, “Thirsty Ghost,” will be out in late 2019. Her captivating set consisted of the following tunes: “Lucky to Be Me,” “I Want that Easy Love,” “O Pato” -The Duck, The Sunny Side of the Street” “Jolie, Jolie” and concluded her set with “Hallelujah.”  Sara was aided superbly with Miro Sprague on keyboards, an accomplished musician in his own right.

Up next was Black Nile, founded by Los Angeles brothers Aaron and Lawrence Shaw, saxophone and bass respectively. The brothers are popular in demand musicians who have played with such artists as Tyler the Creator, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé and Jackson Brown to name a few. The band consisted of pianist/keyboardist Diego Gaeta and drummer Mekala Sessions. After a quick change of the stage and intro, the band wasted no time serving up some serious sounds of jazz with a touch of John Coltrane, and little jazz fusion sounds of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock on material from their debut album.

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Lawrence and Aaron Shaw


The engines of this train ride were revved up a notch for the next performance – Ryan Cross Jazz Eclectic. His music can also be heard in some popular television shows and films (Glee, Friends, ER, The West Wing, Studio 60, Cold Case and Along came Poly). The crowd and I were thoroughly entertained throughout his energetic set. Ryan Cross on bass, along with Kenny Crouch-keyboards, Lyndon Rochelle-drums, Wes Smith on saxophones, and special guest vocalist Toni Scruggs. The band opened their set with “Tre Especial,” and continued with a song dedicated to Ryan Cross’s wife, “Tell Me Why.” Vocalist Toni Scruggs is a powerhouse vocalist to be on the lookout for, she belted out some roof raising tunes as demonstrated with the following tunes: “All of Me,” “Moanin,” “Angel in Disguise/Overjoyed,” and “Nightingale in Old Town Square.”

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Ryan Cross Eclectic


Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is an acclaimed trumpeter/flugelhorn performer. He is widely praised as a driving force in the resurgent jazz and instrumental movement, is a two-time Edison Award winner and Grammy Award nominated trumpeter, composer and producer. He capped off this extraordinary evening with material from his latest album, “Ancestral Recall,” as well as earlier works, to the delight of all in attendance.

Stay tuned for future exciting, engaging, eclectic events at Union Station. Metro Arts Presents showcases an exciting array of arts and cultural programs. All the events are free and open to the public. Visit www.Metro.com/art  for more information.

Union Station host a rotating collection of unique events, cutting edge performances, evocative music, unprecedented art exhibits, and thought-provoking cultural programs showcasing the diversity of entertainers, artists and innovators throughout Los Angeles. Check out www.unionstationla.com/happenings for more information.

If you are resident of Los Angeles or planning a visit to the City of Angels check out www.jazzandblues.org and www.lajazzscene.buzz for a list of concerts, events and festivals in the local jazz community.