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Community News: Southwest

LEIMERT PARK : 'Musical Catharses' Enliven World Stage

October 25, 1992|ERIN J. AUBRY

At the World Stage, the music is definitely the thing.

The tiny space with a grandiose name, sandwiched between the flourishing shops and art galleries on Degnan Boulevard, comes alive every Friday and Saturday with jazz--the sounds of Ron Carter, Harold Land, Black / Note, the B-Sharp Quartet and other purveyors of classic jazz.

"This is a spot for unadulterated culture," said Kamau Daaood, a poet and community activist who co-founded World Stage with drummer Billy Higgins. "It's a heart for this community. It pumps life into it."

With the destruction of Jazz Etc. at the Santa Barbara Plaza in the April-May riots, the World Stage has a new significance among jazz spots in the Crenshaw District. The first-rate performers range from established artists like Higgins and the World Saxophone Quartet to fast-rising acts like Black / Note.

"There's nothing like playing here," said 30-year-old Randall Willis of the B-Sharp Quartet after a recent Saturday set. The group has recorded its first CD on the World Stage label this year. "It all started here for us. It's a special feeling playing in the neighborhood where I grew up."

Jazz and other black-oriented art forms, said Daaood, must be nurtured within the community if they are to influence and enrich coming generations. "Jazz artists have been priced out of black areas. That's got to change," Daaood said.

Walking past the empty storefront three years ago, the 42-year-old Los Angeles native envisioned a place where music and poetry could grow in an artistic hothouse of jam sessions, workshops and performances. "I wanted a place that would showcase known artists and provide a space for developing artists who may not have one," he said.

Daaood, Higgins and several other musicians got first and last month's rent together to open shop. Daaood said the space, outfitted with a stage and 60 seats grouped in church-pew rows, has been a healing place for artists, who often lead difficult lives.

"We wanted a place where people could congregate and feel comfortable," said Higgins, also a native Angeleno and 50-year jazz veteran who has played with such legends as John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Dexter Gordon and Ray Brown.

"The impromptu stuff, the conversations are very important," said Daaood, who frequently reads his poetry to musical accompaniment. "The musical catharses that take place here are really praying, not playing."

Manager Don Muhummad, a Chicago native, said he only intended to work a year to get the World Stage off the ground, but he still books acts and is at rehearsals, master series and workshops. "When I really saw what it was about, I knew I had to stay," he said.

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