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THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND THE BIZARRE | THE PEACEMAKER
| SO SOCAL

Jazzed on Unity

July 19, 1998

The Billy Higgins Quartet was swinging an updated arrangement of the old Nat "King" Cole standard "Nature Boy" when singer Dwight Trible took the stage. Framed in the darkness of the East Hollywood rock 'n' roll bar known as The Garage, Trible moved into the spotlight, eyes closed, head tilted back, and delivered a sound of such luxuriant resonance, supplication and hurt that some patrons stopped their fingers mid-snap and gawked, while others, burnished in the amber half-light of the bar, slid eagerly from their stools and squatted beneath him on the floor. A star, apparently, was being born, and the moment was reminiscent of antique scenes in jazz history where established--but largely unknown--jazz masters such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie got their first exposure to astonished, virginal audiences outside the black community.

With his trademark spectacles, African caps and garments, his horn-like vocal riffs and robust, otherworldly sound, Trible is arguably the most distinguished unknown jazz vocalist in town. Until recently, his reputation has been confined to the places where it was made: within L.A.'s African American community, where he is not only a respected jazz soloist fronting his own band (The Oasis of Peace) but also a frequent performer (often uncredited, as he is on this night) with local jazz legends Horace Tapscott, Norman Connors and Billy Higgins.

Since his arrival from Cincinnati in 1979, Trible has survived on prize money won in weekly amateur singing contests while donating his services in an endless round of weddings, graduations and births. "My life in L.A. has been just two extremes," Trible asserts. "I've never felt so much turmoil and pain and struggle as I've felt here; but I've also never experienced as much joy."

He is using the universal appeal of his music in what some may term a quixotic effort to bring together L.A. "There is a large cross-section of people from other races that will take a chance to come to our concerts in the black community to get this thing, this so-called jazz," says the 45-year-old singer, "and I was lying on the couch and it came to me: [I am] supposed to bring people together with this music." Since then, and with his reputation spreading, Trible has performed from the smallest churches to the World Stage, from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to Catalina Bar & Grill.

"My thing is to promote peace and love and to have unity within our communities," he says unabashedly. The effectiveness of Trible's jazz diplomacy was evident in the whoops and ovations that followed his solos at The Garage.--Emory Holmes II

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