February 6, 2020

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African-American Jazz in California- The 1920s

February 6, 2020- Today's BHM topic is: The 1920's

By the early 1920s the New Orleans transplants that had established a jazz scene in Los Angeles started to move on. Jelly Roll Morton left in 1922
eventually ending up in Chicago where he started to make a name for himself on a national basis. Kid Ory left in 1924 ending up in Chicago as well.

Throughout the rest of the twenties there were three bandleaders that dominated the growing Los Angeles jazz scene: Sonny Clay, Paul Howard
and Curtis Mosby.

Sonny Clay first arrived on the west coast in 1921 after touring the southwest with a number of bands including Jelly Roll Morton. Once in Los Angeles he played with Reb Spikes and King Oliver before starting his own Plantation Club Orchestra. He also formed The California Poppies, The Stompin’ Six and the Dixie Serenaders.
It was the time of prohibition across the United States but Culver City operated as a wide open town with alcohol flowing freely at a variety of venues including the Plantation Club which was located on Washington Blvd.

Clay came to prominence as leader of the Plantation Club Orchestra recording several sides for the Vocalion label. He also did several live broadcasts on the newly licensed KFI radio which brought gained even more noteriety.

Saxophonist Paul Howard had been in Los Angeles since 1911 where he played with a number of bands including the Black and Tan Orchestra. In 1924 he got a job at The Quality Cafe and formed Paul Howard’s Quality Four. He worked for a short time with Sonny Clay then formed The Quality Serenaders which included Lawrence Brown, George Orendorff, a young Lionel Hampton and Charlie Lawrence.

Lawrence composed and arranged much of the bands material which can be heard on several outstanding recordings made for the Victor label in 1929.

Curtis Mosby, later known as the mayor of Central Ave, came to Los Angeles in 1923. He eventually owned several clubs on Central Ave. including the Apex Club which later became the famous Club Alabam.

Curtis Mosby’s Dixieland Blues Blowers became one of the most important bands in town and somewhat monopolized the scene including appearances in several motion pictures.

The star soloists in the band included trumpet player James “King” Porter and pianist Henry Starr who made a couple of sides under his own name for the experimental Flexo record label in 1928.