The Gathering: Roots & Branches of Los Angeles Jazz chronicles a multi-generational music project started in 2005 by Jesse Sharps, one of the great composers to come out of the progressive improvised music scene of Los Angeles and an early bandleader of Horace Tapscott's Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. It focuses on the Leimert Park district and progressive jazz scene of Los Angeles covering the history of the music, and the tradition of elders guiding the young players on the scene. With live performances and behind the scenes footage of the historic recording session that started the project off, and interviews and performances by local legends Azar Lawrence, Dwight Trible, Kamau Daáood, Phil Ranelin, and Roberto Miranda as well as rising stars Kamasi Washington, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and many others, the film covers a rich and evolving musical community.
The film is currently in a festival run, with a world premiere "work in progress" at the Maine International Film Festival in 2019 and a West Coast premiere at the 2020 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. More screenings are coming, including some at virtual events and festivals online. See SCREENINGS
The Gathering: Roots & Branches of Los Angeles Jazz was founded in October 2005 during a historic summit and recording that took place at CalArts in Valencia, CA when Jesse Sharps was in Los Angeles helping to preserve the music of Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. While in town from Germany he connected with friends and fellow players he grew up with in Los Angeles, as well as new and familiar members of Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, in which he was a bandleader during the 1970’s. The event was organized as a collaboration-based gathering where the musicians could get together to perform and record music of their peers. Jesse would eventually make Los Angeles his permanent home again several years later.
From 2008 through 2009 The Gathering debuted as a band with a select group featuring Jesse Sharps, Dwight Trible, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Thomas Stones, Nick Rosen, and several others, The group performed at several festivals and venues around the Los Angeles area, including the 2009 Angel City Jazz Festival, Leimert Park Jazz Festival, Central Avenue Jazz Festival and at venues such as the Pasadena Levitt Pavilion, and Jazz Bakery. In November 2008 The Gathering performed and recorded “Justice”, a song by Abdul Salim at The Jazz Bakery in celebration of the election of Barack Obama. A digital release of the recording can be found by clicking here.
The band has continued to perform at festivals and venues around the Los Angeles region and continues to branch out and evolve, embracing new players and musical explorations. In 2018 the band performed a memorial concert for Steve Smith at The World Stage in Leimert Park (Pictured left). Steve Smith was a local Los Angeles trumpet player and a longtime key member of The Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. He helped Jesse Sharps in preserving the music transcripts of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra when Jesse was in town back in 2005.
The name of the event, The Gathering, was inspired from a community center and performance space founded by Dadisi Sanyika that Kamau Daáood helped to organize back in the 1970s. For this “Gathering” Kamau led a select group to improvise live with him on his signature spoken word piece “Language of Saxophones.” Jesse Sharps brought in his epic composition “Peyote Song III” to pair with his other song “Desert Fairy Princess” which Dwight Trible wrote and sang lyrics for. Roberto Miranda led the group as an improvising conductor for his experimental piece, “Agony in the Garden.” Two Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra standards were recorded that day as well, “Warriors All” by Horace Tapscott and “Lately’s Solo.”
Several well established local players such as Ndugu Chancler, Richard Grant, Azar Lawrence, Phil Ranelin, Michael Session and Taumbu joined the event as well as members of the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and younger up and coming players on the scene like Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Brandon Coleman, Joey Dosik, Randal Fisher, Nick Rosen, and Kamasi Washington. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson brought in Peter Jacobson, Myka Miller, and Sara Schoenbeck to help round out the woodwinds and strings.
All of the songs were recorded live to 16-track Pro Tools engineered by Blanton Ross, and mixed by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Jesse Sharps with the help of Carlos Nino. The name of the album “Leimert Park: Roots & Branches of Los Angeles Jazz” was inspired by Jesse’s time connecting with many of the musicians from the event while in Leimert Park where he would often hang out and play. It is also a reference to the connection Leimert Park has as a hub for African American culture in Los Angeles. The album can be found at thegatheringrootsoflajazz.bandcamp.com along with a digital release of “Warrior’s All” by Horace Tapscott.
The entire event was shot live on two digital cameras. On camera interviews of the participants was provided by Lemiert Park artist Bongo RasStarr.