The 2015-16 Season of Dance and Classical Music at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills

August 28, 2015

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills opens their 2015-2016 season of dance programming on October 1-3 with:

Twyla Tharp: a 50th Anniversary Celebration, a program of new work by Ms. Tharp, co-commissioned by The Wallis (in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Joyce Theatre, Ravina Festival Association & Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and Texas International Theatrical Arts Society).

Twyla Tharp dancers Matthew Dibble and Rika Okamoto in Yowzie costumes

L.A. Dance Project follows on January 29-30, featuring Hearts and Arrows by LADP Founder Benjamin Millepied with music by Philip Glass; the U.S. premiere of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Harbor Me; and Murder Ballades by Justin Peck.

Ezralow Dance Company performs OPEN on April 29-30, marking the “hometown debut” of Daniel Ezralow’s new dance company. Ezralow has created dances for Hubbard Street Dance Company, Batsheva Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance Theatre, the Cirque du Soleil/Beatles show LOVE, Julie Taymor’s film Across the Universe, and the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.


The Wallis’ diverse classical musical programming – encompassing 17 concerts – starts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the esteemed leadership of Zubin Mehta (November 10 and 11) with two different programs. A gala fundraising performance on November 10 will feature the Dvorak New World Symphony and the Vivaldi Concerto for 3 Violins (Semion Gavrikov, Dumitru Pocitari and Asaf Maoz soloists); a second subscription concert will include Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Ravel’s La Valse.

Other artists include cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han with The Passionate Cello (January 8), Eagle Rock-based Santa Cecilia Orchestra (January 16) led by Sonia Marie De Leon de Vega, with a program featuring Latino and American composers; the return of Keyboard Conversations® with Jeffrey Siegel performing An American Salute celebrating our country’s most beloved composers (February 27); The Jerusalem Quartet (April 14); and Grammy Award-winning violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner (March 26).

A new East/West: Merging Music & Cultures music series will include Wu Man & The Shanghai Quartet (January 23); violinist Cho Liang Lin with Jon Kimura Parker (February 13) and Bing Wang and Ben Hong (February 20).

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Jerusalem Quartet also make up The Soul of Israel series, which is completed by David Olowsky Trio’s The Soul of Klezmer, a masterful expansion of the Klezmer folk music tradition (March 25).


Colburn at The Wallis: A Concert Series partners The Wallis with the Colburn School, one of the nation’s highest ranked educators of students pursuing rigorous performance training, for an exciting series of concerts throughout the 2015-2016 Season. Featuring rising stars from the Colburn Conservatory of Music alongside celebrated concert artists and Colburn’s renowned faculty, the concerts include Colburn School artist-in-residence, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet (October 30), cellist Gary Hoffman (November 7), Music Director and Conductor Yehuda Gilad and Mikyung Soung, double bass (March 6); and the principal brass players of the New York Philharmonic (April 10).


In an expansion of programming to fulfill its mission to support and celebrate young artists, The Wallis will begin Next Generation @ The Wallis, featuring Taiwanese-American pianist Steven Lin (March 11), jazz pianist Justin Kauflin (January 22) and Sean Chen (February 19), recent winner of UPenn’s eminent 2015 Annenberg arts fellowship for artists – all pianists on the verge of breakthrough.


The Jazz Bakery will also be presenting concerts at The Wallis with a new partnership, The Jazz Bakery @ The Wallis. As one of the premiere presenters of jazz in Los Angeles, The Jazz Bakery brings a long history of curating and presenting jazz to this new concert series at The Wallis.

For more information about the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts click HERE.

Photo by Ruven Afanador

Vocal Jazz Highlight of the Week In Los Angeles: Eliane Elias in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast Tonight

June 18, 2015

By Don Heckman

Eliane Elias is back in L.A. tonight, performing at the Moss Theatre in Santa Monica.  And that’s great news for lovers of fine jazz vocalizing. And lovers of fine jazz piano. And lovers of both talents in the same artist. Which is what audiences experience at an Eliane Elias performance.

Wish we could be there, but we’re in Oregon, and I’m sure our L.A. jazz friends will turn out for a memorable evening.

I’ve written numerous times about how impressed I was the first time I heard a youthful Eliane, decades ago, when she was barely out of her teens. Her Brazilian roots were already bringing a uniquely mesmerizing richness to her brilliant improvising. And this was before she added jazz singing to her resume. But her solo piano playing was on the verge of astonishing.

And it has only improved over the years, its impact supplemented with her singing. In the process, she has matured into a world class vocal/pianistic artist. In recent decades, she has firmly established her valid inclusion in the iconic list of singing jazz pianists reaching from Shirley Horn, Barbara Carroll, Carmen McRae, Nat “King” Cole, Diana Krall and beyond.

Eliane performs in Southern California once a year or so. Which really isn’t enough. So don’t miss this Jazz Bakery Movable Feast appearance at the Moss Theatre, in which she’ll be playing with bassist Marc Johnson (her husband), guitarist Rubens De La Corteo and drummer/percussionist Rafael Barata. No doubt she’ll offer some selections from her latest album, Made In Brazil.

Click HERE to read our review of a recent L.A. appearance by Eliane.

And here’s a video taste of Eliane Elias in action. Which is great. But don’t miss this – or any – opportunity to experience her performances up close and alive.

Eliane Elias performs in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Moss Theatre in Santa Monica.  Click HERE for information.

Live Jazz: Jackie Ryan in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute

November 3, 2014

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles. Jackie Ryan made one of her far too rare Southland appearances on Saturday night. The program was a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute featuring Ryan with the stellar backing of tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard, pianist Tamir Hendelman, drummer Dean Koba and bassist Alex Frank.

Jackie Ryan

Jackie Ryan

That’s an impressive combination of talent, and the result was a stunning blend of vocal and instrumental jazz.

Ryan has always been a versatile, expressive singer, comfortable in several languages, an effective interpreter of bossa nova classics often in their original Portuguese. Add to that her strong sense of rhythmic swing and effective story-telling mastery.

Rickey Woodard

Those qualities, and more, were all present in her dynamic Saturday night appearance. Additionally noticeable in her rendering of an appealing program of songs were Ryan’s engaging entertainment skills. Interacting humorously with her highly receptive audience, sharing the spotlight with Woodard and the other players, introducing songs with a narrative describing their background, she offered a complete package, energized by the rich jazz qualities that are at the center of her performance art.

Among the highlights of an evening filled with memorable moments: a group of warmly intimate Brazilian songs from Milton Nascimento and Antonio Carlos Jobim, highlighted by an especially touching version of Jobim’s “Louisa”; a passionate rendering of “I Love You Porgy,” prefaced by Ryan’s telling of the song’s meaning in the context of the opera Porgy and Bess; a briskly swinging “I Just Found Out About Love”; a laid-back “Sleeping Bee”; a soaring, blues-driven take on “Georgia,” featuring a scene-stealing solo from Woodard; and more.

Rickey Woodard, Dean Koba, Alex Frank, Tamir Hendelman

Ryan was backed throughout by the sort of sturdy support that most singers dream of having, and often do not. Hendelman’s highly praised accompaniment for singers was present in every note he played; Koba and Frank laid down an irresistibly bouyant rhythmic flow; and Woodard’s playing, as noted above, provided the perfect, musically illuminating musical partnership.

The only thing missing in this otherwise superb musical evening was a second set. And when we left the theatre, the only remaining desire was the wish for Ryan to make more frequent trips south to gift L.A. with the many pleasures of her music.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Music: Emily Bear in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musician’s Institute.

May 11, 2013

By Don Heckman

“I just do it.”  That was the brief comment I received from young pianist/composer Emily Bear when I spoke to her after her Wednesday night performance at the Musicians’ Institute.

Four little words.  In response to my query about her orchestral composition “Santa Fe.”  How, I wondered, had she developed the skills to write so authoritatively for a full symphonic orchestra.

And she replied, “I just do it.”

Emily Bear

Emily Bear

Which is probably the response that this remarkable eleven year old prodigy would have to all the other impressive accomplishments she has had with her music.

In case you haven’t been watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show lately, or haven’t stumbled upon her numerous film clips on YouTube, you may not be too sure about who Emily Bear is.  Suffice to say that she’s been receiving a lot of attention, with good reason.

Displaying musical talent on the piano at the age of two, she began to compose a year later.  At six, she performed at the White House, and she guested on the DeGeneres Show six times.  As she got older, her skills reached from pop and jazz and rock to classical music, often via performances with a full orchestra, performing in venues in the U.S. and Europe.

Emily Bear and Quincy Jones

Emily Bear and Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones was so impressed when he heard Emily in action that he immediately made a deal to take over management of her career.

“She is the complete 360-degree package,” says Quincy, “and there are no limits to the musical heights that she can reach.”

All of which was amply clear in her Jazz Bakery performance.  In a single, hour and half set, she offered a sequence of all original works, performing with bassist Peter Slavov, drummer Kevin Kanner and, on a few works, cellist Zuill Bailey.

Emily Bear

Emily Bear

The music covered a gamut of styles: lyrical, adagio-like classical melodies; briskly swinging bebop lines; an atmospheric flamenco-styled piece; some rhythmically energizing salsa; a theme that could easily have been the principal melody in an Italian film; and much more.

All of it was delivered in Emily’s warm engaging style, clearly enraptured within the music, communicating her creative intensity to the other players with captivating smiles and gestures.

Watching and listening to the utter musical authenticity of her playing, I couldn’t help but recall another illuminating remark from Emily, one that perfectly illustrates the creative reality of this impressive young artist:  “I have so much music in my heart,” she says, “that it just falls out.”


Emily’s latest recording, Diversity(Concord/Qwest Records), was produced by Quincy Jones.  Her seventh album, it includes much of the material presented at the Jazz Bakery performance.  It’s the perfect introduction to the work of a very gifted, very young woman with – as Quincy has pointed out – “no limits to the heights she can reach.”

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Photos by Faith Frenz.

Live Music: Jason Moran in a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute

May 9, 2013

The Most Exciting (Jazz?) Pianist On The Planet?

By Norton Wright

Hollywood CA.  Has there ever been a jazz pianist like Jason Moran? Not Jarrett, Evans, Corea, Brubeck, Peterson — not even George Russell — not even Moran’s mentors, Jaki Byard and Thelonious Monk. As with Jackson Pollock in the visual arts, Jason Moran may be “one of a kind.” Like Pollock’s abstract artistry, Moran at the piano does not cover familiar jazz tunes, but rather creates something new on the spot, an “encounter” with a piano generating a fresh and oftimes risky “event.”

Art critic Harold Rosenberg described a similar approach in the process of abstract expressionist painters in the 1950’s as follows:

“…the canvas began to appear as an arena in which to act… What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.”

The same can be said of Moran wherein his piano provides the arena in which to act. His compositions are the result of his encounters with that piano. Though easily capable of swinging through jazz standards, Moran foregoes that convention to create original and amazing “events.” Long horizontal lines — sometimes smooth, sometimes jagged, often played in flowing clusters; a left hand of wickedly complex harmonies from which the connecting melodic tissue springs; and both hands frequently generating the repeated figures that mark the pulsing ostinato energy of minimalist composers like John Adams, Phillip Glass, and  Steve Reich.

On Tuesday at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Moran’s playing was in cadenza mode all night long. The notes flew by with the power, dexterity, and touch of a concert pianist. Lang Lang would have kvelled!

Jason Moran

Jason Moran

All of which raises the question, “Is Jason Moran a modern, classical music composer/pianist/conductor like Thomas Ades, or might he be a preview of the future of jazz? Maybe he’s both. His creations and those of his trio mates, Tarus Mateen (electronic bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) are clearly rooted in jazz, but the sense of classical composition and inquiry is always present in the band’s work.

This threesome known as “Jason Moran and The Bandwagon” have been together for thirteen years, and they work in consort like a mini-symphony orchestra. Piano, bass, and drums are constantly joined in musical conversations, sometimes playing in one mutual voice, sometimes engaging in separate, call-and-response musical dialogs, and sometimes “talking on top of one another” to create dramatically conflicted tonal textures.

Jason Moran Bandwagon

Jason Moran Bandwagon

In their opening number, Moran invented a gentle melodic line with the support of Waits’ soft percussion and a warm bass ostinato by Mateen. Then SUDDENLY Moran found a beginning fragment of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose” and the band’s conversation exploded, the tempo kicking into high gear. Moran was in 4/4, but Waits was talking back in 5/4, then roaring forward in 7/8. Mateen stayed with Moran’s 4/4 with his own throbbing, four-note walking bass, and Moran responded with his own minimalist repeats of a four-note figure to match   “hon – ee – suck – el” — “hon – ee – suck – el” — “hon – ee – suck – el,” the repetitions becoming as mesmerizing as a Sufi devotional chant.

The set continued with similar surprises. Evoking the mixed-media collages and “combines” of abstract expressionist artist Robert Rauschenberg, Moran occasionally introduced his band’s numbers by playing pre-recorded excerpts from old radio broadcasts — a kind of homage to artistic and political innovators of the past.

With an all-inclusive appreciation of music, Moran fuels his compositions with licks from rock to hip-hop to Debussy. One of The Bandwagon’s numbers began with the playing of an old recording by country blues singer Mississippi Fred McDowell. As McDowell’s keening built, Moran at the keyboard copied the singer’s wailings and soon carried the motif into a gorgeous, contemporary blues.  At the start of another number, Moran played a homemade audiotape of the sounds of Thelonious Monk in his Greenwich Village loft TAP DANCING! Moran’s piano segued into his idol’s surprisingly ungainly clumpings and built a line that eventually evolved into his take on “Straight No Chaser” — more complex and interesting than Monk’s original.

Towards evening’s end, I was reminded that there is no art without craft.  And Moran’s musical experience at The High School For Performing Arts under Bob Morgan’s tutelage in Houston, Texas, followed by his continuing education at the Manhattan School Of Music, and then his first professional gigs under the mentoring of Jaki Byard and Monk, clearly nurtured his exceptional talents.

In 2010 he was the recipient of a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” and recently has succeeded the late Dr. Billy Taylor as The Kennedy Center’s Artistic Advisor For Jazz. For aspiring young musical students whether in jazz or classical studies, the evolving, 38-year-old Jason Moran provides inspiring proof that creating great art requires hard work, exceptional imagination, and the courage to continue experimenting regardless of past triumphs or failures.

Might Jason Moran actually be the most exciting (jazz?) pianist on the planet?

All thoughts welcome…

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In closing: A note to John Adams, Creative Chair and Herbie Hancock, Creative Chair For Jazz, at the Los Angeles Philharmonic:


John Adams’ “Minimalist Jukebox” series a few years back at Philharmonic Hall delighted its audiences, especially with the surprising and little-known “classical” compositions of Frank Zappa! And Herbie Hancock’s presentation of solo Keith Jarrett last year was a night of “classically” elegant jazz.

If in the near future the Phil could provide a Disney Concert Hall outing for Jason Moran and The Bandwagon, might the inquiry of “Is it jazz – or something else?” be valuably extended?

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To read more posts by and about Norton Wright click HERE.

Jason Moran photo by Tony Gieske. 

Live Music: Dori Caymmi at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast

February 23, 2013

By Cathy Segal-Garcia

Los Angeles, CA.  Here I am, sitting in the Kirk Douglas Theatre, waiting for the world-renowned guitarist/vocalist/composer/arranger/producer, Dori Caymmi, to come out to start the show. A beautiful theatre, slanted up seating, with a medium large stage on the floor, the newest and most intimate of Center Theatre Group’s family of theatres.

We scored a seat in the very front center, so I’m pretty turned on because I love being close to musicians.  Being a singer, I like to feel up close and personal, feeling like I’m actually part of the band.  There’s a stool in the center with an expectant mic, a piano and keyboard, a stool in the center back, and drums.  I’m excited!

The group, a quartet, comes out after an introduction from Jazz Bakery founder Ruth Price. Dori’s voice is at once beautiful and distinct.  A rich baritone, with depth of emotion that make my insides release.  Add that voice to a slow bossa beat, with subtleties of the rhythms and harmonies coming through the players…and it’s romantic and beautiful from the very first moment.

The music is harmonically leading and surprising, which is part of what makes it so amazing to listen to.  Within the same song, there are passages of different lengths, that are significantly different, but they relate and flow out of each other and into the next; like a river, running gently and endlessly, around rocks and curves, on and on.

The 2nd song showcased the pianist, Bill Cantos, singing his own keyboard solo… Wonderful!   Vocally exciting, and great musical ideas… motifs repeating and developing into an exciting build and gentle drop.

Dori Caymmi

Dori Caymmi

A slow, painfully beautiful “Corcovado” was next.  How do the great Brazilian musicians create this gorgeous style, time and again?  Dori is having a love affair with the song, with the notes, the way they sit in the harmony, the Portuguese lyrics….

And yet right after, this sweetheart of a man makes a joke relating to his “depressed versions of Brazilian music,” before going into a mind blowing arrangement of “Brazil.”  I have never heard or imagined a more beautiful and interesting arrangement.  It took me at least  32 bars before I recognized it.  The form seemed different, the chords were definitely beautiful substitutions, and even the melody, sung and played by Dori at first, seemed only slightly familiar. At a slow, sensuous groove, with all the rest, it was truly a holy experience.

Jerry Watts on electric bass was a prominent part of the music.  A versatile and strong musician, in this setting, as each musician, he held his reins and released at just the right times.  Playing his bass like a guitar, his rhythmic choices seemed comfortable and perfect, even with their complexity.

The drummer Aaron Serfaty was unobtrusive in the best way, to say the least.  Percussive, as if adding to an orchestra, light and perfectly rhythmic on his small drum set

Dori , soon to be merely 70 (how lucky are we, to be able to hear him more) was relaxed and talkative in between songs…making the audience love him all the more.  He talked about his father and mother, Dorival Caymmi and Stella Maris, both famous Brazilian musicians.   And an upcoming recording project he will do with his sister (famous vocalist Nana Caymmi) and brother (famous musician Danilo Caymmi)…dedicated to their Dad.  Then he played one of his Dad’s hits …”Acontec Que Eu Sou Baiano.”   Dorival was known as “the poet of the seas of Bahia.”

It was difficult to make notes while I listened; the music was so touching to the soul and the ears that I didn’t want to be distracted from it.  And yet, when I’m excited by music, I want to write about it.

And speaking of making love to the songs…how about making love through the songs?  Like a good lover, the music and the musicians find a sensuous wonderful groove, lock into it, stroke it with notes and harmony until, building slowly and gradually, it’s obvious that it must release…

“The Harbor”…(sigh).  Dori told a beautiful and sad introduction about the music of his father…about how he would tell about seemingly simple things like stepping on pieces of wood in the water that led to the boats.  And how, now, there is no more of that; it’s all been commercialized.  Dori wrote “The Harbor” as an ode to the old way.

Brazilian musicians and singers tend to state the melody as written, milking it with the tone of the instrument and the emotion of the voice.  That’s why listeners fall in love with the basic songs, with their melody and harmony.  American jazz singers, however, learn that the songs of the Great American Songbook were written down very basically.  A singer learns them, then changes them – with the phrasing, the melody, the rhythm.  And I believe not even the composer expected or desired you to sing it as exactly as it was written.

One gets the idea that Brazilian composers want something else.  Or perhaps it’s the culture that leads the performing artists into this kind of musical perspective.  A perspective in which the language and flow of the story – via both the lyrics and the music — communicate deeply the imaginative tales of their rich history and culture.

I left the concert with a lovely CD, my soul filled with beauty, and a desire to sing with Dori.  The perfect response to a perfect musical evening.

To read more about Cathy Segal-Garcia on her own website, click HERE

Live Brazilian Music: Dori Caymmi at a Jazz Bakery Movable Feast

June 25, 2012

By Michael Katz

Ruth Price brought The Jazz Bakery back to its once and future home in Culver City this weekend, and Westsiders gratefully filled the Kirk Douglas Theatre to capacity Saturday night for a stunning performance by Brazilian composer/singer/guitarist Dori Caymmi. Caymmi boasts a family lineage that predates the samba and bossa nova movement of Jobim, Bonfa, Joao Gilberto and others. His father, Dorival Caymmi, was one of Brazil’s most enduring songwriters, perhaps best known in this country for “O Cantador” (“Like A Lover”); his siblings, Nana and Danilo, have long been a fixture on the Brazilian scene.

Dori Caymmi

Dori, silver haired now and humorously giving nods to age, has a haunting, darkly romantic voice. Singing almost entirely in Portuguese, he manages to communicate the feelings of loss and yearning almost intuitively. His rich, dark tones draw you into the music and his quartet ably provides the texture to fill in the linguistic gaps.

The first third of the ninety minute concert touched on songs from Dorival Caymmi’s era and beyond. Dori used the familiar melody of Jobim’s “Desifinado” as an opening bridge to “Aquarela Do Brasil.” Ary Barrosso’s anthem has stood up to all manner of interpretation; Caymmi’s is brooding, almost foreboding. He gave way to Bill Cantos on keyboards and synthesizer, and Jerry Watts on electric bass. If you are used to the sometimes lush accompaniment of strings and flutes that have supported Caymmi on his recordings and augmented much of Jobim’s music, the electronics can be a bit jarring at first, but Cantos handled them with a light touch, adding his own vocals later in the set. Mark Shapiro handled the full range of percussion instruments, contributing to the drama inherent in Caymmi’s voicings.

There followed one of Dorival’s compositions, a more upbeat, samba-like tune, and then Jobim’s “Corcovado,” introduced by Caymmi’s spare guitar fingerings, dropping down into a minor chord. Like many of the great Brazilian guitarists, Gilberto in particular, Caymmi uses the guitar in an almost surgical fashion. His performance is less a singer accompanying himself than a duet between voice and strings. Shapiro, in particular, is expert in adding the Brazilian rhythms unobtrusively and on “Corcovado,” Cantos contributed a falsetto vocal, skipping lightly over his keyboard patter.

The middle third of the evening was devoted mainly to Caymmi’s latest CD, Poesia Musicada, which sets to music the poetry of Paulo Cesar Pinheiro. Caymmi performed three songs, all in Portuguese, most of which defied any direct translation – “Estrelo Cinco Pontas” roughly comes to “Five Point Star” — but that was about the extent of it. Still, the romantic tenor of the poetry-set-to-music came through without much need for it. The third song, “Velho Do Mar,” an elegy to the coastal city of Bahia in the era when his father was a young man, communicated a longing for a world left behind that resonates especially well here in Los Angeles.

There were plenty of Caymmi originals left in the program, including “Obsession,” which Sarah Vaughan recorded in 1987 on her Brazilian Romance album (with English lyrics). Caymmi’s rendition, not surprisingly, is dark and dangerous, wordless in parts, with some outstanding keyboard work from Cantos. Toward the end of the set, Caymmi picked up the pace with three numbers from Brazilian Serenata, his 1991 CD that has had the widest following here. Voce Ja Foi a Bahia?, a samba written by his father, turned the mood upbeat, with Cantos again supplying a vocal accompaniment and Jerry Watts utilizing a rounded-off timbre on the electric bass to keep the tone pulsating. Caymmi closed out the set with “Amazon River,” the anthem that begins and ends Serenata, and brought the band back for “Ninho de Vespa,” – literally “Beehive,” a traditional samba-esque tune from the same CD.

All in all, it was a rewarding evening for the jazz-starved Westside. It was great to see the Kirk Douglas theatre filled and we can only hope that the new Bakery will be laying it’s foundation before too long.


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