Despite Growing Pains, L.A. Jazz Scene Blossoms

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“I had some buddies who are rockers or classical musicians come and check out what I’m doing here,” Julio said, “and the first question that both sides ask [is]: ‘When are we allowed to clap?’ It’s like, whenever you want. It’s just a bar. We’re hanging out. I don’t tell the bartenders to shake quieter.”

For the first 18 months that he booked jazz on Monday and Tuesday nights, Julio didn’t charge a cover. He wanted ETA to be a neighborhood spot, where people not necessarily looking for a night of jazz could happily stumble upon it. “Much to the chagrin of my business partners,” he said drily, sitting on a barstool during a recent Tuesday night, he wanted to “make it about the discovery aspect first.”

In July, however, Julio did begin charging a cover. And he’s certainly more than justified in doing so. Three-quarters of his Monday night quartet—Parker, Johnson and Butterss—featured prominently on one of the most well-received jazz albums of 2018, drummer McCraven’s Universal Beings (International Anthem). It’s the latest in a long line of indicators that L.A.’s jazz scene now rivals that of any city’s in the world—though many of those involved in it would argue that the rest of the world only just now is recognizing what’s been true for the better part of a decade.

“You have genuine interest in this new generation” of musicians, said World Galaxy’s Moo. “You can’t manufacture that. You can’t start the fire. But you sure can fan the flames. And it’s a bonfire right now.”

“It kind of seemed as if it was like, ‘Oh, someone’s finally done something in L.A.!’” Butterss said about the recent outpouring of attention. “To everyone here, it felt more like—finally, you know, these people are getting some recognition. But it’s not news to us that there’s a scene here.” DB

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May 2021
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