Major and Classification
Robin D.G. Kelley, Ph.D.
Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
“Neglected Music: Avante-Garde Jazz in Los Angeles 1950-1960s
New York City has often been called the “jazz capital of the world,” but during the 1950-1960s, the West Coast was a region that sought to challenge the East Coast prominence of the jazz world. Central Avenue in Los Angeles was busy with the music of Dexter Gordon, Lester Young, Gerald Wilson and Johnny Otis. Wynton Marsalis would call it the “52nd street of Los Angeles”. Nonetheless, many West Coast jazz musicians have not received the recognition they deserve. This study serves to expose the causes for the underrepresentation of West Coast jazz in jazz historiography. Especially since Los Angeles would serve as the birthplace of many of the musical innovations that would later develop into what we now call “free jazz” or “avant-garde jazz” yet the East Coast intellectual snobbery would disallow this history to be known to the general public.