SALUTE TO A QUEEN: Leimert Park honors late jazz singer Barbara Morrison

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Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LEIMERT PARK — Even though she was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Leimert Park became home to the late jazz singer Barbara Morrison.

It was here that she opened the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in 2009, followed two years later by the California Jazz & Blues Museum.

Now, six months after her death in March due to cardiovascular disease, there is something else in Leimert Park to remember the late singer.

On Sept. 10 — what would have been her 73rd birthday — the intersection of 43rd Street and Degnan Boulevard was dedicated as Barbara Morrison Square by the city of Los Angeles.

Interim City Councilwoman Heather Hutt, whose 10th District includes Leimert Park, helped unveil the sign designating the intersection after former Councilman Herb Wesson started the process last spring. Tim Morganfield, Morrison’s longtime partner, and members of Morrison’s family were on hand for the ceremony.

Morrison sang with some of jazz’s biggest names, including Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Kenny Burrell, Hank Crawford, Nancy Wilson, Mel Tormé, Ray Brown, the Count Basie Orchestra and Doc Severinsen’s Big Band.

According to the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where she served as an adjunct professor of global jazz studies, she performed at Carnegie Hall, toured Europe with Ray Charles and sang at the North Sea, Bern and Playboy jazz festivals.

Morrison began performing at age 10 in her native Michigan. Over the course of her career she appeared on more than 20 recordings.

She founded the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center to bring music to the Leimert Park community. Morrison would often give free music and voice lessons to children and give them a chance to perform on stage.

“The legacy and impact of the legendary Barbara Morrison presents several life lessons on the essence of resilience, namely the capacity to persist and to pursue vision in the face of hardship and adversity,” Wesson said in his motion to dedicate the intersection in Morrison’s honor. “She not only inspired many internationally through her music, but she also dedicated her life to uplifting the communities of Leimert Park and Greater Los Angeles.”

The intersection dedication ceremony was followed by a day-long jazz and blues festival. The festival lineup included Mike Mann and the Cowboy Soul; Al Threats & Amusement Park; Lady Rene Blues; Torrence Brannon-Reese & His Everything with Soul Band, featuring Melba Joyce; Ray Bailey and Friends, featuring Brenda Lee Eager; Chester Whitmore and his Opus One Big Band, featuring Dwight Trible; the Barbara Morrison Band featuring Elaine Gibbs; Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band; Sons of Muddy Waters; and Eloise Laws.

The festival also includes an art walk featuring works from Morrison’s California Jazz & Blues Museum, a “Kids Korner” and a variety of vendors and food trucks.


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