Bopping Around the Inland Empire with Robert J. Carmack
This writer just wanted to explore new venues for music and the arts in general. this past Juneteenth 2022,I visited several locations to observe and report on what I saw and heard. On Saturday, June 18, I began my day in Pomona California. Starting with the “Museum of Beginnings “I was greeted by Curators/Founders, Vicki and Khalif Rashann. a Retired Educators married couple, who are products of the Claremont Colleges system. I came over to meet the two people, that know my other siblings. The Museum is a self-funded organization of humble beginnings . starting as a small space of critical and Black historic content gathered and curated by the Pomona couple acquired during their many years of teaching and travels.(Location: 1460 Holt Blvd. Ste 188, Pomona California) I was quite impressed with the compact historical repository. One exhibit really caught my attention, The NOGALES BUFFALO SOLDIERS LEGACY . a historical unit of the US military. a very fierce Battle-tested and true warriors unit, with less desertions and court-martials than their white counter parts. They were assigned (forced) the worst assignments , escorting Railroad work crews, Cattle herd drives and, even settlers.. some who hated them purely based on their skin color.
Some believed they were named “Buffalo Soldiers because of the thick, wooly hair and beards, supposedly called by “Native-americans, aka then as ,”Indians.”
But, the truth, as told to survivors and their descendants, they were called “Buffalo” because of their fighting skills, their brave and courageous attitude of never back down to anybody.. including angry white settlers, or Border agents trying to do harm on our US borders. Buffalo Soldiers were last mentioned at end of Korean War as Calvary units were named after this storied group. a direct descendant to one of the Buffalo Soldiers that is registered in history books was in attendance to enlighten us. (See Ms. Donna L. Jackson-Houston, president/founder, Nogales Buffalo Soldier Legacy Association) She brought family memorabilia as well.
I was looking at the display, when I noticed a familiar face included in the quite impressive display .. There it was ,CHARLES MINGUS, One of the greatest Bass and composers of all-time.. Mingus dad was from Nogales, when World War One was over, he moved the family from Nogales, Arizona to Los Angeles California, the beginning of 1920s when Charlie was a little Boy.. They settled in a part of L.A. called WATTS, where he attended 111th street elementary school. the same school I attended in 1960-62. Charles had three great friends. two became famous, KNOBE, a japanese kid whose dad taught Charles martial arts, because he was a big chunky, bow-legged Kid that played cello. so he was bullied and teased., The othe two friends are, Jazz man and woodwind specialist, Buddy Collette. the most famous was Thomas Bradley or Tom Bradley, LA iconic lawman, politician, Mayor, Councilman and candidate for Governor.
I had lots of take-aways after viewing this really informative presentation. Though this event was stellar in its delivery of “Facts and Finds” on the new Federal holiday, it was also equally sublime in the music output scheduled at Ganesha Park in Pomona as well. a full list of African-american music bands, of Gospel, Soul and Latin Jazz..the meshing of Afican-Cuban Clave sounds, made famous by Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s , followed by such iconic Afro-Latin Drummers as Candido, Big Black, Mongo Santamaria and others.
Ganesha Park and Juneteenth 2022, This program was produced by MC/Jazz presenter Roscoe Lee Owens & the Jazz Zone.Net. What an array of genre-bending groups and always exciting Latin Jazz Band, SOUL SAUCE.. based around the music of iconic figure, Cal Tjader…One of the most famous of non-latin Jazz bandleaders and most successful as a touring band of 50s,60s,70s and beyond ,into his last days. exploring all forms of music including Cuba, Mexico, the Carribean and all of Latin America. while fusing all of that into a winning sound that brought about a Grammy in 1980
( La Onda Va Bien). Soul Sauce Band is led by two men , Rafael Feliciano Congas/Timbals and Peter Burke Vibes… The name was a very popular album of Cal Tjader’s, SOUL SAUCE from the early 1960s.. Jazz radio played a tune from that album, called (“Wachi Wada” )
I find this band more than a throwback band copying a band from the past. I have caught this band in many different venues around L.A. county and beyond. what is amazing to me is, They have not been snapped up by a progressive record company yet. Though, they are a tribute band to Cal Tjader, they can still navigate around traditional Jazz changes as well as Cuban Afro-clave most bands attempt to portray when performing Descargas or Lively Dance music , sometime known as “Salsa”. The musicianship in this band is superior and it “makes its own gravy” meaning, there is a whole lot of Sabor! Flavor! in their playing. At the Ganesha Park concert, though band co-leader Peter Burke was not there, He was replaced admirably by Vibist, Craig Fundyga , Bass was John Pintoff, Don Littleton on Trap drums, Matt Amber on Keyboards, Roland Mendoza on Bongo/Cowbell/Fish, Rafael Feliciano Co-leader/Congas/Timbals.. Their whirlwind performances on Tjader classics was sublime, with electrifying solos by Pianist, Matt Amber and fill-in Vibist, Craig Fundyga.. They were incredible! It was obvious to me and the other hundreds of people in attendance at the park’s celebration, IMHO, They were the stronger act for the day.
Soul Sauce in concert at Ganesha Park, I spoke to Rafael Feliciano in a break in the action backstage. He told me of the frustration that the Pandemic has placed his and, most bands and frankly, other entertainers on the “outside looking in” for last two years plus. “Man, We’re so grateful to be able to, come together and play this music that’s truly an honor to perform.” said the veteran musician, who resides in the Inland Empire, that includes Pomona, California too.
I would grade the city of Pomona, an A+. consistent, relentless efforts to provide a balanced and improved set of events this year to ring in the new Federal holiday. people of color are very much a part of the new Pomona “All-inclusive” attitude from the mayor’s office to the School board and on to the Cultural affairs commission. Finally I’d like to acknowledge the diligent people who worked on the city’s presentation for Juneteenth 2022 .. All the leadership and planning groups at the African American Advisory Alliance and cultural center on 2nd Street (Ribbon Cutting ceremony on New Arts space, The Museum of the Beginnings , Vicki and Khalif Rashann, Ms. Donna L. Jackson-Houston of the Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association, and Ms. Sheilah Kimbel, MPA.