AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant So, on a cold Tuesday morning, on the last day of Black History Month, the president of the Los Angeles Jazz Society parks her traveling A Train of jazz musicians outside the Sylmar school auditorium and walks inside with a five-piece group. It’s the last stop of a monthlong Jazz in Schools tour that three bands have made at 45 elementary schools in Los Angeles in February – trying to give hip-hop a run for its money with kids during Black History Month. The irony doesn’t escape Manne, widow of popular jazz drummer Shelley Manne. Her real name is Florence, but she became Flip for good back in the early ’40s when she kicked up her gams as one of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. “Black kids used to be the repository of jazz, but now most of them don’t even hear it anymore,” she says, watching the musicians set up. “It’s all hip-hop now. We’re here because we don’t want to lose jazz.” The musicians nod. Maybe if there were more jazz on TV, the kids would get into it, they say. Who knows? This is where you have to reach them, Flip Manne says. In elementary school. It’s too late by high school. The older kids are already deep into hip-hop by then. They don’t give a squat about jazz, or much care. No, it’s here – in schools such as Dyer Street Elementary School in Sylmar, where you have to plant the seeds and let jazz grow. Where you fight to keep the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and all the jazz legends alive for another generation. Where jazz draws the line and gives hip-hop a run for its money. “You ever notice how all the cool commercials on TV have jazz music playing in the background?” asks Charley Lloyd, warming up on his sax. He’s accompanied by Donald Dean on drums, Rahmlee Davis on trumpet, John Belyaguy on bass and Anne King on piano and trumpet. They’re all union musicians earning a paycheck from the jazz society, working elementary schools during the month, but truth be told, they’d do it for free because they know what the stakes are. Those kids filing into the auditorium at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday can make or break jazz in the future. If they don’t reach these kids – get them aboard Duke Ellington’s A Train with them – jazz could become yesterday’s bossa nova. “We’ve got to make it fun,” Davis says, picking up his trumpet. And for the next hour, that’s exactly what the A Train does. Virginia Flores sits in the second row, keeping a close eye on the 33 students in her combined fourth- and fifth-grade class. In every assembly by now, she’s been up half a dozen times warning many of her students to stop fooling around and pay attention. Not today, though. Her kids are laughing and shooting their arms up in the air to let the saxophone player know they know the name of the song he’s playing – the theme song to the “Pink Panther.” “I’ve been preparing them by talking about different cultures, the origins of jazz instruments, and playing a lot of Louis Armstrong songs in class,” Flores said. It’s working. The kids jump out of their seats and fall in line with the musicians as they march around the auditorium playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It’s written all over their young faces. Hey, this jazz stuff is fun. Then the band goes for the kill – the song you’ve got to be legally dead not to respond to. Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.” Geronimo Gil and his buddy, Adrian Chagolla, both 10-year-old fourth-graders, start slow, letting the music build. A little toe-tapping at first, then the swaying of the shoulders. Before long, the whole auditorium is moving in unison, following Manne’s lead and snapping their fingers to the beat. Taking the A Train together. After the concert, many of the kids gather around the musicians, thanking them for coming and teaching them about this music called jazz. A few promise to listen to it more on the radio at home, but who knows if they will? All the Los Angeles Jazz Society can do on these trips to elementary schools, Manne says, is offer the kids a choice. Let jazz give hip-hop a run for its money. For more information on joining the Los Angeles Jazz Society and helping with its Jazz in Schools program, call (310) 216-9100. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!