LA’s music scene: Jazz, punk, ‘DIY electronica’

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In the Laurel Canyon era, musicians lived, practiced and collaborated in the same neighborhood. Now 50 years later, that’s still happening in LA, Kristina Benson tells Greater LA. She’s publisher of the independent music magazine LA Record.

She says LA has more venues and labels than ever before, but also more competition. She’s seeing musicians increasingly leaving New York for LA, partly because housing is cheaper here. “Rent is definitely a factor in where a lot of musicians are living and working. I mean once musicians have maybe a label deal or maybe they have some sync licensing opportunities under their belts, they can still afford to live in a neighborhood like Echo Park or Silver Lake or Highland Park. But we're seeing more and more communities of musicians in places like Chinatown or like the South Bay, the suburbs,” she says.

Today’s technology allows musicians to be more spread out too, making music on their laptops in Montebello, Orange County, the Valley, or the desert. Benson says she hears from musicians who live in the same house but sit in different rooms and collaborate, emailing each other files.

Is LA still influencing music elsewhere, like it did 50 years ago?

Benson says many record labels here are influencing world culture.

Plus, LA has music scenes that have been around for 10-15 years, along with new ones. “We've got the jazz scene, hip-hop scene, punk scene. We have kind of this… DIY electronica laptop music. We have glam scene. We have sort of a psych scene… So I would say absolutely LA music has not just an outsized influence on American music, but even world music in a lot of ways,” she says.

Decades later, how will people talk about the LA music scene?

Benson says Chinatown has an emerging scene that’s full of energy, cohesion and innovation. She wouldn't be surprised if an artist from here gains regional or national success.

Why Chinatown? Possibly because musicians can afford to live there, where venues are generally DIY and unlicensed, Benson says.

She notes that LA is producing some great jazz music, such as from Kamasi Washington, Black Nile, Ryan Porter, Flying Lotus, and Toliver. “There's still more jazz artists that we're still going to be hearing of. And I think L.A. later is going to be known as a place that really contributed to more innovations in jazz in the early 21st century.”

Kamasi Washington performing "The Space Travelers Lullaby'' live on KCRW

--Written by Amy Ta, produced by Kathryn Barnes