October 10, 2013

By Shonassee Shaver

LAWT Contributing Writer


Droves of contestants came out to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Macy’s Bridge) to show what they had to offer for this year’s Taste of Soul. 

The audition showcased a two day part competition that brought out adults on Friday and kids and young adults on Saturday.

The audition was filled with many talents but these performers stood out.

Audrey Chanel got the audition started performing to a 2 Chainz sample.  The female group is named after Old Hollywood Movie Star Audrey Hepburn and Classic Fashion Designer Coco Chanel. 

On why they choose the name, “both of them went through a lot of struggles in their life but they never let that get them down; they continued to strive and do what they were meant to do, that’s what we want to do, influence  others, showcase our talent. 

We got a taste of church with gospel performances.

Little man Jaden Neal blew the audience away when he sang. Out came a powerful voice from the youngster who stole the crowd as he earned a standing ovation. His brother Jacory Neal brought us to church as well with his paralleling voice. The brother duo stood out, “their talent is a gift from God,” said their proud grandmother.

Pint size beauty Miracle performed Mary Mary “Sunday Morning,” while another contestant followed with Mary Mary’s latest “Go Get It.”

Jasmine Sky who waited with her mother to perform stated she was ready to sing for the judges. When her turn came, she showed how equipped she was singing “Father Can You Hear Me.”

Prior to performing, contestant Kayla Curtis waited in line anticipating her audition. She performed the song, “I Love to Be in Your Presence.”  She felt great about performing stating, “I feel God is doing this for a reason.” After her performance, she was joined with applause and a greeting by one of the judges.

Great performances continued as contestants covered classic songs.

Tiffany Harring gave her all to Etta James “At Last”; she did not disappoint delivering an impressive performance.  On where she got her hearty voice from, “my dad’s family sings.”

A contestant did a rendition of Michael Jackson “Man in the Mirror.”

Classics such as Whitney Houston “Greatest Love of All” and Mariah Carey “Vision of Love” were performed by Majesty, who worked the judges. 

“I’ve been singing since I was a baby,” she said. The 16-year old has not only perfected her voice but her style, she has a stylist.

Contestants performed “Rolling on a River” and “It’s A Man’s World.”

Remix ended the show with an eclectic and edgy sound with an acapella of Boyz II Men.

StarQuest had an impressive celebrity judge panel, including Jalila Larsuel, a celebrity publicist for the stars who had her top 10 picks from the show. Happy about the community supporting its talent, she states “there were a couple of them that felt comfortable in their skin and it’s not all about the dancing routine, its showing how well you can carry a tune. One has to have an innate energy, make us feel what you’re saying.”

Larusel has a list of up-and-coming projects, which include “The Black Nativity” soundtrack and the film, which will be out November with Jennifer Hudson.  Roland Martin’s talk show will debut next month and T.D. Jake’s talk show “Mind, Body and Soul” premiers this month.  To contact Jalila Larsuel go to www.thefrontpagefirm.com or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Actress Tisha French had some favorites of her own. She feels stage presence and confidence are key factors that make a great performer. “The difference between the have and have-nots is the ones who came to bring it versus the ones who are still in the development stages,” said French. Catch her on the Young and the Restless, films “The Purge and Bad Milo!” Look for her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Actor, choreographer and director Darrin Henson welcomed the crowd and encouraged the crowd to show love to all the contestants. Henson is the executive producer of new film “Frat Brothers.” Go to www.darrinhenson.com for more on the triple threat.

Other celebrity judges included finalist from the Voice, Jessie Campbell, who was impressed by the performers stated, “the fact, children are children, brings about its own originality.” For more on Campbell, go to JessieCampbell.com.

Fox11 Christine News anchor, Christine Devine, who was excited about the show gave notice to the polished performers and contestants with potential. Devine who has worked with young artists is familiar on how hard it is to be seen, “It takes a lot work, time and a little bit of God to make it.” She has a project called Team WC based on the concept of Wednesday’s Child consisting of foster children who have been adopted and are successful. One of her protégé is a hip hop artists who did a song, “Faith and Truth,” for National Adoption Month, which is on iTunes. For more information on Devine email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2012 Grand Prize winner, Adrian Battle came out to give a few words of encouragement.  “It was an amazing experience performing in front of thousands of people.”

Solomon Gilstrap spoke about his own experience as a StarQuest Finalist.

The community of Los Angeles is in for a real treat October 19.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 10, 2013

By Kenneth Miller

Assistant Managing Editor


Two weeks before the pumpkins are cut and carved for Halloween, the 8th annual Taste of Soul Family Festival, October 19 on Crenshaw Blvd., will unveil its own version of tricks and treats. Event organizers this week announced a musical line-up of heavy hitters that includes jazz giant Poncho Sanchez and R&B sensation Mario. The two will perform on the Taste of Soul KTWV ‘Wave’ and Taste of Soul Radio Free KJLH stages, respectively.

For more than three decades as both a leader and a sideman, conguero Poncho Sanchez has stirred up a fiery stew of straightahead jazz, gritty soul music, and infectious melodies and rhythms from a variety of Latin American and South American sources. He will be among the highlights of the Taste of Soul ‘Wave’ stage.

Meanwhile, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, actor Mario who realized that his talents came to him naturally early on and has scored multiple hits, will grace the Taste of Soul Radio Free KJLH stage at Taste of Soul, which has drawn nearly one million in crowd attendance during its eight year history.

Sanchez’ influences are numerous, but among the more prominent figures that form his music are two of the primary architects of Latin jazz – conga drummer and composer Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Sanchez pays tribute to these two titans on his new album, ‘Chano y Dizzy.’

At age 15, when his 2002 debut album Mario garnered 700,000 copies in sales, sparked by the lead single “Just A Friend (2002),” young Mario set the stage for his 2005 sophomore set aptly titled Turning Point. Worldwide, the album reaped 2 million units in sales as “Let Me Love You” propelled him to the number one spot for nine consecutive weeks. The single holds the honor of being one of the highest selling ringtones to date with 1.6 million downloads and Mario himself was bestowed with accolades including 2005’s Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Award for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Single, a Billboard Music Award for Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year.

While, Sanchez and Mario will surely delight their legion of followers and Taste of Soul attendees, there will be many more.

Also scheduled to perform on the ‘Wave’ stage are Avant, Patrice Rushen and Ndugu Chancler, DW3, On-Tour, Six-Degrees and Chosen Gospel of Recovery.

The Taste of Soul Radio Free KJLH stage, which last year featured a surprise appearance from its owner and mega star, Stevie Wonder, will also showcase performances by Mindless Behavior, RaVaughn and Glenn Lewis.

Ndugu Chancler and Patrice Rushen are two of South Central Los Angeles’ most amazing poster artists for rising out of the L.A. Unified School District to achieve blinding heights of glory in multiple facets of the music industry then coming to give back with generosity, passion and a master plan based on all they learned academically and in the field.

Today, Chancler and Rushen are both educators at the University of Southern California. Mr. Chancler holds the position of Adjunct Professor of popular Music and Jazz Studies. He has been teaching on the campus for 19 years. Ms. Rushen is the Chair of the Popular Music Department and just saw her first full graduating class this month at the close of her fourth year in the position, which is the current life of the program – 4 years old.

Nicknamed by Ne-Yo as the “New Voice of Women,” RaVaughn is a natural songstress whose frank, yet sophisticated swag—paired with inventive melodies and sassy riffs—brings a barrier-breaking vitality to R&B/pop. That’s because her versatile style was honed doing demos and background work for such marquee names as Celine Dion, Natasha Bedingfield, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Nicki Minaj, Brandy and Keri Hilson.

Taste of Soul Creator Danny J. Bakewell Sr. applauded both of the event’s media partners for again delivering on music excellence with performers who bring name/ brand recognition.

“I am not at all surprised by these line-ups, because both our two radio partners consistently deliver big to the Taste of Soul Nation what they have been providing their audiences for years,” said Bakewell.

“What’s remarkable is that our community will get an opportunity to see them while enjoying the foods they love with the families and friends they cherish and will not have to pay to watch them perform,” concluded Bakewell.

Taste of Soul family festival will be held from 10a.m. to 6p.m. on Crenshaw Blvd. Saturday October 19.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 10, 2013

LAWT News Service


Songstress Martha Taylor LaCroix will perform at The Gardenia on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013.  She will be accompanied in her classy vocal style by legendary pianist Karen Hernandez and highly respected multi-talented Dave Hopkins on percussions.  Entitled, “A Joyful Noise in Song,” the performance will include a tribute to breast cancer survivors, family and friends.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  October 11 has significant meaning to survivor Ms. LaCroix, as well.  It is the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. Dinner will be served from 7 to 9 p.m. and the show will begin promptly at 9 p.m.  The performance will be presented by social networking jazz diva, Dolores Peterson.

“Consistently interesting” is how Ms. LaCroix was described by one reviewer.  Her vocal stylings encompass a range of musical influences from spiritual classics to traditional jazz compositions.  Ms. LaCroix earned her professional chops as a singer with the chorus of the New Orleans Opera Company several years ago.  She later joined the Dick Stabile (musical director for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis) Orchestra in New Orleans as a vocalist.  Like so many spirited musicians, Ms. LaCroix began singing as a child in the church of her legendary father, the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor at Concord Baptist Church in New York City.  Her father inspired her first CD “Seasoned for Fathers and Sons.”  Her sophomoric recording "The Reason - Seasoned for Christmas" is a collection of spiritual Christmas selections most notably her popular rendition of “I Give You Jesus.”

Ms. LaCroix has released three recordings that reflect her varied musical interest.  The most recent is collection of jazz classics recorded and produced with legendary pianist and arranger Howlett Smith.  This recording features some popular originals by Mr. Smith including, “Let’s Go Where the Grass is Greener” originally recorded by vocalist extraordinaire Nancy Wilson.   Titled “Jazzily Seasoned with Martha Taylor LaCroix,” this latest recording echoes the words of another reviewer who said; “Marti comes across with a cool, elegant, diamond-and-pearl restraint.”

The Gardenia is located at 7066 Santa Monica Blvd. (one block east of LaBrea Blvd.) in West Hollywood.  Tickets are $10 plus dinner or a two drink minimum.   Reservations are encouraged and are available by calling: (323) 467-7444.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 10, 2013


By Maleena Lawrence

LAWT Contributing Writer


Bakewell Media has created an opportunity for local people in the community as well as viral supporters to showcase their vocal range at the largest street festival in Los Angeles, the Taste Of Soul on October 19, 2013. This year the Baldwin Hills Mall was the place to be for rising stars who desired a shot to showcase their talent in the second annual StarQuest Singing Competition. Where crowds stand shoulder-to-shoulder hovering the stage with amplified cheers too support their loved ones during the final competition. However, what people do not fully witness are the days and weeks leading up to the actual competition. Starting at the front of the line with artist to behind-the-scenes with the judges and production crew on Day 1 of the auditions, every one possessed a level of motivation to accomplish whatever they were set out to deliver.

Gliding up the escalators of the Mall, the first thing I saw was a growing line of contestants outside of Macy’s. Then the animated voice of DJ Paradise shouts, “Yall know the rules and in case you missed something, I’ll say it again, you have one minute and 30 seconds to perform and impress the celebrity judges right away.” Shortly after the rules, my attention was strictly diverted to the talent. I wanted to know their intentions, feel their nerves and the expectations that they had for themselves on and off the stage. The opening performance was a gospel artist named Always Carey who wanted to bring the energy, be an Ambassador to set it off and get people off their nerves and bring only their talent. He was followed by the female gospel group, D.B. Milton and Company singing, It’s Not All In Vain.  This year’s competition started off with a praising Sunday’s Best vibe until performances from artist like Evrywhr accompanied with Robert Amerson on guitar sang “40 Nights.” Angie a soulful soloist connected with “Positivity,” the crooning vocals of On Poynte and even the return of the inaugural StarQuest winner, Beau Williams taking a bow after receiving a standing ovation for his performance, A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke all of which helped to bring more of a mixed musical genre to engage the judges.

Judging a competition like StarQuest takes a diverse accumulation of the very best in the entertainment industry. On Day 1, the panel of celebrity judges included: Celebrity Vocal Coach, Willie Norwood; Actress, Tanjareen; Entertainment Executive, Dexter Story; StarQuest Producer, Yvette Bailey; Sentinel Managing Editor, Brandon Brooks; Producer, Rayva Harrell; Comedian and 2013 Taste of Soul Host, Jonathan Slocumb; Industry Executive and Manager, Marcus Grant; SoulTrain Producer, Tony Cornelius; Singer and Finalist on Season 2 of the Voice, Jesse Campbell; Music Executive, Bobby Wilkerson and Music Giant, Ken Wilson. Collectively, you have a mogul league of judges with over 200 years of professional experience in the entertainment industry meaning—bring your A-Game. They all were looking for originality.  Tony Cornelius and Ken Wilson both agreed that everybody can’t make it and it takes courage, originality, a good performance, stage presence and the need for real talent is what they are looking for during the auditions. Rayva expressed Day 1 as being her second time around with this year’s talent taking it to the next level. She and Tanjareen are looking for a connection that gives you chills and demonstrates a love for what you are doing. Either way it goes, Jonathan Slocumb said it best, “Great talent and no talent, we hope to pick the greatest.”

In the meantime, there was a well organized team of individuals checking in talent and keeping track of the performance schedules. Nick, the Production Manager smiled graciously saying, “My job is to make sure each and every element is working smoothly as possible and we cover everything from crew, volunteers, food, talent, everything.” In the flow of the day, I bumped into the production coordinator, Damon Oliver who provides Nick with what he needs to keep the show rolling for the producers. Kayl supports Talent and IT as Bishop Moore, the central camera man captured the day of make it or break it performances. Towards intermission, the man who makes it all possible, Mr. Danny Bakewell spoke to the hearts and minds of the entire room as he reinforced his love and our responsibility to the Black community, “This is our Family and we got to come together.” And this is what Taste of Soul and StarQuest Singing Com­petition is all about, selecting amazing talent to share their gift of song with the world.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 03, 2013

By Ed Rice, III

LAWT Contributing Writer


The Taste of Soul StarQuest Singing Competition returns for another round of rousing performances from the best local talent in Los Angeles on October 4th and October 5th.  In-person one-day auditions will be held at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Macy's Bridge) at 3560 Martin Luther King Blvd., Los Angeles, CA  90008. This year, the competition has been expanded to include the StarQuest for Kids competition for kids ages 5-17. For singers ages 18 and up, auditions will be held Friday, October 4, 2013 from 10am-2pm; for kids ages 5 – 17, auditions will take place Saturday, October 5, 2013 from 1pm-5pm. This year, StarQuest Singing Competition hopefuls also have the option of submitting auditions online at www.tasteofsoulla.org.

“StarQuest was Danny Bake­well’s vision,” said Yvette Bailey, StarQuest Singing Competition producer. “Danny Bakewell wanted to create a platform for artists in our community, for talented individuals in our area who wanted to be performers. So he approached me and Tony Cornelius (Soul Train Executive Producer and StarQuest Co-Producer) last year to come aboard and execute his vision.”

This year, ten finalists will be selected from all eligible submissions, based on a combination of their performances and creativity. Those individuals selected as finalists will be given the opportunity to perform a 3-5 minute set on the StarQuest stage at the 8th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival. Additionally, two StarQuest winners will be selected by the combined vote of the StarQuest producers and the live audience to perform a 3-5 minute set on the Radio Free 102.3 KJLH Stage or on the 94.7 The WAVE stage during the Taste of Soul.

For Houston native and one of 2012’s grand prize winners, Beau Williams, the StarQuest competition was just the right competition at the right time. “It was a great feeling to win. This was a quality contest because they had a lot of good talent,” said Williams.  “I really appreciate what Mr. Bakewell is doing for the community. I was able to perform on the main stage and it was an ocean of people—that was an electrifying experience and I love to perform.” According to Bailey, all of the StarQuest contestants are continuing their “quest” for stardom. “StarQuest is a great platform and launching pad. For many of the contestants, it actually reinvigorated their passion for singing because they have experienced a lull in their career and StarQuest reignited that passion for what they do,” explained Bailey. “It made more people aware of who I was,” added Williams. “It was great for me and now I’m working on a film that I wrote and I will be shopping it soon. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the community with Taste of Soul being such a high profile event; the notoriety from winning amongst a strong roster of singers gets you the recognition and people really appreciate your gift and talent and several things have opened as a result.”

While the Bakewell Company is known for community outreach, they’re also known for business and economic empowerment in the African American community and this is a combination of both. “You’re reaching out to the community, you’re helping people and empowering them to achieve their dreams. It’s one of the things that make this different from any other talent competition,” stated Bailey. “This competition is right in our neighbourhood. You don’t have a lot of talent competitions that come down to South LA looking for talent and a lot of talented people can’t take days off work to stand in line and audition, so they’re never able to realize their dream. Just having something that you can go to around the corner and have a chance to get on the stage in front of thousands of people is invaluable.”

“I think that Danny Bakewell has opened up many opportunities for the community over the years and StarQuest gives local artists a chance to perform in front of our audience,” said Cornelius.  “The community really appreciates the artists hard work and effort and its something they’d never get in any other competition. The concept makes for an excellent presentation.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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