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Dwight Trible at The World Stage

Dwight Trible Singer, Executive Director of The World Stage

Dwight Trible is a messenger of higher vibratory sounds and a calming, uplifting and accomplished voice connected to spirit and community. As a renown singer who stays humble and hungry with decades of involvement in The World Stage leads as its Executive Director for continued success. He stands committed to ensure its mission remains intact as well as a much loved Leimert Park, art, music and cultural institution for many artists, musicians and community members whom join in fellowship and support.

By LaMar Anderson | August 12, 2021 | 6:00am


Thank you for taking the time today to share a bit about yourself and the work you do at The World Stage, Leimert Park art-culture-music communities in Los Angeles. Can you start with how you came to live in California, and the year, and maybe the environment around that time?

Well, I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and left there when I was about twenty-one. The reason I left was because the spirit blessed me with the ability to play music, and I had used and just about did everything I could do in Cincinnati by the time I was twenty-one, haha. It ain’t that I did a whole lot; it just wasn’t that much there for me to do. I’ve done music from gospel to funk to r&b and all that stuff, so I was kind of in an area where that [music] was prevalent. All kinds of music was there, ya know. I grew up on the ‘West End’, which was kind of like the equivalent to Watts or Compton, in the project of that area but gave me a real good foundation musically. There’s a lot of things that happen in those communities which people look at, such as vice, alcohol, and those kinds of things, but to me, those areas, I think, are some of the most soulful areas on earth when it comes to our culture. Because we are not trying to be proper or be accepted, we are just doing our thing, and that’s where I think some of the most soulful things and beautiful people come from, you know, areas like that. So, I am very thankful for that, but as I said, I moved to LA in 1976. I came here to make it as a singer.

Was there family support for you going West versus going to New York?

Well, the main reason that I came to LA, ‘cuz [I] was either going to New York or Los Angeles, and it was February, and the snow was almost hip deep where I was, and I used to watch the tonight show every night. Back then it was Johnny Carson [host] on that very day when they were showing the commercials people where frolicking on the beach, you know, women had on bikinis, and they were all having a good time, haha, and I’m freezing, stuck up in a house with snow all the way up, haha, and I am like hmmm; that’s where I need to go. I need to go to Los Angeles, not New York, they having the same time here, and it might be worse there. Plus, if thangs do get rough out there, and I’m in a freezing place like New York, it could be bad. Los Angeles is warm all year; they got palm trees and blue skies. There was no question about it, haha.

Were there bandmates? What was the journey like once you made that decision?

There was a person who was the manager of the group I was working within Cincinnati who had moved out here. His family was living out here, and he gave me encouragement to come and live with him until I got myself together or got into something out here. So that’s what I did. I drove a little raggedy Plymouth out here to Los Angeles and hooked up with him in their little apartment for maybe six months until I could start figuring out just what is going on. Every day I would get in my car and tell someone -point me in the direction of where Hollywood is-, haha. Every day I would go and by the trade magazines and find out where things were happening and where you could get an audition and all of that kind of stuff. Every day I went to Hollywood and went into those big buildings and stuff and looked at the lobby sign and anything that said something about entertainment, I’d go and knock on their door, haha. I’d tell them about what I did or ask them If I could give them a card or package, you know.

I found out what the venues were that was having the more progressive music and even some that weren’t because you know a lot of clubs had, at that time, competitions where you could win $50-100, so as I start running out of money, shit; I gotta go out here and do sumthin’. I started going every night and finding out which clubs were given money. I would go into these clubs, met a couple of people, and we would go and compete at least once or twice a week. I made $50-100 doing that, which was enough to eat.

Even when I left Cincinnati, I had always been trying to do music that was not only progressive but was uplifting. Somebody that is trying to do uplifting music out here, you know, “the business”, their not into the uplifting spiritual type progressive music. They want some booty-shaking stuff, disposable music that they can sell big quickly. Then as soon as the artist finds out what’s really happening to them, then they discard them and get somebody else. That was what was going on, and it was difficult for me to get a foot-hold into Los Angeles because nobody was really interested in what I was doing except sometimes. I would go into churches and sing, but they weren’t too cool with it because it was a spiritual message but didn’t sound like the traditional church sound. I was coming with another kind of vibration, and they weren’t really that receiving of it either. I didn’t really have anywhere to do what I did, and then somebody introduced me to Leimert Park.

There was a guy over on 43rd that had a place like what The World Stage is right now, and it was called Artworks Four. His name was Carl Burnett, and he was the drummer for Freddie Hubbard and Horace Silver. So he started a place that really was the template for what The World Stage is; they offered jazz on the weekend, spoken word, workshops, and jam sessions. Most of what we do came from Artworks Four, so I got to know the guy, and he became a good friend, and on the weekends when they had the weekend concerts, he would let me come and sing with the band. I became a regular singing over there. I did that for about four or five years, and by the time Artworks quit, maybe four or five years went by. I had met Kamau [Daaood] because he used to work at the Watts Towers and back then we didn’t have the internet or nothing like that so if you wanted somebody to come to what you were doing you had to call them or send them something in the mail.

Kamau would call me up and let me know they [Billy Higgins] were doing this thing called The World Stage that was going on in Leimert Park. I was like -wow, that sounds like a magnificent place- it was across the street [now Neighbors Skate Shop or adjacent]. I am appreciative that Kamau would call me and let me know. I came down to The World Stage and saw what they were doing; it was really great, so then I started playing down there. Again they were open arms, like -eh you wanna do a gig?

What year did all this take place?

1989.

Can you describe the Leimert Park environment and The World Stage scene for art and music? Have either always been what you or many people know it to be today?

Well, number one, the street didn’t have street lights. At night the place was very dark and seedy looking. The only place that was open at that time of night was The World Stage. Maybe a year or two later, Richard Fulton, who had Fifth Street Dick’s, opened a place around the corner. We were the only two places open at night in this seedy-looking place. It took a while for people to turn on to the world stage. We had another club over there on King and Buckingham, which is near the mall. It was a nice, nice, nice club, a big club like in the movie Harlem Nights; when you see them go into the Harlem Nights club. It looked like that, and it was called The Jazz Etcetera. That’s where all the jazz musicians in the community were playing because they had a jam session over there. It was big, but it was noisy and loud because all of these people were there, you know. That’s where everything was happening, The Jazz Etcetera, but then we had the insurrection in 92′ so The World Stage had been in existence for three years by that time, and the club [The Jazz Etcetera] burned down. They had set a liquor store on fire that was next to the club, and when the liquor the store burned, it [fire] came back onto the club, so it burned down.

My name was the name on the marquee. I was supposed to be playing that night and weekend, haha, and when I went over to check to see if the club was burned down, I saw the marquee on the ground, and you could see “Dwight Trible”. I really should have just taken it and put it somewhere, but that broke my heart. It seems to me after The Jazz Etcetera burned down then people began to migrate to The World Stage. Now other people have other ideas about why that happened, but all of a sudden, like overnight, everybody was around here. It was just a great beautiful scene. You would have to stop by Leimert Park to see what’s happening down here before you go. They had a jam session that went all night long, so even after you went to your other place where you were, you got to come by Leimert Park to see what was happening after that, haha, you know. I used to come down here to stand on the corner just to breathe the air because it was so beautiful, and it was like that.

With The Jazz Etcetera burned down and the artists and musicians migrating to Leimert Park and The World Stage in mass, can you describe the broader community that was coming and frequenting Leimert Park at the time?

You know, it became a place where the community became family. Most of the relationships that we developed here are probably closer than our families. I think that is the thing that still stands from that time to this time. There is still a feeling of family here. There are people that come through here that are homeless, there are people that come through here that have a whole lot of money, but the thing is that when you come to Leimert Park, everybody is somebody. Everybody is expressing themselves and treated as somebody with respect, maybe not as much now as it used to be. Back when we first started that movement, everybody was somebody. “Commodore” this guy was homeless, and he’d come by and do sumthin’ just to get a couple of dollars out of you; wash your car, but he was a part of the family. He’d come around, and they never disrespected the place. It was very seldom that there was any kind of violence going on. Nobody was really ever breaking into your car; it was just a place where it was like a family affair. 

All of us were kind of like, I don’t know, misfits, I guess, haha were we didn’t fit anywhere else, but we knew where we fit was Leimert Park.

Dwight Trible at The World Stage

What was the impetus for you to choose music as personal or creative self-expression?

You know I was telling somebody about this last night, and I believe that music and art you don’t choose it, it chooses you. It was already something in your makeup when you are born. There are some people, I am sure, that see it and get into it because they want to be or romanticize about that sort of lifestyle, but you would not go through all of the pain and the heartache that music gives if it was not in you. If it is not in you, you would be broken. Some people have very fast rises to success, boom all of a sudden but most people especially when you’re talking about the creative portion of this music you might spend your whole entire life studying and practicing and never get any recognition for what you do. A lot of musicians that have given all their life to [music] are relegated to, or outlet is coming to jam sessions to play. To be able to play their instruments with other musicians.

There are so few venues interested in this type of stuff, so the gigs are very few and far between. Most guys go through their whole life and get no recognition for what they do. This has got to be something in you for you to go through all of the hell you have to go through to do it. Believe me, in my life for music, it’s a beautiful feeling I get from doing it. I don’t know of any other feeling outside of sex that I get that compares to the feeling I get with music. I’ve never really been motivated by being famous or being rich. It’s just something that heals me. If I don’t do music, I don’t feel good. I can not imagine a week that goes by and not being able to do music, to practice, all of that. You don’t choose music or art. If it’s in you, it chooses you. Spirit will always send guides to come along to help guide you along in it. Whatever our gift is, the spirit will send those people to help guide you along with it.

In this day and age where we talk about African people being seen, agency around their creativity or their ability to overcome and just be successful, how do you see yourself in this context today?

I see myself and hope I can maintain this because I feel that it’s the key to growth, and that’s to stay humble and hungry. And that’s kind of my motto and what keeps me turned on. I see myself as somebody that’s always looking for the next new note to see if we can find how to juxtapose things that haven’t been juxtaposed before. I am constantly one that is looking to grow, and sometimes I guess I can be somewhat [self-critical]. I think that is a part of my personality that I need to work on because I am never completely satisfied with what it is that I have done. I always [reflect] -shit, I could have done that better- or -that note should have been…- you know, something. I don’t know whether that’s a flaw. It’s difficult to be too egotistical when you always, haha, see stuff about yourself that needs to be improved. That’s the stuff I take with The World Stage; I am always trying to figure out -how can we improve this place?- or -how do we make it better than most places that this music is presented in this city?- I am constantly looking for that something that, even if it’s just an improvement that’s that [signals minuscule] big, you know. Let’s continue to try and improve ourselves, what it is that we do.

There is the African proverb which goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone if you want to go far, go together” From your journey, I can see how you came to Los Angeles seeking out like minds and pursued or attracted to that energy in brotha’s like Higgins and Daaood, what would you say was the transition from going and being an active player to then being really invested in growing the institution of The World Stage of today?

Well, just a little bit before that, there’s always been something in me that hates an injustice. I can say that I always hated injustice and wanted to be a part of the solution of letting people know that we are all the same. We are all from the same source. If we are all the same, then that means we are all kin in this world. For us to have erroneous thinking that we got that are African Americans or Black people that there is something different where people felt the need to segregate and to be against us which caused us to retaliate and be against them. You’re not going to keep on doing stuff to me because I am a human being like you are, and don’t expect that at some point come back on you and that we are going to have the feeling that we are superior to you. That same thing kind of feeds on itself.

The reality is that nobody is better than anybody else. We are all here; whether you are white or Black, we are all brothers and sisters; that’s what we really are. But ya’ll have put us in a posture that we have to defend ourselves. Being somebody that hates injustice in any kind of way, even when we do it to each other. I am kind of a guy that would like to stay in my little compartment, but somehow, I can’t just sit back and let that happen and not do nothing and be one of those guys that talks about how terrible things are and never lifted a finger to make it better. I can’t be that kind of guy. Even before I joined The World Stage and when stuff was going on in Leimert Park.

When it comes to The World Stage, Horace Tapscott and Billy Higgins to me, they did so much for me in putting me out there and promoting what I was doing, and making sure that the press and everybody recognized me. They would take me on their gigs and let me sing whenever somebody would come to town, and Billy was playing with them at Catalina’s or something. If I walked in the club, no matter who it was -you need to let this guy come up and sing-, haha, you know. I knew I wasn’t good enough to be up there singing with these guys, but he was determined. He wanted to promote me. We used to get together and have talks and meetings ‘cuz he wanted to hear my ideas and what I thought because I was young at that time. He wanted to hear my ideas as to how we could bring The Village together even more.

Horace wanted me to sing; I heard his Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra one day, and they were playing at one of the festivals, and I was listening to the vocalist he had sing with him at the time, and they were doing this arrangement of Motherless Child, I said -man, that person don’t really know what to do with that son-, -he don’t know what to do with it-, and I felt this really strong thing like -if only he would let me sing this song in front of this band-, haha, I’d show them how this shit is supposed to be, haha, you know. I had the feeling so strongly, and I didn’t know if Horace even knew who I was but one day all of sudden I got a call [from Horace] -Dwight I got some songs I want you to sing, be at my house tomorrow at three, click-, haha. [Surprised/excited] Horace called me! Man, I don’t even know where he lived, haha! But of course, everybody knew where Horace lived and found out where he lives; and I am nervous and stuff like that, he found a way to put me at ease. We started working on this material, and we’d get together about three or four times a week just practicing because he felt this need to give me the material. One day, I hadn’t played with the band or nothing, it was just me and him, he said -be at The Stage on Saturday at 2 o’clock.- I said, for what? He said -oh we gon’ do a lil’ somethin’- next thing I know we get over to The Stage; the whole Ark is there, so I’m like man, I don’t know if I’m ready to be singing with the Ark today because we haven’t had a rehearsal. So I said -Horace are we gonna have a rehearsal? [Horace] Nah Nah no.

Was this with a packed audience kinda thing?

Nobody was there but The Ark, it was a gig, but nobody had announced that The Ark was playing, but we were going to do a concert. I said to Horace – Well, are we going to have a soundcheck? He said -Dwight come here, come here Dwight, we don’t do things like that- [Shocked] I’m like we not gon’ even have a soundcheck?- so I can at least hear the band-haha. He just laughed; he went up to the band and told everybody to get their instruments out, and he just started playing on the piano, and all of a sudden, everybody fell in. I said -aw shit, I already know the songs but what I am gonna do is close my eyes and going to start singing and whatever, if they don’t like it they can fire me- ‘cuz shit, he didn’t tell me what to do or nothing like that. That day it started at The World Stage. That’s when I started practicing; every time he played, I was always singing.

What year did this take place?

I’d say around ’90.

So the fact that you closed your eyes and connected to spirit goes back to what you said before and the belief that art or music is just in you, and if not, it’s a different thing.

Yeah, I just said I’m close my eyes and let spirit tell me what to do, and if he doesn’t like it and it’s wrong, then he will fire me and no harm, no foul, but that was the way that it went. I guess I must have sang practically every gig until the day he died. We even started the choir, and I was the choir director, and that’s when Billy Higgins came in the picture. When he wasn’t on the road, he had a combo that he formed, and I was singing with him.

Of course, there’s a lot of people that come and want the benefits of being here and have fun and access what The World Stage offers. People never ask the question, how do they exist? How do they pay the rent? At that time, The World Stage was always behind in the rent. A couple of friends said they were taking over the board. They said -Dwight would you be on the board?- and I’m like, man, I don’t know if need to be on the board or nothing like that, but they were friends, and I said ‘ok’. I guess if they’re on the board and leading the board, then maybe I need to go and help out. So within six months, both of them just left, haha. One left about four months’ time, haha. Now here I am, then the other half of the people on the board left, so it was about three or four of us left. One lady took over as executive director and the other president of the board, and so they really didn’t have their heart in The World Stage and what this place was about and the spirituality of it all. They were just taking the money we had in the bank and paying the rent, and paying the rent until there was no more money in the bank. One lady said she was moving to Ohio because her husband was out there and saw there was no more money in the bank. 

Since I was the only one left, they said -Dwight, you’re going to have to take over the executive director- I was like, I don’t know if I need to do that. That picture up there [pointing] that’s Billy over the door has always been over the doorway like that; so I used to come into The Stage to practice, and sometimes that picture would be smiling at me. Sometimes it would be a rye smile looking at you, ya know, like Dwight, why do you think we gave you all of this favor and did all of this stuff to help put you out there, cuz’ one day we knew it was gon’ come down to you. You was gon’ have to do it; Ok, I got it, I got it; so that’s why I took over.

Dwight Trible at The World Stage

What year was this all taking place?

I think it was 2012 or 2013, but I had already been on the board for about maybe four years. So at that point, I said I got. This is actually bigger than me and my career because this will be here when we are gone. We are doing something for the community. When I take on something, if I give my word that I am going to do something, then it’s done. I am gon’ do it, and the only thing that will stop is something will kill me and stop me from doing it. With the stage since they started with Kamau and all of them, we never had somebody in leadership that was hell-bent on making this thing work.

Would you say, perhaps, there wasn’t the forethought of The Stage as an institution that would be cultivated and built over time versus space for them to be in their present time and year after year?

Well, I don’t know because most of the time the place has been run and operated by musicians and artists and all of that. And I certainly do not claim to have any ability or understanding to know how to run a place, to run an organization, haha. I operate off of common sense to understand and know what I know and what I don’t know. To be able to discern when I run into people that might know that I can tap into that can help. I know that I have created enough respect in the city and among arts organizations because I’ve probably had something to do with everybody at one time or another. It was good for me to be in leadership because when I make the calls to the various politicians or the arts organizations and all of that, they will answer because I have created enough of a reputation and goodwill that they want to jump in and help in any way that they can. That’s been the beautiful thing about me being the leader of the place; people have always known me to be on the up and up. You need that.

There is something about Black organizations even when Black people deal with Black organizations that somewhere along the line, there is going to be some bullshit that this person said that they was gon’ do this and turned out they didn’t do it for whatever reason; the dog died-something happened-the water rose up too high and we couldn’t accomplish what we said we was gon’ do, ya know. We’ve been so used to dealing with each other that way, coming with some kind of excuse as to why. I said I have to break that, and I have to honor anything that I tell these musicians that come here because we got the world-class cats coming. Based on my relationship with a lot of them, I was able to convince them to come. I know that they came and were like -[sucks teeth] -I know it’s gon’ be some bullshit. But I know I can’t pay you what you get paid out in the world, but everything I promised you that was gon’ happen, we are going to deliver that. Over the years, we have been able to do that. Sometimes we have lost money, and everything but me must honor our word because that is so important. Now people pass the word -call Dwight at The World Stage-, -when you go to town, call The World Stage- because you ain’t gon’ have no bullshit when you get here.

Your word and how you treat others is your currency, right?

People come because they know it’s an investment in yourself because you came from somewhere that was humble and someplace blessed your life, and you owe it to yourself to the community to come down and do something here. I’m not asking you to come here and do what I’m doing, but doggone it, you can come here, and I don’t feel bad about asking anybody to come down here and play because you owe it to yourself and the community to do such a thing.

I see that as self-empowerment because of the way it makes you feel to be connected-invest in yourself and your community as this relationship is an eco-system. How important is ‘connection’ as a musician to cultivate the sense of togetherness and belonging in a very individualistic industry or craft, or space?

Well, the thing is, the jazz community in Los Angeles always has been a family, even when the whole thing with Georg Floyd happened. White jazz musicians wanted to know -how do I contribute?- and -how do I make a difference?- so I got on Facebook and said how about we start an organization called Jazz Musicians Unite Against Racism. The jazz community, even back in the days of prohibition and all that stuff, was the first integrated community in this country really; jazz music. Within an hour’s time, there were 500 people that said -I’m in. I’d said, wow, let me call LeRoy Downs, who’s a good friend who does a thing called Just Jazz at a venue in Hollywood. Let’s come together and have jazz musicians of all races come together and do a concert that says jazz musicians stand united against racism. We invited jazz musicians of all races to come down and we about four different ensembles. After one played for about twenty minutes, then we’d switch over to bring in another one, haha. We did this once a month until the election. I just feel like the jazz community has always been sort of like a family in Los Angeles where it’s not a lot of venues here to play that we all wind up coming together at some point.

What’s a desire or vision you have for yourself, your career, The World Stage, or music in general that you would love to have support in or draw attention to for the future, whether short or long term?

There’s a couple of things I think in terms of not just The World Stage, but I think there should be an ongoing effort of musicians, not just jazz musicians but musicians that are doing progressive art. A thing that is presented once a month every month and to keep that on the burner because this is something that we can do. Personally, one of the things that I wished Joe Bidden would have done when he became president like Regan had a war on drugs, and they made TV commercials about drugs being bad for you and put billboards out there about “just say no”; there should be a war on racism right now. That’s the biggest problem we have going in our country is racism.

I think especially because you got Kamala Harris, who’s a Black vice president, and Bidden wanting to be the compassionate president. Why not have a war on racism? It’s not happening, but even within our city, they could start with jazz musicians constantly a ‘war on racism’ and doing these concerts and radio show or whatever and keep it out there on the burner to let people know we stand united against racism. All of the artists, poets, visual artists, broadcasters, everything needs to come together and start this thing called Artists United Against Racism.

One of my favorite quotes from Charles White is, “Art must be an integral part of the struggle it can’t simply mirror what is taking place it must adapt itself to human needs, it must ally itself with the forces of liberation; the fact is artist have always been propagandist. I have no use for artists who try to divorce themselves from the struggle.”

My whole presentation is centered around spirituality and equality. When you look at all the stuff I’ve done, I’ve always been that way. I guess the other thing I feel to round the mission out; I would like to see a marriage between classical and jazz music. Like a radio station or an award, you have the Grammys and all of that stuff. Classical and jazz gets pushed aside, but I think that the people that are inclined towards classical music would also be ones that really would like to be introduced to jazz, and I think vice versa. Can you imagine if jazz and classical merged and started having concerts where they have the best of classical or radio programs where they play Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Miles and Coltrane and then right behind each thing you might hear some Ravel and some stuff like that all in the same radio program? I think that that would help both music [genres] if they ran hand in hand; it would strengthen them. It’s right there and has been laying out there for all these years. I am just surprised that nobody has picked up on that.

How can we support and connect with you, Dwight, and The World Stage?

I would say start at the website, and that will tell you all about how to get involved. I just think that we are doing something here that is very unique. There is nothing else in our community like The World Stage, and I would just like for people to think and ask the question -how did they survive?-, -how do they pay the rent?-, -how do they keep this thing going?- you know. Most of the time, the people that work here are volunteers, a lot of them. How does a place like this continue to thrive and continue to be? People got to get in; they have to jump in with their actions; they gotta give some money because the one thing that a place like this always needs more of is money, haha. You can definitely see that we’re not putting in our pockets, haha. This is probably one of the purest organizations or things that I know of in this world.

It’s pure. There is nothing that we sell outside of the art, and that’s minimal. Everything is sold low cost, so everybody in the community can afford to do it. Nobody is trying to gain anything from being in here or doing this. There is certainly nothing I need to gain because I am already popular; there’s nothing that’s going to help my popularity by doing this; this is something we know we have to do. We have to do this, you could almost think of it as a church of art and culture in purity, and that is one thing that Billy wanted to protect and make sure that it does not get into the hands of the wrong people. Some people can take something like this and flip it for a whole lot of different things where they can line their pockets and all that kind of stuff, you know. So it is important that we have the right people involved in this, and somehow it’s like Billy and Horace’s hands are still working through this thing and keep it pure. We do want to make the innovations that we talked about and all of that stuff, but there is a thing we don’t want to change and must keep the mission pure.

www.theworldstage.org




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