Stumbling on a Star: Jazz in 20th-Century Hollywood - Atlas Obscura

Los Angeles, California

Stumbling on a Star: Jazz in 20th-Century Hollywood

The legends, intrigue, and lore of the Los Angeles Jazz Scene.

For much of the 20th century, Hollywood hosted some of the greatest jazz artists to ever command a stage. In the early 1940s, with the encouragement of Orson Welles, jazz trailblazer Kid Ory came out of retirement to play weekly at a Chinese restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. Across the street and a decade later, Art Tatum, one of the most gifted pianists of his generation, played the mob-owned Royal Room in between house parties in the Hills. Hollywood once had a monopoly on both recording and radio studios—and for a golden, glimmering era the sound of America emanated within earshot of Hollywood and Vine.   

Join journalist Sean J. O'Connell as he weaves a tale of Hollywood jazz history with cameos by Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, Nat King Cole and dozens of other swinging characters. Through alleyways and across boulevards, Sean presents Los Angeles as an essential hub for the evolution of America's original art form and a hotbed of innovation and musical passion that still resonates today. He combines history, lively stories and even a curated playlist to bring this area of the city alive again with the jazz artists that made it legendary. 

The walking tour will cover about a 3/4 mile circuit tracing some key points in the development of the LA Jazz scene. Be ready to walk—and ready to learn!


Jazz historian Sean J. O'Connell is the author of Los Angeles's Central Avenue Jazz. He is a contributor to DownBeat, KCET, KPCC's Off-Ramp, Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, LA Record, Los Angeles CityBeat, New York City Jazz Record, the Village Voice & OC Weekly. 

Additional Details

  • Exact tour departure point will be sent in a separate email before the tour. It will be in the vicinity of Hollywood and Vine.
  • This is a walking tour, so wear comfortable shoes. 
  • Age requirement: 12 & up.
  • A rudimentary familiarity with jazz history will be beneficial on this tour, but is not required to enjoy it! 
  • The tour will finish approximately 1/4 mile west from the starting point. 


Email Carlyle Coash at

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