Throughout the history of jazz, mythical places like New Orleans's Storyville, Chicago's South Side, Kansas City's Tenderloin district, and New York's Harlem and 52nd Street were celebrated as the legendary hotspots. Thankfully, this impressive four-CD, 91-track collection featuring Nat "King" Cole, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Carter to name a few, puts Los Angeles's famous African-American enclave, Central Avenue, on the historical map and offers the listener a zoot-suited, jitterbugged jaunt through Club Alabam, The Downbeat, and other jumpin' joints where Hollywood stars rubbed shoulders with hep cats under a pulsating Pacific sky. The set covers an important period in the development of African-American music, from the conclusion of World War I to the birth of rock & roll: from the early New Orleans bouncy brass-band sounds of "Get Out of Here" by Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band and the Spanish-tinged, habanera syncopation on "Mamanita," courtesy of the pioneering pianist/composer Jelly Roll Morton to Lionel Hampton's boogie-woogie anthem "Flying Home" and the killer keyboard calisthenics on Art Tatum's "Tiger Rag." The Charlie Parker Septet's "Ornithology" blew into town on the wings of bebop innovation and hypnotized local up-and-comers like bassist Charles Mingus--under the moniker of Baron Mingus & His Octet on a rare side called "Bedspread"--and tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon's raw-boned tone on "Chromatic Aberration," which previewed John Coltrane's sheets of sound. Miles Davis's cool indigo-impressionism radiance on "Up in Dodo's Room," performed by the Howard McGhee Sextet, contrasts with the harmonic heights reached by the Gerald Wilson Orchestra's reading of "Groovin' High." There is a remarkable fluidity of transition from blues to R&B, as heard in the western wails on "Blues on Central Avenue" by Joe Turner with the Freddie Slack Trio, Nellie Lutcher's hip-bopping, tasty, and teasing "Fine Brown Frame" and the Texas-bred, guitar twang of T-Bone Walker's "Call It Stormy Monday," all of which highlight the sepia-toned, soulful syncretism that formed the bedrock of modern music and the marvelous black neighborhood that provided the foundation for it. --Eugene Holley Jr.