Category Archives: Advocacy

Blue Note Salon

On December 8, 1956, the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums) performed at the Blue Note. The set was featured on the Mutual Network live remote radio broadcast, Bandstand, U.S.A.

That same night, the police raided “the town’s swankiest jazz emporium.” The Blue Note was a “black and tan” club, an integrated nightspot where blacks and whites socialized on an equal basis. As such, it was the target of police harassment.

Philadelphia Tribune - Dec. 11, 1956

From the beginning, jazz was a tool for social change. Jazz musicians’ unbowed comportment created a cultural identity that was a steppingstone to the Civil Rights Movement. In remarks to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said jazz is “triumphant music”:

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

On April 21, 2018, All That Philly Jazz and Black Quantum Futurism will present the “Blue Note Salon” which pays homage to jazz musicians’ legacy of resistance. The community discussion will feature creative change makers who work on social justice issues. Their work is at the intersection of art, community engagement and social change.

Blue Note Salon

The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, go here.

Philly Celebrates Jazz 2018

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. There is a lot of appreciation for jazz in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection so Philly is getting the party started early. On March 29, Mayor James Kenney will join the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy to kick off Philly Celebrates Jazz by honoring the 2018 Benny Golson Award recipient, fashion-forward bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma

From the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy:

Jamaaladeen Tacuma is celebrated internationally for his creatively free and funky approach to the electric bass. His innovative style caught Ornette Coleman’s ear, and he became the first bassist in Coleman’s electric band, Prime Time, touring and recording with the group throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Viewed as one of the most distinctive bassists of his generation, Tacuma is credited for redefining the potential of the instrument. Tacuma debuted as a bandleader, composer, and arranger in 1983 with the album Showstopper, going on to develop compositions that blend Prime Time’s elaborate harmonies with engaging melodies. His 1988 album Jukebox was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1989; in 2011 his ongoing achievements were recognized by the award of a Pew Fellowship in the Arts; he is the 2017 recipient of Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz Best Bassist Award. Tacuma’s artistic and experimental approach to jazz music has been and continues to be a source of great pride for the Philadelphia jazz scene.

The March 29 event is free and open to the public

Philly Loves Jazz Kickoff Event - March 29

To RSVP go here.

Help Get Muddy Waters a Google Doodle

We all have seen Google Doodles. The drawings “celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists.”

Google Doodle - Ella Fitzgerald

Google Doodle - Dizzy Gillespie

Google accepts suggestions from the public. You can help one of the most celebrated bluesmen, Muddy Waters, get a Google Doodle.

Muddy Waters Google Doodle

American Blues Scene, a popular website, is petitioning Google to create a Muddy Waters doodle:

No figure has inspired an international music explosion quite like blues musician McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield, who left a log cabin in a Mississippi cotton field to break much greater ground with his inimitable guitar and vocal style. After more than 100 years, Muddy Waters’ continuing impact has proven the blues singer to be one of the most significant figures in the history of American Music, inspiring generations of artists and cultural movements like Folk, Chicago Blues, and Rock n Roll.

You can sign the petition here. You can also email Google at proposals@google.com and tell them about the “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

The blues master is memorialized on a Chicago high-rise.

Muddy Waters Mural

With your help, Muddy Waters will be immortalized for all Google users.

The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X

February 21 was the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

Malcolm X

Two years ago, I nominated a former residence of Malcolm X for listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places. In the statement of significance, I wrote:

Malcolm X, aka El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, is a world-renowned human rights activist and American icon whose charismatic leadership laid the foundation for the growth of orthodox Islam among African Americans in the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation. His life story is an American story. It is a “Horatio Alger” tale of a misspent youth, personal redemption and triumph in the struggle for racial equality.

During his “misspent youth,” Malcolm was known as “Detroit Red.” He was a fixture on the jazz scene in Harlem. His former residence, 2503 W. Oxford Street, was located a short walk from Philadelphia’s storied “Golden Strip.”

I also noted:

In the years since his assassination, Malcolm has become an American icon. He is the subject of countless books and academic studies, and documentaries, including PBS’ “Malcolm X: Make It Plain.” Spike Lee’s movie adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X was released in 1992. “Malcolm X” featured an Oscar-nominated performance by Denzel Washington.

While the nomination was not successful, all was not lost. We raised awareness of Malcolm’s presence in Philadelphia. “The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X” will introduce a new generation to the human rights activist. The documentary premieres on the Smithsonian Channel on February 26 at 8pm EST.

The Lost Tapes

The documentary traces Malcolm’s life through rare archival footage from his speeches and media interviews. In comments following a recent screening Malcolm’s daughter, Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, said:

We finally have the opportunity to hear directly from our father’s mouth. … I was overwhelmed with emotion when I first saw it and I thought that it was a great piece of work.

For more information, visit the Smithsonian Channel.

We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Story Never Told

Like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh once had a robust jazz scene with legendary venues, including the Granada Theater and the Crawford Grill.

Crawford Vintage

Crawford Grill - Pittsburgh - Historical Marker - 2001

Pittsburgh produced jazz greats such as Art Blakey, Billy Strayhorn, Mary Lou Williams, George Benson, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Eckstine and Kenny Clarke.

We Knew What We Had2

Thanks to a new documentary, “We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Story Never Told,” the world will know what Pittsburgh had.

The one-hour documentary includes live performance clips of the Jazz Masters, interviews and archival photographs. As important, the filmmakers contextualize Pittsburgh’s jazz culture by exploring social conditions and historical events.

“We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Story Never Told” will air in February. For more information and air dates, visit their website.