Jazz à la Creole: French Creole Music and the Birth of Jazz

Posted in Arts, Books, Canada, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2022-11-27 06:11Z by Steven

Jazz à la Creole: French Creole Music and the Birth of Jazz

University Press of Mississippi
November 2022
248 pages
1 table; 29 b&w figures; 20 musical examples
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496842404
Paperback ISBN: 9781496842428

Caroline Vézina
Montréal, Quebec, Canada

The first scholarly volume dedicated to French Creole music and its contribution to the development of jazz in New Orleans

During the formative years of jazz (1890–1917), the Creoles of Color—as they were then called—played a significant role in the development of jazz as teachers, bandleaders, instrumentalists, singers, and composers. Indeed, music penetrated all aspects of the life of this tight-knit community, proud of its French heritage and language. They played and/or sang classical, military, and dance music as well as popular songs and cantiques that incorporated African, European, and Caribbean elements decades before early jazz appeared. In Jazz à la Creole: French Creole Music and the Birth of Jazz, the author describes the music played by the Afro-Creole community since the arrival of enslaved Africans in La Louisiane, then a French colony, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, emphasizing the many cultural exchanges that led to the development of jazz.

Caroline Vézina has compiled and analyzed a broad scope of primary sources found in diverse locations from New Orleans to Quebec City, Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago. Two previously unpublished interviews add valuable insider knowledge about the music on French plantations and the danses Créoles held in Congo Square after the Civil War. Musical and textual analyses of cantiques provide new information about the process of their appropriation by the Creole Catholics as the French counterpart of the Negro spirituals. Finally, a closer look at their musical practices indicates that the Creoles sang and improvised music and/or lyrics of Creole songs, and that some were part of their professional repertoire. As such, they belong to the Black American and the Franco-American folk music traditions that reflect the rich cultural heritage of Louisiana.

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Makaya McCraven Isn’t Interested in Saving Jazz

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-08-11 02:01Z by Steven

Makaya McCraven Isn’t Interested in Saving Jazz

Rolling Stone

Natalie Weiner, Reporter

Makaya McCraven in Chicago in October.
Makaya McCraven in Chicago in October.
Lyndon French for RollingStone.com

Chicago-based drummer and bandleader on how he’s marrying the energy of intimate club performances with 21st-century electronic thinking

“‘Is jazz dead?’ is a stupid question,” says drummer and bandleader Makaya McCraven over beers at a Lower East Side bar that is, fittingly, playing a selection of 1930s and ’40s-era jazz cuts. “If you have to ask the same question for 50 years, it becomes a rhetorical question. When did it die?”

Those who know McCraven’s work would likely reach a similar conclusion. Critically acclaimed releases like In the Moment (2015) and Highly Rare (2017) — both made up entirely of live material — put the heat and vitality of an intimate jazz club into a distinctly 21st century mode of brainy beat music, edited down to their searching, abstract highlights. They gave McCraven the kind of jazz-vanguard cred also recently assigned to artists like Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and Shabaka Hutchings, all of whom have earned some degree of crossover success over the past decade thanks in part to their ability to tap into hip-hop and R&B audiences. Despite the fact that these artists emerged at different times and with different aesthetics, each has been presented as the face of a jazz “revival” or “resurgence” — a necessary spark to an otherwise moribund genre. But McCraven, 35, would prefer that listeners don’t call it a comeback…

..In many ways, global jazz culture is the story of McCraven’s life. His father, jazz drummer Stephen McCraven — a Connecticut native who was mentored by avant-gardists Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef and Sam Rivers — and his mother, Hungarian folk singer Ágnes Zsigmondi, met in Paris, where McCraven was born. The family later moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, finding an intimate artistic community in the college town…

Read the entire interview here.

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Mike Reed’s Flesh & Bone

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2018-11-13 03:54Z by Steven

Mike Reed’s Flesh & Bone



Influential bandleader from Chicago presents an evocative mix of music, spoken word and video. ‘With its historical depth and vigorous performance, the music satisfies on its own terms’ (Downbeat).

Mike Reed’s compositions for Flesh & Bone are both deeply personal and brimming with hope, and represent his expressions of feeling about social unrest, racism and resurgent nationalism. On the eponymous album, the Chicago-based musician recollects harrowing memories of a confrontation with far-right protesters on a train journey with his band through Eastern Europe. For this project, this same four-piece band has been expanded to include a cornet player and a bass clarinet player. Poet and performer Marvin Tate plays an important role on the album as well as on stage, where dramatic tales come together with music and moving images.

As a drummer, composer and founder of the Constellation club and the influential Pitchfork Music Festival, Mike Reed is a key figure in the Chicago music scene, where he engages in regular collaborations with a variety of young musicians as well as with veterans such as Roscoe Mitchell and Wadada Leo Smith. His relationship with Amsterdam is particularly special, owing to his Indonesian-Dutch ancestry. In 2013, his band People, Places and Things released the album Second Cities: Volume 1, with pieces by Dutch composers such as Guus Janssen, Sean Bergin and Eric Boeren.

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60th GRAMMY Awards: Full Nominees List

Posted in Articles, Arts, Latino Studies, Media Archive on 2017-12-04 02:27Z by Steven

60th GRAMMY Awards: Full Nominees List

Recording Academy
Santa Monica, California

Find out who is nominated for the 60th GRAMMY Awards in New York on Jan. 28

The nominations for the 60th GRAMMY Awards are here! Find out who has been nominated in each of the 84 categories below (use the links to jump to a desired field).

32. Best Jazz Vocal Album
(For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal jazz recordings.)…

Bad Ass And Blind
Raul Midón

Read the entire article here.

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‘Krazy Kat,’ and all that jazz

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-07-19 02:50Z by Steven

‘Krazy Kat,’ and all that jazz

The Boston Globe

Matthew Guerrieri, Globe Correspondent

This Sunday is the anniversary of the end of one of the greatest comic strips of all time. On June 25, 1944, the final installment of “Krazy Kat” was published, two months after the death of its creator, George Herriman. In various forms since 1910, the strip’s essential paradox — Ignatz, a mouse, forever beans Krazy with bricks, who nevertheless loves him back — yielded seemingly inexhaustible variations.

In its day, “Krazy Kat” was more a critical than a popular favorite, though publisher William Randolph Hearst, a fan, continued to give Herriman carte blanche despite the strip’s sometimes meager readership. But its dreamlike artwork, linguistic fantasy, and self-referential tinkering with comic-strip form influenced numerous other art forms — music included.

The dense, idiosyncratic argot of Herriman’s dialogue and his precisely-dashed linework and zig-zagging scenery (a stylization of Herriman’s beloved southwestern landscapes) found its musical counterpart in syncopation. As early as 1911 — only a year after Krazy and Ignatz first appeared in the margins of Herriman’s strip “The Dingbat Family” — a New York composer-pianist named Ben Ritchie published “Krazy Kat Rag,” with a Herriman illustration on the cover. In later years, saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer’s Orchestra (which included such jazz luminaries as Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Lang, and Joe Venuti), expatriate bandleader Sam Wooding, and clarinetist Artie Shaw all recorded “Krazy Kat” tributes.

Most ambitious was composer John Alden Carpenter’s “Krazy Kat” ballet, subtitled “A Jazz Pantomime.” First performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1921, and first staged in 1922 — choreographed by Russian-born Adolph Bolm, with scenery designed by Herriman himself (he also illustrated the sheet music) — the ballet was well-received, but Carpenter’s score (possibly the first concert work to include the word “jazz” in the title) was soon overshadowed by more overt rapprochements between jazz and classical music. Carpenter’s version of jazz was tame, owing more to the “sweet” jazz of white dance bands than the “hot” jazz of their African-American counterparts. But the composer effectively mined jazz’s capacity for charm and whimsy…

Read the entire article here.

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Krotoa-Eva’s Suite: A performance by poet Toni Stuart

Posted in Africa, Arts, History, Live Events, Media Archive, South Africa, Women on 2015-12-02 01:56Z by Steven

Krotoa-Eva’s Suite: A performance by poet Toni Stuart

Goldsmiths University of London
New Cross
London, United Kingdom
Caribbean Studies Centre
Top Floor, Education Building
2015-12-03, 18:30-20:30Z

Join the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies and the Centre for Feminist Research for a performance by poet Toni Stuart and a ‘Stories are Medicine’ discussion circle.

Toni Stuart (@nomadpoet) is a poet, performer, festival organiser and educator from Cape Town, South Africa.

She’ll be performing poems from her collection in progress, Krotoa-Eva’s Suite – a cape jazz poem in three movements. This is the re-imagined story of Krotoa-Eva, a Khoi woman who played a pivotal role in South African history in the 17th Century, when the first European settlers arrived at Cape Town, as it is known today. The poems give voice to Krotoa-Eva’s “interior” life, and aim to offer a counter-narrative to the male, colonial perspectives through which her story has previously been told.

The performance will be followed by an informal discussion circle around the role of self-care and healing in our work as feminists. And, it will explore how stories and the creative arts might facilitate and support this practice.

For more information, click here.

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Tessa Souter sets her story to music

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2015-07-21 02:14Z by Steven

Tessa Souter sets her story to music

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Rochester, New York

Jeff Spevak, Staff writer


Tessa Souter is known as a New York City singer-songwriter, but her biography runs much deeper. She’s taken a few detours on her way to the jazz clubs.

A runaway at 16, a magazine journalist writing for Elle and Vogue, a student of the legendary hipster scat singer Mark Murphy, a house cleaner while waiting for the singing career to blossom.

Souter, who has released four albums, is at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, performing at 6 and 10 p.m. Tuesday at Montage Music Hall. While in Spain a week and a half ago, she took a little time to answer some questions.

On your most-recent album, Beyond the Blue, you add sultry lyrics to classical pieces such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, Movement 2. What’s it like collaborating with a guy who’s been dead for 187 years?

It’s fantastic because you don’t feel inhibited. If you can’t come up with anything, you don’t have to show it to them. And they’re not wondering what you are going to do with it, or if you will understand what they meant. Of course that doesn’t mean Ludwig isn’t rolling over in his grave right now. But he did write some wonderful vocal music, so he clearly wasn’t anti the whole idea of lyrics…

You were born in London, your mother was English, your father was from Trinidad. How does that multicultural heritage work its way into that most-American of music genres, jazz?

When I first moved to New York, I sang at a cabaret open mic once, and the pianist said, “You’re not a cabaret singer. You are a jazz singer.” But I don’t try to be “jazz.” A friend, and one of my mentors, an amazing singer called Mansur Scott, once told me, “Just sing your story.” Mine includes the musical influences of my life — my mum singing to me, songs we sang together, my tween obsession with Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Joni Mitchell, my discovery of Miles Davis when I was 16 on Cannonball Adderly’sSomethin’ Else.” Then I found Milton Nascimento and through him Sarah Vaughan and Wayne Shorter, whose Native Dancer is still my favorite album of all time. There are so many styles of jazz. Definitely American in origin. But isn’t jazz kind of like gumbo? It is itself multicultural. One of my very favorite “jazz” singers — Youn Sun Nah, who I discovered relatively recently (and who was a favorite at last year’s jazz festival) — is Korean…

Read the entire interview here.

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Tony Williams’ “Wilderness” and Mixed-Race Identity through Jazz

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-05-27 02:31Z by Steven

Tony Williams’ “Wilderness” and Mixed-Race Identity through Jazz

Soundscapes and Such: Critical Thoughts on Sonic Subjects

Shawn M. Higgins
University of Connecticut

Tony Williams (source: Wikipedia)

Why do song writers choose the song titles they do? Perhaps Herbie Hancock’s 1980 track “4 A.M.” was recorded at that exact time – or maybe finished then? The song isn’t sleepy and lethargic as I might connotatively connect with the before-dawn hour, but jazz musicians are infamously night owls, and the song’s rhythm suggests this might be the funkiest, most active hour of the cycle. The title of John Coltrane’s 1967 song “Stellar Regions”, through the frenzied, echoing cymbal work of Rashied Ali and Coltrane’s trilling, screaming saxophone, could serve in a Romantic sense to invoke feelings of a paean to the heavens. The listeners, upon closing their eyes, are sonically shot into space and flung around the cosmos through the combination of music and such a song title. And of course, one of Duke Ellington’s most famous songs, which is in turn an absolute standard of jazz today, was given a title by the composer Billy Strayhorn after Duke gave him directions to his house and told him to “Take the ‘A’ Train.” None of these songs at the time of their composure had any lyrics to support these titles either in a refrain or in any thematic way. Rather, the listener is encouraged to interpret the sounds alongside the title or through the title. What happens in this exchange between artist, product, and consumer is my primary interest, and I would like to point to one artist in particular who used his song titles as a conscious way of addressing his newly discovered mixed-race identity.

Tony Williams, the legendary jazz drummer who is credited with inventing the “blast beat” and who called legends like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and John McLaughlin his musical partners, candidly explained in a 1995 BET interview a recent revelation in his life. Williams had discovered at the age of roughly forty-nine that he was of a racially mixed ancestry – he was phenotypically African American but also of Chinese and Portuguese background…

Read the entire article here.

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Jazz, Race Collide With War In 1930s Europe

Posted in Articles, Audio, Canada, Europe, History, Media Archive, United States on 2012-10-10 03:55Z by Steven

Jazz, Race Collide With War In 1930s Europe

Tell Me More
National Public Radio

Jacki Lyden, Host

The novel Half Blood Blues explores an often overlooked slice of history: black jazz musicians in Germany on the eve of World War II. The book moves from 1992 to 1939, from Baltimore to Berlin to Paris. It’s told by an elderly black jazz musician and his friend who survived the war. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks with author Esi Edugyan.


This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I’m Jacki Lyden. Michel Martin is away this week. Now we’re going to take a trip back in time with the help of a prize-winning novelist.

The novel, “Half Blood Blues,” considers a slice of history that often gets overlooked: black jazz musicians and their fate in Germany just before World War II. The novel moves back and forth from 1992 to 1939, from Baltimore to Berlin, Berlin to Paris and it’s told through the eyes of an elderly Baltimore black jazz musician, Sid Griffiths, and his lifelong friend, Chippewa Jones, all in invented period slang.

The novel was short-listed for the Booker Prize this year and won the Giller Prize in Canada and its author, Esi Edugyan, joins us now from member station KUOW in Seattle. Welcome.

ESI EDUGYAN: Thank you.

LYDEN: Esi, just to establish, you are a Canadian author.


LYDEN: And you live in…

EDUGYAN: I was born and raised in Calgary.

LYDEN: Born and raised in Calgary, of Ghanaian parents and you live in Victoria?


LYDEN: Well, please tell us about this novel, which has had so much success. Tell us about the men at the center of your story. They’re jazz musicians from a group called the Hot Time Swingers. We meet them in Paris. They already have escaped from Berlin. They’ve met Duke Ellington and at the center of the group is this really intriguing character you’ve invented called Hieronymus Falk. And he is eventually picked up by the Gestapo in June of 1940. Tell us about these fellows and Hieronymus.

EDUGYAN: Well, essentially, the novel is told in two parts and the first part centers around the Hot Time Swingers who, you know, are a jazz band who’s had quite a bit of success playing in Berlin. And, you know, now the Third Reich has been ushered in and they’re trying to decide exactly how to proceed now that they’ve been prohibited from playing in public.

And so the band consists of two African-American players, Sid and Chip from Baltimore, as well as the German players, Paul, who’s a pianist who has a Jewish background, and Ernst. And then Hieronymus Falk, who is an Afro-German, the child of a French colonial soldier and a German mother, and he’s the trumpet prodigy.

LYDEN: Hieronymus Falk really intrigued me, Esi Edugyan. He is, you say in the novel, the German word was mischling. He is of mixed race and there really were such Afro-Germans prior to the Nazis taking power…

Read the entire transcript here. Listen to the interview here. Download the interview here.

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Recasting Race after World War II: Germans and African Americans in American-Occupied Germany

Posted in Arts, Books, Europe, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2011-12-03 20:41Z by Steven

Recasting Race after World War II: Germans and African Americans in American-Occupied Germany

University Press of Colorado
9 b&w photos
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-87081-869-1

Timothy L. Schroer, Associate Professor of History
University of West Georgia

Historian Timothy L. Schroer’s Recasting Race after World War II explores the renegotiation of race by Germans and African American GIs in post-World War II Germany. Schroer dissects the ways in which notions of blackness and whiteness became especially problematic in interactions between Germans and American soldiers serving as part of the victorious occupying army at the end of the war.

The segregation of U.S. Army forces fed a growing debate in America about whether a Jim Crow army could truly be a democratizing force in postwar Germany. Schroer follows the evolution of that debate and examines the ways in which postwar conditions necessitated reexamination of race relations. He reveals how anxiety about interracial relationships between African American men and German women united white American soldiers and the German populace. He also traces the importation and influence of African American jazz music in Germany, illuminating the subtle ways in which occupied Germany represented a crucible in which to recast the meaning of race in a post-Holocaust world.

Recasting Race after World War II will appeal to historians and scholars of American, African American, and German studies.

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