The Independent Ear

Ain’t But a Few of Us: Tammy Kernodle

We return to our ongoing series of dialogues, Ain’t But a Few of Us, Black music writers tell their story with a true scholar of the music, Tammy Kernodle. I first met Tammy years ago when she gave delivered a very thoughtful, informative talk on NEA Jazz Master Mary Lou Williams at an IAJE conference. Since then Ms. Kernodle has authored a definitive MLW biography, Soul to Soul. Currently a Professor of Musicology at Miami University (Ohio), Tammy matriculated at Virginia State University with a degree in Music and achieved her PhD at Ohio State in Music History. She has served as Scholar in Residence at the American Jazz Museum (Kansas City, MO) and has contributed to Musical Quarterly and the American Music Research Journal, as well as the anthology Women’s Voices Across Musical Worlds. Additionally she is an associate editor of the Encyclopedia of African American Music. She is a contributor to the recent, long overdue and quite comprehensive Black Music Journal published by the Center for Black Music Research on the subject of the too long neglected NEA Jazz Master Melba Liston and her considerable contributions.

Tammy Kernodle

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO WRITE ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I was student teaching in a school whose student population was 90% black, but the faculty/staff of color constituted only 2%. In trying to create lesson plans that went beyond the standard Western canon, I found that there was a small body of scholarship that focused on the development of African American music, but not much in the way of public school curriculum. I really wanted to do more than just show up and do the typical “Beethoven was Black” lecture. I wanted to expose them to not only African American concert composers, but also jazz musicians and other forms of popular culture. I was already investigating graduate programs and decided to delve deeper into what musicology was about. I applied and was accepted to a graduate program in the Midwest (I won’t call the name) and arrived to find that most of my peers were writing dissertations on the Renaissance. The resistance I experienced from some (not all) of my professors in studying and writing about the music of African Americans only inspired me to pursue it even further. I realized that the only reason why an educated, trained professor would stand in the front of a class of graduate students and say that “no American, no Black and no Woman has ever made any substantial contribution to music” was because 1) his training was limited and he had never been exposed to anything beyond the Western canon; 2) The body of literature that framed the canon or the central focus of most music history or music courses needed to be expanded. So I found my purpose in the attempts to suppress my passion for writing about and teaching black music (concert and popular). My writing has one purpose—to expand our understanding of the historical and musicological contexts that have been framed in and through the American experience. I want to write excluded and ignored artists into the canonic history we so precious defend and protect. I don’t write just to write or publish just for the sake of having another line on my resume. I’m very strategic and the subject matter must resonate with me. I grow through the writing I do.

WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WRITING ABOUT MUSIC WERE YOU AWARE OF THE DEARTH OF AFRICAN AMERICANS WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC?
Yes.
Tammy Kernodle 1
WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT’S STILL SUCH A GLARING DISPARITY – WHERE YOU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF BLACK MUSICIANS MAKING SERIOUS MUSIC BUT SO FEW BLACK MEDIA COMMENTATORS ON THE MUSIC?
This is a hard question. I think part of the problem is that you have diversely trained people out there writing about music and because our methodology approaches to analysis, and use of language is dictated by our training some get excluded from certain opportunities. I’m amazed at how sometimes a cultural theorist or scholar in the area of English or Women Studies will get a writing gig from a certain publication or institution in lieu of a person trained as an Ethnomusicologist or Musicologist. Now, I’m not saying that those individuals are not capable of writing about music, but their approach to it is completely different. Sometimes the prose or narrative takes on a colloquial tone that fails to frame the performance aesthetic of musicians in a language that is comparable to scholarship on concert or classical music. Those individuals become the “central” or only black voices heard, as opportunities are not filtered to individuals who have different training or experiences with the music. I think the road to writing in major publications (trade magazines, etc.) is circuitous for many black scholars. I’m not hating on anyone (trained or untrained) because I can appreciate anyone who takes the time to accurately and seriously write about music, especially black music and not trivialize it. I also believe unless we develop a passion for writing and analyzing the world around us instead of pushing young people to choose a profession that’s going to pay “big,” there’s going to be this dearth.

DO YOU THINK THAT DISPARITY OR DEARTH OF AFRICAN AMERICAN JAZZ WRITERS CONTRIBUTES TO HOW THE MUSIC IS COVERED?
Yes and no. I believe its one of the very reasons why some musicians have been excluded from serious discussions regarding the evolution of jazz after 1965 and why we see the repeated deification of certain artists. I think that there are certain aspects of the history that require a nuanced reading that can only be gained through lived-experience. Jazz has become canonized in such a way that many believe that we have not progressed beyond certain genres and musicians. I’m waiting to see the history expand to more coverage of regional scenes and musicians who are shaping the music where they are. Before Hurricane Katrina, the HBO series Treme and the rising popularity of New Orleans musicians like Trombone Shorty, who was really talking about the New Orleans jazz scene? I have yet to see one jazz history book revisit New Orleans after the closing of Storyville. My point is we need writers to evolve organically from or forge relationships with communities/musicians that are often ignored by the culture industry to continue to expand the historical context.

SINCE YOU’VE BEEN WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC, HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF QUESTIONING WHY SOME MUSICIANS MAY BE ELEVATED OVER OTHERS, AND IS IT YOUR SENSE THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE LACK OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY AMONG WRITERS COVERING THE MUSIC?
Tammy Kernodle 2
Yes. It’s always baffled me how someone like Wynton [Marsalis] could be elevated as the “voice” of jazz when individuals like Bertha Hope, Billy Taylor, Carline Ray or Roy Haynes who “lived” and experienced the music as it was developing are never quoted or even talked about. I don’t have a problem with Wynton, but his lived experience in jazz begins in the 1970s if not 1980s. What can he tell you—that extends beyond what you can read–about the rent party culture of Harlem during the 1940s? I’ve sat at the feet of Billy Taylor and heard him talk about hearing a young Thelonious Monk play at a rent party. Taylor left this earth without recounting much of the history he was a part of in the public forums that have been granted to musicians who give you a bunch of repeated anecdotes, sound bites and stories. The same can be said for Carline Ray, who played with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm and worked extensively with Mary Lou Williams in the 1970s and early 1980s. How many writers are going to take the time to develop relationships with pioneering musicians? I’m not slamming Wynton because I believe he does take the promotion of jazz very seriously, but the history of jazz will not be complete if we continue to privilege the voices of some musicians over others. I’m not going to get into the gendered aspects of jazz writing that’s a can of worms that reflects a narrow viewpoint amongst black and white writers.

WHAT’S YOUR SENSE OF THE INDIFFERENCE OF SO MANY AFRICAN AMERICAN-ORIENTED PUBLICATIONS TOWARDS SERIOUS MUSIC, DESPITE THE FACT THAT SO MANY AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS CONTINUE TO CREATE SERIOUS MUSIC?
First many of these publications are no longer black-owned. So the diverse and organic type of coverage of our community has been diluted down to whoever or whatever is popular. They are struggling for relevance against the People magazines of the world. So unfortunately they replicate the templates of white oriented magazines. I look at old issues of Jet and Ebony [magazines] and I’m amazed at the amount of range of coverage black music received. Popular culture in the form of rap, R&B and soul are advanced as “authentic” representations of blackness, which means we have regressed in our own understanding of who we are and what we do. Outside of DownBeat did any black publication discuss Jason Moran’s appointment as Artistic Director of Jazz at the Kennedy Center? Is anyone talking about black singers on the operatic stage? No but go through the last few years of Ebony, Essence or Jet and you will see Beyoncé at least three times; Kerry Washington from “Scandal” at least three times. But where is Angela Brown? Where is Audra McDonald who just made history at the Tony Awards? You won’t see them because that’s not who we as a community embrace or offer as examples of success. More importantly in general we are a public that wants small bits of information that is accessible through our smart phones and tablets. We engage completely different with the published word today, so in order to remain relevant these publications have to tap into what interest the prominent demographic. It’s a really conundrum.

HOW WOULD YOU REACT TO THE CONTENTION THAT THE WAY AND TONE OF HOW SERIOUS MUSIC IS COVERED HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH WHO IS WRITING ABOUT IT?
I think there are instances where this is true, but overall I would not apply this to every situation. I’ve read the work of some white writers that I would have sworn were black because of their treatment of the subject matter.

IN YOUR EXPERIENCE WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR MOST REWARDING ENCOUNTERS?
I met the family of Mary Lou Williams shortly after one of my first articles on her appeared in a journal. During the Q&A of a public lecture I gave on Williams, her niece stood up and thanked me for my work. She said that I had captured the essence of her aunt and her passion for music. Man, it almost took me out. I don’t know how I held it together. That was priceless to me! Because those were the people who knew her the most. I’ve had a lot of people over the years come to me and say thanks for writing about black women musicians the way you do. I so appreciate your work and that’s what makes it all worth all the struggles I have sometimes in finding resources or finding the right way in which to describe the music.

WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED – BESIDES DIFFICULT EDITORS AND INDIFFERENT PUBLICATIONS – IN YOUR EFFORTS AT COVERING SERIOUS MUSIC?
Family members and their perspectives on their relative’s life and music. Sometimes people have their own agendas and they believe they can dictate what you write, even if it’s not true. My earliest work was on the operas of William Grant Still. Initially his daughter was a supporter of my scholarship (she provided me with many of the materials I’ve used in my work) and when she realized I wasn’t willing to repeat some of the commonly held beliefs that circulated amongst her family members because there was no definitive truth, I became her mortal enemy. My work never dismissed these beliefs, but I could not in good conscious substantiate them. She first wrote a letter to my alma mater requesting that they rescind my thesis because it was “blasphemous” and defamed the legacy of her father’s memory; then when she was ignored she launched a tour complete with the 5-page single spaced typed letter she sent me. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s all true!! I would get messages from people who said I went to this conference and Judith Still was there and she had this display that had her letter to you, etc. I wanted to go straight gangsta on her, but I realized that I was not the only scholar she was targeting. Over the years I would randomly receive these letters from her harassing me further. I never responded. One other scholar actually hired a lawyer; I didn’t because her plan of discrediting me only made my scholarship more popular. But it took a mental and spiritual toll on me and I grew to hate the music of William Grant Still. She is one of the very reasons why I and many other scholars no longer write on Still. But that’s the price you pay when dealing with individuals who have their own readings of their family member’s life and music. What was most distressing is she took issue with two pages of a 70+-page document. Nothing misaligned her family or her father’s music. She just read what she wanted to in those pages. I learned from that scenario that integrity is more important than popularity, but there’s a cost. She reached out to me a few years ago to participate in a conference of Still, but she specified that she wanted me to present on women musicians. I never replied! I didn’t go either because I knew I probably would have caught a case if I were in the same room as her. While I still try and reach out to living musicians and/or family members, I’m more aware of the challenges that some time comes with this. I know my response is long, but the only other obstacle I’ve faced is people wanting to be paid for being interviewed. Even when I explain that I’m writing for scholarly journals I’ve had people blow me off when I can’t pay them for just relating their experiences. I experienced a lot of that when writing my book on Mary Lou Williams. I really tried to talk to as many of the musicians who played with her. Some were cool; others were just plain rude when they learned I had no budget to pay them. That attitude is one of the very reasons that I haven’t seen anyone write on them or mention them in jazz history books.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST INTRIGUING NEW RECORDS YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED RECENTLY?
Hmm there have been a few I’ve been listening to—Cecile Salvant’s “Womanchild” and Gregory Porter’s “Liquid Spirit.” I really like the unique perspective they took in their song choices and performance approaches.

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Anthony Dean Harris: Ain’t But a Few of US

Ain’t But a Few of Us
Black music writers tell their story…
Anthony Dean-Harris
Anthony Dean-Harris
I first encountered the young writer Anthony Dean-Harris via his very active jazz-based blog at http://www.NEXTBOP.com. Just to give you a sense of where he’s been coming from with NEXTBOP, here’s how he characterizes the site: “The philosophy of Nextbop isn’t just about promoting jazz to jazz lovers. Nextbop is about appealing to everyone. It’s about promoting jazz to the world. It’s about showing the indie rock crowd, the punk rock crowd, the hip hop crowd, the R&B crowd, the bluegrass crowd, and so many other scenes that this kind of music is great and it’s not so far off from what you’re used to hearing.” Being all about jazz audience development here with the Independent Ear, and with my work in general, that philosophy certainly struck a chord with this editor!

As with any upwardly mobile, energetic young striver, change is afoot for Anthony Dean-Harris, news he conveyed recently. “I, in consultation with my partner Sebastien, have decided to end Nextbop at the end of this year in order to oversee the blog at The Art of Cool Project (http://www.theartofcoolproject.com), a non-profit organization that puts on jazz and jazz-related shows in Durham, NC,” with their first festival in the works for April 2014. “Starting [in October] posts for Nextbop will post simultaneously at Art of Cool so as to get folks comfortable, eventually heading there by next year and to grow its audience.”

Clearly Anthony Dean-Harris was a fresh new candidate for this latest installment in the “Ain’t But a Few of Us” series of dialogues with African American jazz writers…

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO WRITE ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I’ve always loved jazz and grew up around it and I knew I’ve wanted to be a writer since high school when I knew I wanted to go to Trinity University for college because of its jazz station, KRTU San Antonio. However, I didn’t get a scholarship to Trinity, though I did get one for Morehouse College. So I ended up going there and my family soon followed me up to support me, experience the American black mecca [Atlanta] themselves, and keep costs low (or at least as low as one can in an area with a significantly higher cost of living than San Antonio). When I graduated from Morehouse in 2008, the recession had just hit and my family decided that since I was done with school, we’d all head back from Atlanta to our hometown of San Antonio.

Once home, I got involved as a volunteer with a city council race and met the late Kathy Clay-Little, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News and publisher of the community newspaper African-American Expressions. We were talking at the campaign office one day about her plans to put on a small jazz festival on Fathers’ Day and who she should try to book. When she learned of my love of jazz, she asked if I’d like to cover concerts for her paper. I gladly said yes and one of my first assignments was to attend the annual KRTU spring concert with her, including the opening VIP reception. It was there, before the evening’s performer Ramsey Lewis, that I met many of the folks who ran KRTU. Those folks said I should have a show there, especially since one of their hosts was leaving soon. Over the next few months, I eventually ended up taking over The Line-Up, posting the playlists to my personal blog.

It was around this time that I ran across sites like Nextbop and NPR’s jazz blog, A Blog Supreme. ABS’s editor, Patrick Jarenwattananon, posed a question to a few folks in the jazz scene, asking if they were to share ten albums of jazz music with a newcomer to the genre, which albums would they choose, however all the albums could only be from the last twenty years. Nextbop’s founders, Sebastien Helary and Justin Wee, had a great list and that’s when I was impressed by the site and its potential. I also put together a list unsolicited and sent it to Jarenwattananon, who graciously posted it to the site. That’s how Sebastien ran across my blog with its playlists from my radio show and my writing from college back when I was on the newspaper staff as opinions editor. Seb contacted me about writing for Nextbop and as time went by and we grew a rapport, and as he learned that my college journalism background was perfect training for managing and growing the site, I eventually ended up as Nextbop’s editor and my role as writing about jazz music pretty much cemented.

I can see God’s hand in a lot of this, leading me from one role to another and making me incredibly happy (though still pretty poor, but I get plenty of new music and see a lot of shows in support of this community, so it all works out).

WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WRITING ABOUT MUSIC WERE YOU AWARE OF THE DEARTH OF AFRICAN AMERICANS WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC?
I can’t say I was aware of the dearth of black writers on jazz music, but I can’t say I was too surprised by it. The genre has been growing and changing a lot over the century of its existence, and as it goes with pretty much anything, it’s all too common for blacks to be shut out or limited from telling our own stories, framing our own narratives, or just giving our own perspective built from our backgrounds. Fortunately, it’s a bit easier for us to change this as the internet has democratised access and ability to do so but the work continues.

WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT’S STILL SUCH A GLARING DISPARITY WHERE YOU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF BLACK MUSICIANS MAKING SERIOUS MUSIC BUT SO FEW BLACK MEDIA COMMENTATORS ON THE MUSIC?
I don’t like to think there are so many countervailing forces oppressing black journalists in this regard (there might be some who are indeed doing so maliciously, but I don’t want to cut wide swaths like that), but I do think that it could mostly be the public’s lack of familiarity with black voices. Much of my work focuses on contextualization– we are what we see everyday. We cannot know what we have not been exposed to and we’re experts on those things that surround us. There may very well be newspaper, magazine, and web editors who simply aren’t around voices of color who may be aware of black jazz (and R&B/hip hop/soul/etc) music and don’t even know that they don’t know this. In an increasingly nicheified musical landscape where people can read only the coverage they want to read, it may be getting easier to get our voices out there but difficult in entirely different ways to get work into disparate eyes.

DO YOU THINK THAT DISPARITY OR DEARTH OF AFRICAN AMERICAN JAZZ WRITERS CONTRIBUTES TO HOW THE MUSIC IS COVERED?
I definitely think this, largely because of contextualization. Take for example Kanye West‘s recent appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The following day, there were many posts on music blogs linking to the performance– the standard web aggregation coverage of the day without much substance added to it other than “Watch this video!” It may have been noted that Charlie Wilson was present and singing, but a black voice well versed in Wilson’s body of work could have noted how many of Wilson’s trademark “shabba-dabba-tweet-tweet-tweet”s (and one or two “ooh’-weeEE’s) he ad-libbed. Of course, white writers who aren’t exposed to the back catalog of The Gap Band may not have even noticed this merited mentioning because they don’t know what they don’t know. This is how that added black perspective affects the discourse.

For black music to be, as it always has been, a crucial part of culture, informed people must also be part of the discourse about the music’s impact.

SINCE YOU’VE BEEN WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC, HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF QUESTIONING WHY SOME MUSICIANS MAY BE ELEVATED OVER OTHERS, AND IS IT YOUR SENSE THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE LACK OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY AMONG WRITERS COVERING THE MUSIC?
Since I’ve been writing about jazz, especially as I’ve run my own publication, I’ve come to realize essentially how this job and the attention given to some artists over others natually occurs. I’ve realized some of the seemingly trivial things like appealing album art determines whether or not I’ll devote attention to an album, or when an email hits my inbox at just the right time for me to care, or how important having a good press release and readily accessible songs to stream make spreading the word more appealing to me. Seeing the inner workings of music journalism like this helped me realize the whole industry functions like this to some degree, and this doesn’t even take into consideration how it all works in other genres or larger publications who may pay more attention to SEO optimization than merely discussing quality music and informing the masses of talent that needs a voice. The inner workings of the machine and its simple extension of how we as people pay attention to things explains so much about why music journalism is how it is.

So taking added diversity into account in this regard adjusts things a bit because it’s easy to assume people of different cultural backgrounds would have their respective attention drawn to different works. It’s the nature of the beast.

WHAT’S YOUR SENSE OF THE INDIFFERENCE OF SO MANY AFRICAN AMERICAN-ORIENTED PUBLICATIONS TOWARDS SERIOUS MUSIC, DESPITE THE FACT THAT SO MANY AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTISTS CONTINUE TO CREATE SERIOUS MUSIC?
When it comes to how black publications cover music of this sort, I don’t like to think of it too differently from how mainstream white publications cover mainstream pop music in comparison to other more sophisticated kinds of music. I’ve been so immersed in the world of jazz since I’ve been listening as a child, but especially since I’ve been involved in Nextbop and radio hosting at KRTU, that I have forgotten that this music does indeed have a tendency to be rather inaccessible. My listening to music for musicality, dynamism, quick decisions made on the spot, communalism between musicians, and other aspects that don’t bore me like simplicity does is distinctly different from how many others listen to music, searching for quick, visceral connection and catchiness. Every culture has this sort of dichotomy in its art and I’m loath to say black art may have this problem more than other cultures, though black culture’s influence on culture at large does shine a different sort of spotlight on the matter that is at times distressing.

HOW WOULD YOU REACT TO THE CONTENTION THAT THE WAY AND TONE OF HOW SERIOUS MUSIC IS COVERED HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH WHO IS WRITING ABOUT IT?
I’d agree with this in much the same way writing about essentially anything is affected by who is doing the writing.

I’m a writer who loves not only music but also television and film. I’m one of those guys who uses the word “showrunner” a lot and cares about Aaron Sorkin’s oeuvre and things of that sort. When people ask me why I care about these sorts of things and how I remember details about television like I do, I tell them it’s all part of being a storyteller. In one’s family or circle of friends, there’s always some person at dinner — a guy back in college, that crazy uncle, a fellow bar patron — who tells stories in a way that makes people listen. Maybe the person describes things ornately, maybe s/he uses wild hand gestures, maybe s/he has a great voice. Whatever it is, the storyteller has attributes that makes his or her stories unique and appealing. A person tells a story in his or her own way that people remember, that causes them to come back for more. If a storyteller has a tendency to talk about interoffice relationships, or uses a camera to show the story, or uses the internet to talk about what happened at a jazz club in New York, these are all different ways to tell a story. I always try to understand that each medium lends itself to different strategies and means of performing the same function– there are people out there who want to hear what the storyteller has to say.

IN YOUR EXPERIENCE WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR MOST REWARDING ENCOUNTERS?
The most rewarding experience I’ve had since running Nextbop was putting together our first unofficial day party during the South By SouthWest festival in Austin, Texas, this last March. It was the first event I had ever organized and we had bands of renown local to Texas and throughout the world agree to play a little burger place built from a reformed car garage. It was humbling that such talented people like Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote and Canada’s BADBADNOTGOOD would agree to play such an event for a clear novice like me at something like this, and moreso that it was attended as well as it was. I’m looking to put on another party this coming March without me being nearly as exasperated as I was the first time around, but after the dust cleared and everyone who was there had a great time, I could step back and marvel at just what happened. Writing is such a solitary act (and writers, like many artists, are often very critical of themselves to the point of self-loathing). So to throw an event where people actually show up and enjoy what it is that you do and are happy to say so is extremely satisfying.

Though lately, I’ve really enjoyed editing the work of others for Nextbop. There are essays like Jon Wertheim’s critique of trumpeter Nicholas Payton‘s contentious nature, or Ben Gray’s series looking at original versions of jazz songs and comparing them to cover versions, or just being blessed to post anything Angelika Beener writes that makes me immensely proud of Nextbop and what it has grown to be over these few years.

WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED – BESIDES DIFFICULT EDITORS AND INDIFFERENT PUBLICATIONS – IN YOUR EFFORTS AT COVERING SERIOUS MUSIC?
Since I’ve mostly been working as my own editor and manager since taking up music journalism, the most difficult part of all this is learning the ropes about all this on my own. Arranging interviews, obtaining press credentials for events, keeping in contact with publicists, and things of that sort is still a fish out of water thing for me. Another part of that, though, is figuring out how to make all this a viable business. Nextbop has been a labor of love for four years now and has yet to make money. I’ve been working on selling ad space to change that, but this, too, is one of those roles in the business that’s new to me. Running the whole business and learning the trade has been a lot to tackle, and though it’s been slow going, it’s sometimes a comfort to realize what I’ve picked up along the way in doing so.

10. WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST INTRIGUING RECORDS RELEASED SO FAR THIS YEAR?
Laura Mvula‘s Sing to the Moon
Thundercat‘s Apocalypse
Gerald Clayton‘s A Life Forum
The Stepkids‘ Troubadour
Butcher Brown‘s a & b-sides
Terence Blanchard‘s Magnetic
There’s definitely a lot more but I’ll get to that in the next few months around the time for year-end lists with the rest of the Nextbop staff.

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Ain’t But a Few of Us: Ron Welburn

Ain’t But a Few of Us
Black music writers tell their story…

Ron Welburn is a professor in the English Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and is the Director of the Certificate program in Native American Studies. Of Assateague/Gingaskin & Cherokee Native American and African American heritage, he grew up in the Philadelphia area. As a jazz writer Prof. Welburn was editor of a journal called The Grackle back in the mid-late ’70s, and a former frequent contributor to JazzTimes magazine. He also formerly coordinated the Jazz Oral History Project for the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University-Newark.

One of Welburn’s primary research pursuits is the historical presence of Native American musicians in jazz; these have included “Big Chief” Russell Moore, a Native trombonist Welburn interviewed for the ISJ oral history project. Ron Welburn is also a published poet.

As a writer I first recall encountering Ron’s byline back when I contributed to Jim Harrison’s Jazz Spotlight News in the 1970s, one of the few African-American published jazz journals. Given the Grackle and his other notable experiences writing about the music, Ron Welburn was a natural for this occasional and ongoing dialogue with black writers and the often peculiar challenges they’ve faced getting in print.

For those new to this series of dialogues, which began in 2010, the basic premise is that despite the historic origins of jazz music, the history of African Americans writing about jazz from a journalistic or critical perspective has not been robust or even representative of the impact African Americans have made on this music, particularly from a sheer numbers perspective. Classic example: none of the major jazz periodicals down through the generations has ever had a black editor.
Ron Welburn

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO WRITE ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC IN THE FIRST PLACE?
My original motivation, which turned into my first published article in 1963, was what I saw as the discrepancy of radio jazz programming in Philadelphia compared to NY. I was particularly annoyed that the commercial FM deejays Sid Mark, Joel Dorn and Del Shields avoided playing records by Ornette, Cecil, et al, though they played Coltrane, Dolphy, McIntyre, and Prince Lasha. Local pianist Damon Spiro, to whom I expressed my concerns, invited me to submit an article to the tabloid of the Jazz at Home Club, whose sessions I was attending. “What’s Wrong with Philadelphia’s Radio Jazz?” was the article’s title. Those deejays didn’t like it; Hal Ross of WXPN at Penn thought it was great. Sure, I was on a high horse! Once I got to Lincoln University in my native Chester County, PA, I had a chance to review LPs for the school newspaper.

WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED WRITING ABOUT MUSIC WERE YOU AWARE OF THE DEARTH OF AFRICAN AMERICANS WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC?
Yes, I became aware of that around the same time (1962?63). As a Down Beat subscriber I learned about Barbara Gardner; then Leroi Jones’ [column] “Apple Cores.” I think trumpeter Kenny Dorham and Bill Quinn began a few years later.

WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT’S STILL SUCH A GLARING DISPARITY – WHERE YOU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF BLACK MUSICIANS MAKING SERIOUS MUSIC BUT SO FEW BLACK MEDIA COMMENTATORS ON THE MUSIC?
African Americans seem to have promoted few academic outlets for critical music writing. I can only suppose that editors at newspapers and populist magazines feel “serious” music journalism will not interest their readers, and would rather not support a position where artists could be “torn down.”

DO YOU THINK THAT DISPARITY OR DEARTH OF AFRICAN AMERICAN JAZZ WRITERS CONTRIBUTES TO HOW THE MUSIC IS COVERED?
My better frame of reference for this answer is up to about 1984 or so. There’s never been much room for a conversation. Young white writers have chomped at the bit to write about this music, and for gratis. I’ve never figured out, fully at least, why young writers of color tend to shy away from this kind of writing but are in the foreground criticizing those (whites) who do. Maybe it’s an orientation whites have that writers of color in mainstream journalism shun.

When I was reading Latin New York I became aware of good writing by Aurora Flores; and I met and talked with Max Salazar who I don’t think ever pulled together his writings from LNY and other places into a book (and he cautiously shared a few ideas with John Storm Roberts who then wrote The Latin Tinge). Hilly Saunders with his paper and my Cherokee buddy Lewis MacMillan (New York City Jazz Gazette) didn’t promote much critical writing in their publications. I did a few pieces for Ken Smikle’s publication; Ornette Coleman told me he liked the one I wrote on his harmolodic method. Today, I’m among a few Natives writing about Indians in jazz, blues and pop; yet even for these venues the “serious” writing isn’t fully there.
Ron Welburn 1

SINCE YOU’VE BEEN WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC, HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF QUESTIONING WHY SOME MUSICIANS MAY BE ELEVATED OVER OTHERS, AND IS IT YOUR SENSE THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE LACK OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY AMONG WRITERS COVERING THE MUSIC?
First, I haven’t published any serious music reviews since 2001, after some 36 years because I just couldn’t keep up with that, my teaching, serious illnesses of an uncle and a friend, and writing a book. Second, what I’ve seen and studied tells me cultural wars are a mainstay in American life, and I place the onus for them on the music industry more than the musicians. White musicians are just musicians wanting to perform a vibrant music that makes them part of a significant culture. Even those who didn’t or prefer still not to perform with black musicians are just trying to make it. It’s the machinery and politics of culture that exploits them as pawns, and they haven’t got a clue!

People who start publications tend to call on their friends-devotees to write for them. Essentially, that’s how it was with The Grackle: Improvised Music in Transition, which published five issues between 1976 and 1979. The Grackle was meant to be a forum of ideas for us three that created it: James T. Stewart, Roger Riggins, and me. I invited Victor Manuel Rosa to write on Latin/Nuyorican music. But I turned away at least two white writers who virtually begged for opportunities to write. I didn’t like doing that, but I told them they had outlets not accessible to us, and being in the early stages we had ideas we wanted to work out.

HOW WOULD YOU REACT TO THE CONTENTION THAT THE WAY AND TONE OF HOW SERIOUS MUSIC IS COVERED HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH WHO IS WRITING ABOUT IT?
There may be some truth to that but I’m not absolutely sold on it. Serious music journalism has an academic quality, and I see nothing wrong with that. Perhaps it could continue to loosen itself rhetorically; but if writers of color are afraid of offending their readers, whites will always fill the void.

Publishing venues differ according to who they view as their readers. The late Eileen Southern and since the 1980s Samuel Floyd edited academic publications; I don’t fully recall many serious essays about jazz in Southern’s journal. Bear in mind the context that jazz was not considered “serious music” by anybody. Attitudes by writers in the jazz magazines “were what they were”; but the most egregiously racist one I read was a review of Albert Murray’s Stomping the Blues where the reviewer accused him of not knowing anything about the blues!

IN YOUR EXPERIENCE WRITING ABOUT SERIOUS MUSIC WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR MOST REWARDING ENCOUNTERS?
I’ve been blessed by enjoying just about all my encounters that turned into writings either assigned or volunteered. Some were outside the jazz field. Just to name a few:
• While the music editor for the Syracuse New Times didn’t want me writing for it, I published a remembrance in 1972 or so of hearing Albert Ayler for the first time in 1962; and I also covered the Newport Jazz Festival New York and the downtown Counter festival during 1972?75. As he was bearing down on me, and I was leaving, I was able to wave in his face my award of a Jazz Criticism Fellowship from the Music Critics Association and the Smithsonian for my writing in that alternative weekly newspaper. He was sour; but the editor/publisher was delighted.
• Covering a few festivals of Asian music and writing a few articles for Music Journal, at the invitation of Guy Freedman, a wonder individual to whom I was introduced by pianist Ran Blake.
• Reviewing international music recordings for a little Philadelphia-based library publication, Rockingchair. I was studying ethnomusicology at the time and wrestling with Spanish, but also reviewed belly dance music, Greek, Isreali, Arab North African, Bhutanese, French Canadian, Grand Comoro Islands. I had a ball! (I did very well in four years of high school Latin; if I could have chosen another career it would have been linguistics; besides those language cultures I would have focused on southern and eastern Algonquian languages).
• Covering Creek/Kaw tenor saxophonist Jim Pepper at the South Street Seaport, and reviewing Comin’ and Goin’.

WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED – BESIDES DIFFICULT EDITORS AND INDIFFERENT PUBLICATIONS – IN YOUR EFFORTS AT COVERING SERIOUS MUSIC?
Nothing terribly caustic. I learned that editors of black newspapers weren’t concerned about the timeliness of a review; and they were not above cutting the final paragraph or two of a relatively short review, which is what the New York Amsterdam News did, once, maybe twice. But I believe everything happens for a reason. The “breaks” I didn’t get meant I probably wasn’t supposed to be there.

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST INTRIGUING RECORDS RELEASED SO FAR THIS YEAR?
Thanks to Glenn Siegel, music director at UMass Amherst’s WMUA and creator of the Magic Triangle series and Jazz Shares, this year I’ve heard some promising music and CDs by Makaya McCraven, Split Decision (Chicago Sessions CS0018)(albeit a 2012 CD) and Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things: About Us (Music and Mike Reed—well, yes, a 2009 CD).

The most exciting and innovating music I’ve heard in the last five years live and on CD includes Michelle Rosewoman who came here with her ensemble and I bought her The In Side Out and hope she does more orchestrations like that; and Rudresh Mahanthappa, who with his cohort is, I think, rewriting the vocabulary for playing the saxophone as part of, in my experience of listening and as an amateur musician, a long arch coming out of South Asia. A development like this in jazz was bound to happen

Yet, a 1997 concert at Mount Holyoke College by Sonny Rollins tops just about any concert I’d heard before or since. Astounding!!! I’m still speechless!

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Ain’t but a few of us… Steve Monroe tells his story

Ain’t But a Few of Us
Black music writers tell their story: STEVE MONROE

DC-based jazz writer Steve Monroe recently pondered the plight of African American jazz writers based on his own experience in this latest installment in our ongoing series of Ain’t but a Few of Us dialogues…

What motivated you to write about serious music in the first place?

I was working for the sports desk of a daily newspaper and wanted to go to features, to cover music, theater, the arts, do profiles of interesting people, especially those in the black community of Rochester, N.Y., where I was. While working features, I started covering all kinds of music and since I was a jazz fan, became especially interested in the jazz performers who came through town and reviewed and interviewed the ones I could, like Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Taylor, Ron Carter, Bill Evans, Grant Green, many others. The first review and profile I did was of Phil Woods and I was fascinated of the stories he told of Charlie Parker and how he was so influenced by him in the music. That started my jazz reviewing and writing career, was in the mid 70s. Up to then was just a fan, but became interested in reviewing and profiling the greats of the music, the trends, because it was so original American music and had so many genres within its own genre to cover, from soul jazz to avant garde, from the vocalists to the whole swing, big band thing, etc.

When you first started writing about the music were you aware of the dearth of African Americans writing about serious music?

No, but since in the 70s there were only a few even writing professionally about general news to some extent, and features,, sports and business in most media, I did not think much of it then

Why do you suppose that’s still such a glaring disparity – where you have a significant number of black musicians making serious music but so few black media commentators on this music?

Because such a minority of our group are writers, and those of us who are writers maybe have had to be drawn to more prosperous, money making type of writing or communications careers. Jazz/black American music itself has become such a niche art form, within that niche only a few have the time to devote to something that doesn’t make enough money on its own to support anybody, not even most of the musicians, I think that has to be a factor.

Jazz I think like many parts of black America, if not all of it, has become something of an archaeological dig for those types who have the time and intellectual leaning to pursue that type of thing and most of those people with that luxury are not black Americans. Not many blacks have the time or inclination….those who have the time and money to devote to it, I think just do not value it as an art form or cultural beacon like we do….they are into their doctor, lawyer, engineer thing above all and just enjoy jazz as recreation, if they do like it at all.

Do you think that disparity or dearth of African American jazz writers contributes to how the music is covered in the media?

Yes, it has become a fringe, niche art form where, if even the African American populace in general doesn’t support the music, why should mass media outlets devote “X” amount of time and space for something only a few white liberals seem crazy about—I think that is a factor for one thing. If there were more black writers beating the drums in all forms of media for our music it would be covered more, and more as a serious art form…to a certain extent…at least it would be covered more by black media itself, which doesn’t seem to cover it even as much as majority media. I have had to fight to get review space, profile space for jazz in black media outlets I have been a part of…and that’s when I was doing it for free!! So if we can’t get it covered prominently by our own, what chance is there for it in the larger media world?

Since you’ve been writing about serious music, have you ever found yourself questioning why some musicians may be elevated over others, and is it your sense that has anything to do with the lack of cultural diversity among writers covering the music?

Yes, have wondered that, and yes, it probably has something to do with that. It would be natural to promote your own. This is not a color neutral or post racial world yet. Maybe people push certain non African American musicians more in order to promote the whole genre of jazz, claiming they have to do that so the masses will pay attention and support it. I give that a grain of possibility.

What’s your sense of the indifference of so many African American-oriented publications towards serious music?

Mind boggling to a certain extent. It may have to do with the fact that so many whites, and others, Europeans, Asians, others around the world think jazz is so great, that some feel it doesn’t need the backing of its own media. Crazy but have no other explanation for it. It seems our media thinks it is more entertainment than culture, than art, and is just appealing to a niche of whites and blacks and others rather than the masses and therefore if the masses don’t get it, black media can’t spend time on it, because black media has to get paid by advertisers who want/demand to be in front of the masses and if the masses want Kayne and Fat Trel, that’s what black media will give them.

How would you react to the contention that the way and tone of how serious music is covered has anything to do with who is writing about it?

Would agree…may go without saying.

In your experience writing about serious music what have been some of your more rewarding encounters?

My first professional music and jazz assignment was to write about Phil Woods. The way he was courteous, patient with me though my knowledge of the music at that time was limited and certainly much more of a fan based thing than as a reviewer or analyst, made me appreciate the art form he and his peers were pursuing as I think about it now. That was not the case in the other things I had covered, general news, sports for example, where veterans of the business like him were often short, discourteous, very unhelpful to a young reporter/writer.

Covering Sarah Vaughn singing with the Rochester Philharmonic was another special event – I didn’t get to interview her, she was at the top then and didn’t give many interviews at all as I understood. But what was special was the interaction between her jazz motif and the classical, for me, since I had not heard much classical music live at that time and it again made this music, jazz/black American music, special, because it seemed to span and engulf so many other art forms and influence other art forms. It was an education on so many levels.
Interviews with Grant Green, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Keith Jarrett (though he was not the easiest person to interview) were so educational early on, they are still special. Violinist Joe Venuti, again, because I was so young in terms of covering music, I was impressed how patient he was in talking about his music and his life. Knowing and covering Buck Hill all these years, and Nasar Abadey, the veteran folks around D.C. has been an ongoing treat. Sonny Rollins, sort of my all time favorite, at least living (Wes Montgomery probably all time all time), concerts at Blues Alley and Wolf Trap have to rank as well as outstanding encounters/events.

Have to add seeing Charlie Mingus and Sun Ra opened my ears to more than just bebop type jazz, and long live D.C. Space, where I heard Don Cherry and got even more into the freer genres of the music back then.

What obstacles have you encountered – besides difficult editors and indifferent publications - in your efforts at covering serious music?

Venues that see you as a fan who just wants to get in free, and not as a journalist covering a legitimate news story, that has bugged me in the past, that some venue owners see the music, the people who make it as not real stories worth telling or letting journalists cover; they are just entertainers, and everyone must pay, and they don’t see value of the publicity, marketing of what I and others do. These days I may just go ahead and pay just not worry about it, unfortunately, tired of fighting the good fight.

What have been the most intriguing new records you’ve heard so far this year?

Antonio Parker’s “Live at HR-57”
Ran Blake, Christine Correa, “down here below”
Robert Glasper “Black Radio”
Billy Hart “All Our Reasons”

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The Ain’t But a Few of Us Best of 2011

Okay, okay… yes, here’s yet another year-end poll. Some of you Independent Ear readers may recall our revealing series of dialogues with black music writers (that is, writers on the subject of music who happen to be African American) which we dubbed “Ain’t but a few of us” – as in, there’s a significant number of folks writing about jazz and black music, but not as many African Americans as there should be. Well, as we close out 2011 we’ve asked that crew to weigh in with their best-of list from 2011 record releases (designated below according to the writer’s choice); and to also include what for them was the most compelling book they read in 2011 (any subject), and their favorite live music performance experience. Here’s what they had to say (recordings listed by artist, title, label):

BRIDGET ARNWINE
Favorite Recordings of 2011 (“in no particular order, except for #s 1 and 2)
Freddie Hubbard, Pinnacle, Resonant
Delfeayo Marsalis, Sweet Thunder
(Orrin Evans) Captain Black Big Band, Captain Black Big Band, Posi-Tone
Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, Marsalis Music
Helen Sung, (re)Conception
Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Fe/Faith
James Farm, James Farm, Nonesuch
Wayne Wallace, To Hear From There,
Jeff “Tain” Watts, Family
Terri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project, Concord

Favorite book of 2011 (“I wouldn’t call it compelling”): Decoded by Jay-Z and Dream Hampton
Favorite live music performance: James Farm at the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts, September 2011

EUGENE HOLLEY, JR.
Recordings (not listed in any particular order):
Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Blue Note
Orrin Evans, Captain Black Big Band, Posi-Tone
Charles Lloyd-Maria Farantouri, The Athens Concert, ECM
Ben Williams, State of Art, Concord
Deep Blue Organ Trio, Wonderful!, Origin
Kurt Elling, The Gate, Concord
Enoch Smith, Jr., Misfits, Music 4MYPeople Entertainment
James Carter Organ Trio, At the Crossroads, EmArcy
Warren Wolf, Warren Wolf, Mack Avenue
Fabian Almanzan Trio, Possibilities, Biophilla/Palmetto

Book: Rifftide: The Life and Opinions of Papa Joe Jones, by Papa Jo Jones/Paul Devlin (as told to Albert Murray)
Live: Esperanza Spalding at The Roots Picnic, Philadelphia, PA

ROBIN JAMES
Top 1-10 Records Released in 2011
Jill Scott, The Light of the Sun, Blues Babe Records
Various Artists, !Rumba Mambo Cha Cha Cha!, Putumayo World Music
Diego Urcola, Appreciation, CamJazz
Freddy Cole, Talk to Me, HighNote
Freddie Hubbard, Pinnacle, Resonance
Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Blue Note
Jeremy Pelt, The Talented Mr. Pelt, HighNote
Nicholas Payton, Bitches, In + Out
JD Allen Trio, Victory!, Sunnyside
Ernestine Anderson, Nightlife: Live at Dizzy’s CLub Coca-Cola, HighNote

Most Compelling Book I’ve read during 2011: Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (paperback edition), by Robin D.G. Kelley
Favorite Live Music performance I’ve experienced during 2011: Debbie Duncan (vocalist) at the Artists’ Quarter, St. Paul, MN (summer)

RAHSAAN CLARK MORRIS
My Ten Best
Jose James and Jef Neve-For All We Know Impulse Records
Terri Lyne Carrington-The Mosaic Project Concord
Larry Gray Trio-Three Equals One CDBY Records
Deep Blue Organ Trio – Wonderful! Origin Records
Cedar Walton – The Bouncer HighNote
Miles Davis – Live in Europe 1967 Columbia Legacy
Benny Green Trio-Source Jazz Legacy Productions
Eliane Elias-Light My Fire Concord
Greg Ward Fitted Shards- South Side Story 19/8 Records
Jason Adasiewicz-Sun Rooms Delmark Records

My favorite read was a toss-up: Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin Kelley and Diggin: The Afro American Soul of American Classical Music by Amiri Baraka
My favorite performance was Mike Reed’ (truncated) People, Places, and Things Quartet with Greg Ward live at The Green Mill Jazz Club in early June.

JOHN MURPH
Top 10 Jazz
JD Allen Trio, Victory, Sunnyside
Gretchen Parlato, The Lost & Found, Obliq Sound
Terri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project, Concord
The Claudia Quintet +1, What is the Beautiful?, Cunieform
Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Blue Note
Chris Dingman, Walking Dreams, Between Worlds
Zara MacFarlane, Until Tomorrow, Brownswood
Denys Baptiste, Identity by Subtraction, Dune
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adento: The Puerto Rican Songbook, Marsalis Music
David Binney, Graylen Epicenter, Mythology

Favorite book: African Rhythms, the Autobiography of Randy Weston, Composed by Randy Weston; Arranged by Willard Jenkins

GENE SEYMOUR
Top Ten Jazz Discs For 2011
Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Vol. 2, Doxy
Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, Blue Note
Noah Preminger, Before the Rain, Palmetto
Allen Lowe, Blues and the Empirical Truth, Music & Arts
Muhal Richard Abrams, SoundDance, Pi
Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel, EMI
Youn Sun Nah, Same Girl, ACT
Bill Frisell, Sign of Life, Savoy
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adento: The Puerto Rican Songbook, Marsalis Music
Evan Christopher, Remembering Song, Arbors

GREGORY THOMAS
Favorite 10 Recordings (listed in no particular order)
Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein, Bienestan, Sunnyside
Monty Alexander, Harlem-Kingston Express, Motema
Christian McBride, Conversations with Christian, Mack Avenue
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, Marsalis Music
Warren Wolf, Warren Wolf, Mack Avenue
Bobby Sanabria, Tito Puente Masterworks Live!, Jazzheads
Freddie Hubbard, Pinnacle, Resonance
Jimmy Owens, The Monk Project, Ipo
Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, Marsalis Music
JC Stylles, Exhiliration and Other States, Motema

RON WYNN
Top 10
David Murray Cuban Ensemble, Plays Nat King Cole en Espanol, Motema
Roy Haynes, Roy-alty, Dreyfus
Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, Marsalis Music
Joe Lovano and Us Five, Bird Songs, Blue Note
David Sanchez/Stefon Harris/Christian Scott, Ninety Miles, Concord
Brad Mehldau, Live in Marciac, Nonesuch
Terri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project, Concord
Kurt Elling, The Gate, Concord
Sonny Rollins, Road Songs Vol. 2, Doxy
Tierney Sutton, American Road, BFM

Books (music) New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival of New Orleans, by John Swenson
(general) Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable
Top musical event: (“easy choice”) Sonny Rollins Quartet at the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall (Nashville, TN)

WILLARD JENKINS
2011 faves in no particular order
(More than 10 here? Call that editor’s license.)
Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967-The Bootleg Series, Columbia
Terri Lyne Carrington, Mosaic Project, Concord
JD Allen, Victory, Sunnyside
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton, Play the Blues, Reprise/JALC
Charles Lloyd, Athens Concert, ECM
Terell Stafford, This Side of Strayhorn, MaxJazz
Randy Weston, Blue Moses, CTI (reissue)
David Murray Cuban Ensemble, Plays Nat King Cole en Espanol, Motema
SF Jazz Collective, Music of Stevie Wonder, SF Jazz
James Farm, James Farm, Nonesuch
Ben Williams, State of Art, Concord
Muhal Richard Abrams, Focus Thru Time, Pi
Marcus Shelby, Soul of the Movement, Porto Franco
Jerry Gonzalez, El Commando de Clave, Sunnyside
Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio, The 11th Gate, Motema
Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro, Marsalis Music

Book: (tossup) Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable
High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, by Jessica B. Harris
Live performance:Sing the Truth (Dianne Reeves, Angelique Kidjo, Lizz Wright, Terri Lyne Carrington, Geri Allen, etc.), Tanglewood Jazz Festival, September 4

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