The Independent Ear

Jerome Harris: Advocating for Independent Musicians

Are you familiar with the Music Workers Alliance and their efforts on behalf of music practitioners? For insights we turned to the extraordinarily diverse bassist Jerome Harris. Diverse discography? Besides his four releases as a leader, Jerome has recorded with such artists as Ray Anderson, Jack DeJohnette, Marty Ehrlich, Oliver Lake, Michael Gregory Jackson, David Krakauer, Bob Moses, Amina Claudine Myers, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Previte, Bob Stewart, Bill Frisell, Jay Hoggard, Julius Hemphill Big Band, Jeanne Lee, Roy Nathanson, Jaki Byard and a raft of others.

Given that it appears the genesis of the Music Workers Alliance efforts was first launched in 2020, did this effort first begin as a response to the hardships imposed on the live music arena by the pandemic?

Jerome Harris: Not quite. The org actually predated the pandemic–I only became aware of it when Marc Ribot reached out to a number of musicians and DJs in the spring of 2020 (April or May, as I recall), seeking new members to help meet the clear and major challenge of COVID-control measures shuttering all in-person performing-arts work. Voicing the interests of independent musicians among policy makers and the general public discourse was an obvious need.

Here’s a rundown of MWA’s pre-pandemic activity (from the “information at a glance” link at

JUNE 2019: MWA is founded as an indie musician and DJ committee of NYC Artists Coalition. Its founding members included two members of the NYC Nightlife Advisory Board who noted the lack of public discourse of the plight of working musicians and DJs in the local policy space.

OCTOBER 2019: The group, still under the NYC Artists Coalition umbrella, meets with the Commissioners of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor’s Office on Media and Entertainment to discuss four areas where New York City can move towards a more musician and DJ – friendly ecosystem. These areas included: a potential venue rating system, a music census for NYC, establishment of a workers center, and a commitment that publicly-funded venues would honor a minimum wage for artists and workers.

NOVEMBER 2019: The group, still under the NYC Artists Coalition umbrella, works with NYC Council Member Brad Lander to give input on the potential impact of proposed Freelance isn’t Free legislation updates, particularly around the unique conditions of music that require special consideration when designing labor protections for freelancers.

FEBRUARY 2020: The group, still under the NYC Artists Coalition umbrella, meets with Governor

Cuomo’s office and members of the NYS Legislature to give input on the potential impact of proposed gig-worker legislation, and begins meeting with labor and advocacy groups to discuss possible unintended consequences for musicians and potential ecosystem solutions that would strengthen the social safety net for all freelance workers, including musicians and DJs.

MARCH 2020: Music Workers Alliance is established as an independent entity, with a steering committee that has grown to include representatives from local NYC musician and DJ organizations including Arts for Art, Building Beats, Discwoman, Indie Musicians Caucus and the Jazz Committee of Local 802 AFM, MOMENT NYC, Musicians for Musicians, Sound Mind Collective, Underground Producers Alliance.

What were the “impediments to musicians performing on COVID-safe” outdoor platforms?  And what were the results of your “prodding”?

Things like NYC restrictions on setting up outdoor paid-ticket events; an unwieldy process for getting “sound device” permits required for using amps & PA systems for outdoor performing; restrictions on using public spaces–sidewalks, Parks Dept. areas–for any performing, including “pass the hat/tip jar” income earning. For one journalistic portrait of outdoor “guerrilla” performing in NYC during the height of the pandemic, see; I’m quoted in the piece. NYC did loosen some of the above impediments after a while, formally and informally. The City’s Open Streets and Open Culture initiatives were part of the formal side of this, allowing some compensated outdoor performing in a regulated manner. MWA met with City Council members and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and others in NYC government, voicing our interests and presenting ideas. Zooming out a bit, MWA found out about an innovative program in Tulsa OK which funneled federal CARES Act funds to music venues there for paying performers’ fees (they set a wage scale) who agreed to stage COVID-safe performances; they even found private funding to extend the program into 2022. MWA wasn’t successful in getting anything like that going in NYC, however.

What lessons learned and advancements did you make in light of these marches?

There were marches, but also many many online meetings with city and state officials–and even a meeting with House Speaker Pelosi’s arts-policy staffer. Lessons? While MWA arguably “punched above its weight”, having the means to establish an ongoing presence with policymakers would help immensely (in terms of presenting info and ideas in a steadier flow than when faced with a crisis, and for getting early info about what plans and bills are forming. It’s hard for a group of volunteers to do that, but we do what we can. Also, being too merely reactive–running from crisis to crisis–isn’t sustainable for us; it saps too much limited resource. Keeping our work focus tight and building our resources (active membership ranks; finances) is necessary.

What resulted so far in your “Economic Justice in the Digital Domain” efforts at calling online services such as Facebook, YouTube, and Google to task?

Perhaps not so much. We got some press coverage (example here), and raised some awareness among musicians, but no meetings with YouTube/Google/Alphabet on the issues.

Tell us more about your “Streaming Justice” campaign.


What were the overall findings of your surveys?

2020 survey report:

What are the goals/intentions of that “$200M grant program”?

I think we’re referring to the New York State Seed Funding Grant Program, which was intended to help “early stage” small businesses recover from the economic impact of the pandemic (BTW, there was also a private initiative aimed specifically at NY state’s arts workers; MWA had minimal and peripheral input into the design of that program; one of our now-former Steering Committee members was involved in it). MWA found out about that program late in the process of it being set up; we managed to get language inserted stating that performing-arts professionals could apply to it. However, the design of the program criteria didn’t really fit indie musicians well at all, especially those who weren’t in the “early stage” of their careers. We did help guide folks through the application process, and a small number of applicants who we helped managed to get grants.

What were the results of your efforts on behalf of Winter Jazz Festival performers?

MWA actively supported the caucus of WJF performers who, in league with Local 802 AFM, successfully negotiated a c. 16% raise in pay for performing at the 2024 WJF (over the 2023 rate); we actually voted to ratify the new contract in a Zoom meeting this afternoon (I attended). BTW, Marc Ribot, who’s currently on MWA’s Steering Committee, led the WJF performer caucus’s negotiating committee.

What has been the response of the U.S. Copyright Office toward your formal statement?

Aside from having our remarks entered into their record, I think MWA is just one of their informants; I’m not aware of any specific response. But the Copyright Office issued a long and through report in 2020 supporting reform of Section 512 of the Copyright Act, which allows “safe harbor” shielding of platforms like YouTube as they host posts that infringe on copyright holders, weakening (killing?) the market for purchasing music recordings and sapping musicians’ income from selling our recorded work. MWA supports Section 512 reform–unlike United Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW), a larger and better-known org which we sometimes have worked in coalition with.

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Carroll Dashiell Carrying on the Proud Tradition of Jazz at HU

DC Jazz Festival and Howard University recently celebrated the rich legacy Professor Fred Irby established at Howard University. On the cusp of his retirement after 50 years directing the Howard University Jazz Ensemble and the jazz program first established by NEA Jazz Master Donald Byrd and Dr. Arthur Dawkins, bassist-educator Carroll Dashiell,Jr. has been appointed the Chairman of the Howard University Music Department, tasked with the next step in the exceptional legacy of jazz at HU. Serendipity is rich with this appointment of a NW DC native, HU jazz alum, touring and recording jazz artist, decades-long university jazz educator, and proud father of two very talented emerging jazz artists. If you’re seeking to know who’s next in the jazz vocal pantheon, look no further than daughter Christie Dashiell, and son Carroll Dashiell lll (aka C.V.) is one of the busiest drummers in the DMV. Both will be on the world stage with a quickness. I caught up with dad Carroll recently for some Independent Ear questions.

I first heard you as a member of Bobby Watson’s band Horizon. From that point in the late 1980s you’ve evolved your career to music education. Talk about your evolution in this music.

Bobby contacted me in 1987 or 88 and asked me to join the band.  I was introduced to Bobby by [tenor saxophonist] Willie Williams and TS Monk.  Willie and I were on tour with Maurice Hines and Willie told Bobby about me.  The first hit I did with Bobby was somewhere in Philly and the band was Bobby, Roy Hargrove, John Hicks, (whom I had played with previously), Victor Lewis and myself.  I remember Christian McBride came to the show just to check us out and hang.

Fred Irby came over to McKinley Tech HS to recruit me coming out of high school.  We sat in those tiny practice modules and just talked for hours.  I had played at the Kennedy Center in several shows with Irby and Dr.  Arthur Dawkins while in high school and met Irby at the KC.  I had also performed with HU Faculty and played union performances at the HU Chapel and various other theaters in and around DC.  Prior to being at Tech with Peter Ford, I was at Rabaut Junior High with Arthur Capehart and was principal bassist in the DC Youth Orchestra under Lyn McClain’s direction. I studied string bass with Carolyn Kellock, in the DCYO Program.  Carolyn Kellock was also the bass teacher at Duke Ellington and bass teacher of Ben Williams, Corcoran Holt, Ameen Saleem, Eric Wheeler, and Kris Funn

I attended Meyer Elementary School where Gus Sims switched me from viola to string bass in the 4th grade.  His reasoning was that I was the only one large enough to bring the bass to rehearsal from the 3rd floor storeroom.  I always wanted to tell that story.  Said all of that because I wanted to share that I’m a proud product of the DC Public School System and the DCYO. I studied some and played with Calvin Jones and Bobby Felder back when they were in the downtown building of University of the District of Columbia, (I think it was still named Federal City College) at that time.  Met them both when I won the Joseph Feder Memorial String Competition.  I won a full-ride scholarship to Tanglewood Institute for three consecutive years and also played with the Boston Pops.  I was one of three blacks in a full symphony orchestra and full festival chorus while at Tanglewood. 

While I was in undergrad at HU, I was the Strings Professor and Bass Instructor at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, Calvin Jones hired me as the Bass Instructor at UDC while I was a Music Consultant and member of the Ambassadors Band, DC Department of Recreation, Mayor Marion Barry’s Band led by Dr. Gilbert Prior all while I was playing with the Moonlighters Band, led by Dr. Bill Clark, my surrogate dad.

Following coming off the road with Maurice Hines and now a member of Bobby Watson and Horizon, I accepted a position at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina as the first Black Professor of Music in the ECU School of Music in 1989 where I was named the Director of Jazz Studies and served for 33-plus years until HU called in April 2023.  Greenville, NC was also the birthplace of Dr.  Billy Taylor who was also one of my mentors.  I grew up on Fairmont Street, NW DC, next door to his mom.  Dr.  Taylor always shared with me and he got me and my family tickets, passes etc., to shows whenever he was in town;…shows that I would never have been able to afford or attend.

During the recent HUJE programs honoring Fred Irby’s pending retirement, at one point you referred to your new HU position as a home coming of sorts.  Talk about that aspect of your consideration for this HU job?

I always said:  “I wanted to give back what little I know to the music community.”  30 years ago while at ECU I said:  “I have been blessed and my music has saved my life.  The neighborhood that I grew up in…there were bullets always flying around and I know that one or some of those bullets had my name on them, but I was at a rehearsal somewhere and the bullet(s) missed. I want to give back to an institution, organization and Black and Brown people who have invested in me.” Fast forward 33-plus years later, as [wife] Rhonda and I were planning an exit strategy, retirement from ECU, HU calls.  Forty years ago, I didn’t know it was going to be HU.  But all of the people that I mentioned in an earlier question are connected to Washington, DC, HU, Family and HOME…They have all invested in me so I hope I can make a difference and help shape some of our youth and musical community; give back.  I feel that I sit at a unique vantage point having attended HU, having 2 of our children [vocalist Christie Dashiell and drummer C.V. (Carroll lll) Dashiell attend HU, having performed with, worked with HU Music Faculty and even having a father attend HU on a baseball scholarship in the 1950s.

Please detail your responsibilities – and specific title – with this new Howard University appointment.

I accepted the position of Chairman, HU Music Department.  I serve the students and faculty as the executive officer of the Howard University Music Department in the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.

What would you say are the essential elements in a successful jazz education?

I like to say: “99.9 percent of it all is listening.  We only hope to add that additional percent….but if we don’t listen, we will never hear and learn.”  I feel that HU has one of the most incredible faculties anywhere.  We just really need to publicize it more and let everyone know.  Having faculty members that are all practitioners of the highest caliber, practitioners that are all in, committed, and can not only explain but demonstrate what happened on the hit last night, practitioners that are open and willing to share the history and information, practitioners who are the history of this music… INCREDIBLE!

What are some of your primary goals at HU?

I’d like to address some curricular and course offerings, modernize some of the infrastructure, really honor and pay homage to the great legacy and lineage of the department including the offerings and faculty, yet address the present while focusing on the future.  I’m just naive and motivated enough to wholeheartedly believe that we can do this all without forsaking one for another.  But…it has to be done strategically and as I say all the time: “Baby Steps”

Are you still actively performing, and if so what aspirations do you have in that regard here in DC?

I’m still actively performing and recording. I’m in pre-production and discussions with artists for multiple recording projects. I hope to contribute to the music scene in the DC area and involve HU Music more into not only the music/arts community but also the societal/neighborhood community.

As a media person and a presenter in this DMV community I’ve long seen musicians who’ve evolved from the Howard University Jazz Ensemble as the beating heart of the community of musicians here. How do you see the jazz program at HU contributing to the overall DMV music scene?

Community outreach initiatives, being more actively present and interacting with the already established festivals, concerts and programs, not only jazz oriented but classical and world music orientations.

Ultimately, what is HU’s jazz legacy?

Quality in all endeavors, honoring and paying homage to the history while being in the present with efforts focusing on the future, with emphasis on the lineage and legacy of the African Diaspora. FAMILY.

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Umbria Jazz 2023: Celebrating 50 Years!

The alluring city of Perugia is the capital of the central Italian region of Umbria. Located approximately equidistance between Rome and Florence, Perugia covers a high hilltop with magnificent views of the verdant valleys below from numerous vantage points. In 1973 a group of intrepid jazz fans founded Umbria Jazz, much in the manner of grassroots jazz enthusiast formations and volunteerism-generated efforts down through the history of jazz music’s inherent fan base. Now 50 years later Umbria Jazz has established a rich tradition as one of the signature events in the jazz festival firmament, the tall, distinctive presence of founding member Carlo Pagnotta still at the helm.

The scene at the Galleria Nazionale daily matinee concerts

This year’s 50th anniversary Umbria Jazz ran July 7-16, with ticketed programs primarily taking place at noontime and 3:00pm at the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria for the Jazz goes to the Museum daily series, 5:00pm at the classic opera house Teatro Morlacchi, which dates back to 1781, and at 9:00pm down the hill (accessible by escalator, which jazz romanticism suggests may or may not have been the inspiration behind Carla Bley’s opus “Escalator Over the Hill”) at Arena Santa Giuliana, an open air facility and soccer stadium.

The Arena facility is quite comfortably configured for Umbria Jazz, with a patio restaurant and bar just outside the admission gates, and Jumbotron performance viewing options that are particularly inviting for those in the back rows of the venue’s 5K seating capacity. In between times there are free public performance spaces at each end of the teeming Corso Vannucci, Perugia’s bustling main promenade with it’s steady stream of festival revelers. With the huge free Piazza IV Novembre stage at one end, and the bustling nightime scene at Giardini Santa Giuliana at the top end of Corso Vannucci, and the main festival hotels, plaza restaurants, inviting retail, and numerous gelato shops in between, the Corso is the main festival artery linking all of the performances. This festival geography lends itself to a splendidly inviting scene, quite encouraging to those who may wish to simply ease into one of the cafes or ristorantes that line Corso Vannucci, have a gelato, a pizza, or perhaps a Campari spritzer and gaze at the passing crowds.

The Umbria Jazz scene on a typical evening on teeming Corso Vanucci

The series of escalators which wind down the hillside to Arena Santa Giuliana through the brightly-lit cave interior also provide a glimpse of Perugia’s Etruscan-era past with its distinct brick work and ancient architecture, interrupted by a few tasteful shops along the way. All contribute to the unmistakable charm of hilly Perugia, with it’s magnificent vistas on each side. This is a walking town par excellence; across the ten days mercifully the only times we encountered vehicular traffic was the roundtrip to the airport in Rome (approx. 2 hour drive), easefully crossing the street to the Arena, or the occasionally gripping sight of a car gingerly navigating Etruscan-era pavement, often at seemingly impossible angles; it was actually a quizzical treat witnessing a few cars daring those moves, even more so the occasional small tour bus!

A major attraction to visiting Perugia is the array of culinary delights. From basic pizzas (order it in Perugia at any one of dozens of options and you’ll never go near or call a Pizza Hut or Dominoes again!) to incredible plates of an array of pastas; and any trip (in season of course) you gottta have the pastas with truffle sauce at least a half dozen times before you leave! Recommended place for that: La Taverna. Perugia is a gourmand’s delight of great variety. Musicians, crew and assembled media eagerly dined twice daily at La Rosetta, the central festival hotel. And the nightly scene at the lovely bar and terrace cafe at Hotel Brufani, adjacent to the happenings at Giardini Carducci was an opportune site for catching up for a chat with festival musicians.

The late night sets at Giardini Carducci (last hit at 12:30am) featured a rotating cast of Italian artists and visiting U.S. bands, including a contingent from New Orleans. At this year’s Umbria Jazz the nightly band at Giardini Carducci that made many friends was the big fun assemblage known as Mwenso & The Shakes, led by the magnetic, excitable singer-bandleader Michael Mwenso. Many of the artists who play the big stages at either end of the Corso are esentially in residence throughout the festival, playing a carefully curated rotation of slots between the two platforms. That band rotation also included the highly entertaining South Carolina-based unit known as Ranky Tanky, which specializes in jazz-influenced arrangements of traditional Gullah music. After midnight intrepid nightowls were treated to nightly jam sessions anchored by the “Dear Dexter” Quintet of Italian musicians inspired by tenor titan Dexter Gordon. The Plaza IV Novembre stage often hosted high school and college student ensembles in town for Umbria Jazz’s robust jazz education intensive anchored for years by Berklee College of Music. Late nights at the Arena Santa Giuliana free “after shows” featured many of the bands from the rotation of bands playing up top on the Corso.

The historic Teatro Morlacchi provided many Umbria Jazz 50 highlights

Teatro Morlacchi hosted one of the festival’s peak performances, delivered by one half of Wayne Shorter’s longtime quartet, pianist Danilo Perez and bassist John Patitucci, joined by drummer Adam Cruz. And you know their setlist had some sweet nods to the grandmaster Wayne! Morlacchi proved to be likewise a marvelous platform for Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez‘s tribute to Michel Petrucciani. Speaking of piano trio music, none is more resplendent than the masterful Kenny Barron Trio, with Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass, and the very-promising young Savannah Harris on drums. Our Teatro Morlacchi experience topped off with the uncanny guitar master Bill Frisell‘s “Four” project with Gerald Clayton on piano, Greg Tardy on clarinet and tenor sax, and Jonathan Blake on drums. Sunday evening’s Teatro Morlacchi treat was another of the 3 festival love-ins we heard this summer from the young wunderkind voice of Samara Joy. I had previously been impressed with her luxurious lower register. This time she thrilled with her resplendent upper register as well, not to mention her easeful sense of command. And to think she’s literally just getting started! Don’t allow yourself to get bamboozled by some sense of “flavor of the month” with this young comet; she is the absolute truth!

Our first day in Perugia delivered the rangy edge of South African pianist and Blue Note recording artist Nduduzo Makhathini. He was followed at 3:00pm by one of Italy’s essential jazz musicians, the bop-informed , ever swinging Dado Maroni, a master of the blues aesthetic. Other Galleria treats were delivered by the “Dialogues Delight” duo of vocalist Olivia Trummer and drummer Nicola Angelucci, delightfully edgy Cubano pianist David Virelles solo.

Sunday evening brought Herbie Hancock‘s summer tour to the Arena for an evening that opened with the charming Afro-centricity of vocalist Somi. Herbie’s performance delivered a set list with a distinctly retrospective aspect, per reports of other sightings along his 2023 tour trail, including such gems as trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s – who blew an electronically-enhanced trumpet throughout – kinetically-charged arrangement of Wayne Shorter‘s “Footprints” as a tribute to Herbie’s “best friend”, “Cantaloupe Island”, “Actual Proof”, and the seemingly obligatory keytar-processed Hancock vocal on “Come Running to Me,” an exercise that has frankly grown quite tired. Herbie, if you need a vocal element there are all manner of qualified “guest singers” you might call upon… perhaps even show opener Somi! New drummer Jaylen Petinaud was a fresh revelation. Bassist James Genus and the endlessly inventive guitarist Lionel Loueke rounded out Herbie’s top shelf cast.

Two of the highlights of the nightly Arena Santa Giuliana shows were provided by the brilliant double-billing of the Branford Marsalis Quartet and the Brad Mehldau trio Tuesday evening, and the amazing Rhiannon Giddens, whose vocal and banjo prowess are a true force of nature. She truly embodies the Duke Ellington adage of being “beyond category”. Branford’s longtime quartet of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner deliver on the time-honored benefits of having a long-term, stable band. And it was great seeing them hang out together at the Brufani before and after their performance. These four musicians have worked out uncanny lines of communication that they navigate comfortably with great gusto. Ditto Brad Mehldau’s trio with Larry Grenadier on bass and the facile Jeff Ballard on drums.

Drummer Stewart Copeland made many in the audience yearn for the decidedly missing element of Sting‘s voice (some of us fondly recalling in our hearts & heads that great evening at the same venue (though different configuration) years ago when the Police mastermind fronted the Gil Evans Orchestra (with Branford in the band). Copeland’s charge was leading a program billed as “Police Deranged for Orchestra,” the “deranged” part perhaps alluding to Copeland’s manic presence on traps and leading the orchestra, members of which appeared properly bemused by Copeland’s excited mania.

Umbria Jazz 50th anniversary certainly flew its banner high as one of the real highlights of the European summer jazz festival circuit.

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Luke Stewart: Bassman on the rise

Bassist-saxophonist-composer Luke Stewart has firmly established his artistic pursuits on the world stage. As one of DC’s best & brightest musicians, Luke collaborated with many of the DMV’s finest, particularly if they exhibited the kind of forward motion and progressive attitude by which he himself addresses the precincts of his jazz & beyond musical pursuits. His stint as a vital component of rising tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis‘ rangy trio has propelled Luke forward on the world stage as a leader himself. More recently Luke has joined NEA Jazz Master tenor saxophonist David Murray‘s new band.

In addition to his musical aspirations, Luke has actively engaged in activities bent on expanding the DMV musical universe, including co-founding the exceptional music news, presenting and preservation organization known as CapitalBop (, and hosting programs on the DMV’s “Jazz & Justice” radio station WPFW. Let’s catch up with Luke Stewart…

How do you balance all of your different projects and affiliations?

That’s an interesting question, that I get all the time. I’ve always had many interests and musical/artistic pursuits, from starting off musically as a saxophonist, then as a bass guitarist, then a DJ/producer, then a Jazz musician, then a Creative Musician. There’s a lot of inspiration and ideas that I’ve always had, that have been put off delayed or otherwise impossible until they have been allowed to manifest naturally. I believe in the way things have happened in an organic fashion. The balance comes from the passion and dedication I give to each project. With each, I am 110% present and involved, as if none other exist at the moment. For better or worse, this is the case for me. It is also a statement of what i’ve learned from so many of the elders, that it is important to “fire on all cylinders” and to create as much as you can. It is an expression and practice in Freedom, as well as Tolerance, to be involved in so many different projects. I’ve worked very hard, and still a long way to go, to practice Freedom in my work. That is, not to limit myself due to what society or the community or circumstance tells me. Rather, it is through the example of the elders, that you have to chart your own path in the world of Creativity, not being tied down to any dogma. That’s to say also about Tolerance, that I have to have tolerance for myself and allow myself the room to interact with respect and dedication in the community. 

With your solo bass record “Works For Upright Bass And Amplifier Vol. 2” why did you choose to place emphasis on your amplifier, and how might that have been a different experience had you chosen to record that record sans amplifier?

As I’ve stated in other interviews, and in other performances and explanations, the title and the works are Literal. I am treating both as instruments, the Upright Bass AND the Amplifier. The amplifier in this case is an electronic instrument. Without the Amplifier, it would be just another solo bass record. I’ve made acoustic solo bass recordings, but I prefer to work through this setup for now.

Would it be fair to say that “Black’s Myths” is a project based in thematic principles of social justice?  Talk about your collaborators on that record.

[Blacks’ Myths] is indeed a thematic project, dealing with referential history of Black Americans, in particular. The song names and the vibe are meant to invoke and to stoke these memories, for those who can understand the references. Otherwise, it is a project that continues parts of my background in rock/punk-based music. This one is a duo of Warren Crudup, III and I. We’ve been performing together almost since the beginning of my time in the DC jazz community. We’ve gone through many formative experiences in the Music and otherwise. We’ve played as a duo also for many years, the first one put on by artist Nate Lewis after he saw us perform with Ernest Dawkins/Joe Bowie/Flip Barnes/Adam Rudolph. At this particular performance, the band left the stage and left us to create together. It was a musical rite of passage that spawned the duo that would later become Blacks’ Myths.

What’s the guiding force behind your “Irreversible Entanglements” project?

Interesting question. There have been many things written and said about this project. We are first and foremost a Band, something that has increasingly become rare in what is recognized as mainstream jazz. It doesn’t have the focus of an individual leader, even though there is a “front person” in the form of Moor Mother. Rather, it is a true collective that is clearly making vital music at the moment that speaks to many people. We are able to tour quite a bit around the world for large audiences consistently, which is sometimes rare for jazz, let alone “Liberation-oriented Free Jazz” as we’ve been called. Our guiding force is thus each other in Irreversible Entanglements. Each of us come from very different backgrounds, with varying levels of experience in the world of Creative Music. We also give each other the room for the aforementioned Freedom and Tolerance. In the “IE Universe” we encompass all of our individual and collective projects, much like the examples of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, New York Art Quartet, World Saxophone Quartet, and others. It is in these examples where each individual members were Free to their own musical and creative pursuits. When we come together, the experience gained from those pursuits combine into a truly amazing flow of energy and creation. It is palpable and important in this current moment and for the future.

Including “Bi Ba Doom” recording, how do you see each of these projects intersecting?

Bi Ba Doom was the result of getting together with musical friends Chris Pitsiokos and Jason Nazary while in New York. Being also a “New York Musician” it was an opportunity to explore with other Creative Musicians who also use electronics. This project was specific to this mindset. We were able to tour in EU and Canada upon the release of this album, and added trumpeter and electronic musician Chris Williams to the fold. Hopefully the proper Quartet version of this band will be able to perform again soon.

Talk about your still fairly new affiliation with David Murray and what that means for your solo and bandleading efforts.

David and I first played in 2018, soon after he returned to New York. The first time we actually met properly was during the concert after the inauguration of Donald Trump in January of 2017. It was a Transparent Productions concert that featured Murray in rare solo format, telling stories only he can tell, displaying a unique mastery of his instruments. I had seen David play a number of times before then, but it was here where I noticed truly his virtuosity. For instance, he almost constantly circular breathes in the horn, yet employs solo phrasing as if he were breathing normally. I hear in this question, will I still be able to play solo and lead bands? Interesting perspective in this question. 

As in the example of Irreversible Entanglements, as well as so many of David’s bands over the years, there is always creative Freedom to do whatever we want to do, as long as I show up dedicated, focused, and ready to play, which I do at all times with all projects. The brand new Quartet featuring Marta Sanchez and Kassa Overall is a great example of this. He purposely chose band members who are also leaders in their own right. In this he encourages that we pursue our own projects, though of course demands showing up for him, which I am very proud to do. —

Luke Stewart

Musician, Cultural Organizer

“Free Your Mind…”

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The Story of Blue Moses

In 1972, while living in Tangier, Morocco and operating his African Rhythms Club, Randy Weston determined to present a festival that would span multiple styles of music from Africa and the African diaspora around the world. A tremendous undertaking, the festival presented a vast range of music ranging from Dexter Gordon and Max Roach to Afro pop by the likes of Osibisa, with a multitude of traditional rhythms and forms in between. The festival was a big success, but in its under-capitalized form it left Randy deeply in debt… a condition later alleviated by what Randy always referred to as “divine intervention” – his lone CTI release. Read the saga of how that record date uplifted Randy and his global profile – despite a few trepidations detailed below (excerpted here from Chapter 13 of Randy’s autobiography, AFRICAN RHYTHMS (2010, Duke University Press):

But back to that divine intervention from the Creator: My dear friend Mary Jo
Johnson had worked particularly hard to make this festival possible from the stateside
perspective. At that time she was serving in a kind of managerial capacity for me and
besides her festival duties she was trying to arrange a record date for me. This resulted in
the Blue Moses album. She said she went to 15 record companies and nobody wanted to
record me. Finally she met with Creed Taylor whose very successful record company in the
70s was CTI. He recorded people like Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, George Benson,
Grover Washington Jr., Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, Bob James and others. He made
all his records at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous studio using a stable of studio musicians which
also included the leaders he was recording.

My idea was to record a program of music focusing on Morocco, and I wrote four
pieces for the date: “Ifrane”, named for a small town in the mountains near Fes, was about
my first trip through the northern part of Morocco. We had arranged to do some concerts
at some hotels in Morocco and I had this little automobile. I drove this car through the
Atlas Mountains with my son Azzedin and Ed Blackwell. When we passed through this town
called Ifran there was actual snow! Ifran is a skiing village and I didn’t know they had snow
in Morocco! I was so moved that I wrote a piece about it.

“Blue Moses” was simply the translation of Sidi Musa. Musa was Moses for the
Gnawa people; for them the color representing Moses is the color of the sea, the blue of
the sky. When I attended a Gnawa ceremony in 1969 in Tangier it was my first of several
Lilas with the powerful Gnawa elders. As I said earlier I was in a trance for a couple of
weeks after this ceremony, it was so powerful, and this one particular melody stayed with
me. So instead of Sidi Musa I called it “Blue Moses,” based on traditional Gnawa music that
I adapted and re-arranged. When I first wrote this piece the Gnawa elders forbad me
from playing it in public; but after about a year they finally relented after I pleaded with
them that people needed to hear this melody.

“Night in Medina” was about an experience I had when I was living in Rabat, the
capitol of Morocco. I stayed at the Hotel Rex, right in front of the old city; the Medina is
the old city where the traditional marketplace sells all kinds of Moroccan goods, spices,
kaftans and other Moroccan goods. During the day there are hundreds of people on the
streets of the Medina, but at night it gets real quiet. One particular night I couldn’t sleep
and something urged me to go into the Medina, so I went there at 3:00 in the morning! The
streets were deserted and it was very mysterious, sorta spooky. I walked around these
deserted streets and this melody came to me. Fortunately nothing happened to me but it
was a very powerful experience of having frequented the Medina during the day when it’s
crawling with people, then at night when there’s nothing but shadows. I also wrote
“Marrakech Blues” in honor of the city of Marrakech, a city that is really magical. The
buildings have a wonderful reddish hue. So that rounded out my program for this proposed
“Blue Moses” date.

Creed Taylor insisted that the only way he would agree to do the date was if I
played it on Fender Rhodes electric piano, which was popular back then. I can’t stand the
electric piano but I really wanted to make this record. Creed also insisted on using his
regular musicians, which was OK with me because they included Ron Carter and Freddie
Hubbard, who had played with me on the Uhuru Afrika date; Hubert Laws, who ironically
played the festival in Tangier; plus Grover Washington, Jr., Billy Cobham, and the Brazilian
percussionist Airto. I brought my regular bass player Bill Wood and Azzedin to make the
date on congas as well. We recorded “Blue Moses” in March 1972. Despite my lack of
control over some of these important elements, incredibly “Blue Moses” became my biggest
selling record!

Besides his regular crew of excellent musicians, Creed Taylor was known for a
certain sound on CTI and his house arranger was Don Sebesky. We recorded the date using
Melba’s arrangements of my compositions. I wasn’t happy with having to use that electric
piano but the recording session came out much to my satisfaction. So following the session
I went back to Morocco and got busy with the African Rhythms club and festival planning.
“Blue Moses” was released just before the festival and I remember being in the club when
one afternoon a dub of the record arrived in the mail. I immediately put it on the turntable
and out burst all this added orchestration from Don Sebesky. I couldn’t believe it! But the
true success of “Blue Moses” happened after the festival.

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