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When I first heard her, I kind of knew she had something. . . something almost indescribable. You can’t really say how her voice reaches inside of you, touches those moments you’ve never really articulated before. She sings small pieces from your most intimate moments, moments like that time you left someone and yet they are someone you never really forget, even after you’ve gone on to someone else.

Anyway. . .

I found out she had a life that included buckets of sadness, tragedies that contributed to the beauty inside her pain.

Don’t need no words. Just listen.

Feel.

Smile. Cry.

Or laugh.

That moment may never occur again, but her singing reminds you.

 

Many of us believe that Black music was the leading sound of the 20th century worldwide, from ragtime to hip hop with stops to include gospel, blues, jazz, and R&B (i.e. rhythm and blues). Moreover, in a slightly jingo-istly way, some of us even believe the United States was “the” major sound of the 20th century.

We attribute that belief to the supremacy of our music. We do not fully understand that much of the so-called cultural supremacy was actually because our music rode on the back of the United States’ world-wide military, economic and cultural dominance.

While it is true that American culture was admired globally, the whole truth is a bit more complex. For example, we often consider Hollywood movies the paragon of movie making. We don’t realize how much of our music was an integral aspect of Hollywood’s 20th century dominance.

People who never heard a jazz recording or who don’t even like jazz, know, and, in many cases, love the iconic 1942 movie Casablanca, with it’s hit song, “As Time Goes By” that featured a Black pianist (Dooley Wilson). Indeed, while it is true that the first “talkie” (a feature-length movie with sight and sound) was the 1927 Jazz Singer, we don’t often realize that was also one of the major inflections of global Black musical ascendency. Moreover, it is is both ironic and a supreme example of cultural appropriation that the movie’s star jazz singer was Lithuanian-born Asa Yoelson, i.e. Al Jolson performing in black-face.

All of the above is a significant part of the context within which reggae became the popular music that dominated world culture in the last quarter of the 20th century. While American cultural was globally supreme in the 20th century, by the end of that period, reggae was actually the worldwide musical force. Of course, the American mainstream does not celebrate reggae’s dominance, nevertheless that is truly the case.

Enjoy this 2012 celebration of Jamaican reggae focusing on the music of Bob Marley. It’s a massive soundscape of historic importance particularly because the sounds are presented by a British aggregation featuring the Jazz Jamaica All Stars with the Urban Soul Orchestra and Brinsley Forde, a founder of the popular UK band, Aswad. This was a sold-out Queen Elizabeth Hall, London concert billed as CATCH A FIRE tribute to Bob Marley & The Wailers.

Seen?

https://youtu.be/OB1InJFKhDU

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the day, over 20 years ago, I did radio (DJ-ing and production). On one of my weekly programs, my theme song was Labi Siffre’s “Something Inside So Strong”.

From when I first heard  the music, I was enthralled. Typical for sometimes ass-backwards me, instead of opening with the theme, I closed my program with the distinctive melody and uplifting lyrics.

At that time I didn’t know much about brother Siffre except he was based in England. Of course over the years, I learned significant facts, including that the song was ultra popular in the South African anti-apartheid era. Imagine my surprise when I found out the song was popular in the Christian movement in the USA.

No surprise people like Vanessa Bell Armstrong and others featured “So Strong”, but the trio of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, & Willie Nelson–who would have thunk it? So anyway, here are three of my favorite versions.

First, we have Siffre’s original with the beautiful illustration on the cover.

Second, we have a stirring UK soul version.

Third, we drop down to South Africa, featuring Lira.

Enjoy.

 

Robert Parris Moses: born January 23, 1935, Harlem, New York / died July 25, 2021, Hollywood, Florida 

Bob would drive down to New Orleans from Jackson, Mississippi. The 200 mile trip took roughly three hours, more or less depending on how crazy you drove.

Bob had been a field secretary with SNCC. I was a veteran of the Free Southern Theatre.

Moses was the founder of the Algebra Project. A math literacy program. I was an early stalwart and teacher with Students at the Center, a writing program. We both worked with high school students.

At one point Moses would come down once a week–if I remember correctly it was on Wednesday afternoons. For us veterans of the Civil Rights movement, “education for liberation” was our theme.

Meeting with students and parents, finding innovative ways to teach, that’s what we were about. It’s slow, painstaking work. You can’t rush it, or as the saying goes, you can only travel as fast as the slowest person.

Me, I had a big mouth. Bob was soft spoken–but he didn’t take no shit, would quietly let you know when you weren’t keeping up with the promises you had made to our collective and to yourself.

I learned a lot from Mr. Moses. Mainly how to slow my roll, take my time, and exhibit endless patience with others. After all, in one field or another, we all were babies, all of us have a lot to learn.

Bob was a learned man who asked us questions much more than he lectured.

When I heard he made his transition, my first thought was how much I would miss his steady keeping on. My second thought was I could hear my train a coming off in the distance, rolling my way. But before it arrives, I want to shout out Bob Moses, a man dedicated to the people, especially young people.

Our mutual journalist friend Herb Boyd wrote a short albeit beautiful tribute to our brother.

What do you think?

Socrates ain’t had nothing on Mr. Moses.

 

Back in the day, we didn’t play.

We were young, on fire, and, as we used to say: ready for the revolution.

My brother Kenneth Ferdinand, who had been up in New York in graduate school for a minute, working with Father Lucas, came back home. In a house on a plot of land at the corner of St. Maurice and Law streets that my parents had purchased, Kenneth and Tayari, who was my wife at that time, started an independent school.

I don’t specifically remember the details, but I was down for the action. Shortly after Dowpwe Work Study Center was founded, our grouping split. Some of us wanted to concentrate on doing a school for youth, others of us wanted a political organization that would include a school in addition to community organizing activities. Ahidiana Work Study Center was born in 1973.

Among our numerous activities, we sponsored an annual Black Woman’s Conference, which, back in the early seventies, was both popular and unique. We were based in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and worked around the city on selected issues. Our ongoing programs featured nationally known figures such as Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Mari Evans, Haki Madhubuti, Sweet Honey In Rock, John Henry Clarke, Maulana Ron Karenga, and numerous Black Arts and Black Power advocates, organizers and speakers. We also received activists from around the world and organized a major trip to China.

Ahidiana lasted for fifteen years. 

Those were hard but beautiful years. We had no grants, no special favors from the city or the state. No patrons nor monied backers. We just did the dang thing.

All of our own watoto went to our school. Eventually we expanded up through fourth grade. Ahidiana was a community school. We had children from different sections of New Orleans. Our parents were from the projects as well as college-educated professionals.

Ahidiana students maintained a garden, in addition to educational work. They also participated in major demonstrations including picketing banks that sold the Krugerrand South African coin.

Here is the website about Ahidiana. Our history. Enjoy.

–Kalamu

 

I have a theory. After every major war in which the United States participated, there was a major surge of Black demands for equal rights. The driving force was Black veterans who had been trained in warfare. Upon their return home, those veterans were not willing to accept Jim Crow, Klan terror, or any other form of discrimination.

People talk about–indeed, romanticize–the so-called ‘Roaring Twenties’, which was when: right after World War I in Europe and the burgeoning Garvey era in the United States.

In case you were never taught in school or informed in the street, Garvey’s movement, the UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association), was the largest organization of Black people before or since its time; and yes, larger than the NAACP or the Urban League. Moreover, the aptly named 1919 ‘Red Summer’ was a high point of lynchings and terror against Blacks in 20th century America, was at the same time a high point of resistance to terror and Black organizing for self-determination.

Assassinated Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers was a veteran of World War II. I argue that the fifties Civil Rights movement was a militant push by Black youth and veterans returning from the Korean conflict. But the real riot was the anti-war effort which culminated in the fight back against the Viet Nam war and which included numerous, highly motivated and vigorously vocal activities by veterans.

In the sixties I served in the U.S. Army on a nuclear missile base in South Korea, about fifty miles below the DMZ line separating North and South Korea. In addition to maintenance and repair of the Nike Hercules nuclear missile, which included arming the warhead–I was trained in ‘biological, chemical and radiological’ warfare. I was not a pacifist. 


“Back in the world”, as GI’s stationed in Asia often referred to the United States, was a way of looking at the politics of that era that was memorialized on Curtis Mayfield’s popular and critically important recording of the same title. Two major events took place: the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, both were signed by then President Lyndon Johnson.

Amid both political victories and ever-widening economic disparities, major rebellions broke out in cities all across the nation. The urban disturbances were kicked off by what the mainstream dubbed “the Watts riots”, but which Black activist asserted was the “Watts Rellions” of 1965 and included the Detroit actions of 1967 that required the deployment of Army paratroopers to suppress.

I mustered out of the army June 6, 1968, approximately one month after the April 4th shooting and killing of King. I was eager to become a stalwart of the Black Power movement. Paradoxically, my activism included leading a 1969 takeover of the administration of southern University in New Orleans. Regardless of limited  advancements for Black politicians, the social climate continued to deteriorate.

Black involvement in Vietnam had both positive and negative results. Spike Lee’s major release “Da Five Bloods” cinematically attempts to tell the convoluted story. 

Vietnam was no simple story, especially in terms of gender relations between Black soldiers and Vietnamese females. Although not a statistically significant plurality, the offspring of soldiers and civilians was a tale too often untold although highly visible. Available on Amazon Prime, “Soul Alley” is a documentary that attempts to detail at least a part of the story. “Soul Alley” was a small section of Saigon that included soul food restaurants and was organized by Black GIs.

Over the post-Vietnam years, well into the new millennium, there were political victories, however the Black community continued to be terrorized by both the police and groups such as the KKK and the White Citizens Council.

Blacks were not passive and responded to terrorism with non-violent resistance as well as with militant activism. In 1981 a bold and controversial sit-in and take-over of Mayor Dutch Morial’s City Hall office. We were calling for accountability and punishment of ever increasing police brutality and killings that were on the rise in New Orleans.

Well over thirty years later the fight to erase economic disparities and anti-racial terror (which terror now includes attacks on people of Asian heritage) continues even as some Republican politicians argue that America is not racist.  Meanwhile the beat goes on. The attempts at beat-downs of minorities continues in America. Fortunately, more and more people are waging protests and resistance against the effort to make America a zone of de-facto White supremacy.

 

 

We have all heard similar truisms hundreds of times. If you don’t know where you came from, you will never get to where you want to go. Where we need to go.

We didn’t “just grew”. We have a long and involved history. Many parts of our story are generally unknown. Some parts are unknowable. It’s on us to learn as much as we can about who we really are.

Who were our immediate ancestors? What did they have to do in order to live, struggle, and pass on to us the gift of life?

Too often as individuals slogging through 21st-century America, we question our existence, doubt our individual worth, don’t realize how important each of us can be–the role we can play in changing the course of world events, changing the direction in which this nation is headed.

Here is a specific story, a small (albeit important) example of history making. Get to know Henrietta Wood.

 

I’m not deep into classical music but I know good sounds when I hear them. Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason is from a large family of seven musical wunderkinds. I have previously featured her younger brother Sheku. This time we are being regaled by the talents of his sister who is the eldest of the siblings.

From over the pond, our England bred daughter, has direct connections to the Motherland via her mother, Dr. Kadiatu Kanneh, who was born in Sierra Leone. Her father, Stuart Mason, whose family is from the Caribbean island of Antigua, provides the new world heritage in her work.

Isata dives deep into a variety of musics on her new release Summertime. The album includes an emphasis on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a composer of color who achieved fame circa the beginning of the 20th century. Her riveting rendition of “Deep River” is among four of Coleridge-Taylor creations included on the release. Isata also sensitively presents music from popular American composer George Gershwin. She is masterful on four of his diverse compositions. Her muscular dexterity on “I’ve Got Rhythm” is spellbinding.

She is clear and committed in her dedication to music and simultaneously displays a serious development of her consciousness. She willingly and beautifully represents her African heritage even as her chosen field is classical music.

Isata Kanneh-Mason has that wow factor. When she plays, her demeanor and physicality at the keyboard makes it obvious that she is giving one hundred percent.

 

 


photo by Alex Lear

 

What does it mean to be a man?

1.

In the human reproductive process, the role of the man is to transmit his seed to the woman, wherein the seed fertilizes the egg, and eventually the egg transforms into a fetus, which grows in the woman’s womb and over a period of time becomes an infant, that in turn is ejected, and in some cases, physically removed from the female, and becomes an individual.

The functions of males and females in the reproductive cycle is essential to all mammals. In that sense, there is no major argument about what it means for a male to be a man.

However, sociologically the definition of manhood is a major question. In the U.S., defining manhood is riven by a racial divide and a gender divide, as well as massively influenced by economic, or class, considerations.

National political independence was formalized in 1776, but women did not receive the right to vote until 1920. Moreover, despite the tumult of the Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 9, 1865), massive rights for Black people beyond titular citizenship was not formalized until the 1964 Civil Rights Act (July 2) and the 1965 Voting Rights Act (August 6). Racial restrictions were effectively the law of the land for the majority of this country’s existence–a country that has been dominated, and largely ruled, by White men.

From a legal perspective, gender issues have been sublimated to racial and economic concerns, hence, even though men are not the majority of citizens, men are the majority of authority figures in this society and control the bulk of the economy.

 

2.

To put it bluntly, although throughout our history there may have been questions or concerns among specific groupings, nevertheless, there is generally no legal controversy about what it means to be a man if the male is White. Why is that?

When we speak of manhood in general terms, rather than solely as a biological reality, inevitably the meaning is a specific social construct: White manhood. In America, even when we mean those who are other than White, even when people like me refer to ourselves, we can not escape the environmental mainstream reality: White manhood ipso facto defines (and restricts) our conception and practice of manhood.

Two competing and often conflicting issues confront us. 1. What does it mean to be a man–and that’s an issue we generally do not deal with in any depth beyond the biological. 2. What does it mean to be a Black man, which is loaded with all kinds of sociological baggage?

Inherent in the mythology of White manhood is the concept of conqueror and/or ultimate authority figure.

Inherent in the mythology of Black manhood is the concept of lesser than the ultimate authority figure, i.e. lesser than “the man”.

Neither mythology is universally true. However, both are widely accepted. 

From the alleged “founding fathers”, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and a host, although lesser celebrated, grouping of other White men, on to the contemporary President of the United States and the heads of major corporations, the image of the White man is of an authority figure, who is often either a military man, a major political official, or a “captain of industry”, i.e. an economic figure. Hence, to be a man means to be in charge of society, whether that society be an individual family unit, a business concern, the nation as a whole, or any other formation in-between.

An American man dominates, physically or economically, or ideally in both categories. This obviously creates a major problem for Black males when it comes to defining us as men. How can we dominate physically or economically and at the same time function within the bounds of a society that demeans/confines us? At best in this society we are allowed to function as entertainers and/or athletes, the only two areas wherein society at large is comfortable recognizing Black males as dominant?

Consider why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated while Malcolm X, i.e. El Hajj Malik Shabazz, is vilified. King non-violently wielded the teachings of the bible, Malcolm militantly was popularly photographed with a rifle in his hands.

Consider why Muhammad Ali was questioned and widely rejected when he was a dominant force in the boxing ring and only after his boxing prime could he be safely and globally celebrated as an “all American” entertainment figure or a social statesman who lovingly embraced all people.

Go deeper, why from Bojangles, on down to a plethora of Black sidekicks in the movies, on to Bill Crosby (the ultimate sidekick/lovable father figure), and so many others, why are these men celebrated and at the same time portrayed as non-threatening to society at large?

Whenever a Black man acts like a White man and dominates as a physical force, that man is often demeaned, if not outright condemned. This is specifically the case when the Black man (a la O.J. Simpson or Bill Cosby) is revealed to be a sexual predator, which is precisely what White men too often were, especially the celebrated Thomas Jefferson!

 

3.

Thomas Jefferson is generally acclaimed as a major author of the Declaration of Independence while at the same time being a slave master who had sexual relations with at least one of the young women whom he lorded over. 

The Jefferson example leads us directly into the American contradiction: how can a Black man successfully be a man if being a man means being a conqueror, i.e. a dominant political and/or economic force in society, and also means being a sexual being who preys on women?

What is the basis for the near universal (in western mythology) acclaim and admiration for Casanova or for Casanova-like behavior vis-a-vis women?

This social conundrum gets both more complex and more confusing when we interrogate gender relations and the status of women in modern America.

Taking this analysis beyond easy to grasp social arithmetic into the realm of complex gender calculus, we begin to see that once we move pass procreation into the territory of pleasure, then we find (and for some of us, we discover) that pleasure is not limited by or confined to binary gender relations.

It is one easy move to deal with the definition of manhood when we only consider males and the conditions affecting males as defining what it means to be a man, but when we consider relations between genders, i.e. when we consider what women say and what male relations to women means, then defining who is a man is no longer an easy, pleasurable move.

Moreover, what can be pleasure for one is torture, or at best an accepted/required duty, for the passive sexual partner, whose status is not necessarily binary nor age limited.

On a 1787 voyage to France, Sarah Hemings was taken to Paris, where she joined Thomas Jefferson. Hemings was Jefferson’s teenage concubine–while it is certain she was his sexual object, whether she was his lover, i.e., whether they were involved in a mutual romantic relationship, is doubtful. Ms. Hemings did not have any legal agency nor any ability to deny or consent to the relationship with Jefferson.

The Thomas Jefferson case is just one particular in a much, much larger social reality of men legally and extra-legally, sexually dominating women.

 

4.

Yes, there is much more to manhood than sex. In the context of the American norm, to be a man also means assuming responsibility for the economic and social well-being of the nuclear family. In that regard, for a plurality of Black households, particularly for those households at the borders of middle-class status, and especially for those who are working class and lower, the raw fact of life in those households, paradoxically, is that the woman functions as the man, especially the single Black woman who has a child or children to rear, to educate, and to support. Or to use a seemingly oxymoronic, albeit not inaccurate, catch-phrase: in a plurality, if not the majority, of Black homes, the woman is “the man”!

To be more precise, in the reality of most Black people, “the man” is often a woman. This is why patriarchy is so challenged by Black women. Their social status as the de facto “man of the household” implicitly challenges the notion that the man is in charge when the reality is that the woman is the sole provider for the household. This is especially true when the man is absent, and undoubtedly so when the man is incarcerated.

Moreover, for many males, of whatever color, within the context of the nuclear family, being a patriarch is the only definition of manhood that they understand, and too often, to the detriment of gender relations, dominating patriarchy is the only definition of manhood that they embrace.

However, because Black women so often must assume all but the procreative aspects of the generally accepted social definitions of manhood, in terms of day-to-day existence, the very definition of manhood is actually un-gendered, or at least de-coupled from patriarchy, which is why, except for procreation, in many, many cases, and under a wide variety of settings, the woman is factually “the man”. Seen?

Who says that women can’t be the man in social terms? Certainly that is not the case in many Black households. If a woman can function as a man, does that mean that males in general are socially castrated, and, as a result, are rendered social eunuchs?

Many men will say that they like strong women, but do they really? Within the context of social relations, does any man want to be in a relationship with a woman who functions as a man does? Or put in less combative terms, can any man embrace patriarchy and, at the same time, embrace a woman who functions as a man?

When we are looking at and socially evaluating the image of a man, what is it we are really contemplating? In a biological sense, “maleness” has a limited and very specific definition. However, in the larger social sense, “manhood” is a definition that reality proves is not limited only to males.

What does it mean to be a man, and, beyond biology, can a woman be a man? What we really need is a new, another, definition of manhood. 

 

5.

There are so many questions to be explored. Can a homosexual be a man, e.g. was James Baldwin a man? While it is popular to say that only a man can teach a boy to become a man, is that actually true or is it simply a patriarchal truism? So many millions of Black men were reared by Black women in female-headed households.

However, there are biological specifics that can not be ignored. Yes, when compared to women, men may be the sole providers of semen, nevertheless, men can not breast-feed a baby. Biology can not be ignored, but at the same time, biology does not solely, or fully–not to mention exclusively–define both individual and social concepts of manhood.

What prevents any adult, be they male or female, from fulfilling the general social definitions of what it means to be a man? Indeed, realistically, how do we define what it means to be “the” man of the household? Biology does not negate social equality. We work with gender-restrictive definitions of manhood and womanhood at our peril, especially when we confront pleasure and/or social responsibility as a major aspect of our definitions.

Rigidity is a hallmark of the patriarchal definition of manhood, however, social reality is actually much less restrictive. Our behavior as social creatures exists on a spectrum. While the work of artists does not challenge or change the human spectrum, artists do extend far beyond a single restricted spot on the spectrum of social activity.

 

6.

Great art is far more than simply a reflection of our human condition. In the American social context, great art is actually also a projection of social beliefs, realities, romances and possibilities.

We are more than our thoughts. This is especially so because our thoughts have been shaped, if not totally defined, by our environment in combination with the ways in which we were reared.

To move beyond how we were born and reared requires extraordinary insight and action. Particularly for Black people existing within a racially and gender defined environment, art has offered one of the most effective alternatives broadly available.

While it is true that famous entertainers and athletes are considered dominant individuals, the greater truth is that the influential power of an artist’s career can greatly exceed the limited time period allocated to  the impact of entertainers, and especially exceeds the small window of athletic dominance. Well beyond the limits of a particular lifetime, artists are often celebrated decades and even centuries after their physical demise.

The artist is an individual who acts on deep insights and whose work reflects their thoughts. Artists do what they do in a manner that is graceful, i.e. is shaped or influenced by a beautiful way of being. By actually producing important objects and/or events, artists not only express themselves, artists also deeply influence their audience. Indeed, artists explicitly define the essence of being a human being. At the most primal level, making art makes us human.

The very process of making art is an important social barometer that identifies and signifies the zeitgeist of Black life. 

In the racially restrictive American society, over the years, Black artists have been representative of exceeding the normative conditions of Black people. Especially by their existence and work, artists go beyond mainstream conceptions of the status and the social reality of who Black people are individually and collectively. Artists always exist outside of mainstream concerns, and in a limited sense, also exist outside of mainstream controls.

Like Nina Simone, I believe that the work and worth of Black artists is specifically to reflect their times. At their best, Black artists also challenge the thinking prevalent during their times, especially the ontological question of what does it mean to be Black, male, and artist.

In a paradoxical way, a challenge to social conceptions not only gives the lie to the mainstream conception, that challenge also demonstrates both what is lacking and/or diminutive/demeaning about how the mainstream views Blackness. More importantly, the challenge also points to the potentials, possibilities and very real power of Blackness to not only survive but indeed to thrive in an environment of anti-Blackness. 

 

7.

Being a man means much more than what one sees when one sees a male. Inside the home and in society as a whole, what does a man do? What does an active, self-determining man do? In a visually obsessive society, what does a man look like? Are manhood and maleness synonymous?

Especially presented from the perspective and work of Black artists, there are many questions to ponder as we think on the meaning and reality of being a man. Moreover, this obsession with “manhood”, with being a man, is an Achilles heel of our humanity. What we really should focus on is what does it mean to be an adult, especially given the fact that as we age, the majority of adults are female.

Particularly in the Black community, women far outlive men. This is not an ennobling statistic, not one we should take pride in, rather, the lasting longevity of women and the limited longevity of men is a social reality that reflects the restrictive mainstream social conditions confronting Black males.

Being a Black man is no simple occupation. Manhood requires both thought and action. As the African liberation leader Amilcar Cabral advised, we should “Mask no difficulties. Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories.”

Being a man is difficult, requires telling the truth, and is no easy path to trod to grasp the victory of what it means to fully be a man.

Cabral’s self description is simple but not simplistic. Saying it–is easy, being it–is arduous. Cabral proclaimed: “I am a simple African man, doing my duty in my own country in the context of our time.”

Cabral thereby articulates the basic definition of being “a simple African man”–one does whatever is one’s duty, in one’s own country, and in the context of one’s own time.

Be ye male or female, when we become adults, our essence is to accept and fulfill our responsibilities. Whatever the ever changing realities, we must confront and surmount, doing so is the task: the ultimate definition of achieving successful manhood and womanhood.

To be is to do. Within whatever constraints and within the possibilities of whatever time and space, being a man or woman is doing the work of living with and relating to others. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is one of the most acclaimed television recordings of jazz ever made. This 1957 program featured some of the best musicians of that era. Billie Holiday is in the spotlight as the vocalist in what a number of critics argue is her must see encounter with Lester Young. Among the ensemble is New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker, who was living in New York at the time.

In later years I got to know Danny Barker. Tom Dent and I would often sit in Danny’s front room as he regaled us with stories, sounds and memorabilia. We would bask in Danny’s insights about the early days of jazz. Danny came from a family of New Orleans musicians and on top of that had a fabulous gift of gab–nobody could match Danny telling tall tales and reliving important moments of the music. Even though he was what is now known as old school, once you got to know him, he might knock you out with a picture he kept in his wallet of a session he was on with Charlie Parker.

Although Mr. Barker made his mark as a guitarist up in New York, he spent his early years in the Crescent City, to which he returned to live out the last eighteen years of his life. Danny would school us, let us know what was really what. He would smile wryly, remembering that session with Lady Day–a session we never tired of him reliving and sharing with us.

“The Sound Of Jazz” was a special event. Before or since, there has never been a television program that so wonderfully captured the jazz of it’s era, especially the iconic interaction of Billie Holiday and a notable coterie of jazz greats (including tenor saxophonists Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins). Here is the entire session.

Enjoy.