As luck would have it, the first performance will be on June 5th. On June 5, 1945, the Dizzy Gillespie Quartet, featuring Charlie Parker, played the Academy of Music. Seated in the next-to-last row was John Coltrane who was seeing Bird for the first time. Coltrane later said:
The first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes.
These are the kinds of stories we will share at All That Philly Jazz, which will be launched on Friday at the March convening of Open Access Philly. The event is free and open to the public. To register, go here.
For most folks, Philadelphia’s jazz legacy begins and ends with John Coltrane. To be sure, Coltrane is a giant part of the story. But as James G. Spady wrote in “Lost Jazz Shrines”:
Conversations with pioneers of the jazz community in Philadelphia reveal the city’s illustrious yet largely undocumented jazz history.
We’re working on an app for that. All That Philly Jazz is mapping Philly’s jazz heritage from bebop to hip-hop.
From Dizzy Gillespie at the Downbeat to The Roots mural on South Street, we are breathing life into legendary jazz spots like Union Local 274 (Clef Club), Pep’s, Showboat, Aqua Lounge, Watts Zanzibar, Café Holiday, Geno’s Empty Foxhole and the Red Rooster.
Sadly, few of the physical assets remain. Jazz spots fell victim to race riots and urban renewal. As a result, the legacy largely resides in the memories of those who were there. So to preserve the history for future generations, All That Philly Jazz is crowdsourced. As we build out the interactive map, we have created a placeholder website where community members and folks anywhere in the world can share their memories, photos and videos of the jazz scene back in the day.
I’ve attended at least half of the conferences dating back to, well, never mind when I started going.
There’s a mash-up of workshops and braintrust meetings from the “Art of Social Entrepreneurship” to “Working Families Fight Back.” To be sure, some folks will be moaning and groaning about the lack of follow-up. It somehow escapes them that the follow-through starts with the person in the mirror.
A. Shuanise Washington, the president and CEO of the CBCF, said in a statement:
Any discussion about African-American history and culture must include African-American artists. Through the Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts, the CBCF and the CBC Spouses pay homage to those whose creative bodies of work convey the rich and diverse African-American experience.
About Bill Withers:
Bill Withers is a legendary singer-songwriter with a music career that spans more than four decades. Between the 1970s and 1980s, he won “Song of the Year” Grammys for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Just the Two of Us” and “Lean on Me.” His songs have been covered by numerous artists across various genres of music, including Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Gladys Knight, Michael Bolton, John Legend and Jill Scott. In 2005, Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
I can’t pick a favorite Bill Withers’ song because there’s one for whatever mood I’m in. That said, some of my favorite lyrics are from “Moaning and Groaning”: “If she ain’t the best in the world, she’s good as the goodest one.”
Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.
Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.
Dr. Angelou’s legacy and light will live on in the men and women who were inspired, motivated and comforted by her words – and voice.