The Civil Rights Movement had various standard bearers in the struggle for equal rights across the colour line but music perhaps is the least well known of these. Ornette Coleman’s ‘ Lonely Woman’ is a haunting piece containing several crooning sounds with the orchestral backing extremely effective. The woodwind and string sounds almost recreate the sounds of the Mississippi Delta where racial injustice was probably the most pronounced in the United States. Coleman’s voice contains typical African American tones which almost send a shiver down one’s spine. I felt very sad when listening to the music since it brought back the haunting memories of the violence which perpetrated the Deep South in the 1950’s and 1960’s and which ran unchecked with the complicity of local authorities. It is a powerful music statement full of compassion and at the same time, proud dignity.
Cecil Taylor’s work is similarly effusive and dramatic at the same time. The Willisau Concert uses the orchestral and jazz tapestry very effectively throughout with several instruments creating extremely haunting tones. The performance is very professional although the sound quality occasionally leaves something to be desired. Again it is a wonderful description of the racial injustice which permeated the South in those heady years.
Finally, ‘ Ghosts’ by Albert Ayler is similarly haunting and expressive. It almost makes you recall the ghosts of those who perished in the struggle for civil rights, personages such as Emmett Till and the three boys murdered in the dead of the night in Neshoba County, Mississippi. A powerful and at times deeply emotional statement indeed.
All three pieces are a testament to the struggle for justice in the 1960’s and are essential for those who have this period at heart.
Do Female Soloists Belong in a Jazz Band?
In his article, “ The Gal Yippers Have No Place In Our Jazz Bands.” (Down Beat 15 October 1939), Ted Toll is at pains to point out that a good jazz vocalist should not be simply based exclusively on the sex. He is scathing of women due to the fact that he believes they are too artificial and this perhaps reflects the attitude which was prevalent in the time regarding women – one has to remember that this was 1939 and women were treated as quite less than important in those days.
However the main thrust of Toll’s article seems to be that white women should not be let into the jazz scene since this is an exclusively black enclave and in a sense these women would be prying and spying into what was going on in this particular world. It is a rather sexist comment and implies a fear of intrusion into a world which is jealously guarded.
Toll is also scathing about the capabilities of these girls in singing and he rubbishes most of the singers who seemed to have been taking the world by storm in the jazz scene. Again one detects an element of fear in all this since the women were undoubtedly of a talented nature who apart from exuding a beautiful appearance could sing with a voice of quality.
Jazz History. Retrieved from: http://www. vervemusicgroup. com/vaultJazz Roots. Retrieved from: http://www. jass. com/Red Hot Jazz Archive. Retrieved from: http://www. redhotjazz. com/Scholastic: Culture and Change – Black History in America. Retrieved from: http://teacher. scholastic. com/activities/bhistory/history_of_jazz. htm