Jazz Articles: Black, White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
8/21/09 10:04 PM
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Black, White and Beyond
1 Bruce Lundvall and Nat Hentoff By Joe Salerno
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Steve Coleman. Richard Sudhalter By Joe Salerno 123
September 2001 Harry Edwards The San Francisco Jazz Organization (SFJAZZ) presented “Jazz and Race: Black.Jazz Articles: Black. White and Beyond. Angela Davis.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond Page 2 of 13
. Harry Edwards By Joe Salerno
3 Dr.” a
http://jazztimes. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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’ Why don’t we call what we do ‘Negro music. Bill Evans. the real leather. “There’s a lot of confusion about this word ‘jazz. as he told me. Thelonious Monk. John Coltrane. he made his own mission unmistakable. Booker Little and Clifford Brown. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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three-day symposium and dialogue panel as part of its SFJAZZ Spring Season. Clifford would have been more had he lived long enough. they have included Frankie Trumbauer on C-melody saxophone. was his drummer for a long time and one of his favorite drummers. as opposed to the Naugahyde. the common language of the blues. Like all durable art. Charles Mingus. gospel. March 30. Here is an excerpt of the symposium’s first event. Ellington made it clear again and again that.” But. And so it is not surprising that we have this question of placing the burden of proof upon those who would advocate a black legitimacy and authenticity and authorship. Eric Dolphy. It goes on and on. but he did. Pee Wee Russell. for instance. among them. But as Ellington noted. Blue Note records president Bruce Lundvall and author Richard M. as he put it. the validity of so-called nonwhite contributions and creativity.” “The Deep South Suite. But the originators so far have been almost entirely black. for example. professor/author Dr.Jazz Articles: Black. held Fri.” “Harlem Airshaft.’” Black or African-American were not being used then. Brown. Nat Hentoff Duke Ellington told me that he never liked the term “jazz. Louis Bellson. and Beige. is put upon those who are nonwhite to demonstrate their authenticity and legitimacy. who was so singular that he did not create a school. Angela Davis. unfortunately. fundamentally. Harry Edwards Is jazz black music? Issues of authenticity and ownership have pervaded the discourse on race for generations. They were influences. Mixed bands weren’t allowed.” He went to Fletcher Henderson and said. Bix excepted. Lester Young. and much admired when he jammed with Bix after hours in Chicago. in terms of “jazz. He transcended the experience of American Negroes into the actual texture
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. However. And for better and for worse. There are and have been originators and originals. if not flat out infused. have also been original.” as you can hear in “Black. Sudhalter. but they have substantially. I would add Jack Teagarden. which Louis Armstrong recognized. shaped and reshaped the music. because who could follow him? Even the musicians who played with him never thought he could come out of his solos. The burden. There would have been no jazz without its foundations in the black experience in this country: field haulers. Duke’s own mission did not change in terms of his music. Harry Edwards (moderator). because he brought a particular clarity of lyricism. saxophonist Steve Coleman. Basie. over time it became integrated. work songs. it’s universal. author Nat Hentoff. And I would add Bix Beiderbecke. As for the originals. Albert Murray said it very well: “I don’t think anybody has achieved a higher synthesis of the American experience than Duke Ellington. even under circumstances where there is a pervasive notion that somehow blacks.” to use that word. the prerogatives of power and privilege have spawned the function of white authenticity and legitimacy that have de facto called into question. The originators. it certainly has become integrated. And among black originals. You still have to show your legitimacy. he wanted his music to “tell what it is to be a Negro in this country. Herbie Nichols as pianist and composer. You know the names: Ellington. especially by the guys who ran those clubs. he was a key influence on Lester Young. Fletcher Henderson did not agree. Charlie Parker. of course.” “Black Beauty. However. a panel discussion featuring professor/author Dr. But they weren’t fundamental originators. In those days he couldn’t have played with Bix on the stand. are the real deal.
by white bands.” which stands for or defines the use of the part of something to define the whole. as a colleague of mine has said. If you got up on a bandstand and played eight bars and that eight bars was right. but they found a way to play together at a time when such things were not countenanced by the society at large. usually to the exclusion of most other parts. and that is to say. I think by defining it along those lines and by introducing race as a determinant we divert attention away from the place that we could be concentrating on. Sudhalter One of my favorite words is the word “synecdoche. Steve Coleman I also feel a little uncomfortable with the question. that identified you to a group. What does the music tell us? What do the early records tell us about who contributed what? I could sit here and name people I consider innovators within jazz. by racially mixed bands. I think this word and the concept it represents has been used for good and mostly for ill by those who have chronicled the history and development of what we have come to call jazz. we have examples of music that is recognizably and discernibly jazz played by black bands. were white. a discriminatory society. the music itself. And indeed. were German. is this white music that we’re doing?” The only reason we need to ask this question is because of the situation that’s happening. I take no issue with what Nat Hentoff and others have said about the origins in the black American experience. They’re saying. And this is aside from all of the politics and the race division and everything that we’re talking about. but on the music. But the well-documented fact is that from almost the music’s earliest days. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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of all human existence. however often we’re reminded of racial division in these times. were Jewish. be they Red Norvo or Joe Venuti and Eddie Lange or even Bing Crosby. had existed and flowered. mainly because I feel that if it wasn’t for the way that society is set up. When I hear Charlie Parker play. not only in the United States. And as was mentioned earlier. a kind of democracy which existed sometimes in spite of the pressures and influences of the external society and in which your worth was determined only by the content. were anything else. and.” And Duke is not the only jazz musician to have done that. the music that was evolving. were Sicilian.Jazz Articles: Black. Which means that in a way I am most uncomfortable with the entire question of whether jazz is black music or jazz is white music. I’d like to keep the focus not on the politics and not on the racial divisions. that anything exists except what comes to our ears and comes to our consciousness and in so doing enriches it. but in all places throughout the ages. of your choruses. I doubt if a question like that came up among Beethoven or Mozart or people like that. Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong may not have been able to play in the same bands together in public. I think it’s much more important to approach the music as music and to try to forget. welcoming and warm world of musical freemasonry. it wouldn’t need to be asked. a segregated society. were Creole. it didn’t matter whether the people you were surrounded with were black. when I see Muhammad Ali box. there were white musicians active in and contributory to. and in sometimes major ways. Richard M. when I heard Louis Armstrong play. From its earliest times on record. sometimes in spite of the fact that America was a race conscious society. “Well. which since the 1920s had thrived. starting at the end of the 1920s. If you played well. as a teenager I entered what was to me at that time a wonderful. There is definitely what I call an African sensibility that exists within the music itself. Gale
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But what I heard from all of them is. If you can play. no jazz. But I do believe that it is in essence certainly black American music. I’m just using this as an analogy. Now. When I speak through my music. No one says. If you can play. you’re accepted. I think with Jack McDuff and people like that and I said to him. “It doesn’t happen between the musicians. And
http://jazztimes. Allen Iverson. this great gift that came from black America has been shared by musicians from every country in the world. He said. And indeed there is a perception that it does prevail. It still remains in its very essence. “What are you talking about. not to the degree that it did years ago when people had to sleep in other hotels and all that business. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and imitate Benny Goodman. But that there was a sense that it prevailed. They are. I’m not going to mention any names. But I don’t ask the question. but they are major musicians who tell me all the time that they hear a difference in this way of being or sensibility or whatever. it doesn’t mean that John Stockton’s not good. Whether I go to Japan and hear jazz musicians or to Cuba or to Europe. or they were. That’s definitely what I’m talking about. you’re going to be coming from who you really are. because those of us who fight for this music every day know that the audience is shrinking. am I putting my head in the sand? There must be racial issues that people just don’t talk to me about. So our fight is to fight for this minority music and to spread the word and to grow an audience for it. this is American music. “Geez. We have so many great black classical artists.” And that was the whole issue. there’s definitely an African sensibility or African retention that comes through that I don’t see with John Stockton. for example. “Can they play at the same level as some of the white classical artists?” It’s not even an issue. And I think that kind of sums it up. this music we call jazz was created by black Americans and then it was shared with musicians from all over the world. “This is not black music.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond Page 5 of 13
. which was horrifying. I have not in the 15 years that I’ve been running Blue Note Records ever had a racial issue arise. As long as you can play. I’m very uncomfortable with the whole concept of ownership of this kind of thing. South America. “Have you ever felt a draft? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt uncomfortable because you are white. And I don’t know anything about his experience and what that is. I think that Art Blakey may have said it best. that the market share for jazz is down to about two percent. This is not to say that Bix or Joe Lovano or any of these people are not great at what they do. great musicians. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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Sayers. I’ve played with many of these people. black American music.” So I purposely talked to all of our artists about this issue. And I deal in that world every day as well. with other musicians?” And he just laughed. No America. I don’t know what it is to be a white person in America. And I thought. I believe. because I run Angel and Pentium One Classics.” I asked Joe Lovano. I only know about my experience and the people around me.” I think in this day and age. and that’s definitely where I’m coming from. And if you’re truly creating from deep down outside in of you. Certainly. He’s a great basketball player. I’m a black person in America. I don’t know what it is to be anything else other than what I am. He basically said. “No. And the minority is jazz. Bruce Lundvall I believe that music does not have a color. Michael Jordan. jazz is a language that’s embraced by many cultures now.Jazz Articles: Black. And I also believe that music has many colors. My bigger concern is with a minority. who started playing when he was 14 years old. I’ve played with bands with both white musicians and black musicians. Those who have been honest who I’ve talked to—and it’s mainly talked about among musicians behind closed doors for the most part—but those who have been honest also hear a difference both on the white side and the black side. man?” He said.
And the irony was that Duke Ellington brought him the magazine and informed him that he was on the cover of Time. what does it mean to talk about jazz as democratic music? Do we refer to the form and structure of the music. racial democracy? Or I want to ask. Thus. It is argued. especially those who have been convicted of felonies? What does it mean to raise questions about race when we have supposedly developed a far too sophisticated appreciation of race to assume that race is always about a black-white opposition that needs to be resolved in a more harmonious relation? And don’t we know that race is not always gender as male. I suppose. Puerto Rican. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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all the musicians that are part of that of all colors have a real battle. along whose circuits music. Whenever I heard Wynton Marsalis evoking democracy among the great jazz heroes. good relations between black and white men. But this is. Is jazz color-blind? What does it mean to raise questions today about the relation between race and jazz in the era of the decline of affirmative action and the disenfranchisement of vast numbers of black people. Duke Ellington. and it is an obsolete notion. should we also consider. of course. before.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond Page 6 of 13
. this notion still informs our ideas about both capitalism and democracy. It’s —you are a real artist. I couldn’t help thinking about Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Consider the important contributions of Cuban. I want to raise questions about the marketing of music and musicians. It’s a struggle. that jazz is the United States’ most original musical offering to the world. one of the most poignant moments in Ken Burns’ documentary for me was the story Dave Brubeck told about the appearance of his picture on the cover of Time magazine. the 21st century. if jazz is American music par excellence. and you’re going to be fighting for a long time for your economic well-being and for your art. So that this obsolete notion of laissez faire capitalism. Davis Our thinking today about jazz and race is inevitably influenced by the recent Ken Burns documentary. Brazilian musicians. with Dianne Reeves and Jane Monheit. The individual proves his worth on the capitalist market. So I want to ask. the apparatus through which jazz is produced for popular consumption? Now. The question I would ask is why a Jane Monheit receives so much media attention when a Dianne Reeves has been making music for decades and has never been featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. of course. it must also be democratic music. of course. forget about the recent elections. we can say that the United States represents the triumph of democracy in the world. jazz and many other musics now travel. apart from the music and in relation to the music. the dialectical interplay of solo and group collaboration? Are we talking about the creative resolution of the contradiction between the individual and the community? Is jazz a utopic site for the practice of democracy. because the economic reality of making that decision is not the same as doing something in banking or insurance or for that matter in pop music or rap. who know how to get along with each other both within and outside jazz? I said I wanted to be a little provocative. as the first jazz musician to be so honored. And it has a hard time moving away from the assumption that
http://jazztimes. the era of global capitalism. And I take my hat off to any young person that wants to be a jazz musician. And if we. Dominant jazz historiography and certainly the historiography that framed Ken Burns’ Jazz has a hard time explaining the place of musicians who are neither black nor white. Do we really think that racism is an unfortunate social problem to be solved by developing harmonious race relations. I attended the concert here not too long ago.Jazz Articles: Black. The notion of democracy we usually take for granted is linked to ideologies of capitalism. Angela Y. and somehow through individual competition harmony is created by the invisible hand.
many points of view. for example. Jazz music does indeed suggest the possibility of something like the practice of freedom. Any man? Finally.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond Page 7 of 13
. And that music in turn is always more than the social terrain on which it is produced. Legitimate women musicians are described almost always as playing as well as a man. that Steve is. including. then. Sudhalter Steve was talking about the fact that when he plays jazz. if
http://jazztimes. And I don’t think what I’m doing is simply posing as a black person—I think that what I have been in my life. is going into that music. Roy Eldridge did a blindfold test. “Is jazz black music?” are we talking about black musicians being the only ones who can play authentic jazz? Or are we saying that jazz is related to the history of black people in the Americas? Are we saying that it is linked to the development of black culture? Are we talking about the conditions for producing jazz? I would say that jazz is white music if we talk about the people who make all of the money from it. I can always tell if the musician is black or white. male and female. and still emerge all the richer for it. Bruce Lundvall I would remind you that Wynton Marsalis is several times a millionaire by now. we need to consider the complicated way race still profoundly structures our economy. one of Leonard Feather’s for Down Beat. our ideologies. Their interest is in rap. because one of the great glories of the music is that it has been able to absorb many backgrounds. what I’ve experienced. It seems that even in the world of the record business I’ve had a very. Davis One of the problems with the question is that the terms are not clear. When we say. And I find this a very sad state of affairs. although it may be different from Steve’s and different from any number of other people. Steve Coleman But the people who market Wynton are more a millionaire than he is. I know even when I go to the IAJE conferences. many experiences.” He was wrong about 60 percent of the time. I’m not—I don’t think I’m bringing the same things to it. And I don’t—I would hate to see a qualitative value placed on that. what I have felt. inspires. I would say when I play it. and educates us. Their interest is in the much broader areas of popular music. “Who is this man?” you know. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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jazz musicians are quintessentially male. And Roy started off by saying. Bruce Lundvall Among the young audience today. it is black music. if we are going to talk about race and jazz. I would guess that maybe 80 percent of the kids that are in those high school and college bands are Caucasian. because he’s bringing a certain set of values and experiences to it. Bruce Lundvall I remember years ago. into Blue Note Records. Angela Y. “I can tell. Richard M.Jazz Articles: Black. it seems to me that there isn’t that much observable interest on the part of young black people in jazz except for the people that are playing the music. and especially our ideas about gender. For jazz music is always more than the music that moves. very hard time attracting young black executives. sadly. And I always wonder.
music. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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they are young professionals coming up looking for a job. period. but they stay right out there on top and in the forefront. which has prevailed for the preponderance of the last century. to promote a single black artist. I want to emphasize again that there are many Latino jazz musicians. that is seen to encapsulate our notion of race relations. while you have a plethora of white comedians. Why can’t we talk about the fact that the tradition is a very broad one? The impact of Cuban musicians on jazz. for example. and that once we all get assimilated into whiteness. whether it’s a comedian—you go from Flip Wilson to Bill Cosby to Richard Pryor. Angela Y. then it’s an issue in art. perhaps even become the primary and principal audiences for the music? Is race itself within its historical guise going to become irrelevant? Will we cease to discuss black-white issues relative to jazz. And as long as it’s an issue in the society. Harry Edwards There appears to be a tendency.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond Page 8 of 13
. Davis Why do we consistently think about race as being about black-white relations? Why can’t we think about racialization processes as being a lot more complicated? We rarely talk about whiteness in relation to race. black-white encounter. dance and everything else. when there can be multiple white artists. And if—we can’t recognize that the whole notion of color-blindness. And many of the black executives in record companies have been there for a very long time. Puerto Rican musicians. That’s the way I look at it. Caucasians aren’t making those decisions. is a racialized ideal. And I think that’s a rather sad state of affairs. then race will become obsolete. which seems to be the ideal toward which people are urged to strive. Dr. And I think that’s very problematic. then to Eddie Murphy. including
http://jazztimes. These are issues. We have five or six black executives in our company. but it’s very difficult to find young black people who are seriously interested in jazz among the people that we’ve tried to recruit. It’s actually the encounter. and off you go. And the assumption somehow is that whiteness is the norm. irrespective of the realm. since they are basically imbedded in 20th century issues and relationships? Steve Coleman These issues don’t have anything to do with music. I don’t know how it is at other record companies. Some of them haven’t said anything funny in years. and the music is just a reflection of what’s happening in the society as a whole and the culture as a whole. But there’s always just one that’s pushed to the forefront. Dr. Do black musicians themselves think that the contributions of deserving black jazz artists receive less attention in marketing and promotion? And to what extent is this related to that type of tradition and the fact that whites are making the marketing decisions? Bruce Lundvall In my particular company. be lost in irrelevancy largely as the music changes and as other populations emerge and begin to participate. changing demographics. like Dizzy Gillespie on bebop. Harry Edwards As we move toward changing technology. and finally to Chris Rock. if for no other reason than they are simply old. and it’s kind of the same faces. will the black-white discussion. but I believe it’s the same.Jazz Articles: Black. It’s a group of people.
so we have just recently signed Bobby McFerrin. for me. which I wasn’t concerned about at the time. You have this society that you have to live in. is the real issue. How you choose to deal with it. I didn’t place much faith in that initially. in a way. And that’s typical of any record company. And I feel that that also has had an effect on the music. They felt that a black person had to be three to four times as good in order to get ahead. So people had to bond together. which existed in earlier times.” We’d all like to just think of music and just make music and that’s it. was [in their words] “Well. to sign. The community. if you have a white guy in the band. that sense of almost agnostic tightness or close-knitness. I remember a lot of older black musicians telling me stories about the music business and everything. to record. And there are certain realities. Just have to just go ahead and do what you do.Jazz Articles: Black. I did notice certain patterns that went down. I would have to say that our major selling artists on the Blue Note label happen to be African-American. is that our most major selling artist happens to be Cassandra Wilson. And one of the things that they seemed to be concerned about. is not as strong in terms of just the African-American community within the United States. who we started with in 1986. should or can again exist. She’s a major. They were all in the same areas. because I didn’t have any experience. because obviously we’re all being subjected to the pressures of the outside world. The same is true of Dianne Reeves. if situations were different. I can’t cry about it. within the company I work for. ceases to be an issue. But once I got into the business. And I don’t know of any one time they’re in competition with one another in the marketplace. race. they’re going to go on and do much better than everybody else. I didn’t have that experience myself. And I think that what happened with Lester Young and Billie Holiday and all those people is that they bonded together. Sudhalter I would only say that I would like to see a time in my own lifetime when. and it still might not happen. There was a lot of segregation back then. And I know. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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African-Americans as well as Caucasians. Davis
http://jazztimes. This is the reality. But I will maintain that that bonding together. for me.” And some of them used that as justification for maybe not hiring white people. And we don’t have that today. I just chalked it up to. So—and as far as the record deals. within the musical community. and 20 of the 29 are African-American. Richard M. in terms of black-white polarities or anything else.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond
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. it’s a little bit utopian to think that way. who is a very expensive deal. After they learn the music.” And. Angela Y. major priority for us. just having a community when you can push each other on. and I say. it’s a competitive world. because they were just jaded and hurt that this has happened over and over. that guy will always go on to do better than the leader and everybody else. You try to separate the records by a few months. the music could be even greater than it was. again an African-American. I look at Charlie Parker and all these people. But the answer. And that’s part of it. look who’s running the business. They had no choice. no matter how it’s defined. “Well. Cassandra Wilson is a very expensive artist to promote and to market. “They did what they did in spite of what was happening certainly not because of it. and you have to deal with the same issues whether you decide to become a garbage man or a musician or a professor or whatever. Steve Coleman When I first started playing. We have 29 artists on the label.
I’m the one that contributed the rudder and the flaps. But considering what we will more than likely encounter over the next period. It’s not as overt. I brought the engines. And it’s very bothersome to me to hear this. and that they feel a draft at times.Jazz Articles: Black. I’m the one that’s the author and who makes this whole thing go. despite the fact that we’re dealing with a shrinking audience for this music. What excites me about jazz are the possibilities. And definitely we are—we live in a world. no.com/articles/20120-black-white-and-beyond
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. “Well. I’m most important. It’s like a group of people sitting around an airplane and arguing. I think that we really have to learn what it means to not only envision. White and Beyond — By Harry Edwards — Jazz Articles
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We’ve been thinking about jazz from many different perspectives. I did not evoke the name of our newly selected President for a reason. Dr. you all go on and say what you want to say. The Irish Republican Army is shaking hands with the British in London. And yet we still are here discussing race and the music. elected president of South Africa. through open and free elections. Harry Edwards It is amazing to me at one level. the critic. “I brought the wings. A black man has been. what difference does it make if it’s going? You’re not going to be in it. and I might say political possibilities. And I brought the landing gear. The world is passing us by. as this space of harmony and this perhaps prefiguring of a better society in the utopian sense. are not promoted as actively. That here we sit in the year 2001. And I’m not seeing much evidence that it’s really as serious as an issue as it once was. But this too is an expression of who we are and what we—the world we are creating. the perspective of the producer.” Somebody else says. And that’s only because of the musicians who play the music. There’s no room for it. I mean. Without the engines.” “No. but jazz can change and music and art can help us to develop a different kind of consciousness that might indeed then spur us on to do the work of changing the world. ’cause there’s no place to sit. fuselage—don’t make any difference. Therefore. a great number of them.” “Oh. it is a perception. You may get it up there. I’m the main one. At some point even Rip Van Winkle woke up. “No. But I would also say that it is important not to think about jazz as this refuge. but what goes up must come down. the perspective of the audience. no. in our political lives. The Soviet Union has collapsed.” Rather than all of us understanding what’s really at stake—why can’t we just load up and fly and soar? And that’s what this music is really about. America has put people on the moon. wings. over 40 years later. there’s every evidence that there’s a young audience coming out for this music again. but to engage in the practice of freedom. Bruce Lundvall I for one think that race is a very beautiful thing. we inhabit a world that desperately needs changing. And it is important to consider those multiple perspective: the perspective of the musician. but as—what excites me about jazz is that is the way in which it participates in and incorporates the kinds of struggles that we encounter in our daily lives. no. I brought the fuselage. But in speaking to the musicians on the label.” Somebody else is saying. My positive thought is that.
http://jazztimes. in our personal lives. but you won’t be able to control it without me. a lot of things have changed. I contributed the fuselage. very much so. Not that jazz is going to change the world. but there are perceptions that African-American artists are not paid as well. Without that. I’m the authentic one. racism is a horrible thing. And that is something that we have to fight.
Kevin & Duane Eubanks: Wake-Up Call
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BUY THIS ISSUE Originally published in September 2001
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