I grew up in Chicago and listened to all kinds of music. Our living room had a wall covered, floor to ceiling, with mirrored tiles that reflected what was happening outside on Racine Avenue. My mom’s console stereo (encased speakers, turntable AND an AM/FM radio) sat in the corner of the room. A stack of LP’s was always ready to go. I was in my own kinda heaven. I spent hours listening to and singing along with Josh White, Nina Simone, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Trini Lopez, Mariam Makeba, Eric Carmen, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and (yes) Barry Manilow.
As I make my own music—composing, arranging and performing, I am earnestly committed and pay homage to music that constantly feeds and informs jazz. Roots music – music born in America—blues, gospel, folk and ultimately jazz. We speak and live in blues and folk -- articulating struggle in regional languages and dialects. Both of these music forms often provide audacious and timely comic relief while gospel and jazz are outlets for release and infinite expression. My mother schooled me by playing Josh White’s John Henry over and over again and Nina Simone’s tribute to Martin Luther King. They informed me musically and politically. When I select music for this project, Autumn in Augusta, the requirements are clear.