Episode 38, Jazz and Politics Part 1

This is the beginning of a series illustrating the connection between jazz and social or political activism.

On today’s episode I play and talk about the following:

  1.  Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, which has been embraced by people around the world as an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.  I also talk briefly about Peterson’s own experience with racial prejudice both in the U.S. and in Canada.
  2. Louis Armstrong as a world ambassador.   His 1955 European tour at the height of the cold war did more to ease East-West tensions than the many conferences designed to directly address the conflicts.  That’s why they titled the album recorded from those concerts “Ambassador Satch”.
  3. A medley by Jazzmeia Horn, an amazing jazz singer, who parallels the thump of the child in her womb as its ‘hunger’ to change positions with the hunger for enlightenment in today’s world.
  4. Charlie Haden, one of the most recorded bassists in jazz history, started a very political project in 1970 called The Liberation Music Orchestra.  It is still going today, even after Haden’s death—-led by Carla Bley.
  5. An excerpt of pianist Arturo O’Farrill talking about how the right wing Cuban musicians who left Cuba are betraying their country.   He recommends a young Cuban trumpeter, Yasek Monzano.who he says “deserves a shot at correcting the betrayal the Arturo Sandoval has created”.   I play a composition by Monzano from 2018.
  6. It is said that Mose Allison was a social critic before Bob Dylan.   He protests the domination of money over everything.   “Everybody’s Crying Mercy, when they don’t know the meaning of the word”.
  7. The classic political song, by Billie Holiday.   You know the one.  Columbia records was afraid to release it, so they gave her a one session release from her contract so she could record it for an alternative jazz label.



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