Whereas People celebrated ‘Independence Day,’ Black musicians fled the U.S.—to search out freedom overseas


One of the well-known jazz expats was tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, who additionally garnered consideration as a display screen actor. Samuel G. Freedman wrote a review for The New York Times of the 1986 movie, ‘Spherical Midnight, starring Gordon. The movie introduced Gordon an Oscar nomination for Finest Actor, and received a Grammy for the soundtrack.

In telling the story of the fictional Dale Turner (Mr. Gordon) – a gifted and self-destructive musician admired in France as he by no means was in america – ” ‘Spherical Midnight” summons up one of many unhappy paradoxes in jazz historical past. For nearly so long as this American music has existed, a lot of its foremost figures have chosen to stay in exile, from Sidney Bechet within the Twenties to Johnny Griffin within the Eighties, and, for a 14-year interval ending in 1976, Dexter Gordon.

The jazz expatriates acted out of a way of crucial, of necessity – the need to work, the need to be accepted as an artist, the need to be handled as a human being. Leaving one’s personal nation isn’t a easy resolution, and for a jazz musician it meant shedding contact with not solely family and friends however the social, racial and musicological wellsprings of the sound. ”’Spherical Midnight” units forth that battle in its opening scene. Dale Turner tells a dying musician named Herschel (clearly based mostly on Herschel Evans, the influential tenor saxophonist within the Depend Basie band) that he’s transferring to France. ”You will not play no totally different in Paris,” Herschel says. Dale replies, ”No chilly eyes in Paris.”

For the true jazz expatriates, life in Europe proved fairly much less idyllic than ”’Spherical Midnight” suggests. Some, like Don Byas, died overseas, embittered and obscure. Others, resembling Mr. Gordon and the members of the Artwork Ensemble of Chicago, ultimately returned to america. Many musicians had found that for all that advisable Europe, life on the Continent got here on the value of dislocation; some additionally discovered that racism existed east in addition to west of the Atlantic. It fell largely to Mr. Gordon, who had by no means acted earlier than ”’Spherical Midnight,” to personify all this historical past.

You probably have by no means seen the film, I strongly counsel you watch it. This efficiency of “Physique and Soul” is from the movie.

Jose Bernardez, who posted the clip to YouTube in 2018, writes:

Gordon’s sound was generally characterised as being “giant” and spacious and he had an inclination to play behind the beat. He was well-known for humorously inserting musical quotes into his solos, with sources as numerous as widespread tunes, “Comfortable Birthday”, and the operas of Wagner. This isn’t uncommon in common-practice jazz improvisation, however Gordon did it ceaselessly sufficient to make it a trademark of his fashion. Considered one of his main influences was Lester Younger. Gordon, in flip, was an early affect on John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Rollins and Coltrane then influenced Gordon’s taking part in as he explored exhausting bop and modal taking part in in the course of the Nineteen Sixties. Gordon was recognized for his genial and humorous stage presence. He was an advocate of taking part in to speak with the viewers. Considered one of his idiosyncratic rituals was to recite lyrics from every ballad earlier than taking part in it.

{A photograph} by Herman Leonard of Gordon taking a smoke break on the Royal Roost in 1948 is without doubt one of the iconic pictures in jazz images. Cigarettes have been a recurring theme on covers of Gordon’s albums.

The Leonard “smoke break” pictures actually are iconic.

This full set of Gordon, recorded in Denmark in 1967, demonstrates his huge sound. 

For these of you curious about a deeper dive into Gordon’s outstanding life, I like to recommend you learn his biography Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, researched and written by his spouse, Maxine Gordon.

Dexter Gordon the icon is the Dexter beloved and celebrated on albums, on movie, and in jazz lore–even in a avenue named for him in Copenhagen. However this picture of the cool jazzman fails to come back to phrases with the multidimensional man filled with humor and knowledge, a determine who struggled to reconcile being each a artistic outsider who broke the foundations and a comforting insider who was a son, father, husband, and world citizen. This important ebook is an try to fill within the gaps created by our misperceptions in addition to the gaps left by Dexter himself.

I can attest to his humor. I had the nice fortune to child round with him when, again within the Seventies, I used to be working as a bartender at a membership known as the JazzBoat on New York’s Decrease East Facet, which Gordon frequented. He drank Tanqueray and tonic, and as quickly as he walked by means of the doorways—he was straightforward to identify since at 6’ 6’’ he was taller than everybody else—I’d have his drink already poured. He’d sniff at it suspiciously and ask if I’d substituted something within the combine, then wink as he tossed again his drink. I had a serious crush on him, and with no disrespect to his widow (or my husband), I nonetheless do. 

Kim Hjelmgaard, writing about up to date Black expats for USA Today, references some earlier historical past. 

Writers James Baldwin and Richard Wright and entertainer Josephine Baker relocated to Paris. Wright and Baker died in France’s capital. Poet Langston Hughes was a part of an expatriate neighborhood in London. Jazz and blues singer Nina Simone determined to see out her days in France, and after she stopped performing, she by no means returned to what she known as the “United Snakes of America.” Simone additionally lived in Liberia, Barbados, Belgium, the U.Ok., the Netherlands and Switzerland. When she died in 2003, her ashes, at her request, have been scattered throughout a number of African nations.

Freedman introduced up one other expat, Don Byas, in his Occasions overview above. Scott Yanow at All Music presents this brief bio.

One of many best of all tenor gamers, Don Byas’ resolution to maneuver completely to Europe in 1946 resulted in him being vastly underrated in jazz historical past books. His information of chords rivaled Coleman Hawkins, and, as a consequence of their similarity in tones, Byas will be thought-about an extension of the elder tenor. He performed with many high swing bands, together with these of Lionel Hampton (1935), Buck Clayton (1936), Don Redman, Fortunate Millinder, Andy Kirk (1939-1940), and most significantly Depend Basie (1941-1943).

A complicated swing stylist, Byas’ taking part in appeared towards bop. He jammed at Minton’s Playhouse within the early ’40s, appeared on 52nd Road with Dizzy Gillespie, and carried out a pair of beautiful duets with bassist Slam Stewart at a 1944 City Corridor live performance. After recording extensively throughout 1945-1946 (typically as a frontrunner), Byas went to Europe with Don Redman’s band, and (aside from a 1970 look on the Newport Jazz Pageant) by no means got here again to the U.S. He lived in France, the Netherlands, and Denmark; typically appeared at festivals; and labored steadily. Each time American gamers have been touring, they might ask for Byas, who had alternatives to carry out with Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie, Jazz on the Philharmonic (together with a recorded tenor battle with Hawkins and Stan Getz), Artwork Blakey, and (on a 1968 recording) Ben Webster. Byas additionally recorded typically within the Nineteen Fifties, however was largely forgotten within the U.S. by the point of his demise.

I by no means know what I’m going to search out browsing by means of YouTube and was shocked to search out this video, which, based on the Library of Congress, was produced for Dutch tv by Nick Van Den Boezem in 1970, and paperwork Byas’ solely “return house.”

Considered one of my all-time favourite tunes, “On Green Dolphin Street,” was written for a movie by Bronislau Kaper, in 1947 (the 12 months I used to be born) and surprisingly turned a jazz normal. I like this model—stay from Haarlem (not Harlem) from Byas and the Jacobs Brothers.

Peter Beije reviewed the full albumDon Byas meets the Jacobs Brothers,” for Jazz in Europe again in 2016.

Don Byas lived the final seventeen years of his life within the Netherlands. He died in 1972 in Amsterdam on the age of 59. Now, many years later, there may be the primary Dutch album of this well-known tenor saxophonist. The radio broadcast recordings of a Don Byas live performance in Haarlem in 1964 has turn into an vital tribute. Don Byas was one of the crucial vital tenor saxophonists of the bebop period. Later influences of contemporary actions in jazz discovered their method into his sport. Celebrities like John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins spoke with reverence about him. Coleman Hawkins was his fundamental affect when he was a younger saxophonist. When he performed within the Depend Basie huge band, he sat on the chair place of Lester Younger had. After Byas left the orchestra, Younger reoccupied that chair!

After a tour in Europe with the Don Redman huge band in 1946, Don Byas determined to remain in Europe. Initially he lived in Paris. Whereas in The Netherlands, he met his Dutch spouse and settled in Amsterdam. Although he lived for seventeen years in The Netherlands, was by no means recorded a whole album in his second homeland. There’s an EP “Blues by Byas’, however that’s all there may be.

That’s now been corrected posthumously with this primary price CD. On “Don Byas meets The Jacobs Brothers”, the tenor saxophonist is in nice form. On the time of the unique recording, his fellow musicians the place thought-about the Netherlands best. For instance, pianist Pim Jacobs typically had American musicians request he play with them whereas in Europe. Jacobs youthful brother Ruud Jacobs and drummer John Engels fashioned a swinging duo – each, by the way, nonetheless play. Don Byas performs spectacular solos embody “On Inexperienced Dolphin Road,” “I bear in mind Clifford” and “Moonlight in Vermont”. The listener can actually take time to understand this excellent 11 monitor CD because it final for 75 minutes.

Lest you assume I’m slighting different expat instrumentalists by solely that includes horn gamers, NEA Jazzmaster, drummer, and bandleader Kenny “Klook” Clarke was one other expat who left the states for Paris in 1956.

Kenny Clarke, recognized amongst musicians as “Klook” for one among his attribute drum licks, is really a jazz pioneer. He was a frontrunner within the rhythmic advances that signaled the start of the trendy jazz period, his drum fashion changing into the sound of bebop and influencing drummers resembling Artwork Blakey and Max Roach […]

A stint within the Military from 1943-46 launched him to pianist John Lewis. After their discharge he and Lewis joined Gillespie’s bebop huge band, which gave Clarke his first style of Paris throughout a European tour. After returning to New York, he joined the Milt Jackson Quartet, which metamorphosed into the Trendy Jazz Quartet in 1952. Although he and Lewis remained buddies, Clarke chafed at what he felt was the too-staid ambiance of the MJQ. In 1956, he migrated to Paris, which turned his house for practically 30 years, working with Jacques Helian’s band and backing up visiting U.S. jazz artists.

In the course of the years 1960-73, he co-led the key Europe-based jazz huge band with Belgian pianist Francy Boland, the Clarke-Boland Huge Band. The band featured one of the best of Europe’s jazz soloists, together with a variety of distinctive U.S. expatriate musicians residing in Europe. Amongst these have been saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Sahib Shihab, and trumpeter Idrees Sulieman. After the disbanding of his huge band, Clarke discovered quite a few alternatives each on the bandstand and instructing within the classroom. He remained fairly energetic as a freelancer, typically working with visiting U.S. jazz musicians, till his demise in 1985. In 1988, Clarke was inducted into the DownBeat Jazz Corridor of Fame.

Try Clarke’s crowd-stirring drumming on the Italian music present Senza Rete in 1970.

Clarke, one of many key founders of bebop, was interviewed for Danish tv in 1970; he appears to be like again on the start of the style.

Rutgers College Library has a 283-page transcript of oral history interviews with Clarke, as performed by jazz historian, producer, and critic Helen Oakley Dance. Studying by means of it, I used to be struck by his reminiscences of his first time taking part in in Europe whereas he was within the U.S. Military, and feeling that the response from the viewers was “totally different”—extra and respectful than he’d skilled right here within the States. 

Fairly a number of expat musicians I interviewed throughout my days at WPFW-FM in Washington, D.C., spoke about their capability to discover a extra open listening viewers in Europe, in addition to extra venues to play what turned referred to as “avant-garde” and “free jazz.”

No matter your explicit jazz fashion of selection is, and whether or not or not you have fun the July 4th as Independence Day, please do increase a glass at this time to these musicians who took house with them to overseas shores, and in some ways helped protect and promote the legacy of jazz for us all.

Take pleasure in your day, and please be a part of me within the feedback part for extra nice jazz.