Black History Is Now

John Gilbreath smiling in front of jazz art poster

John Gilbreath photo by Bill Uznay

Black History Month is, among other aspects, a time to celebrate the cultural treasure of Black America. Jazz was born in the Black American experience and will gratefully carry that bloodline forward through history. The two cannot be separated. As we’ve said before: no Black America, no jazz. 

A celebration of Black History Month is also an invitation for each of us to evaluate and activate the word “history” in our own lives. In traditional American history books, at least in my school days, Black people and Black experiences, when not misrepresented, were almost entirely omitted. Yet the culture we live with today is so clearly enriched by Black America. The diminishment of Black history undermines the richness of all history. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” History unfolds every day. It is the story of many stories and we each have a role in it.  

Jazz history is also a living history, and its deepest threads have always been tied to Black experience and Black innovation. The recent release, We Are Sent Here by History, by London-based saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings, can easily apply to our own jazz continuum and the lineage from Seattle’s Jackson Street and historically Black Central District, to the proliferation of today’s jazz scene. 

The Earshot Jazz organization is entering its 38th year of service in documenting and embellishing the depth and breadth of jazz in Seattle, and in honoring Black culture as its source. As always, we welcome your input, support, and participation. 

Unfortunately, history has also delivered this ongoing COVID pandemic, which does not seem inclined to go away any time soon. These circumstances are still impacting the live performance environment, with cancelled or postponed concerts, and audiences understandably reluctant to gather in clubs and concert halls. With so many great concerts scheduled for this month, we encourage you to double check with venue websites for updated concert information. 

Here at Earshot, we were so looking forward to presenting concerts by the power trio of Harriet Tubman, and saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin alongside her band, which we’ve had to postpone. The good news (at this writing) is that we’re going ahead with the February 26 duo concert with drummer Chad Taylor and the exciting tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis. Lewis’ recent recording, Jesup Wagon, which was inspired by the life work of George Washington Carver, topped nearly all national media lists for Best Jazz Recording of 2021.

These are heavy times. We hope you can stay safe, stay aware, and stay inspired. Let us know how we can help.

–John Gilbreath, Executive Director


Posted on

January 31, 2022