Geoffrey Hicks Photograph


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Harlem Blues and Jazz Band

April 26, 2008   

A couple weeks ago I went to the Harlem Blues and Jazz performance in the Events Barn.  The show was free and I attended, at first, more out of a classroom obligation than personal desire. When I left, however, the experience was so thrilling and the audience so responsive that I was left wondering why I had not scheduled my entire life around this one spectacular event.
I was struck by the extent to which the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band reflected a Gospel
sound. In their discussion they described how the music of blues and jazz has a specific structure which can either be lengthened, shortened, slowed down or speeded up. In one of the most memorable songs, the lead singer, who happened to be the only female, sang a song in which the music stopped playing for at least a two minute verbal interlude, during which she complimented various male members of the audience. I was shocked by her candor and also by how naturally she was able to address these men, commenting on the particulars of their physiques, races, and relative youth—even though she must have been the oldest woman in the room. The song’s interlude, especially its freshness and audacity, coupled with the timing of the song (for it was a Sunday and the singer had previously sung a gospel song), was all the more surprising.

I really enjoyed this experience because I felt like I was witnessing a concert from the 1940's.  I felt connected with history and with my past, as well as with each performer on stage. It was as if the entire band was at least half their age and had been playing this music for the first time.  I loved it.