The Last of the Jones Boys

The Last of the Jones Legacy

The world lost one of most kind and humble musicians whose contributions to jazz were endless. Henry “Hank” Jones made his transition on May 16th, 2010. He was 91 years old. To really understand the great pianist, you really have to analyze the legacy of his entire family. His two younger brothers Thad, a trumpeter and band arranger, and Elvin, noted drummer and band leader; left a major imprint on the legacy of jazz music. The Jones’ each brought a level class, intensity to the music, as well as innovation that was unparalleled in the world of jazz music.

Hank was born on July 31st, 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi and grew up one of seven children. Jones’s father, a lumber inspector, moved the family to Pontiac, Michigan. It was there where he and his siblings developed a flare for music and the arts. Hank’s sisters studied the piano and as well as him developing a love for the piano. His influences were the legendary Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, and Teddy Wilson. He began playing the piano at age 10 and was playing professionally by age 13. While playing in his home state, Hank met saxophonist Lucky Thompson who invited him to come to New York to play and work with Hot Lips Page. It was while in New York, he had to master the Be-Bop style that was so popular during time. He would practice the piano hours on end and continue this work ethic until his death.

During the mid-1940’s until the early 1950’s Jones backed and played with some of the most prolific jazz musicians of the time. Artists like Billy Eckstine, Coleman Hawkins, Buster Bailey and Ella Fitzgerald. It was his time with Fitzgerald that jazz impresario Norman Granz formed the legendary Jazz at the Philharmonic traveling jazz shows where he’d tour for many years. JATP’s line-up included Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Oscar Peterson, and others.

Another major milestone in his illustrious career is his stint at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club in New York. Last December, Birdland celebrated it’s 60th Anniversary and Hank was one of the special guests. He played there in 1953 and played dates there up until his death. He was scheduled to play this week with saxophonist Joe Lovano but was taken off the bill a couple of weeks ago to his sudden illness.

Hank was also featured and one of the last surviving musicians in the Art Kane “A Great Day in Harlem” photo shoot from 1958. He was the musician standing on the curb, second person on the left.

For 15 years, Jones would play with the CBS house band and orchestra backing shows like the Jackie Gleason Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. According to an interview with Howard Mandel of Down Beat magazine he lamented about his time there. “Most of the time during those 15 or so years, I wasn’t playing the kind of music I’d prefer to play.” Although he didn’t record on a regular basis like his other contemporaries, he’d fine time to play and record later during the mid 1970’s. Jones enjoyed critical success of his live performances and recordings right up to his death.

In 1989, the National Endowment for the Arts inducted him as a jazz master and received the lifetime achievement Grammy award.

My fondest memories of Mr. Jones is how classy and elegant he played and how he carried himself. Every time I’d speak to him or see him at an event, he’d always be dressed as if he was walking out of Saks 5th Avenue! He was graceful and natural at the keys. He explained his playing in a 2006 Detroit Free Press interview as “I’m a modern player in the sense that I try to stay abreast of what people would like to hear today.” He adds: “there’s this constant process of editing. You retain the things that are consistent to with your approach to music and you discard those you don’t think are consistent. What resonates with me is harmony. I try to use harmony that seems more innovative, more expressive.”

My last time seeing Hank play was back in March at Birdland where he played a week of sold-out dates for his 91st Birthday Celebration. Many of his closest and dear friends paid their respects to the icon. At the end of the set, the club presented a birthday cake in his honor and he hugged and shook everyones hands as a token of this thanks.

He was always a peaceful man and it reflected in his work as well as his long-lasting friendships. For almost 80 years, Hank has been one of the few musical icons that got their due and proper respect before his death. He would sell-out jazz shows and festivals all over the world and showered fans with God’s unique gift, his piano playing.


Tia Fuller: The New Breed of Jazz Music

I believe the jazz press has done a lackluster job of promoting and acknowledging women jazz musicians unlike their male counterparts. And as much as I love jazz music, it seems the record industry has always put the female vocalists on a pedestal. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dinah, Sarah, Nina and even Nneena Freelon and Diana Krall. Today, rarely do I read, see or hear the jazz press mention great female musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Melba Liston, Dorothy Ashby, Hazel Scott, Dorothy Donegan, Lovie Austin, or Mary Lou Williams. I can’t begin to find extensive documentaries made on them and biographies written on them are so academically written, that you need Cliff Notes to translate the info.. Nor, do I ever hear of a jazz festivals or music institutions dedicate their themes to these artists. (Mary Lou is finally getting her just due!) It’s even more shocking that Lillian “Lil” Hardin never gets the due that she undoubtedly deserves. The native Memphian was hailed as the first black female jazz musician. Known to many as Louis Armstrong’s second wife, was trained by the great Jelly Roll Morton. She studied piano and the organ as a child and while attending Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She returned to Chicago where she played with the New Orleans Creole Jazz Band which later became the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band. After a brief marriage to singer Jimmy Johnson, she returned to Oliver’s band where she dated a young and budding coronet player by the name of Louis Armstrong. The two would marry and she would become a writer as well as performer in Chicago. She was noted for forming all women bands as well as teach the music.

I share Hardin’s brief story because there are lots of extremely talented female jazz musicians today that need and demand the same respect as all of their male contemporaries. Musicians like Regina Carter, Sharel Cassity, Geri Allen, Eliane Elias, and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra just to name a few.

One musician I believe who has the funk, fire, and wisdom of the music is saxophonist Tia Fuller. Last week she performed at Dizzy’s for her latest Mack Avenue Records release “Decisive Steps.” Last month, she was featured on the cover of Jazz Times Magazine.

The 34 year old Aurora, Colorado native grew up in a home of jazz musicians; so listening to her play the standard “I Can’t Get Started” proves she’s musically mature beyond her years. Her father is a bassist and her mother is both a jazz and gospel vocalist. Tia’s older sister Shamie Royston is her pianist. Also, one of her major influences throughout her career.

Born on March 27th, 1976 in Aurora, Colorado, it was both she and her sister that took up the piano until she was in her early teens. Shamie continued to pursue music while Tia took up the saxophone and flute. While in high school she played in the band and studied the sax.

Tia’s also a well-learned musician as well. She’s a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia as well as earned her master’s in Jazz pedagogy from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Education is something she takes serious and holds and teaches master classes to students all over the country.

Since 2006 she’s been the saxophonist for singer Beyonce’s all female band. Tia also backed greats like Nancy Wilson, Gerald Wilson, Jimmy Heath, Jon Faddis, and Don Byron.

What I love about Tia is she’s not afraid to play what’s she’s not comfortable with. What I mean is, she plays these tremendous fast paced solos, which allows both her and her unit push the bounds of the traditional quartet. Her style is soulful like her hero Cannonball Adderley, yet gives listeners a double dose of her own blend of originality. “Decisive Steps” features a diverse range of musicians and performers like tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, bassist Christian McBride, and trumpeter Sean Jones.

Tia’s vision and passion for the music is preparing the next generation of jazz musicians to not only pursue jazz, but to also make a statement that she’s just as good as all the saxophonists out there now. At a time where the men have been receiving major press in jazz and women dominate the vocal side; its about time Tia become that trailblazer in her own right like the legends that opened the door for her. It’s important how female jazz musicians get the same respect as well as the way jazz journalists cover these artists.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

On Mentoring

According to Connecting Generations, a mentoring program in the State of Delaware that provides programs and outreach services that provide both children and adults to empower and enrich the lives of young people and teens, “92% of parents saw an improvement in their child because of mentoring. 91% of mentors saw an improvement in their mentee. While 86 percent of teachers saw an improvement in their students.”(1)

The most important part of my success as a journalist and person is my involvement with the youth. Mentoring has been key in my life as a person of color. Today’s young brothers and sisters need strong role models as well as support so they can learn how to become responsible and productive adults. Throughout my life I’ve been extremely blessed to have parents who both had a hands on approach in my life as well as mentors in my career and personal life. The bible teaches, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48 New International Version) The good Lord has allowed me and continues to be an anchor in my life and part of my blessings are due to my involvement with the youth.

As of today, there is a shortage of mentors around the country. There is an estimated “14.6 million young people who need mentors and who comprise what we call our nation’s mentoring gap.”(2) Without the aid or assistance of adult mentorship, we’re seeing an increase of poor performance in school and academics, increase in teen violence, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies, and the lack of future leadership in the community.

Over the last two years I’ve been involved with the Blue Nile Program here in Harlem. Founded as an outreach to enrich young brothers through spiritual, cultural & moral character development. For 10 months the young brothers and sisters give up their Saturdays and some weekdays to learn and participate in community outreach programs. Next week those who passed through (passed the required tests and character modification) they graduate and become young sons and daughters.

This is the letter I wrote that will published in the young son’s Passing Through program. It addresses one of the very ideals and principals that the Blue Nile Creed stresses on dress and appearance:

“On March 4th, 2010, Minister and activist Robert Taylor was pulled over by two white police officers in Torrence, California. This small community outside of Los Angeles is considered the “typical” white suburb with the average family income around $150,000 a year. A little over a week later, many black and Latino marchers showed up at outside the Torrence Police Department and was jeered and shouted with racial epithets that were inappropriate and out of place for this peaceful rally. Although Minister Taylor is an outstanding citizen in the community, he was still a victim of unwarranted racial profiling. He was dressed like your typical minister and drove a nice car; yet was targeted due to an earlier robbery where the suspect drove a similar automobile. Taylor didn’t event fit the robber’s age or description. The alleged suspect was a dark skinned, short and stocky black male. Taylor is in his early 60’s and light complexioned.

Stories like this are commonplace among African-American men all over the country. Dressing  for success should be extremely important to young African-American males. The saying “the first impression is always the best” reigns true on many fronts. Your appearance can determine how you get your first job, entrance to college, or courting that young lady who could become your future wife. Even though you may dress the part, sometimes you’ll encounter incidents of profiling like Minister Taylor in California. As a young black son of Blue Nile, you must remember and adhere to all the steps in the creed and remember the sessions both the elders and speakers shared with you throughout the year.

Young Sons, how you carry yourselves after you pass through Blue Nile determines how people will address and perceive you. If you choose to wear your pants or jeans where people can see your underwear, then people will begin to profile and stereotype you as “hood,” “thug,” or just plain unintelligent. The media has done a great job of perpetuating and continuing the negative stereotypes of black males. Minister Malcolm X said “Then you’ll be in a better position to make an intelligent judgment for yourself. So as Afro-Americans or Black people here in the Western Hemisphere, you and I have to learn to weigh things for ourselves. No matter what the man says, you better look into it yourself.” Always remember that what you see on television and film is fiction. Actors and actress portraying a figment of someones creation. As Brother Malcolm stresses, look into your own actions and never follow or portray fiction.

Dr. Cornell West, noted Professor of African-American Studies at Harvard University and noted author and lecturer, candidly talks about how whites perceived him when he rose to prominence in the media. He was receiving hate mail, death threats to his office and home, and cancellation of many speaking engagements.  Dr. West kept wondering why he became such a target and had developed a negative image in the press.  So, one night he asked former politician and television commentator Pat Buchannan his opinion and told him “it’s your image that turns you into such a target.” It was Dr. West’s image that was drawing so much negative attention. Another one of his friends even questioned the way he dressed? He replied “as a free black man, I look the way I want to look and dress the way I want to dress.”

As a young son, it’s your responsibility to always act and look the part. As you’ve observed and experienced over the last 10 months here in Blue Nile; that hard work, persistence, and dedication will help enhance all areas of your personal life. Although Mister Taylor and Dr. West still experience profiling and racism, it still doesn’t take way the fact that they’re  educated and are still making an impact in their community, the country, and around the world. Dr. West’s eloquent speeches and education has opened many doors for him. He adds: “I like the three-piece black suit and tie because I think it looks cool. It makes me feel cool and ready to face the world. Ready to teach, talk, read, listen and alertly engage in the business set before me. My outfit gets me going and keeps me steady.” I’m not saying ditch your jeans and tee’s and wear a suit and tie everyday! No, just be mindful that as a young son, you’re representing not only Blue Nile, but your family, parents, sisters and ancestors around the globe. Congratulations young sons and remember the village loves you and will always be here for you.

Peace and Love,

Elder Brian Pace”

Mentoring is a powerful and important element missing in the community. We need people to create an environment where this next generation is presented with endless and infinite possibilities in academics and personally. Encouraging our teens to be individuals as well as stress critical thinking.  Mentoring is giving of yourself and your time to give to a stranger, employee, or relative. Remember, much given, much required. Just something to think about.


The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report

Arizona’s New Jim Crow: Immigration

Two weeks ago Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed one of the most controversial immigration bills in the country. The state voted unanimously to allow immigrants to carry registered documentation at all times. It also gives law enforcement agencies like the police and sheriff to pull anyone they believe is “suspect” and could be an illegal citizen. But most importantly it addresses employers who hire and transport illegal immigrants.

Currently, the country is divided on this issue of immigration and none of the present nor past administrations have dealt with this matter head on. Even though W’s concrete wall along the bordering states was an dumb idea; his administration’s success rate on the wall and border patrol casualties have made the immigration issue even worse. To add insult to injury, we have an escalating drug cartel issue where the dealers are recruiting illegal immigrants to smuggle drugs as well as carry out professional mob style hits along the border town communities. President Obama earlier this year assigned branches of our armed forces along with the FBI to train and assist Mexican law enforcement officials how to win the war on drugs and illegal immigrants.

The new law as well as the US’s new role on curtailing the illegal immigrants and drug war is just a set of smoking mirrors. The governors’s new law is the GOP’s new form of implementing the 2010 version of “Jim Crow” for the Latino and minorities who reside in that state. For those who aren’t aware of Jim Crow or the divisive laws that were designed to keep African-Americans separate from whites after the Civil War, let me give you a brief history refresher course.

According to Dr. Ronald L.F. Davis’s Creating Jim Crow, “the term Jim Crow is believed to have originated around 1830 when a white show performer, Thomas “Daddy” Rice, blackened his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and danced a ridiculous jig while singing the lyrics to the song, “Jump Jim Crow.” Rice created this character after seeing (while traveling in the South) a crippled, elderly black man (or some say a young black boy) dancing and singing.(1)” Well, you might be wondering what this has to do with immigration? Well, during the end of the Civil War, the Jim Crow image introduced many negative stereotypes of how blacks were. Blacks were introduced as a form of Coons and Sambos. The term Jim Crow carried into the new laws that the Confederate states implemented during the Reconstruction phase after the war. Former slave owners and businessman introduced legislation to keep segregation and class laws in place to keep blacks apart from their white counterparts. Mississippi was one of the first states that implemented “Black Codes” that granted limited access to free black slaves. Access to owning property, securing loans from banks, the right to attend colleges and school, and voting were pretty much out of the question for blacks. In addition the these unconstitutional methods and ideologies, mob groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia began lynching blacks and burning their homes and possessions as scare tactics. Tactics to keep blacks away from their natural rights and thus began another form of 75 years of segregation.

The new Arizona legislation is the new “Jim Crow” but worse for not just the Latinos, but all immigrants and minorities in Arizona. Here’s a staggering piece of information that many fail to realize. According to the U.S. Census Bureau News “the nation’s Hispanic and Asian populations would triple over the next half century and non-Hispanic whites would represent about one-half of the total population by 2050.” It later adds “nearly 67 million people of Hispanic origin (who may be of any race) would be added to the nation’s population between 2000 and 2050. Their numbers are projected to grow from 35.6 million to 102.6 million, and increase of 188 percent.(2)” So, is Governor Jan Brewer dealing with the “so-called” immigration, or the fact that 48 percent of the Arizona’s population are made up of Latinos?

Lets not forget that Arizona was one of the last states of the Union that refused to acknowledge and make Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr’s birthday a national holiday. Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, voted against the King legislation twice. So, it’s apparent race and immigration are the last form of ammo the GOP has up it’s sleeve.

It seems quite obvious the new law, which goes into effect in under 90 days, will open Pandora’s Box with lawsuits and discrimination mishaps. This new guerilla-style of Jim Crow legislation will allow law enforcement to have free reign on how to deal Latinos as well other minorities in Arizona. They use law and legislation, just like the Black Codes during the mid-1800’s with blacks, to suppress this growing demographic that resides there.

Simply pulling anyone over because they look suspect of being an illegal immigrant is irresponsible and pretty ignorant. Also, having no ID will give open shop to all minorities. Anyone could leave their ID at work or at home and be subjected to law enforcement’s brutality or racial profiling. In 2010, you’d think that America would be ready for change; yet there are a few that think creating laws like this would make life better for the people in Arizona. NOT! This law is setting this country back both morally and unconstitutionally. As I stressed earlier, this law is a smoking mirror to stray from the real issues of what law can do to people. To continue to create a class system like Jim Crow, to keep the new Latino population out of the economic and political loop.

The Revolution Will Be Televised,

Brian Pace

The Pace Report