May 13, 2019
2019 will mark 400 years since Africans were first brought to the Jamestown, VA settlement in 1619 by the Dutch as slaves. They were brought to the Americas to aid in the very profitable agricultural industry during the 17th through 19th centuries, continuing in bondage until an estimated 4 million slaves were freed after the Civil War. The effects of slavery reverberated from the Reconstruction period (1865-1877), through the Civil rights apex a century later (1960s, and some – myself included - consider that this disturbing past still echoes today.
Bassist/composer, Avery Sharpe has become, in his words, “the history guy” in jazz today. For the past decade or so he has worked on long-form compositions that use jazz as a means of exploring African-American history. Among his latest works have been those honoring Jesse Owens (“Running Man”), Sojourner Truth (“Ain’t I a Woman”) and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (“Sharpe Meets Tharpe”). His new CD, 400, will remember and tell the story of 400 years of America’s history through his art. With music heavily laden with the overtones of Spirituals, Gospel, Blues, and Jazz and Classical idioms, Sharpe tells this story with great confidence, and with great aplomb. He wisely has chosen some top players to work with him on the hour long piece, including Don Braden (sax), Duane Eubanks (trombone), Ronnie Burrage (drums), Zaccai Curtis (piano) and Kevin Eubanks (guitar).
Avery was, of course, a longtime member of the legendary McCoy Tyner’s Trio for over 20 years, making over 20 recordings with Tyner. His performing, recording, and composition credits reads like a who’s who in Jazz, from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef to Wynton Marsalis. Besides playing bass and writing, he serves as Artist Associate in Jazz Bass, and Jazz Coach at Williams College and is Faculty Advisor for the Williams Gospel Choir and affiliated faculty for Africana Studies.
Podcast 679 is my conversation with Avery, as we talk about how 400 came to be, how he chose his fellow musicians, and how his mother’s influence put him on the road to a life in music. Musical selections from 400 include: "Fiddler", "Antebellum" and "A New Music."