Foto © 1997 Wallace Bridges
(Born October 7, 1934, Newark, NJ),
American writer, playwright, and political activist
Amiri Baraka is a prolific writer who has worked across a range of genres: poetry, drama, the novel, jazz operas, and nonfiction. He also played a crucial role as an organizer, editor, and promoter of the avante garde movements of the New American Literature in the 1950s and early 1960s and the Black Arts Movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Born Everett Leroy (later LeRoi) Jones, Baraka attended Newark public schools and studied chemistry at Howard University before turning to literature and philosophy. In 1954, he left Howard and joined the U.S. Air Force where he became increasingly interested in literature, immersing himself in the work of American poet Ezra Pound, Irish novelist James Joyce, and other modernists.
Discharged from the Air Force in 1957 for possessing allegedly communist literary journals, Baraka moved to Greenwich Village in New York City and established relationships with members of the avante garde Beat, Black Mountain and New York School movements. He published his acclaimed book of poetry, Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961) and co-edited the poetry journals Yugen, and Floating Bear, with his then-wife Hettie Jones and poet Diane Di Prima respectively.
Baraka began distancing himself from the bohemian literary scene after a trip to Cuba. Influenced by the artists of the newly revolutionary country, as well as the Civil Rights Movement and black political figures such as Malcolm X, his work became more politically and socially committed. His plays Dutchman and The Slave (both 1964) combined the nonrealistic staging of early-1960s experimentalist theater with militant and often violent assertions of black pride. The poems collected in The Dead Lecturer (1964) are similar; their violent imagery and fragmentary style and syntax provide a vivid record of the black intellectual and artist in torment and transformation.
Baraka was also influenced by musicians such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, and Sun Ra New Jazz players of the late 1950s and early 1960s who demonstrated that it was possible for black artists to produce avant-garde art rooted in African American cultural traditions. A series of shorter essays that helped introduce the New Jazz to a wider audience was collected in Black Music (1968). His history of jazz, Blues People (1963) was one of the first books to trace the social and political development of African American music.
While Baraka became increasingly involved with militant political organizations in the mid-1960s, it was the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 that led to his final break with the predominantly white bohemian world. Shortly thereafter, Baraka abandoned his family and moved to Harlem where he was instrumental in creating the Black Arts Repertory Theatre whose impetus was to create a well defined black aesthetic. Though short-lived, it provided the blueprint for similar theatres across the country and helped develop the cultural corollary to black nationalism, the Black Arts Movement.
Though Baraka left Harlem after a year for his native Newark, he continued to serve as a Black Arts Movement and Black Power leader. With poet Larry Neal, Baraka edited the important nationalist-tinged anthology of African American writing, Black Fire (1968). Baraka's poetry, while often retaining something of his earlier fragmentary style, was crucial in establishing a connnection between African American vernacular forms and literature.
In addition to his importance as an artist, Baraka figured in national African American political events, such as the 1972 Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, as well as in local Newark politics where he was active in the election of the first black mayor, Kenneth Gibson, in 1970. Heavily influenced by the cultural nationalist Maulana Karenga (from whom he received the name Amiri Baraka), Baraka was an advocate of an Afrocentric doctrine of separatism, self-determination, and communual African American cultural and economic self-development. Seeing the weaknesses of Black Nationalism, in the early 1970s he adopted Marxism-Leninism, which he felt better addressed the interrelated problems of racism, national oppression, colonialism, and neocolonialism. The Motion of History (1978), Reggae or Not! (1981), Daggers and Javelins (1984), and The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984) were published during this time.
Baraka has taught at Yale, Columbia, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook and continues to write.
Contributed by James Smethurst
Biography and Bibliography
http://www.africana.com/tt_076.htm (195 total search results for Amiri Baraka)
The Word Ship
Wilber Morris has played with the best known new musicians extant, including David Murray, Dennis Charles, Sunny Murray, Cecil Taylor, &c. D.D. Jackson's wonderful new album is SO FAR (RCA). He is a leader of the new wave of ticklers.
Canadian-born, New York-based pianist/composer D.D. Jackson's RCA Victor (BMG) solo piano debut ...so far has been met by unanimously rave critical reviews and was recently awarded the prestigious Canadian Juno Award for Best Contemporary (Instrumental) Jazz Album. Jackson was also recently named the 2000 Jazz Report Composer of the Year, and will be named the 2000 Downbeat Critics Poll #1 Talent Deserving Wider Recognition for piano in the upcoming Aug./2000 issue of Downbeat Magazine. His follow-up RCA album, Anthem, was recently released and features an all-star lineup of legendary drummer Jack Dejohnette, saxophonist James Carter, percussionist Mino Cinelu, electric bassist Richard Bona, as well as exciting newcomer Christian Howes on electric violin, in a fresh and forward-looking group conception. The album was the Feature Review in a recent issue of Jazziz magazine and has been the subject of much lively debate in critical jazz circles.
Recent appearances of the D.D. Jackson Group (the touring version of this group) include the Newport Jazz Festival, the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, and the JVC Jazz Festival in Saratoga. The group also taped an hour-long in-studio performance for BET on Jazz which will be broadcast in the fall, and recently finished a successful week-long run at New York's Iridium. In September, they will embark upon a two-week tour of Japan. This past July 1rst, Jackson also debuted "A Canadian in New York", a major work large-scale work for large jazz/classical ensemble at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell as part of "Celebrate Brooklyn" featuring such artists as drummer Ralph Peterson, trumpeter Jack Walrath, saxophonist James Spaulding, percussionist Bobby Sanabria, and violinist Marlene Rice.
The 33-year old Jacksons earlier CD's as leader included 6 recordings for the Canadian label Justin Time, the most recent being the Juno-nominated Paired Down, Vol.'s I & II, featuring a series of bracing original duets with such groundbreaking artists as James Carter, World Saxophone Quartet members David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett, clarinetist Don Byron, trombonist Ray Anderson, and violinist Billy Bang. The discs were met with unanimous critical acclaim and a position on several international magazine's top ten lists, and were the subject of a feature article in the Village Voice by Gary Giddins.
Recent past appearances for Jackson as leader include a solo and duo performance with Jazzpar winner Chris Potter in Tel Aviv, Israel taped for national broadcast, and a performance with drummer Andrew Cyrille and bassist Mark Dresser as part of the Broadway show "Mytholojazz" with storyteller David Gonzalez, for which Jackson also wrote the entire score. Jackson was praised for his "sophisticated propulsive jazz" and was declared "one hell of a jazz pianist" by the New York Times. Other recent appearances for Jackson as leader include National Public Radios JazzSet with Brandford Marsalis, and Marian McPartlands Piano Jazz; duo concerts with such artists as saxophonists James Carter, David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett, and a recent solo and trio tour of Europe. Jackson has also appeared with his trio numerous times on Canadian and U.S. television, including a special on his group in their series "Songs in the Key of Eh" taped for the Canadian Bravo channel and shown also on America's Bet on Jazz, and regular radio broadcasts of his live performances on such CBC staples as Jazz Beat.
Jackson has also toured with a collective group called Bluiett/Jackson/Thiam, featuring World Saxophone Quartet founder Hamiet Bluiett and Senegalese percussion master Mor Thiam (formerly of Don Pullens African-Brazilian Connection). The groups first recording, Same Space (Justin Time Records) was awarded four stars by Downbeat magazine and their follow-up CD, Join Us, was recently released. And Jackson recently began re-exploring his classical roots with a concert at the 1999 Ottawa Chamber Music Festival devoted to 20th century classical piano duo repertoire, including an original work involving elements of both notation and improvisation he premiered for the occasion.
As a sideman, Jackson has performed and recorded with some of the most important names in cutting edge jazz. He has toured Europe, Japan, the United States and elsewhere as a regular member of the David Murray Big Band, Octet, Quartet, and the David Murray/D.D. Jackson Duo, and has appeared on three David Murray albums: the recently-released Creole involving musicians from Guadeloupe on Justin Time Records; The Long Goodbye, a tribute album dedicated to Jackson's former teacher and mentor, the late pianist/composer Don Pullen; and the David Murray Octet plays 'Trane, which was released in April/2000. Jackson also recently participated in a historic concert led by Murray and flutist James Newton at Pariss Cité de la Musique, dedicated to the music of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. The concert paired a big band comprised of such artists as trombonists Ray Anderson and Craig Harris, drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Art Davis, violinist Regina Carter, the entire World Sax Quartet, and Bobby Bradford on trumpet with a 41-member string ensemble.
For the past several years, Jackson has also participated in the development of a Broadway-bound stage musical involving Murray, blues great Taj Mahal, Grateful Dead member Bob Weir, and director Avery Brooks on the life of Negro baseball league pitcher Satchel Paige. Jackson also recently traveled to Senegal, West Africa where he participated in Mor Thiams debut CD for Justin Time Records, Back to Africa, featuring some of the greatest names in Senegalese pop music and drumming, including the legendary Dou Dou NDiayerose and producer Cheikh Tidiane Tall. Jackson was also personally asked to take the place of Don Pullen in his last and perhaps greatest project: a collaboration between Pullen's African-Brazilian Connection, the Chief Cliff Singers (a Native American singing and drumming group), and the Garth Fagan Dance Company. This unique work made its debut at New York's Lincoln Center before going on tour.
Jackson has appeared numerous times at many historic New York area clubs including the Village Vanguard and Sweet Basil with such artists as drummer Andrew Cyrille, alto saxist Carlos Ward, and trombonist Craig Harris. Other artists with whom Jackson has worked include: saxophonists John Purcell, Chico Freeman, Dewey Redman and Jane Bunnett; jazz vocalists Carmen Bradford, Jeri Brown, Carmen Lundy and Jimmy Scott; producer/conceptualist Kip Hanrahan; performance artist Meredith Monk; poets Amiri Baraka and Tracie Morris; drummers Billy Hart and Dennis Charles; and bassists Anthony Cox and Ray Drummond.
Jackson received his Bachelor of Music with High Distinction in Classical Piano from Indiana University in 1989, and his Master of Music in Jazz from the Manhattan School of Music in 1991. He is also an avid internet fan and maintains his own, detailed website at ddjackson.com
D.D. Jackson is a Bosendorfer (piano) Artist and endorses the Voce V5 organ module.
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