I was very pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic reaction to my recent blues post here, during which there was some discussion of a follow up with female blues singers. This weekend I started scanning my female blues vinyl for suitable cuts and I came across this album, I haven’t played it years, I’d forgotten that I had it but you can tell from the surface noise that it once got lots of play, I’ve had it for over 50 years. At the 1960 Monterey Jazz Festival Jon Hendrix put on a Sunday afternoon performance that was a history of blues music and it was directed towards a young audience, it was performed onstage as shown in the album cover, with Jon addressing a group of children who sat around him. So before we proceed with the female blues I thought this might be of interest, I’m sure it’s no longer in print so possibly most of you have never heard of it. On the album cover Jon wrote about how the piece came about, here’s what he wrote:
“It was Jimmy Lyon’s idea that we do something extended for a Sunday afternoon at Monterey and that it be about the blues. Ever since composer George Russell had kindly invited me to write some words and speak them on his “New York, New York” album I have been waiting for the opportunity to do something within that format just talking and letting the music speak for itself, following the advice of my mentor, Professor Milton Marx, of the English department, of the University of Toledo, Ohio: “Write about what you know.”
So I wrote about my people, about my great-grandmother who came from Guinea, Gold Coast, West Africa, about my father, Alexander Brooks Hendricks who ran away from the master who sold his father, mother and sister separately, came into West Virginia, married my mother, Willie “Sweet Will” Carrington, and moved to Ohio by covered wagon, where he became a minister, known as a circuit rider.
“Write about what you know.” So I wrote about the music they sang all through their lives, the spirituals, which they gave freely to America and the world. I didn’t stop there, because the spirituals didn’t stop there, but went outside the church to become the blues, and through horns to become jazz.
“Write about what you know.” So I wrote about the sun, the source of all light, heat and life in this universe, about all men on earth being the same man, all light the same light, all life the same life.
“Write about what you know.” So, buried deep in this story, yet never given word, is the heartfelt lament that some who play jazz have forgotten the spirituals that gave them their music, as they have forgotten the Lord who gave our ancestors the spirituals, have become corrupted by the surroundings to which jazz has been relegated, have become arch,, worldly, spiritualless, intellectual, demoralized, material, wealthy – and lost.
“Write about what you know.” I know that children are born into this earthly life with all knowledge, that the devil is an adult, that children are corrupted by adults too adult to realize that childhood is the kingdom of heaven, so I wrote my history for children, because they will understand. Above all, thank you children everywhere, and blessings on you all”
The album comprises both sides of a disc and runs about 44 mins. so I’ve added it in two parts.