Three Jazz Works

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Some of the major struggles and victories of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s coincided with a most active period for jazz music.  In honor of Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday, WNYC’s Sara Fishko looks at a few cases where the movement and the music came together.  Here’s the next Fishko Files…

The music of Max Roach will be performed by The Willie Jones III Sextet at Dizzy's Club, a part of Jazz at Lincoln Center, next week. The program features Jeremy Pelt, Steve Davis, Stacy Dillard, Eric Reed, and Dezron Douglas. For more information, click here.





The liner notes of “We Insist! Freedom Now” -- which were written by Nat Hentoff -- offer an inside perspective on the creation of the suite.

“In this intensely expressive performance, Coleman Hawkins plays the male counterpart to Abbey Lincoln. Hawkins was intrigued by the work as a whole and stayed long after his own part was finished. He kept turning to Max Roach, commenting on the strong, bold melodies. ‘Did you really write this, Max?’ Hawkins kept asking. ‘My, my!” 

More on Hawkins:
"It is Coleman Hawkins who solos after [Lincoln's] opening. There was a squeak in this, his best take. ‘No, don’t splice,’ said Hawkins. ‘When it’s all perfect, especially in a piece like this, there’s something very wrong.’”

Hentoff ended the liner notes with this statement:
“...What this album is saying is that Freedom Day is coming in many places, and those working for it mean to make it stick. In 1937, a Negro who still remembered slavery spoke of what it was like in 1865. ‘Hallelujah broke out…Everybody went wild. We all felt like heroes, and nobody had make us that way but ourselves.’ It’s happening again.’

Playlist for Three  Jazz Works

  • Max Roach, Oscar Brown. “Freedom Day.”
  • Max Roach. “Tears for Johannesburg.”
  • Duke Ellington. “My People Narrated by Duke Ellington.”
  • Duke Ellington. "Come Sunday/David Danced Before the Lord"
  • Duke Ellington. “King Fit the Battle of Alabam.”
  • Duke Ellington. “What Color is Virtue”
  • Dave Brubeck. “XI. His Truth Is a Shield.”
  • Dave Brubeck. “IVb. Except the Lord Build the House (improvisation).”
  • Dave Brubeck. “VII. Shout unto the Lord.”
  • Louis Armstrong, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks. The Real Ambassadors.  Sony, 1994.
  • Max Roach. “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace.”


Where to find the music from Three Jazz Works

  • Max Roach's We Insist! Freedom Now is out of print. However, you can download digital copies of the suite here. The digital album was produced by Candid Records in 1998.
  • Duke Ellington's My People was originally released in 1960. It's currently out of print -- we tracked down an LP at The Jazz Record Center -- but you can hear an excerpt from it in this video, below.

  • Dave Brubeck. The Gates of Justice. Naxos, 2004.
  • Louis Armstrong, Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and others. The Real Ambassadors. Sony, 1994.


Many other jazz musicians wrote provocative and compelling Civil Rights music. One of the pieces considered barely publishable was Charles Mingus' “Fables of Faubus" (Orval Faubus was the governor of Arkansas from 1955 through 1967). Columbia Records refused to record these lyrics. In 1960, however, Mingus recorded the song for Candid Records, lyrics and all, on Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus.

Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

Name me someone who's ridiculous, Danny.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won't permit integrated schools.

Then he's a fool! Oh Boo!
Boo! Nazi Fascist supremacists
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

Name me a handful that's ridiculous, Danny.
Faubus, Nelson Rockefeller, Eisenhower
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?

Two, four, six, eight:
They brainwash and teach you hate.
H-E-L-L-O, Hello


Executive Producer: Sara Fishko

Assistant Producer: Laura Mayer

Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister and Paul Schneider

WNYC Newsroom Editor: Karen Frillmann