As a Biography Fellow at the
for Biography, I would complete a biography of American jazz saxophonist and
educator Joe Brazil (1927-2008). Leon
A well known story is John Coltrane’s pivotal role in a new trajectory for jazz. An unknown story is that of Coltrane’s friend, Joe Brazil. In the 1950’s Coltrane practiced and jammed for hours at
Brazil residence. Detroit
moved to Brazil and in 1965, Coltrane
stayed in Seattle ’s
home during a week-long engagement at a club called the Penthouse. During that
week Coltrane recorded two albums that confirmed a dramatic change away from
the music that had brought fame to Coltrane and toward “free” music that much
of his audience did not enjoy. These recordings were made at the height of
Coltrane’s popularity and were the first ones he paid for out of his own
Who was Joe Brazil? What role did he play in Coltrane’s life? Why did his story get overlooked? How did Coltrane impact
What were Brazil ’s
contributions to jazz? I plan to weave the answers to these questions into a
larger theme of the growth of self determination and community development
within American black culture. Brazil
Both Coltrane and
advocated educational opportunities for blacks during the years surrounding the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1965. While Coltrane was performing at the Brazil in Olatunji
created the Black Academy of Music (BAM) in New
York, Brazil ’s
Central District. Coltrane was inspired by non-violent speeches of Martin
Luther King. Seattle
was urged on by militant Black Panthers and Black Student Unions in Seattle who
demanded the Brazil
end institutional racism by hiring University of Washington
to the music faculty. Brazil
To complete this project I am collecting source material from 70 people in Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, France and Switzerland who lived, performed, worked, studied or allied with Joe Brazil. Sources in the
area include Barry Harris, Booker T. Williams, Carlos Ward, Curtis Fuller,
Louis Hayes, McCoy Tyner, Roy Ayers, Rufus Reid and Yusef Lateef. Many other
musicians who know New York
but do not reside in Brazil
will likely perform there during the residency. I secured a $4,500 grant from New York (4Culture) to collect these
oral histories. I am applying to King
Jack Straw Foundation for in-kind assistance with audio recording of oral
histories and analog to digital transfer of Seattle ’s
audio tapes (rumored to contain Coltrane practicing). Brazil
My research to date includes more than 400 documents and 20 photographs from the University of
Archives, Seattle Municipal Archives, King County Courthouse, Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and UW
Daily. I plan to collect more documents and oral histories in Washington
during the summer of 2013. Detroit
area I will utilize the collection at the New
York in Rutgers-Newark’s
Dana Library. Vincent Pelote granted me access to the Institute’s extensive
collection of periodicals. Residing in Institute
of Jazz Studies
would provide easy access to The National Jazz Museum and Schomburg for Research
in Black Culture. New York
· Armbuster, Kurt (2011). Before· Berkman, Franya (2010). Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane.
Rocked: A City and Its Music. Seattle
· Bjorn, Lars (2001). Before Motown: A History of Jazz in
· Cole, Bill (1976). John Coltrane.
· De Barros, Paul (1993).
· DeVito, Chris (2007). John Coltrane Reference.
· Kahn, Ashley (2002). A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane's Signature Album.
· Kahn, Ashley (2006). The House that Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records.
· Porter, Lewis (2000). John Coltrane: His Life and Music.
· Ratliff, Ben (2007). Coltrane: The Story of a Sound.
· Simpkins, C. O. (1975). Coltrane: A Biography.
· Spring, Evan (2003). Annual Review of Jazz Studies #13.
I maintain a blog at joebrazilproject.blogspot.com to collect and share material for this project. Mary Francis, editor at
, is receptive
to a book proposal on Joe Brazil. University
of California Press
One unique aspect of this residency would be the invaluable opportunity to consult with the Center’s Executive Director, Gary Giddens, about the development of this book. His experience writing award winning jazz biographies would greatly improve the quality of this project.