Friday, November 2, 2012

Jack Straw Asked to Help With Oral Histories and Digital Archive

Below is the project description for in-kind use of Jack Straw recording studio facilities and services.


The Jack Straw Residency would support oral history recording, preservation of historic recordings through analog to digital transfer and production of audio excerpts for a blog and biography about the life and impact of American jazz saxophonist and educator Joe Brazil.


Joe Brazil (1927-2008) grew up in Detroit, moved to Seattle, worked at Boeing, taught at Garfield High School and University of Washington and established the Black Academy of Music in the Central District.

Brazil was a friend of John Coltrane. In the 1950’s Coltrane practiced and jammed for hours at Brazil’s Detroit residence. After Brazil moved to Seattle, Coltrane stayed in Brazil’s home during a week-long engagement in 1965 at a club called the Penthouse.

My research to date includes more than 400 documents and 20 photographs from the University of Washington Archives, Seattle Municipal Archives, King County Courthouse, Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and UW Daily. Brazil is mentioned in 12 published books. 4Culture is supporting this project through an Individual Artist Grant. I have applied to a Biography Fellowship Residency at the CUNY Leon Levy Center for Biography to complete Brazil’s biography. Mary Francis, editor at University of California Press, is receptive to a book proposal.

I am collecting oral histories from people who lived, performed, worked, studied or allied with Joe Brazil. My list of 70 sources continues to grow but key oral histories will come from Larry Gossett, Gary Hammon and Wadie Ervin in Seattle, Jeffrey Winston and Mikal Majeed in Los Angeles, Barry Harris, Curtis Fuller, Roy Ayers, Rufus Reid and Yusef Lateef in New York and Byron Pope in Switzerland. Audio recordings of these voices would capture the immediately recognizable gratitude and respect when they speak about Brazil. The oral histories will be donated to the King County Library.

Brazil was known to frequently make audio tapes and 8mm films of his classes, jams and concerts that included major jazz artists. Several sources report that Brazil made tapes of Coltrane practicing. Brazil’s widow and others have collections of his tapes and films that need to be inventoried and digitized for archival. The content of this audio and visual collection may have significant historic value.

To find new sources and information, I post documents, photos, sources and data to Excerpts from oral histories and audio archives might attract more material about Brazil. The blog and an article published in Earshot Jazz have already attracted an audience as far away as Berlin.

The Jack Straw Residency would provide facilities and expertise to record oral histories, or instruction to facilitate my field recording at source locations. The Artist Support Program would also help transfer Brazil’s analog audio tapes to a digital archive and make all of this material available to a wide audience through the blog. I would like this audio material to be a supplement to a published biography. During the residency I will present podcasts and readings of gathered material.

Some readers misunderstand that this post says I have audio tapes from Joe Brazil. I do not. This was a proposal to further my research. I am trying to facilitate the preservation and distribution of tapes that are owned and possessed by others. When I first wrote this post, I had met with Frances Brazil. She shared photographs and an 8mm home movie, but she did not show me any tapes. I copied the photos and film and returned all the material. At the time I believed that she was Joe's only living beneficiary and envisioned working with her as she wished. She indicated that there were more of Joe's things in a bench under her television, but that she did not want to move it at the time. I left her house with the impression that there were tapes in her possession. About a year later I met Joe's second wife, who was with him for the last years of his life. She showed me a collection of audio tapes that Joe had made. I have been helping her organize the material and seek funding for preservation.

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