Monday, March 23, 2020

Interview with McCoy Tyner


November 22, 1971
McCoy Tyner: [Plays] That’s what I was saying. Lots of the things we used to play. We didn’t really discuss things. [Laughter] That’s why it’s so hard for me now to talk about it. We didn’t talk about music. We just played. [Laughter].
Joe Brazil: Would he by any chance run down the cycle of what he was doing? Or did he just do it?
MT: Except for Giant Steps. You know. He would say, “I’m playing the cycle of fifths.” After a while he just stopped playing that.
JB: What about some other stuff like Body and Soul?
MT: That was a set… he had written out certain chords, set chords, for that, alternate chords. He fit the cycle there, the cycle of fifths in there, that’s why they got in there.
JB: He kept developing. Like when you heard, what was the tune that was a big hit? Favorite Things. On the original record, and then I heard it in Seattle and you know [laughs] it had developed.
MT: Yeah. I understand. You see that wasn’t… We didn’t… See that’s what I’m talking about. That’s why it’s so hard. I can’t really… I don’t think it’s really important to explain it. Because you can’t. All I know is that my ear developed to a point, playing with him…
JB: Of course. I guess it’s like a reciprocal thing.
MT: Years ago, cats could say I’m breaking down this, breaking down that, playing this and playing that. It’s not like that.
JB: That’s what I was bringing up. I don’t think it could be defined.
MT: It can’t be defined. I don’t know. Maybe we should get that on tape.
JB: Ok. [Laughter. Tape turns off and on]
MT: …Miles and the flat five…Dizzy came out with that type of thing.
JB: Like Woody ‘n’ You?
MT: [plays chords from Woody ‘n’ You] And during that time there was a certain, everybody played a certain type of way.
JB: What if you’re teaching a cat? Like you say your teaching cats in New York. Say if you were teaching a cat that was maybe developed a little bit. What would be your approach of teaching him then?
MT: Well, you see, most of these kids aren’t taught.
JB: Beginners, yeah.
MT: Some of them weren’t but they didn’t know a lot of the fundamental things.
JB: Then it’s a basic thing – scales, see what notes, what finger to use.
MT: The only thing I could really do would be to maybe show them how certain chords can go against another. Something like that. And the scale relationship to the chords. So they wouldn’t have to be limited to playing within the chord, necessarily, but using the chord itself as a pedal to launch off on to something else.
JB: Well maybe we could benefit by something like that. [Laughter]
MT: [plays chords over a G pedal] Like if I play G minor… this is one thing I was doing when I was working with John, is that each note of the scale could be a chord.
JB: Right.
MT: You could use each note of the scale and develop as a chord or a sound. In G minor, for instance, you have [plays] and you’ve got B-flat minor [plays]. B-flat minor could be a complete sound within itself. The G is still there. But you know where you started from. The B-flat minor is within that sound. All the notes of that particular scale is within that particular sound. So you are actually not wrong. You could get a G. [plays] See, it’s still there. C minor. [plays]
JB: It’s like planting that sound and then doing whatever that sound fits here.
MT: Yeah.
JB: You plant that sound and then it remains.
MT: Right. It’s all the way through. It’s like a… it’s something to launch yourself off. You launch yourself off that. See it still gives you the freedom to play within that sound. Because like, there’s a thing, like, if you start off like Jones used to play, boom-chick-boom, he played time, ding-ding-dink-a-ding-dink-a-ding. Nowadays they don’t play like that. When you start a tune off you know where the time is. We were playing off the pulse. Like it sounded like we were playing a lot of things that at the centers. Sounded like we were playing with no time. Well, actually, there wasn’t no ding-ding-ding, we were playing off like a pulse. You don’t walk to the sound of your heartbeat. Your heart says, “boomp, boomp.” You don’t say, “boomp, boomp” trying to keep up with your heartbeat. Your heart is beating at a rhythm and you are walking at another rhythm. It’s the same thing with playing music. Just because you are playing in a key, that doesn’t mean that you are limited to the key itself. There are so many things that are related to that particular key. It’s like I was saying in G minor, you look at a standard tune, the way it resolves, the natural resolution would be maybe to go to C minor. The reason they resolve is because C is part of the key itself. So are other notes.
JB: In other words, one is not more important than the others.
MT: Yeah.
JB: Like tonic is more important, but not necessarily.
MT: Yeah. All over music, they have established a drone or a certain thing. A drone. Like in Africa, the rhythms are the tone, you may start at any particular tone, or any particular key, or drone, then they would take that and everything else would happen on top of that. And you can take it as far as you want to go. As long as you know where you came from.
JB: So, if you were practicing. What would you sit down and practice? I mean, like, scales, or make up a cycle and then try to develop it?
MT: I don’t practice like that anymore.
JB: What would you practice like?
MT: Scales. When I do practice, I practice scales. Theory is good up to a point. After that… I’m saying it’s good to know it, it’s good to know how a brother’s approach to improvising, but up to a certain point, it’s a matter of what you hear and how you can develop it. It’s a matter of emotions. It’s a matter of knowing form. I may be playing in a different key and all of the sudden decide to go, according to my feelings, to a chord that’s maybe related to that key or maybe one that’s not related to that key.
JB: You know, the point I’m getting at is maybe somebody else may be hearing these same things but they don’t have the capabilities of doing it. You might feel like you want to go there, and do something very different, but then you haven’t gotten yourself developed to go there. You know?
MT: Well, that’s the thing.
JB: So how’s the guy going to develop?
MT: If he can hear, he’ll do it. It’s a matter of really playing your instrument well enough so that you can do what you can hear.
JB: That goes back to that other thing.
MT: Yeah. There’s a certain part, an area of music you can’t explain.
Unknown voice: It’s like a transition.
MT: Our music has never been a Western concept of explaining music.
JB: Yeah. Right. Right. [Laughter]
MT: Our music has never been like that – explained. Even in Indian music, they take a raga, they have 700 scales, 700 ragas, one for the morning, one for the evening. Sounds pretty restrictive. But then they take that raga and they work with it. In between the notes and everything like that. And they improvise, like all black peoples of the earth always improvise their music. We never sit down and systemize everything where it came from. That’s why I say it’s moved out of the realm of… see, what’s happening, I think it’s wrong to make a study, I mean when I say wrong, I think for musicians, if you’re trying to approach it from a teaching aspect, that’s different. I think for musicians to take it and study it to the point wherein they say, “This brother broke this chord up here so that’s the way it’s supposed to go. I know it was broke up that way so I’m going to stick with that.” [Laughter]
JB: It’s lazy.
MT: When you reach a certain point, it’s you, it’s the individual, and the individual effort.
JB: Has there been a point in your life where you practiced like 8-10 hours a day?
MT: Unh, unh.
JB: I mean, like, 4-5 hours a day consistently over a couple of years?
MT: No
JB: 4-5 years? You’ve gone beyond that now.
MT: Yeah.
JB: I think for cats to get control of their instrument, they got to go through that certain period of learning the instrument.
MT: That’s the way it is. Learning the instrument. That’s the whole idea. Otherwise you will be restricted to just playing a certain area.
JB: You can’t do something. If you have the idea, you can’t go there.
MT: That’s the whole idea is to learn the instrument well enough to go wherever you can hear. And by playing an instrument every day and practicing, you’ll go all the places, but you’ll get tired. Your facility will evolve to the point where you just, you’re not going to be satisfied with just going right here, playing within 2 octaves. You want to play maybe 2 or 3 octaves or something like that. You want to try some other direction. That’s the reason why I think a man like Bird, I heard that he knew what he was doing but he didn’t know what he was doing. He was playing like that since he was young. Somebody said, “Where did Bird develop?” He was playing like that ever since he was young. So apparently, he heard that. You see? He heard that. So what cats did, they made a study of Bird.
JB: Somebody will come along after him.
MT: Right. What I’m trying to say is that with him it was a spontaneous thing. It’s like, “Well, God, I don’t know how you can figure out what he did.” [Laughter] I’m trying to figure out myself. How I can some kind of way get it across verbally and think it’s almost impossible. It’s almost impossible because music is a language that is hard to… you just can’t communicate everything. Some think it’s like a religious experience. You can’t tell some person, “Man, I felt like this when I was communicating with God.” It’s just something that you have to experience. You can give a person an idea. But then the actual thing is…
JB: But you’ll know when you get there.
MT: Yeah. You’ll know it. I think that’s just the way it is. Yeah. I was thinking about that, Joe. It’s really a different approach, man. I don’t know if it’s different. I just think that… I guess it is different. It’s a supreme power. How can you, ah?
JB: You just got to experience it.
MT: You don’t want a guy to be limited to just what you’ve shown him.
JB: Right.
MT: Just what you’re doing. You want him to have the freedom to express himself. He might know technically what you’re doing. He might know what that chord is. But why you did, why you played that chord…
JB: At that time.
MT: At that time. See what I mean. Or why he decided to maybe play a part of it and mix it up with something else. He can’t explain why he decided to do that. It’s not a theory of when I’m going to hit a bulls-eye, I was resolving from here. [Laughter] It’s a thing where you are more of less functioning on a disparate level.
JB: When you can get yourself up that far.
MT: It’s a different level of awareness.
Unknown voice: Yeah. Like I guess you explained it. I was fooling around with a basketball. You mentioned how those cats can stand back there an make a basket and don’t touch the rim. I don’t think you can explain how he does that. If you could just get out book, damn! [Laughter]
MT: Maybe it’s a level that he developed that’s beyond explanation. That makes him do that. Maybe he’s got a science. That’s what it is. Music is a science. It’s a science, man. Cats out there can play musical scientist in many respects. That’s why I think music has been used in the past, it has been used in many capacities, and it is a form of worship. And also, it has been used to, it’s being used now in hospitals, in the past it has been used for many other things. What we call magic now a days. I think music can be used to stimulate people to do anything.
JB: Yeah. We were talking about Yusef and the black scientists and everything. But I bring up an analogy, sometimes it’s like, when a black musician is playing and he is creating spontaneously, he must be doing some tremendous things with the mind in order to be able to be performing, and thinking, and communicating all at once. When a cat is reading, he is just taking it off the thing. But he’s doing this right on the moment and he’s creating, he’s composing, and playing. That must take a great deal of intelligence in order to be able to do that.
MT: Well that’s what it is. It is an intelligence that is not used voluntarily. He’s not thinking about it. That’s the reason why I think we are natural scientists. I was surprised at electric pop, you know, meaning something as simple as that, a man doesn’t do that right there, anything you can think of, them being scientists, creating the sciences that had a hand in bringing about music. I don’t think any of us who studied on it… but I think a lot of it is natural. I think we are endowed with more knowledge than we actually realize. Like they say, “You can’t stop it. Genius. It comes out.” But we don’t believe it. [Laughter] You see, that’s the thing. A man may have knowledge but if he’s constantly told, “You don’t have none” then, you know, that’s something you’ve got to believe.
Unknown voice: One of you here told me black people were scared of jazz.
MT: Well, it’s a matter of proportion because it’s true. I think people are afraid of truth any flavor, any kind of truth, if they are not used to it, being exposed to it. If they want to live a false life. If it’s not true you’re only guessing. We need better ways that will dominate.
Unknown voice: That’s weird.
MT: I think we’re going through [unintelligible] and I think that sometimes something that may not be alien to you but because you have been misinformed or miseducated will turn you into saying, “That’s strange. I don’t dig that.” Some people who are ready for it will immediately react and say, “Let’s run this up.” A lot of the time I think we don’t realize how living in a society where we have been programmed on just about every angle. I know you all realize, but you go down to the music, playing certain music that people in a certain thing are thinking. There is a study, I think, I don’t know what [unintelligible] There is a study where different tunes affect certain parts of the body. Certain tones affect certain points of the body. There’s a science there. That’s the reason why people respond to certain things because it has like a physical, not only it’s physical but it’s sort of a spiritual and physical effect on them at the same time, certain notes or certain ways of playing.
JB: There’s a book I got called The Mysticism of Sound.
MT: Yeah. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. You can’t delve into anything without getting into the spiritual aspects. Without spirit, the body wouldn’t live. That’s the whole thing. That’s what the key is. That’s the part of Him that’s in us that keeps us alive. When that goes, we just go away. Back to dust. [Laughter]
JB: We got to do that TV show early, 7:30 in the morning.
[tape ends]
[audio tape of TV show]
McCoy plays Search for Peace
Interview
McCoy plays Peresina (partial)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Joe Brazil: Justice for Joe

JOE BRAZIL: JUSTICE FOR JOE

I originally published this in the April 2012 issue of Earshot Jazz. Most of the facts were gleaned from the University of Washington Archives.

Attacking the Ivory Tower

A rally at the Husky Union Building on the University of Washington campus kicks off “Joe Brazil Day.”  On April 21, 1976, 350 people march to the University President’s Office and present a written demand – before May 5, an open meeting involving testimony from students, faculty, and community be held to officially grant or deny tenure to Assistant Music Professor Joe Brazil. Brazil, a saxophonist from Detroit who recorded with John Coltrane, teaches the History of Jazz, the most popular class in the School of Music. He frequently brings leading jazz artists to perform in class – Earl “Fatha” Hines, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and many more.

“I’ll accept this,” says President John Hogness, “and I’ll have an answer.” Ed Woodley, head of the Black Student Union isn’t satisfied. “We’re tired of waiting and getting no answers.” The protesters head for their next stop.

Behind locked doors, police guard the Music Building. Five uniformed officers secure the west door, eight at the north, and ten at the east. More strolled through the corridors. Classes were cancelled. Outside, the crowd chants “Justice for Joe!”

Brazil had been denied tenure by the School of Music faculty during the previous school year. No public notice of the meeting was given and no minutes had been taken. Protestors believed this procedure violated the Open Meetings Act enacted in 1971 by the Washington State Legislature.

“It’s unfortunate it had to come to this,” says Brazil. “Hopefully people came here to learn.” Brazil is not vengeful. He tells the crowd that many of the people voting against his tenure are “just dumb, not mean.”

The Detroit Jazz Scene

Joseph Brazil was born in Detroit on August 25, 1927. He studied saxophone at the Detroit Institute of Music and Conservatory of Music. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1946, he joined the US Army and was stationed for a year at Geiger Field near Spokane, Washington. There, he performed in a band with other enlisted men. They called themselves the G.I. Jazzmen of Geiger Field.

Brazil returned to Detroit and got a job at Chrysler as a tool maker and inspector. He purchased a home with one of his brothers and outfitted the basement with a bar, baby grand piano, and chess boards. Soon, talented local musicians and touring artists crowded into the small room to jam. Visitors included trumpeter Donald Byrd, saxophonist Sonny Red, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Roy Brooks. When saxophonist John Coltrane was in town in September of 1958, he stopped by to jam with Joe Henderson and Brazil. A recording from the session is available on YouTube. The tempo on “Sweet Georgia Brown” is clocked at a blistering 350 beats per minute. Brazil made many recordings at his house, even Coltrane practicing.

Detroit jazz chronicler Jim Gallert interviewed musicians about Brazil’s jams. “Everybody you can name used to come by those sessions,” recalls drummer Bert Myrick in Before Motown. “I talked to Trane for about an hour, sitting on the basement steps.” Brazil made a space where a community of jazz artists could hang out, learn, play, and build relationships free from commercial constraints.

Brazil and Coltrane established a lasting relationship. In Alice Coltrane’s biography Monument Eternal, pianist Kenneth Cox says that Alice McLeod met her future husband John Coltrane in Brazil’s basement.

Brazil in Seattle

Brazil got a tool making job at Boeing and moved to Seattle in September of 1961. Two years later he enrolled at the University of Washington to study math and computer programming. He got a job as a mechanical technician at the UW Applied Physics Lab in 1965 and was promoted to a computer programming job in 1967.

Meanwhile, Brazil made a splash on the local music scene. He gigged at the Seattle World’s Fair, appeared with trumpeter Webster Young at the Red Rooster, singer Woody Woodhouse at the Mardi Gras, bassist Rufus Reid at the Checkmate, saxophonist Charles Lloyd at Seward Park, and led the house band at the Penthouse with pianist Jerry Gray, bassist Chuck Metcalf, and drummer George Griffin. The Penthouse band played Saturday afternoon matinee sets before national touring acts.

One notable group came to the Penthouse the last week of September in 1965. Coltrane was touring after the release of his award winning album A Love Supreme.  The band stayed at the Frye Hotel but Coltrane spent the week at Brazil’s house. Coltrane was interested in documenting the new direction of his ensemble so he paid out of his own pocket for a live recording at the Penthouse and a studio session in Lynnwood. Brazil sat in on saxophone at the Penthouse and played flute in the studio. The live recording was released as Live in Seattle and the studio date as Om.

Brazil began to dedicate himself to sharing music with young students and using his extensive network of musical relationships to connect interested students with mature artists. In 1968 Garfield High School initiated a “magnet” program which included fine-arts curricula. Brazil was hired to teach jazz. Also, Brazil taught in the Summer Emphasis on Education and Knowledge (SEEK) program at Garfield. He also headed the music program for the Seattle Public Schools Extended Services Program (ESP).

Brazil joined a steering committee of black leaders to address issues of justice, schools, jobs, community education, racism, economics, and political power. He founded the Black Academy of Music “dedicated to uplifting the consciousness of people through music.” Faculty included trumpeter Floyd Standifer, saxophonist Jabbo Ward, and bassist Milt Garred. Brazil raised funds to bring saxophonist Joe Henderson to Washington prisons. One of Brazil’s students, Gary Hammon, received one of the first scholarships to attend the New England Conservatory.

Jazz Studies in Academia

The Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Black Power movement led white universities throughout the United States to develop Black Studies programs. American universities needed graduates to know about American culture and music, including jazz. The Music Educators National Conference (MENC) created the National Association of Jazz Educators (NAJE) at a 1968 meeting in Seattle.

Several jazz artists joined the faculties of prominent American universities – trombonist David Baker, trumpeter Donald Byrd, saxophonists Archie Shepp, Jackie Mclean, and Nathan Davis, pianists Mary Lou Williams and Cecil Taylor, and drummer Max Roach. Seattle’s participation in this national trend brought Joe Brazil to the University of Washington.

Black Studies at the University of Washington

In early 1968, the UW Black Student Union (BSU) surveyed the 834 classes in the school’s catalog. None of the School of Music classes used materials by or about black people. “It was audacious and outrageous,” says BSU organizer Larry Gossett (now Chair of the King County Council), “that all the classes focused on European music even though the most creative, innovative, and distinctly American music came from blacks.” The BSU concluded that the UW was “institutionally racist.”

The head of the BSU, E. J. Brisker, called UW President Charles Odegaard and demanded that the university provide $50,000 to create a Black Studies program. With no money forthcoming, 70 BSU members and friends occupied Odegaard’s office. Odegaard agreed to the BSU’s demands which included hiring black representatives on the music faculty, specifically saxophonists Joe Brazil and Byron Pope to teach jazz.

Jazz at the University of Washington

Within a week the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences established a Special Curriculum Committee on Black American Culture. Brazil and Pope submitted a proposal for a Black Music curriculum to the School of Music. A single faculty position was opened. Brazil refused to compete with Pope for the job. Pope was hired to begin teaching in the fall.

Pope taught the History of Jazz three days a week, gave private lessons, worked with the jazz ensemble, and performed twice on the UW Jazz concert series. At the end of the school year Pope recommended that the curriculum and faculty be expanded to include all forms of Black Music and that the program move from the School of Music to Ethnomusicology. These suggestions were ignored. Pope left the UW.

Brazil in the School of Music

Without a teacher for the History of Jazz class, the Acting Director for the School of Music, John Moore, urged Brazil to take over. Drummer Garry Owens volunteered to be Brazil’s Teaching Assistant. “Joe was the hub to bring the music and history together and serve as an inspiration,” says Owens. “He didn’t come to write books. He came to play and teach. He taught me that I could be a revolutionary in art – defend it, keep playing, and keep hope alive.” Today Owens manages projects for the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

Bassist Jeffrey Winston also worked as a Teaching Assistant for Brazil. “Joe was a voice in the wilderness,” says Winston. “He wasn’t credentialed so he got no respect. He devoted his life to spreading the word about the music.” Today Winston produces jazz concerts in Los Angeles for World Stage Stories and serves as secretary for the California Jazz Foundation.

Herbie Hancock at UW?

At the end of the school year the BSU demanded that the School of Music engage a Jazz Ensemble in Residence. Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi ensemble was in Seattle for a jazz festival concert. Brazil held the group over at the Club Ebony for a week and brought Hancock to speak in the History of Jazz class. Over lunch, the Director of the School of Music, William Bergsma, discussed the possibility of having Hancock’s band in residence at UW.

Because there was no budget for additional faculty, Bergsma turned to the Rockefeller Foundation for financial support. Bergsma developed a community-wide plan that included students from the Seattle Public Schools and Cornish School of Allied Arts. Brazil’s teaching role in Seattle Public Schools was mentioned in the plan as a prototype. The proposal requested $333,889 for three years beginning in the summer of 1971.

The Rockefeller Foundation offered $100,000 over a two year period. The Foundation’s Director, Norman Lloyd, wrote, “I was impressed with every aspect of the jazz proposal. There is a real chance that if it gets started it could serve as a model, particularly for other institutions that understand the importance of jazz in our culture but have not discovered how to deal with it in academia.”

The UW Archives have documents declaring Brazil and others agreed “it was unrealistic to start such a large scale project with little prospect of continuing” and withdrew the application. But other documents indicate that Sam Kelly, Vice President of Minority Affairs said “there was no consensus opinion by the black members of the committee who were involved in submitting the proposal.” The next year Bergsma left the School of Music and the proposal was never resubmitted.

Cracks Widen Between Brazil and UW

Brazil considered resigning from the School of Music. David Llorens, the Director of Black Studies urged Brazil to stay and wrote a letter to support a promotion. “Clearly, the School of Music has been treating Mr. Brazil like a stepchild. It is entirely possible that they do not know that he is a superior man in his field, one whose experience is invaluable to the program in jazz music, and the Black Studies program, at this university.”

The Black Studies Executive Committee recommended to Director Moore that Brazil be promoted. Carver Gayton, Director of Equal Opportunities for Minorities pointed out that Brazil and the two other blacks received the lowest salaries among the school’s faculty. Brazil was promoted from Lecturer to Assistant Professor in 1972 with his salary split between the School of Music and the Black Studies program.

Tensions between the School of Music and Brazil rose. Brazil continued to bring some of the biggest names in jazz to campus through his personal connections and taped their performances for student use, but the School of Music was not supportive. Director Moore contacted the local Musicians Union to try to prevent Brazil from video recording McCoy Tyner’s concert.

Black Composers

Brazil rubbed the faculty of the School of Music the wrong way when he addressed the African American Cultural Festival at Whitman College. He mentioned emerging research that suggested Beethoven and Hadyn had black ancestry.

In 1973 Brazil proposed a course on the life and music of Duke Ellington. The Seattle Times reported that the School of Music said “it possibly would accept a course on the history of outstanding black composers, not naming anyone.” Ellington died in 1974. Brazil was decades ahead of his time. Today Northwest High Schools win national contests playing Ellington’s music.

The Votes Are In

The end of Brazil’s employment at UW was sealed at a meeting of the senior School of Music faculty on October 17, 1974. The Black Studies faculty voted unanimously to grant tenure but the School of Music voted to deny tenure, citing a “travesty of classroom teaching,” playing recordings with minimal analysis, anecdotal discussions, lecturing from LeRoi Jones’ book Blues People, simple final exams, arriving late for class, and not attending committee meetings. The College Council ignored the Black Studies vote and unanimously agreed with the School of Music decision. Brazil’s appointment would end after the 1975-76 school year.

Student petitions to retain Brazil collected about 1,000 names. Brazil requested an investigation by Carver Gayton, the Director for Equal Opportunities of Minorities, for possible racial discrimination. “Mr. Brazil has brought the greatest array of top name Black Jazz musicians to this campus over the past five years than ever before in its history,” said Gayton in a letter to the Director of the School of Music. “I truly do not know of anyone who could have been able to accomplish as much as has Mr. Brazil over such a short period of time.”

Because the tenure meeting was not publicly announced and no minutes were kept, Brazil filed a suit in King County Superior Court for violation of the Open Meetings Act. He did not ask for tenure in his suit. He asked that each faculty member who violated the Act pay the penalty named in the law ($100) and that his tenure decision meeting be open to the public. The Court dismissed the case.

As Brazil’s career at UW drew to a close, protests and press coverage increased. Ironically, while the UW was ignoring Brazil’s role in the community, the King of Sweden, Carl Gustof, presented Brazil with a service award for the Black Academy of Music.

The More Things Change

Brazil was replaced by Milton Stewart, a black professor from the University of Michigan. He was treated with even less respect than Brazil. When Stewart was denied tenure in 1982, he wrote to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “They desperately wanted me because I was a black person with a Ph.D. in music who taught jazz and other Afro-American music courses,” wrote Stewart. “One of their ‘reasons’ for terminating Joe Brazil was that he didn’t have academic credentials. I was used as a foil to make what they were doing to Mr. Brazil appear legitimate.”

Brazil Moves On

Brazil moved to Bellingham then Tacoma. He received recognition as an Elder of Distinction at the Pantages Theater during Black History Month in 2007. Brazil died August 6, 2008. A year later, his former student Gary Hammon organized a concert and celebration of Brazil’s life in Flo Ware Park.

People who knew Brazil remember him fondly. “Joe was way cool,” says organist Mikal Majeed. “He tried to influence us in the real music. He introduced us to progressive jazz. Joe tried to hook us up with the basics.” “Everyone knew Joe,” says Hammon. “Whenever I mentioned his name back east, people opened up to me.” Drummer George Griffin says, “Joe should have got more credit than he did. He was a well-educated man and always had something good to say.”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Joe's Parents

A few hours of research on the internet yielded photos of Joe's parents.

Hilliard Brazil was born 9/6/1895 in Laurens County, GA to Charlie Brazeal and Mary Lou Hardy. He had 1 sister and 1 brother.  Hilliard and Ida Hill married in December of 1926 in Detroit. He worked at the Ford factory. Hilliard filed for divorce on 10/17/1938 which was granted on 4/1/1940. He married Lillian Armstrong 7/31/1939. Hilliard and Lillian had two children, Harold and Maude Elizabeth. Hilliard died 3/13/1980 in Oakland, CA.
Ida Hill was born 2/8/1907 in Twiggs County, GA to Harrison Hill and Mariah Brown (or Burns). She had 4 sisters and 6 brothers. She gave birth to Zodis Brazil 5/6/1924. She gave birth to Joe Brazil on 8/25/1927. She worked as a maid. She died 12/4/1950 in Detroit.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Certified Letter from Widow to Harasser

Unfortunately, a relative of Joe's first wife is harassing me with false accusations. This began back in December of 2014 and continues to this day. In June of 2015, Joe's widow sent a certified letter to the accuser. Without mentioning the name of the accuser, those who choose to collude with her may want to contemplate the truths contained in the letter. Below is a copy of the content:

I read your Blog and want to clarify some of the issues you raised as you have been misinformed.

First of all, no one has gone into your Aunt's home and 'ripped her off.' The tapes Steve Griggs referred to in his presentation did NOT come out of Francis's home. They came from Joe's collection. When he moved from Seattle he took his tapes and the things he wanted with him; later divorced Francis and remarried. He established a new home and family and a new life. We were together over 25 years. After he died his current family made copies of his professional photos and shared them with Francis for her family. All of his property now, is legally owned by me; his widow.

When we heard about Steve writing the book, we made contact, gave him copies of photos and information for the book. So, the name calling is unwarranted. We believe Joe's story needs to be told.

You also inferred the African American Community was being 'ripped off.' Where were these concerned people when the CAMP/Central Area Motivation Program closed; the base of operations for BAM/Black Academy of Music? They threw out all of his teaching materials, posters, music and tapes etc. It just happened that a janitor from the Church saw his things, he was able to salvage some of it. Joe was deeply hurt by this disregard for the work he had been doing. You talk about being Joe's family. When he got sick and was bed ridden the last year and half; why didn't you or others make contact, try to visit him while he was alive, or even call to see how he was doing? Francis knew how to reach him if anyone had asked. Even though he never had any children; and there are no blood lines between you; he would have welcomed and no doubt enjoyed contact. Various friends and his current family was with him; however there was no contact from his previous family. So how can you say you are losing your family legacy? If you knew him at all you had to be very young and are only going on what you have heard. His legacy is his own; no one else did this work but him.

Your assessment is very transparent. Now that some think there may be profits in his tapes and his story; people want to get on the bandwagon. Anyone that really knew Joe, knows that all of the tapes he recorded was made with idea and hope that they would one day be shared with other music students coming up. That was his goal, but got sick before he could finish and had very little support in the process.

Joe was all about education and sharing and bringing all people; without prejudice, together through music; the Universal Language. Your controversial assessment only serves to discredit and disrespect his legacy. He was truly unique in his thinking and his teachings. He was never really given the honor and recognition he deserved in life. His story will be told.

Mrs. V. Brazil

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Joseph Brazil" Performed at KNKX



This is the overture to A Cup of Joe Brazil, an original program of stories and music about the Detroit-born saxophonist who taught jazz history at UW. Vibraphonist Susan Pascal's husband Dave worked in one of Joe's bands. Trumpeter Jay Thomas' first jam session was with Joe Brazil.

A Cup of Joe Brazil on Playback

You can listen to A Cup of Joe Brazil for free at the Seattle Public Library Playback site: https://playback.spl.org/albums/steve-griggs-ensemble-a-cup-of-joe-brazil

King County Court Records

Research continues into the life of Joe Brazil. At the King County Court I found a 1989 Superior Court case that Frances Brazil brought against a roofing contractor for incomplete work on the Seattle house that Joe gave her. In the court documents, Frances is described as an unmarried person.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Maker versus Unmaker

In Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker, Alvin Miller (a maker) takes on his life mission of defeating his nemesis, the Unmaker.

I, like Alvin, am a maker. I don't need to take things from others. When I am influenced by others, I credit them for my inspiration. My program, A Cup of Joe Brazil, are my own words and my own compositions from my research and my own curiosity. I am telling the story of a person from whom I am learning. When I use other people's words, I attribute the quote to the source. When I play other people's music, I cite the composer. When I publish recordings of other people's music, I pay mechanical fees to the holders of the copyright.

This holds true for all the music and writing I have published, including my recordings with Elvin Jones and programs about WWII Japanese American incarceration, homicide of John T. Williams by Seattle Police, broken treaty promises to the Duwamish tribe, and musical settings of poetry by sculptor James Washington.

I encourage people to be makers. I will not let an Unmaker stop me from making.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lyrics to "Joseph Brazil"

I wrote lyrics to the first track on A Cup of Joe Brazil even though they were not recorded.

"Joseph Brazil, black music will show us to live and to love, not to kill.
Joseph Brazil, teaches us still - look for the truth and the search is the thrill.
No one stops you. No one tops you.
Joseph Brazil, black music will lift us to equal the king of the hill."

Monday, October 9, 2017

Joe's Heirs

Unfortunately, Joe Brazil had no biological children. His first and second wives both had children from other relationships. His second wife assumed Joe's rights and obligations when he passed in 2008. I have no legal claim to any of Joe's physical and intellectual property. Joe's second wife has granted me access to this property but all ownership remains with her.

Here's another example: John Coltrane's second wife Alice Coltrane inherited John's property, not his first wife Naima. Naima's daughter Saeeda (Antonia [Syeeda] Austin) (John's stepdaughter) has no claim on the estate of his stepfather, not even the song John wrote that bears her name "Syeeda's Song Flute." All of John's estate went to Alice and upon her death, I believe, went to Ravi. Biographers like Lewis Porter or Yasuhiro Fujioka may be granted rights by the estate to publish materials in that estate.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Joe Interviews His Father

Joe taped an interview with his father, Hilliard. Hilliard tells the story of becoming a photographer in rural Georgia during the early 1900s. The self-taught and entrepreneurial approach was a precursor of Joe's path in life.

Joe Taped Everything

Joe taped phone calls, classes, TV shows, etc. A tape labeled "Joe and Frankie" from 1977 contains an argument with his first wife. It provides an intimate window into Joe's personal life which suggests why Joe moved out and married another woman.