Introducing his jazz-spiritual "Blacknuss" on the CD of the same name, Rahsaan Roland Kirk spells out a vision that's at once melodically and socially tuned: "Now we gather here on the universe at this time to listen to the 36 black notes of the piano. There's 36 black notes and 52 white notes. We don't mean to eliminate nothin'. But we're gonna just hear the black notes at this time, if you don't mind." Although Kirk didn't fit into Ken Burns' PBS opus, even the opening credits pointed to the significance of his subject, race, in jazz. As a primarily African-American development, jazz's shape, meaning, and purpose are intrinsically linked to the black experience. Riffing on that subject, SFJAZZ invites jazz scholars, writers, and performers to participate in "Jazz and Race: Black, White, and Beyond," a three-day symposium of vociferous debate and truth-seeking.
\r"Jazz and Race" has no dearth of topics. There's the injustice of white-owned record companies and white managers exploiting black musicians. There's the seemingly endless stream of pundits ruminating on the definition of jazz and who owns it. There's the question of white musicians: Did they steal an African-American art and profit by it without paying dues to the music's creators?
Over the weekend, UC Berkeley sociology professor and race relations scholar Dr. Harry Edwards presides over a list of names near and dear to the music, including Blue Note Records President Bruce Lundvall, trumpeter and writer Richard M. Sudhalter, sax man Steve Coleman, critic and talking head Nat Hentoff, activist and writer Angela Y. Davis, and thinkers Jon Panish, James L. Collier, James L. Conyers, and Scott DeVeaux. The symposium means to eliminate somethin': the lack of conversation about race.