Vocal Jazz

A Home Within: Sathima Bea Benjamin

Singer/composer Sathima Bea Benjamin grew up in Cape Town watching movies and listening to jazz records from America. Rejecting a life under apartheid, her career took her to New York, where she now lives. In conversation with Gwen Ansell, Ms. Benjamin discusses, with sung and recorded illustrations, the emotions and debates American music stirred among Cape Town's jazz players and singers, and how America responded to the African contribution to jazz and world culture. Ms. Benjamin is accompanied by Onaje Allan Gumbs, piano.

Conversation with Roy Nathanson (I)

Saxophonist Roy Nathanson talks about his experiences as a Columbia student during the unrest at the University and the militant aftermath during the late 1960s, his development as an artist in an astonishing variety of forms (including composition, songwriting, poetry, acting and teaching) his work with global stars and with high school students, and his basic need to "tell a story" no matter what artistic language he uses. Click here for Part II.

Jeanne Lee's Voice

Critical Studies in Improvisation

Vocalist Jeanne Lee took a multidisciplinary approach to improvisation that incorporated dance and visual media and produced remarkable innovations in vocal sound. She remained relatively obscure throughout her 40-year professional career, Porter argues, because of her iconoclastic performance art, and because of her status as a woman, working mother, and black person. He explores the challenges to assumptions about nation, gender, and race in Lee's work, particularly in her performance of her poem "In These Last Days."

I Wanted to Live in That Music: Blues, Bessie Smith, and Improvised Identities in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees

In Ann-Marie MacDonald's novel Fall On Your Knees, women improvisers (including a fictitious character based on Bessie Smith) use their music to transcend both conventional musical practices and gender roles. In Sidall's reading of MacDonald's book, Smith is a viable role model in life as much in fiction, since she "signif[ies] that kind of freedom to imagine, and even create, new communities."


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