For our inaugural Spring 2021 season the Du Bois Black Music Project presents Fire Fridays: The Cats Talk Back, mini-concerts and panel discussions to put Black music culture-bearers in conversation with hot topics in jazz.
Founded through the Black Power Movement in 1970, the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst is a legacy space for African American jazz culture bearers to speak for the music to reflect their insider perspectives. Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Reggie Workman, Billy Taylor…Max Roach wrote his well-known essay “Jazz is a 4-letter Word” as a faculty member, and Archie Shepp developed a course called “Revolutionary concepts in Black Music.” We are a part of the Black Revolutionary Tradition. The Du Bois Black Music Project builds on their foundation with cutting-edge scholarship and programming like Fire Fridays: The Cats Talk Back, to give a platform to African American jazz musicians, who are indigenous to the music, to speak about it in the scholarly space of the academy, where they are rarely given a voice.
Fridays: The Cats Talk Back - Mini Concerts and Panel Discussions on Hot Topics in Jazz will premier online on Friday April 23rd, April 30th, and May 7th, 7 – 9 pm ET. In partnership with We Insist! and the We-UP Re-UP Online Jazz Festival. On April 30th we will broadcast live on WPFW 89.3 FM, Washington DC's Jazz & Justice radio, our media partner. Guest panelists include REGGIE WORKMAN, the last living member of the John Coltrane Quartet, STEVE COLEMAN (M-Base Founder & MacArthur Genius Grant Awardee) and CHARLES MCPHERSON (JAZZ TIMES 220 Readers Poll #1 Artist of the Year), renowned tenor saxophonist JD Allen, Nasheet Waits (Drummer, Jason Moran’s Bandwagon), and Eric Revis, celebrated jazz trumpeter, Antoine Drye, and others. Produced and Moderated by jazz vocalist/ethnomusicologist Maya Cunningham.
PANELISTS & PERFORMERS
(Reginald) “Reggie” Workman (born June 26, 1937 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is recognized as one of the most technically gifted American avant-garde jazz and hard bop double bassists in history. He is an educator extraordinaire, composer, and jazz advocate whose style ranges from Bop, Post Bop and beyond.
Donald Edwards has played across the globe with some of the finest musicians in jazz and other genres. He has now built a reputation all his own. Donald Edwards is a 2018 recipient of the Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works Grant, A Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Jazz Project.
An adventurous yet flexible pianist, Anthony Wonsey started playing music when he was six. He studied first with his mother (a classical pianist) and then Zilner Randolph. He was fortunate to get a full scholarship to Berklee College of Music.
Cheryl L. Keyes is the author of Rap Music and Street Consciousness (University of Illinois Press), Her work in hip-hop studies is recognized amongst peers as the first ethnographic study on rap music. Additionally, Keyes has written essays on funk-rock diva Betty Mabry Davis, legendary jazz trombonist-composer-arranger Melba Liston, New Orleans piano rock pioneer Professor Longhair along with several publications in journals and as book chapters.
Kwasi Ampene is a professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of several books on the rich musical traditions of the Akan of Ghana. His latest book, Asante Court Music and Verbal Arts in Ghana: The Porcupine and the Gold Stool, was published by Routledge in June 2020.
Charles McPherson was born in Joplin, Missouri and moved to Detroit at age nine. After growing up in Detroit, he studied with the renowned pianist Barry Harris and started playing jazz professionally at age 19. He moved from Detroit to New York in 1959 and performed with Charles Mingus from 1960 to 1972. While performing with Mingus, he collaborated frequently with Harris, Lonnie Hillyer, and George Coleman.
Hailed by the New York Times as “a tenor saxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style,” JD Allen is a bright light on today’s international jazz scene, with 14 albums as a leader to his credit.
Born in Chicago, alto saxophonist and composer Steve Coleman moved to New York City in 1978 and has lived in the NYC area since.
Maya Cunningham is an Africanist/African Americanist ethnomusicologist, an Africana studies scholar, a jazz vocalist, and a cultural activist. She is completing a PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Afro American studies with a concentration in ethnomusicology.
NASHEET WAITS, drummer/music educator, is a New York native. His interest in playing the drums was encouraged by his father, legendary percussionist, Frederick Waits. Nasheet’s college education began at Morehouse where he majored in history and psychology.
GRAMMY Award-winning bassist and composer Eric Revis courts a stubborn infatuation with exploration. A fixture on vibrant, evolving music scenes, he has sought commitment to honest expression throughout his career.
Antoine Drye is a celebrated trumpet player. Throughout his 25 plus years career, Drye has worked across musical genres with a wide range of artists including his mentors Ellis Marsalis and Harold Battiste and others like Delfeayo Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Wessell Anderson, Brian Blade, Victor