A Jazz Journey from Alabama to Saturn—and Back.
On October 20, 1952, Herman Poole Blount of Birmingham, Alabama, entered a Chicago courthouse and rid himself of the name he'd never identified with anyway. He was almost forty and had not been Herman for many years—not to those who knew him and certainly not to himself. Blount left Birmingham in 1946, part of the historic wave of blacks from the Deep South, but it's fair to say his migration was of an entirely different magnitude: He would not return to Birmingham for more than three decades, and once he left the South, it was as if he had never been there at all.
It is springtime in Louisiana. Hot enough to bubble the water. Not yet noon and Carl Fitz is up to his waist in it, the dark bayou off Lake Verret, being brave and fishing the bottom for keepers. But now, his girl looking lonesome and his own legs aching, he comes ashore pulling at the neck of his thick clothing. A long stringer trails him, attached to his nylon belt. His lady Bess sits smiling on the soggy bank watching him, all cute and laid out on a cooling blanket, her dark shoulders blistered from the day's fun. They are both twenty-one and freshly in love.
“You just have to see” is always good advice in New Orleans, which is how I ended up at the 2007 premiere of Trixie and the Treetrunks, a ten-part puppet telenovela in which Trixie and her pal Marsha try to make sense of a post-apocalyptic world by starting a band to send secret messages from the center of the earth.
That’s why pop music is the art for our time: It’s an art of crap. And not in a self-conscious sense, not like a sculpture made of garbage and shown at the Whitney, which is only a way of saying that "low" materials can be made to serve the demands of "high" art. No, pop music really is crap. It’s about transcending through crap. It’s about standing there with your stupid guitar, and your stupid words, and your stupid band, and not being stupid.
That is Tyson Cole. Given the ethnic makeup of Uchi's kitchen staff, which is predominantly Asian, and the artful, sure-handed accomplishment of the food, an unknowing customer would not likely guess Cole to be Uchi's owner and executive chef. And it gets trickier.
I knew I wanted to be the first black woman Harvard graduate to write a country song—and I thought I knew DeFord Bailey, the groundbreaking harmonica player, was the first and only black person to perform as part of the Opry.
Nobody had told me about Linda Martell.