Thanks to the 2010 African Festival of the Arts in Chicago I have developed a late appreciation for an American original music style, the blues. The Blues Pavilion turned out to be a cast of local legends. It’s possible that you may have seen a comparable combination of stellar talent performing on stage at one show before but probably not in the role of lecturers and historians so you really missed out if you weren’t there.
Yours truly used social media to connect with an international blues star online and to meet her in person at the festival. Deitra Farr has lived in Europe for the last few years – she has performed all over the continent – and fortunately for American music fans she moved back to sweet home Chicago just in time to be one of the featured panelists at the blues pavilion. Before returning she completed a show only a few weeks ago at the Silda Jazz Festival in Haugesund, Norway. Among other things she shared with me how the lack of appreciation for blues in America stands in stark contrast to its massive popularity in Europe. As you see though, they can still do the globe trotting tour thing as well as the other more popular music genres.
She was joined by Herb Walker and Katherine Davis. Chicago Beau (Lincoln T. Beauchamp, Jr.) was the moderator. I learned a lot about the chronology of American music. I figured that most of the rock, soul and funk groups I grew up on likely listened to jazz when they were youngsters but I learned that jazz itself was birthed by the blues and the others came in succession over time.
Katherine Davis is serious about perpetuating the craft for the next generation. She’s involved with Blues In the Schools, which helps keep the blues alive in local school music curriculum. She shared great comments on the ongoing negative perception of the blues in here in the States, much of it due to educational powers that be.
Herb Walker made extensive comments about the need for blues musicians to share notes and write books to record their historic contributions. No one else seems to be doing so, at least not to the degree that awareness in America has been enhanced in a significant way. I agree with him on that note. No one can record your history better than the participants.
As it turns out Chicago Beau is on the job. He had a few copies of Blues Speak an anthology of his past writings of things blues and jazz related. Deitra Farr has a section in it and she autographed it for the young guy who had a personal copy.
I’ll share some of my unedited clips of comments from the panel here. Very insightful and if you’re like me you’ll learn a lot. In order, left to right are Deitra Farr, Herb Walker, Katherine Davis, and Chicago Beau.