Sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.
The album cover of We Insist! was an explicit reference to the Greensboro protests. We Insist! drew analogies between social and political freedom and the aesthetic freedom of its music.
The Max Roach Quintet performing “Driva Man,” one of the numbers on We Insist!, about the abuses of slavery. Note Abbey Lincoln’s Afrocentric dress and natural hair style, signs of resistance in the early 1960s.
Before her collaboration with Max Roach, Lincoln had been a “girl singer” marketed as much for her looks as for her musicianship.
Read “The Photos that Lifted Up the Black Is Beautiful Movement,” a lovely photo essay about 1960s resistance to white standards in the beauty and fashion industries.
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue, the biggest-selling jazz record in history.
Pay special attention to the spaciousness in the sound, and the minimalist approach to the solos.
Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um.
Pay special attention to the virtuosity of the solos and to Mingus’s compositional and arranging genius.
Ornette Coleman: playlist of all the tracks on The Shape of Jazz to Come.
Pay special attention to the balance between absolute freedom and “controlled chaos.”
Ornette Coleman’s style would come to be called “free jazz.” Some critics linked his sound with the struggle for civil rights. Nevertheless, as one critic put it:
The free jazz movement sprang from musical sources, not social forces. . .were there free jazz players who made music to express anger over civil rights struggles? Yes. . . Did [all of them] abandon [traditional jazz] chord changes because of the civil rights-related anger? No. The free-form approach came first. Were there avant-garde musicians who protested via music without abandoning preset chord changes? Yes. Charles Mingus was one (for instance, “Original Fables of Faubus,” with lyrics about Orville Faubus, the segregationist governor of Arkansas.
Nevertheless, pianist Mal Waldron, who played with Mingus
was . . . eager to embrace the new freedoms [of free jazz]. As [Waldron] saw it, they went hand in hand with being a black musician in the era of civil rights. The bar lines in a song were, he recalled, like “going to jail for us.” “We were talking about freedom, and getting out of jails…. So everyone wanted to escape from that.”