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Capturing The Wisdom Of Jazz Elders


I'm very pleased to have stumbled upon a major African American oral history archive, featuring some bona fide jazz legends. (Above, an excerpt from Clark Terry's interview where he discusses being Quincy Jones' first music teacher.) It's part of the efforts of the National Visionary Leadership Project, which ...

... unites generations to create tomorrow's leaders by recording, preserving, and distributing through various media, the wisdom of extraordinary African American elders — Visionaries — who have shaped American history. Some of these elders are nationally recognized leaders, who are interviewed on videotape by NVLP's co-founders and board members. Other Visionary elders, known primarily in their local communities, are selected and interviewed by NVLP college Fellows. This invaluable primary source material is accessible worldwide on the NVLP website, and permanently archived at the Library of Congress, allowing students, scholars and the public to gain a whole new understanding of this country's past, and the lessons to be learned from it.

The NVLP has, thankfully, made it a priority to get jazz and jazz-influenced artists in front of a camera and microphone: James Moody, Dr. Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Quincy Jones. There are other folks too who have achieved less acclaim, but who have made real impacts in their communities: Keter Betts, Marcus Gunter, Ethel Ennis, Oscar Brown Jr. It's not a new project, but it is certainly worth your time, especially if, like me, you're new to it. [National Visionary Leadership Project: NVLP's Oral History Archive]

UPDATE: Over Twitter, @vijayiyer reminds me of the Smithsonian's Jazz Oral Histories online archive. It's phenomenal, and well worth browsing.

Related At NPR Music: Clark Terry's episode of Piano Jazz, recently unearthed.