The Significance of Jazz (African Rhythms) In Our Community
The following is a article written by Dr. Ruths Mark Katz regarding the above.

Jazz Music and The African American Community Creating Cultural, Spiritual, and Musical Appreciation Through

M. Ruth Mark Katz, PHD

   One of the objectives of the committee for the Renewal of Jazz in the Church/Community,is to provide and ongoing forum for dialogue about the significance and importance of jazz music, in the African American community (this includes the church).  In this report and subsequent ones, we will be discussing the ways and means to re-educate ourselves, with regard to the cultural, spiritual, and musical importance of jazz music.

Appreciation Through Re-education

   Without question jazz music is a powerful vehicle for human expression. Everywhere we look or open our ears, we can discern the emotional, creative, and musical effects of this particular mode of human expression. Interestingly though, when we are discussing jazz music, we are also moving into the realm of controversy. What is the source, and why does this specific musical expression and engender so much praise, or on the other hand is distained by its critics?

It is most crucial at this time that we engage in discussion about jazz music, because we as African Americans cannot afford the dissension, and to be at cross purposes with one another, as to whether it is only secular, but not sacred---- in essence it is both. Many people will ask, how can it be both?

First of all, this music is the cultural and spiritual tool and means by which the journey of an entire group of people is chronicled.
Second, jazz is the repository of how our ancestors were able to maintain life's energy in the face of inhuman treatment by one group of humans, toward another group.

The Holocaustic aberration of slavery is contained within jazz music, in other words, jazz is the symbolic record of our evolution as a people, that describes our development from bondage to freedom. Thus, this particular musical creation has the potential, any time that is heard, played, or talked about, to bring forth very intense reactions.

  Jazz music serves as a societal mirror. Americans of European descent, have great difficulty acknowledging that without the enslaved African people, music in America would be entirely different. In many instances, this group of people want to distance themselves from the essence of this music, as evidenced by various organizations and schools, where there is limited involvement of white and African Americans, really allowing this music to dismantle and dissolve the walls of racial strife and antagonism.

   Rooted in the collective psyche of this nation is the need to reject jazz as the cultural, spiritual, and psychological repository of the experience of African Americans. To give this kind of acknowledgment, would mean recognizing slavery as the emotional wound that is still seeking to be redressed by those who created slavery in this country.

In order for us as African Americans to fully appreciate and accept jazz, we too, have a great need to understand the impact of the enslaving process upon our psychic.  We, in effect, in 1989, are just beginning to see the real ravages of the slavery system.

Enslaved people quite often identify with the enslaving group. This identification  process can be seen most readily in the way our foreparents were programmed to believe the rhythmic and musical expressions coming out of our African ancestry where wrong, evil, and the handiwork of the “devil”.  Through the Eurocentric religious view, black-skinned African people had to be of the devil.  In order to placate, and in attempts to alleviate the harsh and brutal effects of a slave existence, and to be more of what the slavemaster desired, part of this programming of servitude was accepted. 

   By acceptance of the Eurocentric theology and dogma, spiritual and religious observance came to be linked with a somber, pious, and sin counting deity, one that a slave could only hope to know when she or he had worked themselves to death.  The slaves learned the hymns which they hoped would make them more acceptable to the slavemaster.  The clergy coming out of the slave ranks taught their flocks to be obedient, and to be as much like the “master” as possible.

   But compliance is only part of the story. Being a resourceful, intelligent, and spiritual people, our creative, rhythmic and musical expression that contained our African heritage also grew.  Music in the form of chants, allegories, field work songs, spirituals, celebration songs and dances, provided emotional support and group cohesion, and most of all, kept that underlying pulse of life’s energy alive within each person.  The powerful rhythms were and are not unlike the strong rhythm of a child’s experience in the womb.  This rhythm is programmed into each human.  The womb experience is the first and safest place that is known to each person.  So it is no wonder African-rooted music would intuitively focalize and activate this unconscious programming, which seemingly gave our forebears a feeling of emotional nurturance, and a reminder of being human, in spite of inhuman treatment, from another group of humans who used their dehumanized theology and religious dogma to justify and rationalize enslavement.

   So here we are, in the late 20th century still debating , and suffering from a love-hate relationship with the offspring of our collective cultural heritage, because of mental and psychological programming that has its genesis in the slavery experience.

   As part of our re-education for appreciation, it is critical that we examine the slavery induced programming, that used Eurocentric theology and dogma to devalue, and make wrong people of African heritage.  This path of cultural renunciation is bringing us face to face with each other, and out of great necessity, we must decide whether we will continue to be defined by the evil mental conditioning of slavery, or weather we will choose to embrace our cultural, spiritual, and psychological heritage as it is revealed through Jazz music.

   Because we as African-Americans have sustained an almost continuous questioning of our right as human beings to live and flourish, it is of paramount importance to turn full face to our collective culture, life values, group and family values, joyfulness, as well as spiritual and universal appreciation for all of life and all peoples.  Jazz music is a major key which can help to give our children a sense of continuity, and self-appreciation.

   At this time we need to give serious attention to the ways in which we alienate ourselves from one another.  With regard to our various musical expressions, we have placed value judgments on what is “good” music.  Through the judging process, we have created quilt , repression of the spirit, ambivalence, and apathy.  Thus clergy and the community at large cannot afford to be at odds.  Creative and realistic dialogue is needed between clergy, parents, musicians, teachers and students.  In other words, we have great need to create acceptance of ourselves and to embrace our collective creation.

Re-education through Appreciation to Empowerment

Let us stand in celebration for having the wherewithal to live, and sing our praisesong---from the fields, deep forests and glades, to the Inns and taverns, to the church and great halls. Jazz is our story of emergence for bondage, walking in the wilderness, and now we stand ready to embrace our freedom, which has always been here----for liberation comes from within----we have the power to claim freedom for ourselves.  Jazz music is the mirror upon which we see the reflection of ourselves.

In 1991, I was chairman of the New York Chapter of the African American Jazz Musical Caucus. The organization evolved from the International Association of Jazz Educators, which was Co-chaired by Dr. Ruth Mark Katz and the late renowned Look magazine journalist, Jazz critic and writer Mark Crawford. After sponsoring a primary fund raiser for New York Mayor David Dinkins, at New Yorks famous Jazz club named The Village Gate, Mark asked if I would like to become chairman of their organization, which was then known as the Duke Elington Jazz Educators.

 The New York chapter produced monthly concerts at various African American churchs throughout the metropolitan area. One of our first concerts was at The House of The Lord, Pastored by Reverand Herbert Daughtry. At that concert we where blessed to have former band director the "God Father of Soul" James Brown, master trombonist , Professor Tyrone Jefferson and his band featuring grammy nominated singer Carla Cook and grammy award winner , violinist Regina Carter.  

Our misson was to unite Jazz (African Rhythms) with the church by producing concerts in a holistic , spiritual and or cultural inviornment that was condusive for the family, especially children. At times featuring the likes of the former band leader of NBC's Late Show, master trumpeter, Clark Terry,  renowned master saxaphonist , James Spaulding, and my home brother, Baba Dr. Abiodun Oyewole of the worldwide renowned Last Poets and a host of other talented musicians.  By performing at churchs the caucus was able to contribute to the end of a century long alienation of our community and church from Jazz (African Rhythms).

Wesley Gray

On "Connections" Along with Tyrone Jefferson and Carla Cook, Wesley Gray is featured on percussion.
Abiodun Oyewole of Thge Last Poets and Amiri Baraka are featured on the CD with Tyrone Jefferson as executive producer and Wesley Gray as associate/assistant producer. To purchase CD go to:

Shop Afrikan Republic
Please spread the word to all families within the African diaspora, to purchase a drum for the family. To purchase books, Cd's and DVD's at bargain holiday discounts,  that teach how to play the  African drum, so that ever family will have a designated drummer.  Review the Amazon. link below for the wide variety of books written about African spiritual traditions,culture and history. This will provide information for a stimulating discussion of Africa centered around the drum.
Jay-Z Alicia Keys .Empire State of Mind