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Speaking (Archive) (192)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008 19:00

Speaking of Texas: Free Spirit

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Ornette Coleman, courtsey of Big HassleBy Reggie Ugwu     


In the 1950s and 1960s, when most jazz artists were producing smooth and danceable tunes that entered the mainstream, pioneer saxophonist Ornette Coleman revitalized and challenged the genre with an innovative and improvisational approach known as free jazz.


He was born in Fort Worth in 1930, a time when there were few opportunities for African-Americans. But Coleman, whose was raised by his widowed mother, bought his first alto saxophone at the age of 14 and taught himself to play.


The budding musician soon began playing in local rhythm and blues bands, and he developed an unorthodox style early on, so much so that he had difficulty finding like-minded musicians who were comfortable with his loose treatment of harmony and chord progression.


It was his six-week gig at the legendary Five Spot nightclub in New York, that announced Coleman as one of the genre’s most exciting and original forces.


Coleman’s 1960 release Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation, made his most lasting impact on jazz culture. Ornette fortified a new genre that would adopt the album title as its own. At nearly 40 minutes long, the Free Jazz session was the longest recorded continuous session by any ensemble to date.


Coleman and his band continue to tour today. See Ornette Coleman online for tour dates, a discography, and more information.


Also, check out more information on Jazz festivals in Texas.

Tuesday, 05 August 2008 11:00

Essentials: Fall Jazz Festivals

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Jazz festivals abound in Texas this fall. Tune in, and turn on.


On September 20-21, thousands of jazz fans convene at downtown San Antonio’s Travis Park to enjoy the 25th anniversary of the popular (and free) Jazz’SAlive festival. Six national acts play two stages on Saturday and Sunday nights, while local acts fill slots during the day. Bring a picnic blanket or a lawn chair, and settle in for showtime. Call 210/212-8423;


From September 26-28, the 11th Annual Jazz Festival in Kemah brings in dozens of national and local acts to play outdoor sets on the festive Kemah Boardwalk. Shop, eat, listen to music, and repeat. Admission is free. Call 877/ATKEMAH;


From October 9-12, the Brownsville Society for the Performing Arts hosts the annual Latin Jazz Festival, a four-day event that includes free performances by local acts on Thursday, national performers playing paid shows on Friday and Saturday, and an all-day street festival in the downtown historic district on Sunday. Call 956/831-7818;


From October 17-19, the Texas Jazz Festival in Corpus Christi attracts 50,000 jazz fans to Heritage Park and the downtown and water-front areas. More than 50 local, national, and international acts showcase jazz styles from all over the world. Admission is free. Call 361/883-4500;


Looking ahead: Mark your 2009 calendar for the annual Jazz Festival in Addison (April 16-18, 2009) and the annual Houston International Jazz Festival (July 29-August 2, 2009) in Houston.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008 19:00

Speaking of Texas: Texas-Style Diplomacy

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By: Sheryl Smith-Rodgers


Like a true Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson often drawled “y’all come see us, heah” to friends and strangers alike. One invitation in particular strengthened diplomatic ties between the United States and Pakistan and created a media flurry.


While on a goodwill tour of Asia in spring 1961, Johnson—then vice president—shook hands with cheering crowds, handed out pens, and offhandedly invited spectators to visit him in the United States. In Pakistan, on his way from the airport into Karachi, Johnson got out of his car, jogged alongside the motorcade, and started his customary handshaking. Spotting a barefoot man next to a camel, Johnson chatted with him through an interpreter. Naturally, the conversation ended with one of Johnson’s open-ended invitations.


The next day, Dawn, Karachi’s English-language newspaper, headlined the encounter and praised Johnson for reaching out to camel driver Bashir Ahmad, “the man with no shirt on his back.” U.S. Embassy officials urged Johnson to make the trip happen or else he’d look like a fool.


That fall, Ahmad flew to New York. Johnson whisked him away to Texas, where he stayed at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall. During his three-day visit, the vice president showed him around the ranch, took him horseback riding, and hosted a barbecue in his honor. Ahmad charmed Americans with his eloquence and grace. “Smoother than a camel,” he remarked of his horse ride. After learning about Texas history and culture from folklorist J. Frank Dobie and historian Walter Prescott Webb, Ahmad responded: “Well-said words are like golden plums in silver bowls.”


On their final day together, Johnson escorted Ahmad to the Texas State Fair in Dallas, then Ahmad toured parts of Missouri before returning to Pakistan. After Ahmad returned home, Pakistani and United States officials heralded the trip as a diplomatic victory.



Wednesday, 31 December 1997 18:00

Play Ball!

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Tuesday, 31 March 1998 18:00

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

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Wednesday, 31 December 1997 18:00

Petroleum Pioneer

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Wednesday, 30 September 1998 19:00

Strawberry Fields Forever

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Wednesday, 31 December 1997 18:00

The Beat(les) Goes On

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Wednesday, 30 September 1998 19:00

Sam's Son the Senator

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