Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated - Volume One Available Now!


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Express something with your saxophone; don’t just display your virtuosity; tell a story and not a lie.
—Lester Young
Quietly working behind the scenes for almost five years, the Philadelphia Jazz Project has assembled Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One—a colorful collection of memories and historical accounts about some of the amazing people, places and things that abound in the Philadelphia story.

As part of our work with the Philadelphia Jazz Project, we encourage the exploration of the intriguing characters of Jazz music. Philadelphians should know that our city has been a particularly special site for some amazing talents and personalities: Folks like Dizzy Gillespie, Rufus Harley, Lee Morgan, Billie Holiday, Jef Lee Johnson, Grover Washington Jr., Nina Simone, Pearl Bailey, Sun Ra and others.

Our book contains stories and interviews from, or about key figures of Philly’s Jazz community. Including musicians such as Odean Pope, Rashied Ali, Raymond A. King, Barbara Montgomery, Bootsie Barnes, Ted Gerike, Mickey Roker sharing memories and stories that enlighten us about Philly’s Jazz scene, their lives and adventures. Each story is accompanied by an exquisite illustration by visual artists like Jerry Pinkney, Michelle Ortiz, Eric Battle and many others. In addition, we’ve included poignant, related essays by Diane Turner Ph.D of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, George Starks Ph.D of Drexel University and award wining radio producer, Steve Rowland.

On Sunday, December 1st, 2019 at the Barnes Foundation, as part of PECO Free First Sunday Family Day, the Philadelphia Jazz Project (PJP) debuted the new book, Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One in an exciting afternoon complete with performances by saxophonist Larry Price and guitarist Jeff Scull. The enthusiastic audience got a chance to partake in an informative panel discussion with the book's art director, Eric Battle, African American studies scholar Diane Turner Ph.D, illustrator Denise Erickson, musician/visual artist and educator Lovett Hines, and moderated by Philadelphia Jazz Project director Homer Jackson.

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The creative team behind the book, Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated- Volume One are graphic designer and Books & Stuff owner, Lynn Washington, Marvel and DC Comics veteran illustrator and art director, Eric Battle, and interdisciplinary artist and Philadelphia Jazz Project director Homer Jackson.

Philadelphia Jazz Project spoke with them about the book and the process of creating it.

Philadelphia Jazz Project: What is Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One?

Homer Jackson: The book, Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One is a five year journey to document and share some of the conversational curiosities of this culturally rich and fertile environment that Philadelphia artists create and are a part of. There are so many interesting stories to hear, and in this case, to read that are right under our noses, but we don't know them. The book is here to change some of that.

Eric Battle: This book is the first of hopefully several volumes of its kind, to showcase the vast array of Philadelphia’s musical and visual talent and how they inspire one another. The book uniquely unites some of Philadelphia’s legendary and new blood artists, as they beautifully create original visual narratives of and about, some of Philadelphia’s jazz music treasures.

PJP: Why is this project important?

Homer Jackson: This project is important because it brings attention to the two-pronged levels of artistic mastery which exist openly in our city, yet ironically seem to escape public recognition. We’re talking about generations of highly skilled Philadelphia musicians and visual artists, some who can and do compete on the global stage and others who choose to remain local, yet have world-class skills and experiences. Ironically, as a city looking for something good to hold on to, we don't celebrate them very often.

Lynn Washington: The idea of creating an illustrated book of these various stories is an important attempt to engage and entice a broad audience to read. We all look to television and movies to get our information and entertainment and in the process literacy rates are abysmal in Philadelphia, across all demographics. Additionally it was important to us to showcase the diversity of the illustrators and writers, with regard to gender and race, in Philadelphia and the region.

PJP: What can readers look forward to in this book?

Eric Battle: Readers of books are seekers: they’re looking for information, engagement, stimulation and possibility. If you’re an enthusiast of music, art, history, community and culture, you’ll find all of that in this book. Come and get some!

Lynn Washington: Dealing with the mechanics of putting together a book, our biggest challenge and particularly mine as the book’s designer, was coming up with an interesting way of presenting the beautiful, eclectic art in an organized and engaging way. Of course it’s equally important that the reader/viewer enjoys the results! And hopefully, the intriguing stories and the exceptional imagery will entertain, inform as well as inspire them to seek out more books to read.

PJP: Why Jazz? When you could be doing anything else, why Jazz?

Homer Jackson: In this case, Jazz and these stories which come from the musicians, their colleagues, family members, historians and writers are so powerful that once you are exposed to them, you want to know more. As a long-time Jazz lover, I’m fascinated by the stories of the artists who live and once lived in my neighborhood; simple folks who became national and international giants and I hope you will become fascinated too.

Eric Battle: Jazz, to me, like the menu at a quality restaurant, incorporates all of the many tastes to excite and challenge your musical palette. You can hear the salty, sweet and savory all at once, and/or separately, if that’s what your taste buds call for, at any given time! When the right note hits your eardrum, the hair on the back of your neck is electrified, your nerves tingle and you’re off and soaring! This book leaves all of your cravings sated, as you recognize & revel in the melodic brush & pen strokes of the artists, guided by the harmonious notes woven into the illustrated narratives. You will want more!

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
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