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Chapter 4

[1] February 1, 1963. “A Salute to Southern Students” concert at Carnegie Hall. It was here that pianist Thelonious Monk made his mark on the civil rights movement; or rather, the civil rights movement made its mark on Monk. Ethnomusicologist Ingrid Monson makes this incredibly nuanced argument in her study of Monk, a pianist who “unlike his contemporaries Max Roach and Charles Mingus ... did not speak out on politics through his words or music.” Due to his relative silence on political issues, Monk developed a reputation as an apolitical musician, especially when “viewed against the backdrop of bebop’s militancy and the battle waged for racial equality in the 1950s and 1960s.” Monson disagrees with this characterization of Monk, however, and believes that Monk led a far more politically engaged life than previously believed. To make her argument, she looks at his participation at civil rights fundraising concerts, most notably the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) “A Salute to Southern Students” concert that took place on February 1, 1963, in Carnegie Hall. There, Monk most likely heard SNCC speakers explain the organization’s current activities in Mississippi’s Sunflower and LeFlore counties as well as a performance by the SNCC Freedom Singers. Scholars cannot overlook the power and importance of performing at a concert that featured such SNCC representatives, Monson argues. But that is not all he heard there.

[2] In addition to hearing the SNCC Freedom Singers perform and reports emerging from SNCC offices in the Jim Crow South, Monk also heard bossa nova music. Specifically, he heard the Herbie Mann Sextet whose leader, as Lauren Gunthier reported for the New York Amsterdam News, “just came back from a Brazilian tour” and consequently featured “authentic bossa nova tunes” in his set. Although Gunthier recalled Mann ending his set with his popular song, “Coming Home Baby,” the sextet could have performed anything off Brazil, Bossa Nova & Blues, Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann, or Right Now: three albums that Mann recorded in 1962, all of which contained bossa nova music.

 

[3] Herbie Mann’s performance of bossa nova at a SNCC benefit concert may appear unusual, since, at least in Brazil, bossa nova musicians have been criticized for creating apolitical music amid the military coup that occurred on March 31, 1964. After all, Brazilian diplomats and government officials like Juracy Magalhães and Roberto Campos were not only some of bossa nova’s most ardent champions but were also closely politically aligned with the coup and its first president, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco. Interestingly, several Brazilian bossa nova musicians expressed disappointment with the music they and their peers were making. Their frustration arose not necessarily because the music was endorsed by members of Brazil’s political right but instead because of the genre’s aesthetics, lyrical content, and modes of circulation. Musicians like Nara Leão, a vocalist who helped develop bossa nova alongside João Gilberto in the late 1950s, expressed dismay over the inability of Brazilian bossa nova to address the rampant inequality that was both a consequence and a symptom of the coup. “Enough of bossa nova,” she exclaimed during an interview in 1964, “no more singing some little apartment song for two or three intellectuals. I want the pure samba, which has much more to say, which is the expression of the people, and not something made by one little group for another little group.” She continued, “I don't want to spend the rest of my life singing ‘A garota de Ipanema’ and, even less, in English. I want to be understood, I want to be a singer of the people.” Admittedly several musicians who developed bossa nova in the 1950s such as Leão, Carlos Lyra, Sérgio Ricardo, and Marcos Valle were already beginning to write lyrics that protested poverty and social injustice. These composers nevertheless made a distinction between what they thought to be the increasingly irrelevant linha formalística (“formal line”) of their predecessors and their own linha conteudística (“content line”). Composers of the former, like João Gilberto, Vinícius de Moraes, and Antônio Carlos Jobim focused on melody, harmony, and gently romantic themes while composers of the latter focused on topical, politically relevant lyrics.

 

[4] Despite the criticisms of individuals like Leão, bossa nova musicians nevertheless managed to become (or remain) politically engaged throughout the 1960s. Music scholars Irna Priore and Chris Stover look at songs by Antônio Carlos Jobim to show how Jobim “inscribed subversive political thought through musical syntax and lyrical allegory in several of his post-1964 songs.” The Brazilian composer did not avoid scrutiny from censors because he was apolitical, Priore and Stover point out, but rather because he wrote craftily. In songs like “Sabiá” and “Ligia” he adopted various compositional tactics that allowed him to doublespeak: he “manipulated tonal materials to emphasize textual double meanings;” he colored “a lyrical passage that seems to mean one thing but that hides a deeper, more important interpretation;” and he shifted “temporal perspectives by delaying (or erasing altogether) harmonic resolution in the service of drawing the listener’s attention to the multiple meanings imbued in some particular bit of text.” In concrete terms: the lyrics to “Sabiá” allude to a story of a man returning home to a love affair; but Priore and Stover argue that the song employs metaphors common to other Brazilian protest songs, like describing the narrator’s incisive feelings about the ongoing political climate. Bossa nova – or at least Jobim – was not as apolitical a style of music as Leão might have originally thought.

[5] While Priore and Stover offer a compelling methodology for analyzing bossa nova’s role within the American civil rights movement, Ingrid Monson offers an equally compelling model. Recall her scholarship on Monk. She does not mimic the methodology present in her famous 1994 article, “Doubleness and Jazz Improvisation: Irony, Parody, and Ethnomusicology.” She does not argue that Monk embodies, like pianist Jaki Byard, the characteristics of an African American trickster: someone who wields their ability to signify (or doublespeak). Neither does she mimic Priore and Stover’s methodology to study the lyrics to “‘Round Midnight” to show how Monk “manipulates tonal materials to emphasize textual double meanings” or looks at “In Walked Bud” to demonstrate that the pianist “shifted temporal perspectives … in the service of drawing the listener’s attention to the multiple meanings imbued in some particular bit of text.” Instead, she refers to his participation at civil rights fundraising concerts.

 

[6] I follow her lead to propose a similar argument. By calling attention to the presence of bossa nova at civil rights benefit concerts, I do not mean to suggest that bossa nova was deeply political music; rather, adopting Monson’s language, I wish to show that the force of bossa nova was so powerful and pervasive that even the leaders and rank and file members of the civil rights movement could not help but be affected by it. True, there were some overtly political songs recorded in a bossa nova style. Drummer Tootie Heath offered such an accompaniment on Herbie Hancock’s 1969 dedication to Dr. Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream,” recorded on The Prisoner, an album full of social commentary. However, more often, bossa nova appeared in contexts not dissimilar to what Monson sees occurring with Monk: as political by association. For instance, SNCC organizers were not the only activists to find bossa nova appropriate for their benefit concerts; members of the Committee on Civil Rights in Metropolitan New York (CCRM) likewise felt bossa nova’s presence would help their cause. Compared to an organization like SNCC, the CCRM was a relatively forgotten, yet nevertheless important, activist group. Between 1950 (when they were founded) and 1966 (when they dissolved), the CCRM mostly compared practices in public accommodations, housing, employment, healthcare, and other fields. In the early 1950s, they trained volunteers to report on discrimination at restaurants located in East Midtown and in the West Side. In the mid-1950s, they began to survey real estate brokers’ practices and compared African Americans’ success on renting a home to a white control group. After the Brown Sharkey Isaacs Fair Housing Practice law (which passed in December 1951) became effective in New York City in April 1958, the CCRM amped up their study of housing discrimination across four boroughs. In 1960, they began the Partnership Apartment Seekers’ Experiment, which united white volunteer checkers and black apartment seekers to secure housing for the latter. Like SNCC, the CCRM organized benefit concerts to raise money to fund such projects. On May 10, 1963, they held their 12th annual “Fun Raising Party” at the Riverside Plaza Terrace. Stan Z. Burns, the famous WINS-NY radio host, emceed the CCRM event while participants danced “the Charleston, twist, and bossa nova” until 3 a.m. Maurice Maynard’s orchestra provided the music.

 

[7] The type of benefit concerts bossa nova appeared at tended to cater to middle-class sensibilities. As Monson notes, civil rights benefit concerts differed from other modes of protest because instead of putting one’s body on the line – like protesters did during the Freedom Rides or during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign – activists simply donated money. In many instances, the benefit concerts that featured stars like Harry Belafonte or Josephine Baker relied on large amounts of donations to break even and generate funds. The presence of such commercialism, and bossa nova’s role within it, made the music susceptible to attacks.  As ethnomusicologist K. Goldschmitt writes in their history of bossa nova in the United States, “African American critics and activists suspected middle-class taste of being insufficiently political due to ties with commercialism” and “bossa nova demonstrated one of the last moments jazz crossed over into mainstream popularity. That it did so while attached to a dance – with much of the attention on dancing bodies rather than musical notes or civil rights – made it suspect to the New Left.” But Goldschmitt finds that bossa nova was not just “suspect” to the New Left; committed progressives dismissed bossa nova altogether. “Bossa nova’s overt commercialism,” Goldschmitt writes “meant that by the time civil rights took hold, the style lost its links with the vital sociopolitical currents of the day.” In a criticism that resembles the ones that Leão made back in Brazil, many within the United States found bossa nova’s commercialism as irreconcilable with the tenants of civil rights.    

 

[8] True, bossa nova appealed to middle-class audiences; looking at bossa nova’s reception within the prominent African American suburb of Westchester County during the 1960s documents this. In part due to urban unrest that occurred in the city in 1935 and 1943, several African Americans began to leave New York City for the suburbs. However, they were also drawn to Westchester County for business opportunities. In 1964, International Business Machines (IBM) moved their corporate headquarters from Madison Avenue to Armonk, in Westchester County, attracting a slew of graduates from historically black colleges. Another wave of urban unrest in the 1960s motivated more African Americans to move from the city to the suburbs. By 1968, the black community had grown to represent 10 percent of the Westchester population, with most African Americans living in cities like White Plains, New Rochelle, and Mount Vernon. Doris McNeil’s “Westchester Notes” column for the New York Amsterdam News covered this community and often reported on where locals could dance the bossa nova: at places like the Johnson County club scholarship fund dance or at a residential “ViVants Bohemian” party. Bossa nova was danced to – and listened to – in black middle-class communities like Westchester County.

[9] Middle-class African Americans enjoyed bossa nova across the country, however: not just in NYC’s suburbs. Evelyn Cunningham, for instance, wrote in the Pittsburgh Courier about her experience attending an elegant “bossa nova cocktail party.” At the 1963 Debutante Cotillion in Chicago’s Pick-Congress Hotel, Theresa Fambro reported for the Chicago Defender that some of Chicago’s most pretty and young women, alongside their escorts, “did very intricate steps to the bossa nova.” The Baltimore Afro-American likewise covered the 5th Annual National Convention of the Little Foxes and Hares in Los Angeles. After the pageant, the newspaper reported, La Parisienne Studios hosted a “Bossa Nova After-Party” for the delegates and friends who participated. The recently crowned “Miss Africa,” Abby Ekwonna, similarly visited Chicago where the same newspaper praised her for her ability to dance the “twist and the bossa nova.” In a demonstration of their cultural acumen and social status, middle-class African Americans turned to dancing the bossa nova.

 

[10] Benefit concerts therefore tapped into middle-class African Americans’ sensibilities and appreciation of bossa nova music; however, that does not mean that benefit concerts were any less political than other modes of protest. Historians Traci Parker and Robert E. Weems document how black economic concerns and efforts to increase black economic power were central to the modern Black Freedom Movement. During the 1930s, these efforts notably revolved around the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaigns. African Americans’ engagement with – and desire to participate in – the commercial marketplace does not preclude their activism. And just because middle-class African Americans enjoyed a wildly commercial style of music does not necessarily mean that their politics – or the music they listened to – did not achieve political goals. Take a “social swirl” party that occurred in Atlanta on March 24, 1963, at the Gammon Theological Seminary. There, guests Lorenzo Benn and Greta Gaston gave a history of the bossa nova dance and offered dancing demonstrations for the other guests. Among the attendees was a local NAACP representative.

 

[11] In addition to appearing at civil rights benefit concerts that catered to the black middle class hosted by SNCC and the CCRM, bossa nova also appeared alongside overtly activist music. A prime example occurred on December 29, 1962, when Cannonball Adderley and Stan Getz – who were both enjoying recent success with their bossa nova recordings “Jive Samba” and “Desafinado,” respectively – were booked at Orchestra Hall alongside Oscar Brown, Jr. (of We Insist! The Freedom Now Suite fame). At this concert, audiences heard bossa nova programmed alongside selections from Brown’s new opera, Slave Story. A similar programming decision took place at the University of California, Los Angeles in February 1966. At a concert series in commemoration of Negro History Week, Dizzy Gillespie and his group played, according to Billboard journalist Eliot Tiegel, an “unannounced bossa nova” that relied on a “happy groove” and made the audience “respond in toto.” Bossa nova not only seemed to follow political events whenever they arose but captivated the audience as well.

 

[12] Perhaps to the surprise of those critics dismissive of middle-class sensibilities and the politics of benefit concerts, bossa nova even appeared during the mid- to late-1960s within Black Power contexts. Avant-garde jazz artists like Archie Shepp recorded songs like “A garota de Ipanema” alongside eulogies to Malcolm X. Other artists like John Handy recorded bossa nova alongside a dedication to the racial unrest in Oxford, Mississippi that followed James Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss in 1962. Even black Catholics, like those led by composer, musician, and pastor Father Peter Scholtes, embraced bossa nova in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council and in concert with Black Power movements. Their embrace of bossa nova was part of a larger movement to define themselves – in the words of religious scholar Matthew J. Cressler – as “authentic black and truly Catholic.” As a result of this political and social outlook, Scholtes performed his original composition, “Missa Bossa Nova,” at an Urban League benefit concert in 1967. 

[13] Organizations like SNCC, CCRM, and the Urban League never gave specific reasons for hiring Herbie Mann, Maurice Maynard, and programming bossa nova; although, bossa nova’s middle-class appeal certainly played a role. Additional explanations exist, however, and focusing on three interrelated histories also helps explain the prevalence of bossa nova at civil rights benefit concerts First, Herbie Mann’s specialization in Afro-Latin music, for instance, resonated with activists who were looking to the African diaspora for solidarity, encouragement, and strength in their fight for civil rights. In the words of Ingrid Monson and historian Robin D.G. Kelley, these musicians and activists were “calling out to Africa” and hearing “Africa speak” to seek “new spiritual and ideological alternatives to what they saw as a declining West.” Second, anthropologists such as Melville Herskovits and the members of the African American press had been reporting on the affinities between African American culture and Afro-Brazil since the 1940s. Once bossa nova arrived on the scene in 1962, the African American press and several musicians understood it alongside Cuban mambos or Ghanaian highlife as an example of musical exchange across the Black Atlantic. Third, as the sixties progressed, and the tenants of Black Power became more attractive, avant-garde jazz musicians and black Catholics incorporated bossa nova music as part of a larger diasporic vision. For benefit concert organizers interested in spotlighting visions of human and civil rights across the Black Atlantic, bossa nova had something to offer. 

Ingrid Monson, “Monk Meets SNCC,” Black Music Research Journal 19, no. 2 (2000): 188, 191.

Lauren Gunthier, “The Students Took Over from Featured Artists,” New York Amsterdam News, February 9, 1963, 13.

Leão quoted in Ruy Castro, Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World (Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2012), 267; Irna Priore and Chris Stover, “The Subversive Songs of Bossa Nova: Tom Jobim in the Era of Censorship,” Analytical Approaches to World Music 3, no. 2 (November 22, 2014): 1 no. 2.

Priore and Stover, “The Subversive Songs of Bossa Nova: Tom Jobim in the Era of Censorship,” 1, 24, 17.

Ingrid Monson, “Doubleness’ and Jazz Improvisation: Irony, Parody and Ethnomusicology,” Critical Inquiry 20, no. 2 (1994): 283–313.

“Historical Note to the Archives of the Committee of Civil Rights in Metropolitan New York, Inc.,” Amistad Research Center, accessed May 26, 2020, http://amistadresearchcenter.tulane.edu/archon/?p=creators/creator&id=247; “CCRM’s Party at Riverside,” New York Amsterdam News, May 11, 1963, 12.

Ingrid Monson, Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call out to Jazz and Africa (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007), 167; K.E. Goldschmitt, Bossa Mundo: Brazilian Music in Transnational Media Industries (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019), 47, 26, 51.

Lawrence Otis Graham, “Being Black in Westchester,” Westchester Magazine, May 30, 2008, https://westchestermagazine.com/uncategorized/being-black-in-westchester/; David Levine, “African American History: A Past Rooted in the Hudson Valley,” Westchester Magazine, January 27, 2017, https://westchestermagazine.com/uncategorized/african-american-history-a-past-rooted-in-the-hudson-valley/; Doris McNeil, “Westchester Notes,” New York Amsterdam News, February 9, 1963, 23; Doris McNeil, “Westchester Notes,” New York Amsterdam News, March 2, 1963, 25.

Evelyn Cunningham, “Evelyn Cunningham,” Pittsburgh Courier, December 15, 1962, 15; Theresa Fambro, “Links’ Debs Bow At 1963 Cotillion,” Chicago Defender, June 25, 1963, 14; “‘Little Foxes’ 5th Convention in Los Angeles,” The Baltimore Afro-American, July 27, 1963, 7; “‘Miss Africa’ Charms with Wit, Intellect,”Baltimore Afro-American, March 2, 1963, 7.

Traci Parker, Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement: Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights from the 1930s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2019); Robert E. Weems, “The Revolution Will Be Marketed: American Corporations and Black Consumers During the 1960s,” in Consumer Society in American History: A Reader, ed. Lawrence B. Glickman (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 316–25; Ozeil Fryer Woolcock, “Social Swirl,” Atlanta Daily World, March 24, 1963, 3.

“Getz To Get Jazz Award During Show Saturday,” Chicago Defender, December 26, 1962, 16; Eliot Tiegel, “The Jazz Beat,” Billboard, March 12, 1966, 12.

Matthew J. Cressler, Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migration (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2017).

Monson, Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call out to Jazz and Africa; Robin D.G. Kelley, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 6.

Bossa Nova Meets SNCC

Interlocking History #1: Herbie Mann

​[14] The February 1, 1963 SNCC concert was not the only benefit concert Herbie Mann played at; he also donated his music to several civil rights causes, mostly performing Afro-Cuban jazz. He had experimented with the style rather early in his career and made an appearance on Art Blakey’s famous 1957 album, Orgy in Rhythm. But his career in Afro-Cuban jazz took off in late 1958 when Mario Bauzá – the longtime musical director for the Afro-Cuban orchestra fronted by Francisco “Machito” Grillo – hired him to write songs for a new album he was preparing to record for Roulette Records. The album, a live album recorded at Birdland titled Machito with Flute to Boot, featured Machito’s Afro Cubans Big Band alongside guest soloists Mann, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, and trombonist Curtis Fuller. After his stint at Birdland with Machito, Mann assembled his own Latin group that debuted in June 1959 at Basin Street East. There, he recorded another live album, Flautista!, which featured percussionists from the Machito band: two Puerto Rican cousins, Santo Miranda and José Luis Mangual, as well as the famous Cuban conguero, Carlos “Patato” Valdes. Sometime in 1963, Mann reunited with Machito and his Afro Cubans to offer their support to the civil rights movement. They contributed “Carabunta,” a song they originally recorded on Machito with Flute to Boot, to the Congress of Racial Equality’s (CORE) double-album, A Jazz Salute to Freedom. The benefit album would go on to sell around 17,000 copies and raise $50,000 for CORE.

 

[15] While Mann’s Afro-Cuban aesthetic obviously appealed to CORE’s executive director James Farmer, Mann also pursued another aesthetic stream that resonated with benefit concert organizers: “African” jazz. In November 1958, amid his successful experiments with Afro-Cuban jazz, Mann began to think more broadly about African music and its contribution to American jazz. More specifically, he wanted to go on a teaching mission to Africa and, in his words, “show the Africans how much our American jazz music owes to its African heritage.” To put his plan into action he solicited the help of Marshall Stearns, a noted jazz historian who also worked for President Eisenhower’s International Exchange Program: the same program that sent Charlie Byrd, Keter Betts, and Buddy Deppenschmidt to Brazil in 1961. Stearns set up an audition at New York’s Village Gate where Mann and his group debuted a piece he had been working on, a multi-movement composition dedicated to African influence and heritage titled “African Suite.” Stearns and Mann also hired former Flautista! musicians “Patato” Valdes, José Luis Mangual, and vibraphonist Johnny Rae in order to record an album of the “African Suite.” Stearns and the band wanted to send their recording to the American National Theatre and Academy as well as to seventeen American consuls in Africa. Their goal was to get the State Department to assess whether they wanted Mann to tour under the auspices of the federal government. Unfortunately for Mann, not enough consuls enjoyed his recording. The advisory committee concluded that his music on “African Suite” was “too primitive” and suggested he add horns to his percussion-heavy instrumentation because it would make his band versatile enough to play dixieland, swing, Afro-Cuban, and bebop. Mann accepted their stipulations and in late 1959 the State Department approved a band comprised of Valdes, Mangual, Rae, bassist Don Payne, drummer Rudy Collins, as well as the requisite horn players, trumpeter Doc Cheatham and trombonist Willie Dennis. Between December 31, 1959, and April 5, 1960, Mann’s group visited Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

 

[16] Despite his interest in the music of Africa, Mann’s comments about – and behavior during – his State Department tour suggests he may not have been entirely sympathetic with the tenets of the American civil rights movement. As Robin D.G. Kelley writes, Mann began his tour condescendingly and told the New York Times critic John S. Wilson that “I’ve heard that a professor at an African college has said that the youth of Africa want to forget about their culture, that the new music of Africa is jazz . . . So maybe they’ll resent my music. On the other hand, I might be able to show them that their music is not something to be ashamed of.” A public affairs officer who accompanied Mann on tour noted his “cavalier, condescending attitude” which he reserved mostly for the Sudanese, whom Mann described as “uncultured” and “unsophisticated” because they “preferred dixieland to modern jazz.” When he returned to the United States, he told the Chicago Defender about his “jazz safari” to Africa and spoke more about the photographs and films he took than the music he made or listened to.

 

[17] But whether they were aware of his comments made about Africa or not, the Africa Defense and Aid Fund certainly felt Mann was sympathetic enough to their cause to hire him a year later to perform at their “Africa Freedom Day” benefit concert on April 17, 1961. And whether Mann thought his condescension towards Africans did not preclude him from expressing his interest in civil rights for African Americans (the most likely explanation), or whether he had amended his views and now believed Africans – even if they liked dixieland – were modern, cultured people (maybe), or whether he did not believe in civil rights at all and was just playing a gig (the least likely explanation), he nevertheless accepted their invitation. Organized by several African nationalists, the “Africa Freedom Day” benefit featured talks by Kenneth Kuanda, president of the United National Independence Party of Northern Rhodesia, author James Baldwin, senator Hubert Humphrey, and James Farmer, CORE’s executive director who would later reach out to Mann to provide music for the organization’s benefit album. In addition to Mann, performers included Dizzy Gillespie and Miriam Makeba, one of South Africa’s most celebrated singers and activists. In large part thanks to Mann’s interest in African music and his experience abroad, he must have felt somewhat comfortable at the “Africa Freedom Day” concert. Either his “African Suite” that he had recorded a few years prior, or the more general Afro-Cuban jazz in which he had been specializing, would have fit right into the program. Whatever he played, he surely made an impression; after all, James Farmer, who shared the stage with Mann that day, did, two years later, include his music on CORE’s A Jazz Salute to Freedom record.

 

[18] By performing African-jazz, and Afro-Cuban jazz at benefit concerts such as the “Africa Freedom Day,” Mann made a decision that several of his colleagues were also making. As cultural historian Josh Kun points out, “many of the Afro-Cuban jazz experiments … were embedded in larger pan-Africanist projects and were part of a widespread jazz trend in the late 1950s and early 1960s to celebrate recent developments in African postcolonialism and political liberation from European rule.” Songs like McCoy Tyner’s “The Man from Tanganyika,” Horace Parlan’s “Home Is Africa,” John Coltrane’s “Africa,” Jackie McClean’s tribute to Ghanaian independence, “Appointment in Ghana,” Lee Morgan’s tribute to Kenyan independence, “Mr. Kenyatta,” and Art Blakey’s album, The African Beat “were all intended to generate African American pride in the struggles and achievements of postcolonial Africa.” Mann may have made contradictory comments towards Africa, but his music unequivocally placed him alongside artists like Tyner, Coltrane, and Blakely.

 

[19] While Mann’s embrace of Afro-Cuban and African jazz was not unique, at SNCC’s “Salute to Southern Students” concert on February 1, 1963, Mann included a style of music that his peers so far had not: bossa nova. In 1959, Mann saw Black Orpheus, Marcel Camus’ famous film about carnival in Rio de Janeiro that won the Grand Prize at Cannes and an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1960. More accurately, in 1959 Mann heard the soundtrack to Black Orpheus, which featured the music of Luiz Bonfá and Antônio Carlos Jobim, the sounds of the Brazilian bateria, and what would soon become bossa nova standards like “Manhã de carnaval,” “O nosso amor,” and “A felicidade.” After seeing the film, Mann approached record producer and manager Monte Kay, who was collaborating with Alex Valdes to organize a tour of Brazil that featured musicians Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Jo Jones, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Chris Connor, and several others. Mann wanted to attend and explained why: “I really am getting bored,” he told Kay. “The drummers are the leaders of my band and I’m a sideman. I need something more. I have to go [to Brazil].” Since Kay retorted that nobody in Brazil would recognize Mann’s name, Mann offered to go “for nothing.” He pleaded: “I have to go to Brazil … I’m going to commit musical suicide if I don’t go … I will go insane.” Kay acquiesced and included Mann and some additional personnel – bassists Ahmed Abdul Malik and Ben Tucker, percussionist Ray Mantilla, and drummer Dave Bailey – on a multi-day, multi-city tour of South America. What Kay called the “American Jazz Festival” debuted in São Paulo at the Ritz Theater on July 12, 1961, where it played for four nights before heading to Rio de Janeiro for the 16th, 17th, and 18th. The musicians then traveled to other cities across South America. Kay was not exactly telling the truth when he told Mann that nobody in Brazil would recognize his name, although the Brazilian press seemed most excited to hear vocalist Chris Connor. However, Mann surely felt insecure appearing alongside such big names, some of whom – like Roy Eldridge – had played to Brazilian audiences before. He nevertheless bolstered his image one night by incorporating as much local music as he could into his sets. According to local journalist José Domingos Raffaelli, one night Mann played “Asa Branca,” a 1947 composition by Luiz Gonzaga and Humberto Teixara whose lyrics describe the Brazil’s Northeastern sertão (hinterland) region. According to accounts Mann relayed to his biographer Cary Ginell, “the whole audience stood up and started applauding.” Mann recalled further, “I could have been elected president of Brazil that night.” He was so moved by the Brazilian musicians he heard that he returned to Brazil in October 1962 to record Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann for Atlantic. A few months later, he appeared at SNCC’s “Salute to Southern Students” concert playing bossa nova as well.

 

[20] Unsurprisingly, Mann’s early bossa nova recordings often feature the same instrumentation and musical characteristics that he used in his African and Afro-Cuban jazz recordings. Songs on Right Now such as “Desafinado” and “Meditação” featured “Patato” Valdes on congas. Brazil, Bossa Nova & Blues took a similar approach, with Valdes supplementing drummer Willie Bobo’s bossa nova patterns with a traditional tumbao pattern on most of the songs. Some of the album alluded to the harmonic form of African American music, notably the inclusion of a twelve-bar blues in “B.N. Blues.” Other songs on the album allude to the sounds of the Afro-Brazilian samba. On “Me faz recorar,” percussionist José Paulo offers his expertise on the pandeiro, approaching the pandeiro with the same rhythms and technique as those playing in samba contexts, such as in Linda Batista’s “Coitado do Edgar.” He gripped the pandeiro in one hand and used the thumb, forefingers, and palm of his other to create bass, treble, slap tones. Whether due to instrumentation or harmonic decisions, Herbie Mann, with the help of percussionists like Valdes and Paulo, recorded bossa nova that was not entirely too dissimilar to the African- and Afro-Cuban jazz for which Mann was known.

 

[21] Although he may have been the first musician (if not, then the most notable) to combine bossa nova with the sounds of African jazz, Mann was not alone in his endeavor; bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik approached his bossa nova recordings from a similar outlook. Like Mann, Abdul-Malik dedicated most of his career to fusing African music with jazz. But Abdul-Malik’s conception of “Africa” revolved mostly around North Africa and the Middle East. Born in Brooklyn to Caribbean parents (although he claimed his father was from Sudan), Abdul-Malik converted to Ahmadiyya Islam, a popular sect amongst African Americans because, in Robin D.G. Kelley’s words, it “redefined so-called Negroes from a national minority to a world majority” and “bestowed upon black American culture a sense of dignity and nobility.” In conjunction with his faith, Abdul-Malik also expressed interest in the music of Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, and other parts of the Muslim world. Arabic music was already a popular fad in the late 1950s because it captured American audiences’ longstanding interest in exotic sounds. However, Abdul-Malik brought a spiritual element to his music that combined jazz with a serious interest in Middle Eastern harmony, melody, and timbre. He played the oud (a Middle Eastern lute), explored quarter tones, and used Arabic scales while accompanying fellow Brooklyn-native Randy Weston during jam sessions. Together, they would record several albums in the mid-1950s. Weston ultimately developed a storied career as a pianist who incorporated African elements into his music, exemplified by albums Uhuru Africa and Music from the New African Nations. Abdul-Malik would pursue a similar path and adopt similar interests. In October 1958, he recorded and later released his debut album as a bandleader, Jazz Sahara, which would coincidentally be the first Arab-jazz fusion release. In 1961 he joined Herbie Mann’s band to tour Latin America for Monte Kay’s American Jazz Festival. On July 16, 1961, they stopped at Rio de Janeiro’s Teatro Municipal. There, according to journalist José Domingos Raffaelli, Abdul-Malik “tried bossa nova, leaving the audience amazed at [his] immediate adaptation to our Brazilian rhythm.” It was probably this experience that motivated him to record “African Bossa Nova” for his 1962 album, Sounds of Africa, upon his return to the United States.

 

[22] Interestingly, Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s “African Bossa Nova” shows how musicians could on the one hand, perform incredibly popular music such as bossa nova, yet on the other hand, similarly be cognizant of the political and social power of performing Afro-diasporic music. Like José Paulo did with Mann, percussionists Chief Bey and Montego Joe helped spotlight the Afro-Brazilian roots of bossa nova. Both percussionists had already dedicated most of their careers to fusing African music with jazz. Montego Joe accompanied Babatunde Olatunji on his provocative and commercially successful 1959 album, Drums of Passion, while both percussionists – in addition to Ahmed Abdul-Malik – played on Art Blakey’s The African Beat in January 1962. Abdul-Malik must have enjoyed the Blakey recording session, because he hired both percussionists to accompany drummer Rudy Collins on his Sounds of Africa session. The album’s liner notes credit Chief Bey on “African drums” and Montego Joe on “congas and bongos,” but more specifically they recorded “African Bossa Nova” with a shaker of some sort and a simple repetitive pattern on the agogo bells – an instrument comprised usually of multiple bells of different pitches. Robin D.G. Kelley, who documents Abdul-Malik’s career in his monograph, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times, believes Abdul-Malik’s music “music was in many ways a foil against the Middle Eastern craze and a celebration of the dignity and power Islam represented for the black world.” However, Kelley specifically ridicules “African Bossa Nova” and calls it a “jaunty little twelve-bar blues that not only worked as dance music but exploited the burgeoning bossa nova fad.” How come “African Bossa Nova” only “exploits a fad” while an album like Jazz Sahara is “a foil against the Middle Eastern craze?” Such characterization dismisses the seriousness – the tasty bebop licks and the African diaspora-inspired instrumentation and conception – of even this “jaunty dance tune.” In his conclusion to his study of Abdul-Malik, Kelley writes that the bassist “tirelessly pursued his dream of understanding the music of his ancestors ­– real or imagined ­­– and continuing their tradition of making a joyful noise for God. In the process he made astonishingly modern music using ancient materials, ushering in a new world on the wings of very old and established beliefs.” That statement applies equally well to “African Bossa Nova” as it does any other track Abdul-Malik recorded.

 

[23] Given the musical characteristics of his bossa nova recordings, Mann – to say nothing of his colleagues like Abdul-Malik – did not feel like he took a leap from specializing in African- or Afro-Cuban jazz to specializing in bossa nova; nor did he feel like playing bossa nova would be inappropriate for a benefit concert. Mann believed that bossa nova – just like his performances of Afro-Cuban jazz with Machito on CORE’s A Jazz Salute to Freedom or his “African Suite” that he may have performed at “Africa Freedom Day” – generated Josh Kun’s aforementioned “African American pride in the struggles and achievements of postcolonial Africa.” The back cover to Mann’s 1965 album, Latin Mann, articulated his beliefs succinctly. On the cover, Atlantic Records included “A Latin Jazz Family Tree.” They labeled the base of the tree “Spain, Africa, and Portugal.” Each trunk then expanded, branching out into different genres: from Spain came Chano Pozo; from Africa, the blues; and from Portugal, Brazil, then samba, and then bossa nova. Yet the diagram also showed the branches of the tree interrelate, so while Atlantic labeled “bossa nova” on the far right of the tree, you could follow its branches to see what Leonard Feather (who wrote the liner notes) called “cross-pollination.” By following a branch that started from “bossa nova” and passed through “Jive Samba,” then “Horace Silver,” then Mann’s song, “Let’s Boom, Chitty Boom,” listeners could end up on the other “far side” of the tree, next to Tito Puente and Machito. Or you could take another route (root!), through Ray Charles (no, not the other one), jazz, and the blues, and end back to “Africa.” Bossa nova comprised just another genre in an interrelated web of Latin-based African diasporic music.

 

Interlocking History #2: Anthropology and African Retentions in Brazil

 

[24] Mann was not alone in recognizing the interrelatedness between bossa nova and the African diaspora; ever since the 1930s, anthropologists had been debating the extent to which Afro-Brazil maintained any links to Africa. On one side stood Guy B. Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier who argued that descendants of Africa in North and South America did not retain any African traits of their ancestors. Johnson looked at Gullah – an African-derived English creole spoken in the Georgia Sea Islands – to make his case. In his 1930 book, Folk Culture on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, he argued that slavery was so devastating that enslaved former Africans and their descendants lost all aspects of their forbears’ African culture. Gullah, according to Johnson was “predominately a dialect of English, with only minor traces of African patterns.” Americans researching Afro-Brazil came to a similar conclusion. On November 8, 1940, E. Franklin Frazier and Lorenzo Dow Turner arrived in Brazil where they conducted field work on the family structure of Black families living in Bahia, Salvador. In August 1942, Frazier published his findings in American Sociological Review. “Whatever influence African traditions might have exerted upon the family organization of their African forebears in the New World,” he argued, “had evidently been lost through racial mixture and the mobility of these families.” Frazier and Johnson essentially predated the argument Stanley Elkins would more forcefully make in his famous and provocative 1959 book, Slavery: A Problem in American and Institutional and Intellectual Life. The conditions of slavery had traumatized enslaved Africans in the New World to such an extent that they became, in the summation of historian John Thornton, “cultural receptacles rather than donors.” For those that just witnessed the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, Elkins’ argument – alongside Johnson and Frazier – testified to the utter destruction that chattel slavery causes.

 

[25] While Guy B. Johnson and E. Franklin Frazier felt that Afro-Brazilians and Africans shared very little in common, Lorenzo Dow Turner (who accompanied Frazier on his trip to Brazil in 1940) and Melville J. Herskovits argued that descendants of Africa in North and South America were not “receptacles” but instead did retain African traits of their ancestors. Turner, a linguist, began to study the speech of ex-slaves in 1929 and immersed himself in Gullah culture. He found that their grammatical constructions and words had nothing to do with English, hypothesized that they instead stemmed from African languages, and enrolled himself at London’s School of Oriental Studies in 1936. After studying Ewe, Efik, Gã, Twi, and Yoruba, he finally published his response to Johnson’s work on the Gullah in 1949. His magnum opus, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect, showed around 4,000 West African words survived in Gullah speech. While Turner offered an alternative to Johnson’s interpretation, Melville J. Herskovits acted as a foil to E. Franklin Frazier. In August 1941, Herskovits arrived in Brazil to also conduct field work on the Black family in Bahia and similarly published his findings in American Sociological Review. In his article, “The Negro in Bahia, Brazil: A Problem in Method,” he took issue with Frazier’s conclusions and responded by noting “the social organization of the Yoruban and Dahomean peoples of West Africa … have played the most important role in shaping Afro-Bahian culture.” Maybe descendants of slavery living in the Western Hemisphere retained some elements of African culture after all.

 

[26] African “Americans” (i.e., from the United States and Brazil) looking for tools for liberation had good reason to ignore Herskovits and Turner’s theories. E. Franklin Frazier – and later Martiniquais psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon – were not at all convinced that the past of peoples of color was a potential ally for black liberation. Fanon would most vocally critique the arguments presented by Herskovits, specifically attacking fellow Martiniquais poet and politician Aimé Césaire’s concept of negritude by stating “in no way should I dedicate myself to the revival of an unjustly unrecognized Negro civilization. I will not make myself a man of any past. I do not want to sing the past at the expense of my present and my future.” Instead of looking to the past, both Frazier and Fanon were more interested in the future and the place of negritude within modernity. More recently, ethnomusicologist David F. García has written about the damage done when scholars, musicians, artists, and intellects in the mid-twentieth century endorsed the idea that an African past had been retained in the New World. Although he recognizes that scholars and artists like Melville Herskovits and Dizzy Gillespie deeply committed themselves to the anti-racist movement, their scholarship and interaction with other musicians like Chano Pozo (from Cuba) relied on them going “back in time” to find Africanisms in the African diasporic music. Their actions engaged in a type of ideological violence because they relied on a belief that Africans were living in the past – in a space and time apart from the modern man.

 

[27] Nevertheless, in the 1950s and 1960s, Turner’s and Herskovits’ arguments that certain Brazilians and Americans had retained some culture from Africa obviously appealed to descendants of slaves living in the mid-twentieth century. Journalist Herb Frazier offers a compelling reason why. He recalls that growing up in Charleston, South Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s “we did not know about our strong connection with the Mother Continent. Schools and the media did not promote black history in those days. Moreover, outsiders had ridiculed our speech, our diet, and our traditional ways of life for generations.” As he learned more about Gullah language, the research done by Lorenzo Dow Turner, and the several scholars who followed in Turner’s footsteps, Herb Frazier realized he now possessed a narrative for countering insults hurled towards him about his speech (“funny talking”) and culinary diet (“rice with fish heads”). Consequently, in 1972, as a reporter for Charleston’s News and Courier, he wrote a story about the links between the coiled sweetgrass baskets and the similar baskets made in West Africa, citing specifically Turner’s theories. But the theories of Herskovits and Turner did not just appeal to the Gullah people of Georgia and Carolina. A Pittsburgh Courier column from 1942 helps demonstrate why these theories were so attractive. “You owe a debt of gratitude to the Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern University, Dr. Melville Herskovits, for his recent illuminating book, The Myth of the Negro Past,” the column begins. “Your detractors and apologists have propagandized the world into believing that you came to this land an ignorant, benighted, uncivilized being without significant history and that since you have been here you have lost all memory of the little culture you have.” For those who were constantly harassed, insulted, and degraded over their alleged uncivilized behavior, the theory of the “Negro past” offered a compelling retort.

 

[28] Although the intellectual community continued to debate the issue of Africanisms in the New World, historian August Meier remarks that Lawrence W. Levine’s publication of Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom in 1977 essentially signaled the “triumph” of Melville Herskovits’ theories; looking at discourse in the African American press between 1940s and 1960s helps show many musicians rallied behind the theories presented by Herskovits and Turner and talk about the African influence of several types of Brazilian music. Originally, samba featured heavily in the coverage of the 1940s. In 1941, the Baltimore Afro-American interviewed Trinidadian-born calypso singer Sir Lancelot, who put into words what Atlantic Records, Herbie Mann, and Leonard Feather conveyed on the back cover of Latin Mann some twenty-four years later. Lancelot argued that “there is a definite kinship between the infectious rhythm of the calypsos of Trinidad, the tango of the Argentine, the rhumba of Cuba, the samba and conga of Brazil, and jazz of the United States … They all have an identical background in the tom-tom rhythms of Africa.” That same year, the newspaper noted “many colored Americans may not realize it, but the exotic rhythms of our Latin American neighbors are as African in base as this nation’s own blues, spirituals, and hot jazz. The samba, rumba [sic], tango, conga, etc., stem directly from the Dark Continent where fundamentally the same intricate rhythms are played today.” Lorenzo Dow Turner even commented on Brazilian samba’s African foundation. Although he accompanied Frazier to Brazil, his conclusions differed from his colleague’s. Turner extended his arguments about Africanisms in Gullah culture to his understanding of Brazilian music and other music of the New World. “[Turner’s] research also shows that such dances as samba, rhumba, Charleston, black bottom, and tango, have originated in Africa,” reported the Pittsburgh Courier in 1956. The Courier had apparently gotten an inside scoop on Turner’s research: Turner would officially publish his findings two years later in a chapter titled “African Survivals in the New World with Special Emphasis on the Arts.”

 

[29] Musicians and members of the African American press similarly described bossa nova as a type of Afro-diasporic music with roots in Afro-Brazilian samba as early as the fall of 1962. “Samba jazz [i.e., bossa nova] is a merger of Negro North American jazz with an equally potent blend of Afro-Brazilian origin,” wrote Bob Hunter for the Chicago Defender. Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete, who had begun to establish a career in the United States, remarked for the same newspaper that bossa nova “is a new rhythm in which Brazilian samba has been transformed into a jazz rhythm.” Dizzy Gillespie likewise argued that “the average cat cutting the tune doesn’t know what he’s doing … they don’t know how to play the samba, and that’s all the bossa nova is.” There was little confusion amongst black musicians and members of the African American press: bossa nova was African-derived music.

 

[30] Interestingly, these discussions about bossa nova’s African roots were emerging while African Americans were beginning to endorse the argument that Brazil was not the racial democracy they once thought it was. Although Brazil abolished slavery in 1888 – some twenty-five years after the United States – many African Americans nevertheless viewed Brazil as a racial paradise. African American newspapers like the Western Appeal, Indianapolis Freeman, and Chicago Defender all wrote articles during the first three decades of the twentieth century which described a situation where European, African, and those of indigenous ancestry freely mixed and married in Brazil. Additionally (or consequently), Brazil lacked formalized segregation or anti-miscegenation laws prevalent in the United States. The country’s positive reputation in the press even led black nationalists in the United States, such as Cyril Briggs and those associated with Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, to attempt to emigrate to Brazil during the 1920s. But African Americans began to change their outlook beginning in the 1940s. W.E.B. DuBois – who had previously endorsed Brazil’s approach to race-relations during the 1910s and 1920s – changed his opinion. DuBois found that dark-skinned Brazilians continued to experience social and economic barriers into the 1940s while racial amalgamation had contributed neither to “social uplift” nor greater power and prestige for mulattoes and mestizos in Latin America. Governmental policies encouraging European immigration as well as a history of branqueomento lead DuBois to think that “darker people” were beginning to “think white.” In the early 1940s, DuBois was warning that Afro-Brazilians were losing awareness of their cultural patterns “in a scramble on their part to become white.” This criticism of Brazil’s policies of racial amalgamation and miscegenation peaked during the late 1960s as younger and more nationalistic black Americans criticized the non-violent and integrationist philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights movement. Amalgamation did not work in the United States, newspapers like Negro Digest concluded in the late 1960s, so why could it possibly have worked in Brazil? If anything, it instilled a pathological behavior in Afro-Brazilians, who constantly tried to ignore their African heritage.

 

[31] Nevertheless, Afro-Brazil remained prominent in the imagination of African Americans as several television programs solidified the links between bossa nova and the African diaspora through the content of their programming. The New York Amsterdam News instructed its viewers that the February 3, 1963 airing of the Ed Sullivan Show would feature live performances of both Babatunde Olatunji and Os Bossa Tres, for instance. The same newspaper also promoted WCBS-TV’s special, “The Distant Sounds,” which aired December 23, 1967. The program followed hosts Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff “on a musical journey from Harlem to Brazil to enhance their own understanding of the Afro-American roots of the music they interpret.” After their first stop in Bahia, Salvador, the show and its hosts move on to Rio de Janeiro where “they meet Luis [sic] Bonfá, an innovator of the bossa nova sound, who joins Ruff in an impromptu music session.” The African American press also solidified the relationship between bossa nova and music of the African diaspora by promoting television performances of bossa nova alongside other television programs that dealt with topics on African diasporic history and culture. In their “What’s On TV?” column for the week of May 26, 1969, the New York Amsterdam News reported that WNET was airing a special titled “The World of Bossa Nova.” Other shows that the newspaper thought their readers might want to watch included WOR’s two-part series on West Africa and CBS’s “Black Heritage – A History of Afro-Americans.” Even if these programs did not achieve a political goal, bossa nova certainly played a role in how African Americans imagined themselves within the rest of the diaspora.

 

Interlocking History #3: Bossa Nova and Black Power

[32] Unsurprisingly, given bossa nova’s reputation as Afro-diasporic music, several musicians associated with Black Power also performed bossa nova; noted avant-garde saxophonist Archie Shepp offers one notable example. On February 16, 1965, he went to Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey to record his version of “A garota de Ipanema,” a song written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes in 1962. By the time Shepp had recorded his version, the song was already a hit. In March 1963, Jobim, vocalist Astrud Gilberto, guitarist João Gilberto (Astrud’s spouse), saxophonist Stan Getz, and several Brazilian rhythm-section musicians walked into A&R Studios to record a famous, soft, and seductive version of the song. Their recording, featuring English vocals by Astrud, became incredibly successful and won a GRAMMY for “Record of the Year” in 1965. Shepp’s version does not sound soft and seductive. Instead, it begins with bassist Reggie Johnson and trombonist Joseph Orange playing a minor arpeggio together. They’re later joined by the rest of the band, who play a series of short pre-composed melodies. Nothing for the first thirty seconds sounds like “A Garota de Ipanema” as Jobim and Gilberto performed it. Then, 34 seconds in, trumpeter Ted Curson begins to play the recognizable melody. Drummer Joe Chambers plays a bossa nova pattern alongside Johnson’s bass ostinato. If it weren’t for the harmony supplied by Shepp and alto saxophonist Marion Brown, the trio of drums, bass, and trumpet would sound rather unassuming. But Shepp and Brown gave the opening four measures of the song a disconcerting quality. Brown plays a second below Curson and Shepp typically harmonizes a major or minor second below Brown. They’re seemingly doing their best Krzysztof Penderecki impression. In his 1960 composition, Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, Penderecki writes for 52 string instruments playing quarter-tone clusters. Shepp did not have that many instruments at his disposable. But the use of tone clusters in his “A Garota de Ipanema” does create a similar unsettling affect to the one Penderecki achieves.

 

[33] Interestingly, Shepp’s avant-garde rendition of “A garota de Ipanema,” released on the album Fire Music, appears just one track after a song dedicated to Malcolm X titled “Malcolm, Malcolm – Malcolm Semper.” Much of the song revolves around a poem that Shepp wrote. A song is not what it seems,” Shepp begins in a hushed tone. “A tune perhaps. Bird whistled while even America listened. We play. But we aren’t always dumb,” his poem continues. Although it appears on the same album as “A garota de Ipanema,” Shepp recorded this song on March 9, 1965. Malcolm X had just been murdered a few weeks before, on February 21, in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. Shepp was recording a poem in commemoration. “We are murdered in amphitheaters,” Shepp’s recitation continues. “On the podium of the Audubon.” Engineer Rudy Van Gelder placed a large amount of reverb on Shepp’s voice. It sounds like the saxophonist recited his poem in the Audubon itself. “Philadelphia 1945. Malcolm, my people. Dear God. Malcolm.” The poem ends. Bassist David Izenzon accompanies Shepp’s recitation, adding a mixture of bowed and plucked notes. He also sounds like he is doing his best impression of Penderecki’s Threnody: tremolos, microtones, angst, and terror abound. Except, instead of piece about the nuclear bomb, Shepp and his band are playing a threnody to Malcolm X. When Shepp finishes his poem, he grabs his tenor saxophone. Drummer J.C. Moses joins in. They improvise freely for several minutes, creating a haunting recording. 

 

[34] Given bossa nova’s presence at several benefit concerts and alongside other political events, it should come as no surprise that a song like “A garota de Ipanema” appeared alongside a eulogy for Malcolm X performed by a leading avant-garde jazz musician; however, critic Rex Reed frequently argued that bossa nova and avant-garde jazz had nothing to do with each other. In a review of Harold Vick’s album, Straight Up, Reed argues that “Vick does not use his music to make violent statements about his troubled world.” Reed also contrasts Vick with the fiery music of Archie Shepp, noting that Vick “is not likely to make any claim to the reserved-for-controversy column space already occupied by the Archie Shepps and the John Coltranes and the Albert Aylers. He isn’t revolutionizing the jazz business by tempering his sermons with anguish, anger, and hate. But he is just as emotional.” To argue that Vick’s music was not angry, hateful, or full of anguish, he cited, among other songs Vick’s original bossa nova, “A Rose for Wray.” In his review, Reed suggested that bossa nova shared little in common with some of the more politically outspoken music of the late 1960s.

[35] Rex Reed was even more forceful and declarative in his review of John Handy’s album, New View!. On June 28, 1967, alto saxophonist John Handy played a benefit concert at New York City’s Village Gate which was recorded by Columbia Records. A year later, Reed reviewed the album and had little positive to say about the recording. “John Handy may be the performer to take the place of the late John Coltrane [and] I do not mean that as a compliment,” Reed began. “Handy never fit into this [avant-garde] jazz movement before, but apparently he has now heard about the race riots and Selma and James Meredith and it has all gone to his head, because the new John Handy Quintet is full of protest, and in my humble opinion it has all but wrecked his style.” His review continued to chastise: “the group tells it like it is on side two, with a twenty-four-minute exercise in cluttered, cacophonous tedium called ‘Tears of Ole Miss (Anatomy of a Riot)’ based on James Meredith’s attempt to enter the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1962.” Reed even made comments about the music specifically: “sections of minstrel songs and old Southern Negro chants are thrown in for humor, but none of it is very amusing.” In a devastating final sentence, Reed remarks that “protest jazz, the hardcore buffs tell me, is here to stay. They still haven’t explained what it has to do with real music.” Yet, while Reed launched his tirade against Handy’s music, he praised the presence of bossa nova on the album. The song “A Little Quiet,” the reviewer noted, is performed with a “gently swinging bossa nova flavor” which persuaded Reed “to not give up entirely on John Handy.” The song appears somewhat out of place on the album since “Tears of Ole Miss” sounds like Handy is doing his best Archie Shepp impression: extended techniques, squeaks, and overblowing abound. Yet, “A Little Quiet” is relatively unassuming. Little wonder that Reed picked it out as an exception of the saxophonist’s style, not necessarily the rule. However, Reed failed to see the irony that lied at the heart of his review of New View!: some of the most politically overt avant-garde jazz musicians saw little contradiction in incorporating bossa nova music alongside their music that advocated for civil rights. And why should they?

 

[36] Bossa nova did not just appeal to civil rights organizers or avant-garde jazz musicians; it also appealed to black Catholics, like those led by Father Peter Scholtes, who incorporated it in their broader attempts to define themselves as “authentically black and truly Catholic.” In 1966, Reverend Peter Scholtes wrote a bossa nova mass, “Missa Bossa Nova,” for the 20-voice choir that comprised the St. Brendan’s Parish for Young People, a parish located in Chicago’s South Side. Surprisingly, this was not the only mass to incorporate bossa nova. In May 1966, pianist Eddie Bonnemere debuted his “Missa Hodierna” at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem. And although Bonnemere’s “Missa Hodierna” received a couple of repeat performances at other churches around New York, Scholtes’ “Missa Bossa Nova” was far more successful. It helped that the head pastor at St. Brendan’s was very receptive to Scholtes’ arrangement: “all I know,” he told the Chicago Defender, “is that when we started the Parish for Young People using the ‘Bossa Nova Mass,’ we saw teen-agers at church whom we hadn’t seen since they left grammar school. How can anyone argue with that kind of success?” In 1966 alone, the Young People Choir recorded their “Missa Bossa Nova” for Flair Records and began a successful tour of performing for television, religious functions, community get-togethers, concerts at nearby parishes, recording a second album, and even raising money to perform at the National Liturgical Convention in Washington, D.C. One of their more overt civil rights performances occurred on March 19, 1967, when they performed the “Missa Bossa Nova” at a benefit concert at the Chicago Sheraton Hotel for the city’s branch of the Urban League. On October 29, 1967, the group performed for another activist-oriented convention, this time sponsored by the Lutheran Reformation Festival held at the Rockefeller Memorial Church. At this event, speakers gave talks about their participation in the National Draft Resistance demonstrations while Pastor Griffin from a parish in North Kenwood gave a talk on the “Black Power advocate in a Christian context.” As this eclectic programming suggests, black Catholics’ embrace of bossa nova arose in conjunction with the rise of Black Power politics during the late 1960s.

 

[37] In many instances, black Catholic parishes in Chicago lent their support to local Black Power organizations. In 1968, the Panthers called on George Clements, a priest who would become the first black pastor of Holy Angels Catholic Church in 1969, to mediate an internal dispute. Shortly after becoming pastor at Holy Angels, notable Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was gunned down by the police. Clements – who had grown close to the Panthers – knew that Bobby Rush, the second-in-command of the local Panthers branch, was also in danger. Clements recalled that he artfully introduced Rush to “a little-known thing in the Middle Ages called the ‘right of sanctuary’” and encouraged Rush to hide at Holy Angels.

 

[38] While Peter Scholtes composed “Missa Bossa Nova” at a time when several black Catholics were lending their support to the Black Power movement, he was also performing in the aftermath of recommendations issued by the Second Vatican Council. In 1962, Pope John XXIII convened a rare (once every 125 years or so) ecumenical council of the Catholic Church to achieve what he called aggiornamento (“bringing the church up to date,” “adaptation,” and “modernization”). The council issued decrees that allowed for Catholics to pray with other Christian denominations, encouraged friendship with other non-Christian faiths, and opened the door for languages besides Latin to be used during Mass. Their recommendations to encourage vernacular languages and expand the liturgical style beyond Gregorian chant specifically impacted black Catholic worship. By the late 1960s, black Catholics did not only engage in Black Power politics by lending their political support to organizations such as the Black Panther Party but also by changing their style of worship. While the Catholic Church attracted many African Americans between the 1930s and 1950s due to its claims of “universality” – best exemplified by giving its mass in Latin – by the late 1960s, many parishes adopted a much more culturally specific approach to worshiping. On December 1, 1968, The Knickerbocker Hotel hosted Chicago’s first “African Mass” which featured “a black man stripped to the waist” who “processed to the altar with the chalice” and performed “an interpretative dance ‘to the beat of jungle music’ along the way.” Musicians dressed in “African robes” provided music and relied heavily on drums, which led some critics to call this the “Drum Mass.” Father George Clements – who would later give a eulogy at Fred Hampton’s funeral – did not find this exoticism disturbing, but rather embraced it. After witnessing the “African Mass,” he even suggested to the press that “African masses with jungle music” would soon be offered in black parishes throughout Chicago. And he was correct, although “jungle music” does not accurately describe the amount of rock and roll and black protestant gospel choirs that sounded inside churches like St. Dorothy’s throughout the late 1960s. Nor does “jungle music” accurately describe the sound of Peter Scholtes’ “Missa Bossa Nova.” The pastor’s combination of folk-acoustic guitar, bossa nova rhythms, and a large liturgical choir appears hilariously divorced from the aesthetics of something like James Brown’s Black Power anthem, “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Instead, it sounds like Scholtes was doing his best Peter, Paul, and Mary impression. Yet, “Missa Bossa Nova” – and its repeated performances by the St. Brendan’s Young People Choir – nevertheless relayed a similar message.

[39] Throughout the 1960s, bossa nova music found itself in all sorts of political contexts. Activists at the end of the decade conceived of it alongside other types of African-derived music, so much so that television programs included it alongside general histories of African American roots music and Black Power activists associated with the Catholic church included it alongside broader “African”-themed masses and types of worship. Avant-garde jazz musicians did not find bossa nova irreconcilable with the rest of their music, either. Musicians like Archie Shepp recorded jarring and dissonant versions of “A garota de Ipanema” that they released alongside eulogies to Malcolm X, while John Handy released much mellower versions of bossa nova alongside a turbulent commentary on school desegregation. Then of course, there were the benefit concerts where bossa showed up – hosted by the Urban League, by the CCRM, and in early 1963, by the one organization that arguably first married bossa nova music with activism.

 

[40] February 1, 1963. “A Salute to Southern Students” concert at Carnegie Hall. It was here that the civil rights movement made its mark on bossa nova; or rather, bossa nova made its mark on the civil rights movement.

Cary Ginell, The Evolution of Mann: Herbie Mann and the Flute in Jazz (Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, 2014), Chapter 10: "Pay Me in Front of Mario and Machito"; For more information about the CORE double-album, see Brian Ward, Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness and Race Relations (New York, NY: Routledge, 2012), 271.

Mann quoted in Ginell, The Evolution of Mann: Herbie Mann and the Flute in Jazz, Chapter 11: African Suite, para. 1; Ginell, Chapter 11: African Suite, para. 13.

Mann quoted in John S. Wilson, “Through Africa with Drums and Flute,” New York Times, December 27, 1959, sec. X., cited in Kelley, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times, 112; Mann quoted in A.W. McCollough, “Describes African ‘Jazz Safari,’” Chicago Defender, June 18, 1960, no page, cited in Kelley, 204 no. 54.

“Africa Freedom Day,” New York Amsterdam News, March 25, 1961, 17, cited in Monson, Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call out to Jazz and Africa, 159 no. 12.

Josh Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005), 177–78.

Ginell, The Evolution of Mann: Herbie Mann and the Flute in Jazz, Chapter 13: “I Have to Go to Brazil,” para. 3; “American Jazz Festival,” Correio Da Manhã, July 16, 1961, no page; José Domingos Raffaelli, Jazz No Municipal (Rio de Janeiro: Imagem, 1961); Ginell, The Evolution of Mann: Herbie Mann and the Flute in Jazz, Chapter 13: “I Have to Go to Brazil,” para. 7.

Robin D.G. Kelley, “Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s Islamic Experimentalism,” in Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012), 95; Raffaelli, Jazz No Municipal.

Kelley, “Ahmed Abdul-Malik’s Islamic Experimentalism,” 10, 115, 119.

Josh Kun, Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005), 177–78; Leonard Feather and Herbie Mann, Latin Mann: Afro to Bossa to Blues (Atlantic, 1965).

Guy B. Johnson, “The Gullah Dialect Revisited: A Note on Linguistic Acculturation,” Journal of Black Studies 10, no. 4 (June 1980): 418; E. Franklin Frazier, “The Negro Family in Bahia, Brazil,” American Sociological Review 7, no. 4 (August 1942): 470; Stanley Elkins, Slavery : A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (Chicago, IL: University of California Press, 1958); John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 152.

Biography about Turner can be found in Alcione M. Amos, “Lorenzo Dow Turner: Connecting Communities Through Language,” The Black Scholar, The Living Legacy of Lorenzo Dow Turner: The First African-American Linguist, 41, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 9–10; Melville J. Herskovits, “The Negro in Bahia, Brazil: A Problem in Method,” American Sociological Review 8, no. 4 (August 1943): 395.

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1967), 226, quoted in Robert Bernasconi, “The Assumption of Negritude: Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and the Vicious Circle of Racial Politics,” Parallax 8, no. 2 (2002): 81 no. 51; More information about Frazier’s criticism of the African past can be found in Livio Sansone, “Turner, Franklin and Herskovits in the Gantois House of Candomblé: The Transnational Origin of Afro-Brazilian Studies,” The Black Scholar, The Living Legacy of Lorenzo Dow Turner: The First African-American Linguist, 41, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 56–57; David F. Garcia, Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity, and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017).

Herb Frazier, “In Dr. Turner’s Footprints,” The Black Scholar, The Living Legacy of Lorenzo Dow Turner: The First African-American Linguist, 41, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 16–21; “You Have a Past,” Pittsburgh Courier, February 28, 1942, 6.

August Meier, “The Triumph of Melville J. Herskovits,” Reviews in American History 6, no. 1 (March 1978): 21–28; Lancelot quoted in “New Music May Sweep The Nation,” Baltimore Afro-American, April 26, 1941, 13; “South American Way Just Plain African, Says Davis,” Baltimore Afro-American, December 6, 1941, 14; “Traces U.S. Negro Culture To Roots,” Pittsburgh Courier, March 10, 1956, A8; Alioune Diop, John A. Davis, and Lorenzo D. Turner, eds., “African Survivals in the New World with Special Emphasis on the Arts,” in Africa from the Point of View of American Negro Scholars. (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1958).

Bob Hunter, “Samba Jazz Blends Brazilian, American Negro Styles of Music,” Chicago Defender, September 18, 1962, 16; Sete quoted in “Describes Bossa Nova, New Latin Rhythm, As Samba with Jazz Feeling,” Chicago Defender, October 17, 1962, 17; Gillespie quoted in “‘Bossa Nova’ Just Samba to Dizzy Gillespie’s Ears,” Chicago Defender, October 17, 1962, 16.

Explanations of African American understandings of Brazil can be found in Teresea Meade and Gregory Alonso Pirio, “In Search of the Afro-American ‘Eldorado’: Attempts by North American Blacks to Enter Brazil in the 1920s,” Luso-Brazilian Review 25, no. 1 (Summer 1988): 85–110; Thomas E. Skidmore, Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1974); W.E.B. DuBois, “As the Crow Flies,” New York Amsterdam Star-News, December 20, 1941, no page, cited in David J. Hellwig, “Racial Paradise or Run-around? Afro-North American Views of Race Relations in Brazil,” American Studies 31, no. 2 (Fall 1990): 52.

“What’s On TV?,” New York Amsterdam News, February 2, 1963, 17; “Jazz Musicians on a Musical Journey,” New York Amsterdam News, December 30, 1967, 14; “What’s On TV?,” New York Amsterdam News, May 24, 1969, 38.

Rex Reed, “Entertainment (Pops/Jazz/Films/Theater/Folk/Spoken Word); Harold Vick: Straight Up,” HI-Fi/Stereo Review, December 1967, 158.

Rex Reed, “Entertainment (Pops/Jazz/Films/Theater/Folk/Spoken Word); The New John Handy Quintet: New View!,” HI-Fi/Stereo Review, March 1968, 132.

Perdita Duncan, “Music in Review; Eddie Bonnemere – Missa Hodierna,” New York Amsterdam News, May 14, 1966, 22; Head Pastor quoted in “Catholic Teens Sing Mass with A ‘Bossa Nova’ Beat: Peter Scholtes – Missa Bossa Nova,” Chicago Defender, November 5, 1966, 13; Theresa Fambro Hooks, “Leaguers All Set for Benefit Dance,” Chicago Defender, March 4, 1967, 18; “Folk-Song Mass at Rockefeller,” Chicago Defender, October 28, 1967, 29.

George Clements, interview by Blackside, Inc., for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985., October 19, 1989, Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection, quoted in Cressler, Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migration, 153.

Richard Philbrick, “Jungle Drums Throb at Mass, Irk Cody,” Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1968, 20; “African Masses Considered,” Chicago Defender, December 5, 1968, 1, both quoted in Cressler, 139.