*Los Angeles – The William Grant Still Arts Center presented “I Got My Pride”-The Blues Tales of Leadbelly exhibit with an Opening Reception and Concert on Saturday, March 1st, 2014.
This exhibit is part of the 6th Annual African-American Composers Exhibition and Music Education Series. The exhibit is on display through June 7, 2014
“I GOT MY PRIDE” – THE BLUES TALES OF LEADBELLY will exhibit recordings, magazine articles, concert posters, original photographs, writings by Pete Seeger and others from influential publications Living Blues and Downbeat, interviews, and archival material to develop the story of Lead Belly’s powerful life as a musician. A creator, a triumphant songster, and a music historian, Folk and Blues pioneer Leadbelly made songs from the stories and challenges of his own life, and the lives of others he had known.
The exhibit will address the complexity of Lead Belly’s relationship with documentation and performance, his years of work with the Lomax family, and how his playing was influential in carrying the stories of past generations traumatized by prison, field work, and slavery to influence the trajectory of blues musicians of his own generation such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Brownie McGee, and Josh White. Lead Belly’s influence also bridged to subsequent generations of musicians of broad social and cultural influence including artists as varied as Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, the Weavers, the Beatles, Bernice Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock, the low-fi sounds of X and Kurt Cobain, and beyond. Of note is that during Leadbelly’s short residence in Los Angeles in the 1940s is that he lived near Exposition and Western, in West Adams.
The music of Lead Belly is also being presented in conjunction with DCA’s African-American Heritage Music Education Program. Through this series, the William Grant Still Arts Center focuses on teaching music and cultural history to beginning and intermediate students of all ages through practice and playing experience via the works of groundbreaking musical innovators in the tradition of the Arts Center’s namesake, Dr. William Grant Still.
A culminating youth and community concert, featuring student performances of compositions influenced by learning Folk and Blues traditions through the work of Leadbelly, will take place on April 26, 2014.
The concert program got under way with an acoustic set of blues featuring Gregg Wright on guitar with Marcus L. Miller on cajon. This was a nice pairing, since many early blues guitarist would tap or stomp their feet for added rhythms. The cajon complimented this acoustic set on the tunes “Bourgeois Blues,” “Gallows Pole,” “Rock Island Line,” “Midnight Special,” “House of the Rising Sun.” These are original compositions by Leadbelly, who also influenced various interpretations of tunes by Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash and numerous other pop and rock musicians. The acoustic set also featured an original tune by Greg Wright entitled “Between Heaven and Hell.”
The second half of the program featured a full band joining Gregg Wright on guitar, Eric Garcia on guitar, Al Threats on bass, Bobby Bryant on sax, and Marcus L. Miller on drums. This tight band revved up the throttle during this lively, electric set of blues.
The band performed the same compositions from the acoustic set so that the crowd and I could hear different interpretations/perspectives of the original compositions that were recorded by countless blues, pop, and rock musicians.
The electric set consisted of the spiritual tune “We Shall Walk through the Valley” with a sing-a-long audience participation. I’m sure you find yourself singing or humming the lyrics of “Goodnight Irene,” and “Midnight Special.” For an encore, the band performed “Bourgeois Blues” with several people dancing throughout the gallery like the atmosphere inside Babes and Ricky’s Inn or the famous 54 Ballroom back in the day.
The music of Leadbelly is also being presented in conjunction with The Department of Cultural Affair’s African American Heritage Music Education Program. Through this series, the William Grant Still Arts Center focuses on teaching music and cultural history to beginning and intermediate students of all ages through practice and playing experience via the works of groundbreaking musical innovators in the tradition of the Arts Center’s namesake Dr. William Grant Still.
A culminating youth and community concert featuring student performances of compositions influences by learning Folk and Blues traditions through the work of Leadbelly, will take place on April 26, 2014.
The William Grant Still Arts Center is located 2520 West View Street, Los Angeles, California 90016. The gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 12noon-5PM. Contact the William Grant Arts Center for more information (323)734-1165 or http://wgsac.wordpress.com
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