Jez Nelson writes about this week's Jazz on 3, available now on the iPlayer
50 years since the American Civil Rights Act was signed into law, the emotions and symbolism of the Movement continue to inspire avant-garde jazz – and it’s the subject at the heart of this week's Jazz on 3. Our featured performance is trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers, a stunning collection inspired by the spirit of the era, captured at last year’s London Jazz Festival. We also mark the passing of jazz poet Amiri Baraka, whose writing reflected his own deep involvement in the struggle.
Amiri Baraka, who died this month aged 80, is perhaps best known as a firebrand activist, but he was also a writer and poet who dedicated his life to documenting and influencing the story of jazz. When Kevin Le Gendre interviewed Baraka for the programme just over a year ago, he discovered a life spent – and steeped – in the politics and music of the Civil Rights era. Extraordinary poems like Bang Bang Outishly sound out the music of Thelonious Monk ('Cardboard piano orchestras/ Singing as if the blues was interplanetary'), while his 1963 book Blues People was the first work on the history of black music to be written by a black author, and the first to consider the music in its social context.
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