"JAZZ from the Belly of the BLUES" by D. Price



Getting back to my youth, I thought of Rosedale (Uncle Noah's Park) as my home territory. I keenly observed and studied "my guests". I found the world of Jazz and Blues music interacting with lively, responsive dancing to be a fascinating marvel; spell binding to behold. The thrill of the show was always there.

One naturally expects the dancers to respond to the music, but there were times when the musicians responded to the dancers. The dancers took charge and the musicians gave them free rein to express themselves before roping them in with an improvisational closure. In the intimate setting of Rosedale, the musicians and the dancers were one - a totally responsive unit.

I am happy for the many jazz band performances at such sophisticated settings as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Yet, seeing such performances, I always had a nudging feeling that something was missing.

Was it that devil-may-care interaction between the musicians and the dancers, where the music crept in through the feet and, with great vibration, left through the fingertips? Was it because the saxophonist saw and cradled an undulating hip motion, or the trumpeter noted a sense of defiance with his rhythmic blasts? Or, was it because I was young then, and was looking through rose colored glasses. Or was it simply that in the sophisticated venues, the sweat was missing!?

Of course I'm getting ahead of myself. My early observations were limited to very rare family visits to Rosedale. When winter came, school took precedence. My teacher, Miss Kathleen Starks, from Shelbyville, Indiana lived at our house during most of my elementary school years. My principal, Mr. Samuel S. Dodson from Virginia and DC, lived at our house during my junior high school years; as did, for one year, my Home Economics and Physical Education teacher, Miss Frances Morgan from the Dover area. What can I say? I paid attention in class and I did my homework.

Still, this vibrant music continued in my consciousness as I listened to some of the JAZZ songs my classmates were singing. In the ninth grade, one classmate created an indelible memory by singing the Blues song: "CC Rider", as we patiently waited on wooden planks laid across the mud at the entrance to our local junior high school's outdoor toilet - one  example of The Blues, with only a suggestion of Jazz.

F.J.Dunmore-staunch Jazz fan I didn't really understand the essence of the words to that song until a few years later. According to a dyed-in-the-wool jazz fan, F.J. Dunmore, of Philadelphia (pictured here), the song "CC Rider" referred to the county circuit preacher who meandered around the county on horseback, breaking the hearts of some of his female church members.

ore recently, I have heard CC Rider with the changed title of "See See Rider". Other words were somewhat altered to accommodate a male singer.

It should be noted that Dunmore's jazz interests were eventually passed on to his grandson who became a
jazz band drummer (on-the-side), as he went  through college pursuing an engineering degree.

In any case, "CC Rider did not speak to the annoying situation in which we found ourselves uncomfortably waiting. Even though the song was enjoyably distracting, we fully realized that on the other side of the RR tracks there were lots of students who were not compelled to stand in the rain for such basic facilities.

My final two years of high school were spent on the campus of Delaware State College in Dover (now a "University" with no high school department).  

At fifty miles north of my home, Delaware State College's High School Dept. was the closest high school from which I (along with many others) was allowed to become a twelfth grade graduate. In fact, it was the only high school south of Wilmington (fifty miles even further north), from which we could finish the twelfth grade, and be prepared to go on to college; or even  try to obtain one of those jobs that required a ("keep them out") high school diploma.

All of the local high schools designated for our attendance went only to the 11th grade. Such high schools were, no doubt, designed as conduits to the kitchens, factories and fields. Yes, that "other" story continues.

The Delaware school system, beginning before the 1900's,  provided public schools for two groups of students: (1) the European types and (2) the non-European types. People with any obvious or known African heritage were relegated to the (2nd) or "colored" schools.

Indigenous or "First" Americans were expected to educate themselves; totally assimilate and present themselves (fade into the background) as one or the other group; or otherwise, get out of town (or get pushed out - as in  the Trail of Tears).

When Attorney Louis L. Redding became Harvard Law School's first African American graduate in 1929 (the same year I was born). He became Delaware's one and only African American lawyer in Delaware for the next 25yrs; and continued to spend the remainder of his 95yrs seeking educational justice for all. 

Certainly you must realize the magnitude of the story that lies within the 1940-1970 era. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will share two of my photos as I briefly speak of one small involvement in that huge enterprise.

In the 1960's my former high school principal, Mr. Samuel S.Dodson, drove my parents and me to Wilmington. There, Mr.Dodson handed over my deliberately positioned photos to the acclaimed Delaware attorney, Mr. Louis L. Redding. We sat and observed the court proceedings as Mr. Redding proceeded to convince the court that ever so obviously, educational justice was being denied. The comparative Millsboro elementary schools appeared, in no way, "equal".

Below is one of "our" elementary schools in the outlying Millsboro area, taken on the same day as the other photo of "their" Millsboro elementary school. It should be said that the privately provided "DuPont" elementary schools were better than the schools that had preceded them. But really! Why compare the horrible with the merely bad? Why not seek beyond the better and advance to the best that the majority of citizens are provided?

 elementary school for underprivileged  elementary school for privileged

If I am not mistaken, Milford's high school was Delaware's last school to comply with the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling -  after a long twelve years of persistent resistance.

Lest I paint a completely awful picture of Delaware, let it be said that "we" could sit anywhere there was a seat on a public transportation bus (I always made it a point to sit as close to the front as possible). I was a little bit proud of our state for that reason.  Also,we could vote even though there was obvious gerrymandering of the voting districts. We just might get hungry while traveling, but Delaware is a small state so we could travel its length without starving, while ignoring restaurant offerings - and hopefully, restrooms. 

Let it be mentioned, however, that some of our teachers were absolutely "the best". They coaxed, cajoled, expected and - as much as possible - demanded our concentration and comprehension. The mere fact that they expected and respected inborn capabilities, in spite of limited resources and limited backgrounds, greatly furthered any student's development.

This was in sharp contrast to the early days of integration when, all too often, very little was expected of certain students who faced being "tolerated". Very little was expected of them except to be quiet, cause no trouble and let the "others" learn.

My "hero" was Miss Kathleen Starks from Shelbyville Indiana who, for sixteen years, came each school year to teach in our local Dupont School. Through the years, with approximately 40 students spread among eight grades, she aptly prepared all who could be "fired up" with learning. The memories of Miss Starks and Mr. Dodson (my Jr.High School teacher mentioned above) hover around me; and I am honored to place their names here.

While I was in high school, World War II came with its horrible Blues. The war took our soldiers, but its after effect was to boost our nation's economy.  It gave even the least of us a little financial prosperity. Young  people began to look more healthy. There seemed to be less evidence of dietary diseases such as rickets. There seemed to be less bowed legs and misaligned spines.  There seemed to be more alert mentalities, possibly due to physical conditions, possibly, to more hopeful attitudes. I use the word "seemed" since I don't know the pertinent statistics. I just know that people, especially at Rosedale, looked healthier and more vibrant. 

After high school graduation,  I attended Philadelphia's Temple University and became a dental hygienist, remaining in that profession for twelve years. Some years were spent in public school dental health education and some in private dental offices.

As I got older, I stepped onto the dance floor. I had fathomed that life could and should have a purpose. I decided that I would leave the farm. I would follow in the footsteps of my close-in-age sister and our older brother. I would bypass those waiting factories and kitchens. I would position myself with an education. Never would I have a life of desperation to be alleviated by a day or night of riotous dancing. Yet, I loved the dance in all its musical, visual and emotional abandonment.  

Doris and Doris I have this photo of myself during my dental hygiene years in Delaware; along with my friend, also named Doris, a social worker from Burgaw, North Carolina, who lived at our house while being employed by the state of Delaware.

Going to a dance proved to be a marvelous escape from "the job".
The school proms, fraternity and sorority dances and such offered grand enjoyment. There was a simplified elegance that affected the atmosphere, the lighting was mesmerizing, the aromas nicely enhanced with gardenia corsages.

Even though we appreciated our jobs, we surely welcomed JAZZ. I can only imagine the sense of escape for those who continuously had  jobs of pure drudgery or no
value-asserting job at all.

But, of course, life moves on. It just so happened that creating visual aids for the dental health profession, along with marriage and children, combined to lead me into the profession of art and painting. I learned to paint. After more than forty years, I continue to learn to paint. I hope never to stop learning and exploring and experimenting. Visual memories and floating auras loom before me.

Painting keeps me grounded. Painting has helped me understand the Blues while dwelling on the Jazz. Painting allows me to explore many different ideas and concepts. Painting allows me to see that all sorts of variations are possible to accomplish a goal. Variations often can work far better than rigid "sameness".

I mention this now because you will realize, as we go through this book, that even though the particular painted images in this book refer to the subject of Jazz and the Blues, the techniques for recording ideas with drawings and paintings can be quite varied.

There are individually hand created multiples of the same image such as: black & white etchings and aquatints; colorful serigraphs (otherwise called "silk screens"); pochoir prints using pastels or watercolors - or even acrylics, as watercolors- in a stenciling manner. More recently, there is the versatile and effective technique of printing digital giclee prints.

My one-of-a-kind originals were created with pastels, oils and acrylics. As time went by, I developed my own special technique with acrylics and sand, which I call my "Rock Wall"  Paintings.

I don't want to bore you, but if you are interested in examples of  materials and techniques mixed with this ARTfully Jazzy dance with American History, make sure you are on our mailing list to be notified of the publication of the remaining chapters. 

CHAPTER FIVE click here

- the razz-ma-tazz of all that JAZZ

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