Week of 11/16: Abbey Lincoln/Max Roach and Spook Who Sat By the Door


For Monday the 16th, we finish our discussion of the relationship of music and musicians to the Black Arts Movement with a look at Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach as a case study of jazz musicians responding to the movement.
Listen to the Max Roach Quintet with Abbey Lincoln’s landmark We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (1961) and the Abbey Lincoln tracks . Listen carefully to what Lincoln does vocally, both lyrically (on “Freedom Day”) and the emotion she puts into “Tryptich”, especially the screaming. Think carefully about how that resonates to the times and what sort of statement that makes. Consider also the album’s cover artwork (at the top of this post). It was controversial at the time, got the album banned in several states, and resulted in a release on the relatively small Candid Records label. The album was out of print for a long time and not readily available.

Read the following (but be sure to do the listening!):

  • Max Roach, “Excerpts from Black World Interview”, in the SOS reader, pp. 185-188
  • Abbey Lincoln, “Who Will Revere the Black Woman”, in the SOS reader, pp. 106-109
  • Ingrid Monson, “Revisited! The Freedom Now Suite”, in JazzTimes.
  • Lara Pellegrinelli’s “A Look Back at the Music of Abbey Lincoln”, Part 1 and Part 2
    Think about the following:

  • How do Roach and Lincoln reflect the new militancy and changing times in their work and life?
  • Compare them to the other musicians we’ve covered and artists in other areas. What similarities or differences do you see in their approach to art and politics?
  • think carefully about Roach’s answers in the interview in SOS and Lincoln’s perspective on Black women. What does this show about their political sensibility as artists?
    For Wednesday 11/18, we’ll turn to film and look at how the Black Arts Movement tried to break into mass entertainment and on to the big screen. As an example, we’ll watch the first half of The Spook Who Sat By the Door, (1973) which was written by Sam Greenlee (the screenplay was adapted from his book of the same title), directed by Ivan Dixon (who co-starred opposite Abbey Lincoln in Nothing But A Man), and features a seriously funky soundtrack by Herbie Hancock. [Note for online course followers: Spook is also on Netflix, occasionally pops up on YouTube, and will be posted here on the Video page. Contact me for access.]

    Wednesday’s assignment is to think about the context of Spook and read/watch the following:

  • Read this short 2003 article (“After 30 Years, Controversial Film Re-emerges”) from NAACP’s The Crisis on Google Books
  • Read Cultural Historian Todd Boyd’s summary of the Blaxploitation film genre on The Root
  • Watch this 4-minute “making of” video on Youtube: