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3 March 2006

Friends of Houston Cole Library to Host Discussion on the History of Jazz

Charles Suhor, Independent Scholar and member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation speakers bureau, presents “The Jazz Story – African Roots, American Branches” on March 9, 2006 at 3:00 p.m. in the Houston Cole Library 11th floor. Jazz is rightly known as African-American music. Which elements, though, are rooted in African music, culture, and history, and which are from the classical and popular music traditions that Africans encountered in the New World? How did these traditions merge into a new art form around the late 19th century?

Suhor will trace the development of early jazz from its African roots to the American scene, debunking some popular myths along the way. For example, although the richly multicultural setting of New Orleans was an ideal breeding ground for the growth of jazz, it was not the only ground. Dr. Suhor will show how important pre-jazz forms such as ragtime and rural blues were nurtured elsewhere and imported to the hub city of New Orleans.

Aided by vintage recordings, a photo exhibit, an authentic African "talking drum," and overhead transparencies, Suhor uses non-technical language to bring the sense and sound of early jazz into the 21st century. This presentation is part of the Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF) 2005-2006 Speaker in the House program.

Charles Suhor, Ph.D., was born and raised in New Orleans. He began playing drums at age 12, mentored by his late brother Don, a prominent jazz clarinetist and saxophonist. In the 1950s he played drums with Dixieland, swing, and modern jazz artists like Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, the Loyola University big band, Buddy Prima, and Bill Huntington.

He pursued a full-time career as an English teacher, but remained active as a weekend drummer and jazz journalist. He currently plays with the Recreators, a Swing Era band in Montgomery. Dr. Suhor has written literature and composition textbooks and numerous articles on English teaching and jazz for "Down Beat," "English Journal," "Phi Delta Kappan," and others. Scarecow Press published his award-winning book, "Jazz in New Orleans –The Postwar Years, in 2001."

Dr. Suhor has collaborated with jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis on programs that show connections between jazz improvisation and everyday language. He performs with The Jazz and Poetry Connection, a cooperative of poets and musicians that has appeared in seven states. He has taught jazz history at Auburn University's Montgomery campus. Since 1997 Dr. Suhor has lived in Montgomery, where his wife, Dr. Deborah Little, teaches technology at Alabama State University. They enjoy frequent visits to New Orleans and to their children and grandchildren in Florida.

The Alabama Humanities Foundation is a nonprofit organization funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (of which the AHF is the state affiliate), as well as by corporate and individual donors. The Foundation is dedicated to the promotion and celebration of the humanities throughout the state of Alabama and, to that end, conducts its own statewide programs and awards grants, on a competitive basis, to nonprofit organizations for humanities projects. For more information on Speaker in the House or other AHF programs, please call (205) 558-3980. For more information about this program, please call William Hubbard at: (256) 782-5248. For more information about Dr. Suhor visit the Web site: Charlie Suhor's Workshops and Lectures.

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