“Words are the children of reason and, therefore, can’t explain it”*…
Lewis Watts collaborated with the film maker and writer Pepin Silva to tell the story of the Fillmore music scene in the 1940s and 50s. During this era, one square mile of the Fillmore contained more than two dozen nightclubs and music venues, including well-known spots like Jimbo’s Bop City. Its significant place in African-American musical and cultural history led to the Fillmore district being compared to New York’s Harlem. Few people today know of its rich history, which was thoroughly erased during the district’s redevelopment in the 1960s.
Fundraising is in progress to reprint Lewis Watts and Elizabeth Pepin Silva’s 2006 jazz and blues history, Harlem Of The West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era, in an extended form that includes a multimedia website and a traveling museum.
* Bill Evans, on jazz
As we follow the lead sheet, we might send rhythmic birthday greetings to Charles Mingus; he was born on this date in 1922. Raised in Watts, Mingus came to music in high school, where he picked up the cello, and then the double bass. After a few years of intense study, he became known as a bass prodigy (touring as a very young man with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, then Charlie Parker); at the same time, he had begun composing. In 1952 Mingus co-founded Debut Records with Max Roach so that he could control his own recording career. Over the next decade he released thirty albums on his own label and on several others– a pace unmatched in the field (except perhaps by Ellington). He slowed a bit in the 60s, but was by any objective measure remarkably productive. But in the early 70s he was diagnosed with ALS; his once-formidable bass technique declined, until he could no longer play the instrument. He continued composing, however, and supervised a number of recordings before his death. At the time of his death, Mingus was working on an album named after him with Joni Mitchell, which included lyrics added by Mitchell to Mingus compositions, including “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” The album featured performances by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and another influential bassist and composer, Jaco Pastorius. Mingus died, at 56, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had traveled for treatment; his ashes were scattered in the Ganges River.