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Lift Every Voice and SwingBlack Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century$
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Vaughn A. Booker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892327

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892327.001.0001

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Virtuoso Ancestors

Virtuoso Ancestors

(p.231) 9 Virtuoso Ancestors
Lift Every Voice and Swing

Vaughn A. Booker

NYU Press

This chapter examines the reverence for departed jazz musicians and the practices of fellow musicians, creative artists, institutions, and the public to celebrate their memory. By heralding its prominent members who are now its ancestors, the jazz community proclaims the importance of memorializing these musicians, of continuing to perform their music, and of inheriting the improvisational spirit to interpret their works according to the religious and spiritual locations of the reverential performers themselves. African American religious practices of celebrating Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mary Lou Williams chart the new lives—or afterlives—that these deceased musicians gain from those left to interpret their legacies anew. And among African American celebrants, the creative works of many African American women produce a significant record of religious and spiritual interpretations of jazz virtuosity.

Keywords:   Mary Lou Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Geri Allen, Wynton Marsalis, Sonia Sanchez, Christian, Yoruba, death, memorialization

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