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In Daphne Brooks' 'Liner Notes For the Revolution,' and on The Pulse, a Reckoning

Daphne Brooks
Mara Lavitt
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Yale professor Daphne A. Brooks, author of 'Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound'

"Black women's musical practices are, in short, revolutionary because they are inextricably linked to the matter of Black life," writes Daphne A. Brooks.

Her essential declaration arrives early in a groundbreaking new academic text, titled Liner Notes For The Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound. The book, recently published by the Belknap imprint of Harvard University Press, boldly reframes our conversation about, in Dr. Brooks' words, "the ways in which Black women have long been, themselves, fugitive thinkers, critics, and theorists of sound."

These women — including jazz singers like René Marie and Cécile McLorin Salvant — advance our art form in part through reclaiming, rearranging or otherwise reconstituting material by everyone from Jelly Roll Morton to Francis Scott Key. And as we continue to move through Women's History Month, we felt it necessary to honor their legacy, along with the thrilling challenge posed by Dr. Brooks' new work.

That's the first half of this episode, which of course is only scratching the surface. In our second half, we welcome Afternoon Jazz host Keanna Faircloth to reflect on a roundtable discussion she hosted earlier this month on The Pulse. A first-time convocation of all the women on our air at WBGO — Sheila Anderson, Monifa Brown, Rhonda Hamilton, Lezlie Harrison, Awilda Rivera, Nicole Sweeney and Keanna herself — this virtual panel addressed the commonalities and differences in their experiences.

In addition to recapping that discussion, Keanna reflects on what it has meant to navigate male-dominated spaces in broadcasting and in jazz. But there's encouragement in the solidarity within those spaces, notably at WBGO, whose identity has been inextricable from its strong female voices since Day One in 1979.

Jazz United is produced by Sarah Kerson. Our senior producer is Simon Rentner.

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.
A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.