Harmony Holiday is the author of four volumes of poetry, most recently Hollywood Forever and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. A collection of poems, Maafa, and a collection of essays on reparations and the body, Love is War for Miles, are forthcoming. In addition, she runs an archive of jazz and diaspora poetics and is working on a biography of singer Abbey Lincoln and a film on the writer James Baldwin.
An essay from the Greatest Hits Music Issue
Great Black music is that which isn’t trying to impress or entreat or even necessarily communicate with a white audience—or any audience. Instead, great Black music works to retrieve what Rahsaan Roland Kirk called the missing Black notes: the sounds and calls and rhythms and cries that colonizing languages submerge, reconstituted of the very lexicons that would have liked them to vanish from sound and memory.
Sun Ra—master jazz pianist, composer, visionary, and astral traveler—is why many jazz listeners entered the Space Age before there was a Space Age. And June Tyson gives vibrational birth to Sun Ra’s visions.
An interview with Les McCann from the Kentucky Music Issue.
All through high school the band teacher and I were very good friends. He received tickets to all the bands and brought me to concerts. I was in perfect heaven. I never said no to anything. And my mother was a fake opera singer. She’d listen to the opera every Sunday while she cleaned house and wooooo, oh my God, it was great! Everybody was into something. Right across the street from our house was the Elk’s Club, so every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night you’d hear a beautiful organ trio playing.