When there’s not a lot happening in live music, that’s when it’s time to dive into the archives.
That’s what the Walker Art Center did this week with the online publication of Creative Black Music at the Walker: Selections from the Archives, a wide-ranging archive focused on the avant-garde jazz and jazz-adjacent artists the institution has hosted.
The site displays a selection of material never before on view to the public, including photos, posters, programs, correspondence, and, best of all, audio and video of performances. The collection centers on some major figures: Art Ensemble of Chicago, Amiri Baraka, Anthony Braxton, Betty Carter, Ornette Coleman, Julius Eastman, Wadada Leo Smith, Cecil Taylor, and Henry Threadgill. (By the way, why not revisit Dylan Hicks’s thorough examination of Threadgill’s career?)
To help you make sense of it all, there’s a foreword from Walker curator Philip Bither, a timeline of performances from Walker archivist Jill Vuchetich, and a historical essay from Tammy L. Kernodle, professor of musicology at Miami University, Ohio.
Look, we're not gonna tell you how to live your life, but you could either watch Ornette Coleman jam with the Bang on a Can All-Stars today or not. The choice is yours.