Creative Music Think Tank Colloquium on

Jazz, Race and Politics

at The TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

Downtown Jazz Weekend, Saturday, June 23, 2012


Co-presented with the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice Supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


All events take place in UBC Robson Square Room C-440.

All events are free and open to the public. Please feel free to come and go.


10:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks: "The Persistence of Race"

Kevin McNeilly, University of British Columbia


10:10-10:50 Keynote Address, "Afrofuturism Now"

Nicole Mitchell, University of California, Irvine


11:00-11:50 Panel: History, Difference and Community

Billy Harper, Musician (New York, New York)


Billy Hart, Musician (Montclair, New Jersey)



12:00-12:50 Panel: Communities in Difference

Gage Averill, Dean of Arts, University of British Columbia


Nou Dadoun, Jazz Programmer, The A-Trane, CFRO 102.7 FM, Vancouver


Kristin Fung, Musician (Vancouver, British Columbia)


1:00-2:00 Keynote, "Utopias in Sound, Life as Possibility: Jazz, Improvisation, Black Mobility"

Ajay Heble, University of Guelph





An Overview and a Provocation:  "Jazz, Race and Politics"

Somehow, in our diverse and multicultural world, race persists – both as a way of understanding our historical and cultural identities, and as a provocation that throws accepted and acceptable notions of who we are into question. The feeling of belonging to a distinctive community that accompanies our racial, cultural and ethnic senses of self can often, still, be accompanied by uncomfortable feelings of exclusion, of difference, of alienation: of not necessarily, in fact, belonging in the ways we imagine ourselves doing. When saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk famously and notoriously called jazz "Black Classical Music," he not only evoked the music's proud African-American lineage, but also offered a provocation to listeners to reconsider how and where we draw cultural and social boundaries around the music we hear and make. Who decides and who legitimates our claims on history and identity? How does the rich and culturally-mixed heritage of jazz – a music renowned for assimilating, improvising and blurring its parts and sources – invite us to reconsider how we assume our various allegiances, solidarities and shared values? How can jazz, as a racially-inflected music even today, present both players and listeners with new ways of understanding our sense of community, of community in difference? This one-day colloquium will offer participants and members of the listening public an opportunity to address some of these challenges, and to think and talk collaboratively about what possibilities this music offers for the future.