Jazz Legacy Awards honors Northwest Philadelphia jazz artists

Pictured at the Jazz Legacy Awards reception are, from left, state Sen. Hughes, the Rev. Joe Williams, guitarist Monnette Sudler, poet Sonia Sanchez, bassist Pat Patrino, bassist/composer Jymie Merritt and Sheryl Lee Ralph-Hughes. Submitted photo

SOUTHWEST CENTER CITY >> Northwest Philadelphians were prominently featured at the Jazz Legacy Awards Reception honoring those connected to this American art form.

Guitarist Harold Carroll, of Mount Airy, poet Sonia Sanchez, of Germantown, and guitarist Monnette Sudler, of Germantown, were among the honorees. The event took place at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts Wednesday, July 27. It was hosted by state Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-7, and his wife, Sheryl Lee Ralph-Hughes.

The honorees also included Alfred McCoy Tyner with the Piano Performance Award. Jymie Merritt received the other Guitar Performance Award. Pat Martino was given the Bass Performance Award. Presenters included music producer, composer and musician Bill Jolly, Jamaladeen Tacuma, Greg Corbin, A. DeCarlo and singer Susan Burgess.

Sanchez and Sudler were present to accept their awards, Since Carroll was convalescing, the Rev. Joseph Williams, the pastor of Mount Airy United Fellowship Church, accepted the award for him. Williams and Carroll have a strong connection. Carroll, at age 92, is the oldest original member of the Dixie Humming Birds, while 77-year-old Williams is the group’s youngest living member of the ensemble.

“I am pleased to be able to support this art,” Hughes said. “This is something not only that we love, but this is America’s original art form. This is original with a capital ‘O.’ It is part of American history.”

In his remarks, Williams said Carroll was a unique guitarist. Born on April 27, 1925, he joined the group after it was formed by manager James B. Davis in South Carolina. Though Carroll can no longer play the guitar and is not mobile, he still can remember details about his 70-year journey with the Dixie Humming Birds.

“In North Philadelphia, jazz became its own language, and there was so much good music,” Williams said. “I feel fortunate to been in a group with Harold Carroll. He was a gifted artist.”

Sanchez said she has always respected the artistry of jazz. Often jazz ensembles would accompany her when she read her poetry. She said often she would be cornered into scat singing with a jazz artist. Then Sanchez shared two haiku poems from her new volume, which were well received by the audience.

“I just love music,” Sudler said in her remarks. She thanked the Hughes for paying tribute to something that she simply enjoys doing. She said music has taken her “through my high points and my low points” and she was grateful for the gift.

“I just love music, and I am grateful and happy to receive this,” Sudler said.

Before the program began, Martino said he was grateful for the accolade. He, too, said he has always enjoyed expressing his gift.

“This is just an honor to know that you are remembered. Through music, it has taken me into many worlds and I’ve seen oppression and fights for social justice and I’ve been around the world. It has been a wonderful experience,” Martino said.

The program opened with a Mix & Mingle Reception. Since it was held when the Democratic National Convention was in town, there were many out of town guests present. There was a video presentation of Philadanco, the nonprofit that has an extension campus in West Oak Lane. The entertainment was provided by Nazir Ebo and Friends Band.

On hand were Clef Club Executive Director Lovett Hines, artist Amir Campbell and Carol Faulkner, founder of the Community Unity Music Festival.

Hughes introduced Senate Bill 1234 that established the Council on Jazz Education and Preservation. It created the Jazz Legacy Fund. He is also sponsor of the Senate Resolution 349 designating Jazz Appreciation Month in Pennsylvania.

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