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Indiana Avenue: Black Boulevard Of Jazz

Exploring the lost world of 20th century Indianapolis jazz and the ways in which its musical influence continues to reverberate throughout today's jazz scene.

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  • Indiana Avenue jazz bars

    Image 1 of 3

    Photo: Indianahistory.org

    George's Bar, one of the jazz venues on Indiana Avenue in the 1950s, where the Jazz Contemporaries (featuring the youthful, soon-to-be-renowned Freddie Hubbard, Larry Ridley, and James Spaulding) were recorded live in 1957.

  • Indiana Avenue jazz mural

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    Photo: Pamela Bliss

    Trombonists David Baker and Slide Hampton are two of the musicians depicted in Pamela Bliss' recently-completed "Jazz Masters of Indiana Avenue" mural, located at 332 N. Capitol in Indianapolis.

  • Indianapolis Hampton jazz

    Image 3 of 3

    Photo: Duncan Schiedt

    An Indianapolis musical dynasty: Duke Hampton's family orchestra.

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In 20th century segregated America, big cities often had a “main stem,” where black businesses and entertainment venues clustered along a street that ran through the heart of the African-American community. In Indianapolis, the crossroads capital of a vital Midwestern state, that street was Indiana Avenue, a place that became a destination in the early 1900s for blacks during the Great Migration from the South. In following decades the neighborhood would rise and fall, reflecting the racial, cultural, and economic changes of the times–and its music scene would produce some of the world’s most significant jazz artists.

“Indiana Avenue: Black Boulevard of Jazz” explores the music of those artists, including Indianapolis’ “holy trinity of trombonists”–Slide Hampton, David Baker, and J.J. Johnson–trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and guitarist Wes Montgomery. We’ll also hear a live recording made at an Indiana Avenue club in 1957 featuring the Jazz Contemporaries, which counted a young Hubbard, bassist Larry Ridley, and saxophonist/flutist James Spaulding among their members.

Indiana Avenue historian David Williams and jazz educators and Avenue veterans Larry Ridley and David Baker join the program, which also includes commentary from trombonist and jazz educator Brent Wallarab, as well as archival interviews with saxophonists Pookie Johnson and Jimmy Coe.

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Music Heard On This Episode

Round Midnight
Wes Montgomery — A Dynamic New Sound (Riverside, 1991)
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Round Midnight
Wes Montgomery — A Dynamic New Sound (Riverside, 1991)
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Riffette
J.J. Johnson — Origins: the Savoy Sessions (Savoy, 2002)
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Turnpike
J.J. Johnson — Eminent J.J. Johnson V. 1 (Blue Note, 2001)
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After Hours Joint
Jimmy Coe — After Hours Joint (LP) (Delmark, 1989)
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Love For Sale
Montgomery-Johnson Quintet — Almost Forgotten (LP) (Columbia, 1983)
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Missile Blues
Wes Montgomery — Dynamic New Sound (Riverside, 1991)
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Sound Carrier (midpoint music bed)
Wes Montgomery — Fingerpickin' (Blue Note, 1996)
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Go East, Young Man
Slide Hampton — Two Sides of Slide (Fresh Sounds, 2004)
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Tadd's Delight (live)
Jazz Contemporaries
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Cunga Black
Freddie Hubbard — Blue Spirits (Blue Note, 2004)
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Kentucky Oysters
George Russell/David Baker — Stratusphunk (OJC, 1995)
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Naptown U.S.A.
J.J. Johnson — Complete Recordings Featuring Bobby Jaspar (Fresh Sounds, 2009)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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