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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.

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.

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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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