Reflections on The Real Ambassadors
A conversation on Dave and Iola Brubeck’s legendary jazz opera starring Louis Armstrong. Featuring actress and vocalist, Yolande Bavan (Lambert, Hendricks and Bavan), Ricky Riccardi (Louis Armstrong House Museum), Keith Hatschek (Brubeck Institute), moderated by jazz historian and author, Bill Minor.
Fifty years ago, on the evening of September 23, 1962, jazz history was made at the Monterey Jazz Festival when Dave and Iola Brubeck’s ambitious jazz opera, The Real Ambassadors, received its only performance here. The piece addressed the issues of segregation with candor, wit and jazz hipness, just days before the nation was shocked by the violence in Mississippi that resulted from attempts to integrate its university. Written as a vehicle for the inimitable Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, The Real Ambassadors afforded Armstrong the perfect opportunity to lend his voice and horn to the cause of equal rights.
The panel will reflect on the work’s importance as a key part of Dave and Iola Brubeck’s seventy-year effort to champion social justice issues. It will also provide a nuanced consideration of Armstrong’s legacy as a performer and strong advocate for African Americans’ civil rights.
Yolande Bavan, who performed the work that night, will share the performer’s perspective and insights into her collaboration with the show’s talented all-star cast of performers. Monterey’s own Bill Minor will moderate the panel discussion and add his own insights of how The Real Ambassadors helped set the pattern for the Monterey Jazz Festival’s history of hosting world premières and cutting edge works.
Remembering The Real Ambassadors: Brubeck Institute Oral History Project
As part of the efforts by the Brubeck Institute to document the history of Dave and Iola Brubeck’s jazz musical, The Real Ambassadors, a team of student historians will be at the 55th Monterey Jazz Festival to interview and record the recollections of Festival patrons that witnessed the historic September 23, 1962 performance of the musical at Monterey.
A location and time will be designated each day at the Festival when patrons will be able to stop and share their memories of the September 23, 1962 performance of The Real Ambassadors which starred Louis Armstrong, Carmen McRae, Lambert Hendricks & Bavan, and Trummy Young as well as both Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong’s bands.
These oral history recordings will then be added to the Brubeck Collection and made available to scholars and students wishing to study this important jazz work that addressed issues of social justice.
A companion exhibit documenting The Real Ambassadors is on display in the Coffee House Gallery.
Yolande Bavan is a singer and actress. Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), she toured Australia and Asia as a performer with Graeme Bell's band early in her career. She is best known for replacing Annie Ross in the legendary vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross after Ross was forced to leave the group due to poor health in 1962. She recorded three albums, all live recordings, with the group under the name of Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan. In 1964, both she and Dave Lambert left the group, effectively ending the trio. In 1969, Peter Ivers and Yolande Bavan made an album for Epic Records called Knight of the Blue Communion. Bavan also provided vocals for Weather Report's 1972 album I Sing the Body Electric, and has made several recorded appearances in musicals such as Salvation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Michael John LaChiusa's Bernarda Alba. As an actress, she has also made appearances in such films as Parting Glances, One True Thing, The 13th Warrior, Cosmopolitan,and The Accidental Husband, as well as performing in many plays. She has worked extensively in Europe and has appeared on the London stage and made several movies for British television. She also performed at Norway's Oslo Nye Theater, in a role that was specially created for her unique talents as an actress and a singer.
Yolande has had a long association with the American Foundation of the Blind Talking Books program administered by the U.S. Library of Congress. She has recorded over 200 books and has received the Alexander Scourby Narrator of the Year Award for her work in this field.
Ricky Riccardi is the Project Archivist for the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College. His popular online blog The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong (dippermouth.blogspot.com) features over 250 articles on various aspects of Armstrong's musical career. He has given lectures about Armstrong at the Institute of Jazz Studies, the Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and for the Duke Ellington Society. He earned his Master's in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers Newark, where he also taught Jazz History. A piano player, he leads a jazz trio based in Toms River, New jersey.In 2011, Pantheon Book published What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years.
Keith Hatschek is Associate Professor and Director of the Music Management Program at the University of Pacific in Stockton, California. He is an active Brubeck scholar and has presented his research on Dave and Iola Brubeck at a number of international conferences including the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (2009, 2011); Society for American Music (2010); and the International Jazz & Race Conference in the UK (2010). His essay, “The Impact of American Jazz Diplomacy in Poland During the Cold War Era,” was published in 2011 in Jazz Perspectives, Vol. 4, No. 3. In the article, the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1958 tour of Poland is analyzed for its social, political and musical influence on Polish culture. As part of his research, Professor Hatschek made a two-week study trip to Poland to meet and interview leading Polish jazz musicians that were heavily influenced by Brubeck’s historic State Department tour.
In addition to his Brubeck scholarship, he has published two music industry books, The Golden Moment: Recording Secrets of the Pros published by Backbeat Books (2006), a compendium of fifty interviews with leading engineers and producers discussing the art and craft of music recording and How To Get a Job in the Music Industry (Berklee Press, 2007) which provides career development tools and strategies for young music professionals. He contributes a monthly column to the online music blog, Echoes-Insights for Independent Artists, which addresses various topics of interest for new and emerging artists and is a frequent speaker at other schools and conferences. He has served in various board positions including the Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association, NARAS, and AES as well as providing pro bono consulting for non-profit arts organizations. He resides with his family in Stockton, California.
William Minor was originally trained as a visual artist (Pratt Institute and UC Berkeley), and has exhibited woodcut prints and paintings at the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Oklahoma Printmakers Society, the UC Berkeley Kroeber Gallery, the University of Illinois, and the Smithsonian Institution.
A jazz writer with over 150 articles to his credit in DownBeat, JazzTimes, Modern Drummer, Jazz Notes, Coda, Swing Journal, Jazz Forum, The Christian Science Monitor, The Massachusetts Review, and West, Bill has also published three books on music, including Unzipped Souls: A Jazz Journey Through the Soviet Union (Temple University Press); Jazz Journeys to Japan: The Heart Within (University of Michigan Press, 2004) and Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years (Angel City Press). He served as scriptwriter for the Warner Bros. film documentary, same title as book. His latest work, a novel, is titled Trek: Lips, Sunny, Pecker and Me (Park Place Publications, 2007).
As a poet, he produced his first book containing poems and prints, Pacific Grove, in 1974. Since then, he has also published For Women Missing or Dead, Goat Pan, Natural Counterpoint (with Paul Oehler; nominated for Pushcart Prize XI), Poet Santa Cruz: Number 4 and Some Grand Dust (Chatoyant, 2002), a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin Award. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.
Bill Minor spent thirty-two years as an educator at the University of Hawaii (1963-1965), Wisconsin State University-Whitewater (1966-1971), and Monterey Peninsula College (1971-1996); and taught every humanities-related course from Creative Writing to American Humor and Comedy to Soviet Russian Literature.
A professional musician since the age of 16 (piano, drums, tenor guitar, vocals), Bill has released three CDs: Bill Minor & Friends: For Women Missing or Dead, Poems Set to Music; Mortality Suite, and Love Letters of Lynchburg.