Manassas High School plays an underappreciated role in the evolution of American popular music. "Think about this," says Dr. John Bass, program manager of Rhodes College's Mike Curb Institute for Music. "Basically all of Miles Davis' sidemen were at Manassas at the same time: George Coleman, Booker Little, and Charles Lloyd were in the same program at the same time. This high school band, if you move it forward 10 or 15 years, would have been this amazing group of jazz all-stars. Hank Crawford, who played saxophone and was also Ray Charles' bandleader, went to Manassas."
The Curb Institute is charged with digging into the underexamined corners of Memphis' rich musical heritage and making its findings accessible. It presents "Celebrating Jimmie Lunceford and Jazz at Manassas High" on Thursday, November 15th, at Rhodes College.
Bass describes Matt Garrett, the Manassas band director in the early 1950s, as "a catalyst" for shaping the school's program. His successor, Emerson Able Jr., who taught from '56 into the '80s, likes to tell how he once kicked Isaac Hayes out of the band. But hot jazz at Manassas has deep roots. It's been speculated that Jimmie Lunceford, the Manassas teacher who created Memphis' first high school band program, was the first music educator in the world to teach jazz in a formal academic environment. "Teaching jazz in the '20s would have been like teaching hip-hop in the '80s," Bass says. Students from that first program went on to play in Lunceford's highly theatrical and internationally renowned touring band.
Able will also be presented with a Beale Street Brass Note on November 14th, at 5:30 p.m. at the Historic Daisy Theater.
A reception at the Bryan Campus Life Center begins at 5 p.m. The panel discussion begins at 6:15 in the McCallum Ballroom and is followed by a concert featuring the Rhodes Jazz Band and guest vocalist Earlice Taylor, a Manassas alumna. All events are free and open to the public.
"Celebrating Jimmie Lunceford and Jazz at Manassas High," Thursday, November 15th, starting at 5 p.m. at the Bryan Campus Life Center at Rhodes College.