DVD Attracts Jazz Lovers Young and Old
They may seem at first an odd couple — the former Supreme Court Justice and the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, but here they are together on a newly released DVD, “Let Freedom Swing: Conversations on Jazz and Democracy: A Resource for Teachers,” featuring Wynton Marsalis and Sandra Day O’Connor. A teacher’s guide, crafted in conjunction with Teachers College at Columbia University, the cleverly titled “Let Freedom Swing” certainly qualifies as an unusual collaboration.
The more one thinks of the pairing of these two diverse celebrated figures, the less of a stretch it may seem and the more likely it is that it may be seen as an imaginative way to stimulate social studies’ classroom discussions. Jazz and American democracy can lay claim to being unique examples of self-expression in the history of this country and, indeed, in the Western world, both prompted by a people longing to be free.
Starting in the black parishes of New Orleans, and evolving by way of some of the country’s most spectacular and original musicians and composers, jazz developed different strands, among them blues, swing and be-bop, each becoming a distinctive part of America’s musical heritage and national cultural identity.
“Let Freedom Swing” is not the first collaboration for O’Connor and Marsalis. On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, they co-hosted “A Celebration of America” at The Kennedy Center. Chance conversation at that event led to consideration of what emerged as the DVD. “Let Freedom Swing” comprises three short videos of 20 minutes each. Although grades 6-12 are the suggested population, the DVD will attract all ages, especially older lovers of jazz who will delight in seeing some of their favorite established musicians in performance, against historical footage, along with some up-and-coming truly talented youngsters. The beat goes on. #