reginald duvalle, sr. and his blackbirds

This web page acknowledges jazz in Indiana from a broad perspective of “jazz community” encompassing those who play(ed) active roles as jazz musicians with those who perform(ed) supportive and supplementary roles alike. Indiana jazz scholars.(1)

document the wealth of extraordinary talent that has emanated from the State through the 20th into the 21st century including world renowned musicians, Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, Hoagie Carmichael, Freddie Hubbard, Slide Hampton and David Baker and numerous jazz musicians who are worthy of worldwide recognition who maintained largely local or regional careers and statures.(2) The concept of “why Indiana” as well as “how” Indiana played a significant role in creating an exceptionally high standard of jazz performance through community interaction is the focus of this web page. Although the development of jazz in the State stretched beyond a century, a zenith period may be spoken of during the 1940s-50s during the height of jazz clubs and businesses on Indianapolis’ Indiana Avenue. A combination of features fell in to place including a nurturing and caring environment fostered through the African American educators at the racially segregated Crispus Attucks High School; the commonality of intergenerational relationships and passing down jazz as a family tradition; the central location of Indianapolis, situated at the crossroads between the other regions of the United States, and a close-knit, local community in which jazz musicians and supporters knew each other from youth through their senior years. Lifelong connections among musicians bonded the Indianapolis jazz community and set it apart from places like the large magnet coastal cities where jazz musicians gravitated and met one another as young or established professionals to set up working relations anew.

The information in this web page is intended to initiate discussion on jazz community rather than cover all the individuals and venues that are worthy of recognition. With this in mind, visitors are invited to add their own stories of Indiana jazz community in a blog at the end of the web page.

1. For example, see Duncan Schiedt (1977), David Brent Johnson (2007a, 2007b), Richard Sudhalter (2002), May (2005), and David Williams (2007).

2. For a more comprehensive list of jazz musicians from Indianapolis see a dvd recording of Willis Kirk’s (Indianapolis drummer) presentation at Butler University on Oct. 10, 2009, archived at The Crispus Attucks Museum).


11 Responses to “Introduction”

  1. Ed O'Brien Says:

    You are taking me back to the early 60’s when, by chance, I had the privilege of hearing Wes Montgomery at the bar, ( The Point???) on the corner of Michigan or New York St and New Jersey. We use to stop in there after classes at I.U. Extension. I went to Indiana Ave. only once or twice but one of my favorite musicians was Earl Grande (sp?) a keyboard player whom I use to try and see where ever he was playing.
    I went to Marion College on Cold Springs Rd. in Indianapolis and use to stop in at the “19th Hole”, close to the golf course. I first heard the music flowing out of there front door and then started stopping, depending on who was playing.
    Of course, the music was always Jazz and I believe going to listening to these different musicians gave me my appreciation for Jazz. I heard John Coltrane in Chicago, Nancy Wilson and the George Shearing Quartet in California (not together), Herbie Hancock, Herbie Mann, and Taj Mahal, separately, in Indianapolis, and many others over the years.
    Thank you to all the Jazz musician, past and present.

  2. Karen,
    Thanks for sharing this blog with us. I will be following through RSS. Hope all is well with you. -a

  3. Millie Gerena-Rochet Says:

    Karen: How wonderful – I hope we can do several jazz places when you return to NY. Congratulations!!

  4. Teri Klassen Says:

    Karen, I love your concept of placing the music in a broader context of community. and I love your Blackbirds photo. What a great name. Where did you find it and when was it taken?

    • Dear Teri, Reginald DuValle, Sr’s (pianist in the photo) son (Reggie, Jr.) provided this priceless picture. I assume the photo was taken in the late 1920s. DuValle’s Blackbirds opened the Walker Theatre building in 1927 and he was a leading musical inspiration in many ways for his generation (his radio show and influence on Hoagie Carmichael are noted in this website). Thanks for your input!

  5. David Leander Williams Says:

    Hello Ed O’Brien: The Point was located on the corner of Vermont Street and Indiana Avenue. Wes played there many times. Erroll Grandy is the correct spelling and his nickname was “Groundhog.” Marian College has become Marian University. Just for your information. dlw

  6. Andrew Waters Says:

    Hello Karen.
    I’m interested in purchasing David Williams’ book about Indiana Avenue but don’t know where to go to do it. I’m assuming he finished it for publication.



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