Preserving the Jazz Legacy

African American Jazz Caucus Keeps the Flame Alive

Volume CIV, No. 2February, 2004

Larry Ridley

The African American Jazz Caucus (AAJC) is reaching out to the greater community under the motto “Working Together Works.” We are currently engaged in increasing public visibility and membership in our organization. Our mission statement reads as follows:

“The art form jazz has its origin and evolution based on African and African American spiritual and cultural roots. Our main goal is to uphold the integrity, aesthetics and legacy of these historical facts. The AAJC, an affiliate of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE), is actively engaged in programs and services to further jazz education. The Caucus invites and encourages proactive members to share their expertise in networking with the community.”

Our organization recognizes that there is a serious gap in historical documentation of the origin of jazz education in colleges and universities in the United States.

Beginning as early as the 1920’s, many young African American students on campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) were among the first to perform jazz in institutions of higher education. These students proved to be some of the richest resources for what was later referred to as the “stage band movement” by music educators, writers and critics in the mid-1950’s. See list below for some notable Jazz alumni.

(This information is excerpted from an article by Dr. Andy Goodrich, who provides a comprehensive historical picture of HBCU’s. See

In 2001, I organized the AAJC/HBCU Student All-Star Big Band. Its first performance was at the 2002 IAJE Conference in Long Beach, CA. This very successful performance paved the way for the band to make annual appearances at IAJE conferences. In addition, the band performs at other events. HBCU students are selected annually through a competitive blind audition process administered by the AAJC/HBCU Jazz Directors Committee, which is made up of Dr. Russell Thomas, chair (Jackson State University); Dr. Ira Wigs, vice chair (North Carolina Central University); Professor James Patterson (Clark Atlanta University) and Dr. Howard Harris (Texas Southern University). The jazz legend Gerald Wilson is conductor emeritus of the HBCU band.

Some of the musicians who have contributed to the success of this program are Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Ed Thigpen, Jimmy Owens, Marcia Miget and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

The AAJC is presently collaborating with individuals, educational institutions and private organizations in the following programs and activities:

  • Ongoing interaction and programming with HBCU’s.
  • Career development programs for jazz instructors, teachers, professors, managers, artists and repertoire directors, promoters, producers, recording engineers, print and broadcast journalists, writers, historians, critics and music therapists.
  • National technical assistance and consulting services for the continued development of jazz-related career activities.
  • Alternative academic and nonacademic community jazz instructional programs such as charter schools.
  • Audience development programs through the creation of a network for performances, clinics, workshops, tours, inner city schools and other institutions.
  • Partnership with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) as jazz curriculum evaluators.
  • Concerts and activities with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture/New York Public Library in Harlem.
  • The Rutgers University Outreach and Distance Learning Programs.
  • Interacting and interfacing with the music industry.

Please visit the AAJC web site,, for more detailed information regarding our ongoing projects, accomplishments and membership.

Larry Ridley is professor emeritus of music at Rutgers University. He is the executive director of the African American Jazz Caucus and a renowned bassist and jazz artist.

Historically Black College and University (HBCU)

Some Notable Jazz Alumni


Jimmy Lunceford, Lil Hardin Armstrong, Willie Smith, Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham, Earl Caruthers, Jordan D. “Chick” Chavis

Alabama State

Paul Bascomb, Erskine Hawkins, Julian Dash, Mathew Gee, Joe Newman, Benny Powell, Ernie Royal, Earl Warren

Tennessee State

Jimmy Blanton, Paul Quinichette, Jimmy Cleveland, Hank Crawford, Phineas Newborn, Curtis Prince, Leon Thomas


Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Ernie Wilkins, Jimmy Wilkins


Benny Golson, Bill Hughes, Eddie Jones

Southern University

Alvin Batiste

Florida A&M

Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Wendall Logan

Delaware State

Clifford Brown