I Love Delta Jazz

Let's not overlook Delta jazz!

September 21, 2005
Greenville, Mississippi

(GREENVILLE, MS) Everybody loves the blues.

Mention the Delta and music, and the blues will inevitably be part of the discussion.

However, there is an art form presented in this part of Mississippi that's rarely mentioned: jazz.

Ron Myers is trying to change that.

Myers, a Delta physician, minister and musician, has been out front for more than a decade establishing a jazz base in the Delta and trying to spread the word that this music belongs to us as well as the blues.

Of course, no one is suggesting that the blues take a backseat. On the contrary, we are saying that other art forms shouldn't be ignored.

Several jazz musicians are active in the Delta, and the region has produced some notable artists in this genre.

Myers recently recognized one, Shaw native and longtime Greenville resident David Biaoni, 76. A jazz pianist, Biaoni was recently awarded the Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of playing what Myers calls "America's classical music." The festival itself also celebrated its 10th year.

Another who has worked hard to promote the art form is Dr. Alphonso Sanders of Mississippi Valley State University. In the past, he has worked with the Delta State University Jazz Ensemble and the Delta Jazz Society, a group of music lovers who pushed for a local jazz scene. Sanders, a saxophonist, has also performed in many festivals and concerts, appearing onstage last week with Deborah Brown during the Jazz Tribute to the Blues concert, and he's rubbed elbows with such world-famous jazz artists as the Yellowjackets.

The Jazz Tribute is sponsored annually by the Delta Symphony Association. Over the years, the organization has brought in such national music treasures as Ramsey Lewis, Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of New Orleans' famed Marsalis family, Mose Allison and many others, including Greenwood native Mulgew Miller.

Perhaps that classic composition by George Gerswhin, Ira Gershin and Heyward DuBose says it best:

and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

It doesn't get much more Delta than that.

Yes, we love the Delta blues. However, we should also recognize and support our Delta jazz community.

It's one more selling point for the overall arts and tourism community and, for local residents, one more entree on our quality of life menu.


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