Black History in Music

To celebrate Black History Month, the Dwight Tribble Ensemble performed jazz and soul tunes written and sung by Oscar Brown Jr. last Saturday evening on Feb. 27 at the University Club.

Sanne Bergh | New University

Sanne Bergh | New University

The performance was organized by the Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture & Inclusion. The event’s purpose was to commemorate Oscar Brown Jr., who offered musical solace while also advocating significant power through music.

Brown Jr. was a civil rights activist, songwriter and poet. His songs were a momentous part of the Civil Rights Movement, with socially conscious messages that he often acted out, bringing the song-stories to life. His music characterized African-American life with a sound that would represent the time’s struggle. Brown wrote about 1,000 songs, most of which detailed the day-to-day troubles of Black folks, such as “Work Song,” “Bid ‘em In” and “Afro Blue.” “Work Song” includes lyrics such as, “I committed crime lord I needed/ Crime of being hungry and poor.”
During the event, Dwight Tribble memorialized Oscar Brown Jr. as a great folk hero with the ability to “paint a picture so beautiful with music that you can actually see it unfolding in front of you, just like you’re looking at a movie… that was his gift.”
He said, “I am learning. I think I’ll spend the rest of my life as an artist trying to do what Oscar Brown did.”
Tribble recognized Brown’s music as a means of communicating a message to the public that was greater than himself, and that music was a vital key to the progression and struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. “When you’re working from necessity, nobody can tell you what to do… when you’re just [musically] operating,” he said.
The ensemble that performed was passionate and included Theo Sanders on piano, Trevor Ware on bass, Breeze Smith on percussion, and Paul Lagasti on drums. Tribble is known for his wide vocal range and ability to improvise with his voice, which lends itself well to the Jazz genre.
Nicole Mitchell, a professor for the music department specializing in integrated and improvised composition, also made a surprise appearance on stage for a flute solo that had the audience of a little less than 100 erupting in applause.
Her participation reflected one of Tribble’s key pieces of advice: “Stay with the organic.”