Duets on Justice, Poetry, and Music: A Livestream With Nikki Giovanni, Evie Shockley, and Christian McBride

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.“I say to my students all the time, ‘If you want to learn how to write, if you want to learn history, listen to jazz,’” Nikki Giovanni said Tuesday in a livestream with bassist Christian McBride and poet Evie Shockley, presented by the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. They converged on a trio of themes—the sculpting of sound, the pairing of words, and the making of movements for change.
Giovanni’s poetry lands in a lineage of writers and educators including Thulani Davis, featured here before, whose new book, Nothing But the Music, is a must-read of musical impressions, improvisation, and insight. The New York Times on Friday ran a spectacular feature on Davis—the first woman to win a Grammy for best album liner notes—by Daphne A. Brooks. Which leads me to a question and, I think, one of its answers: When do notes line the music, and when does music accompany the vivid language of the notes? When they illuminate each other, bringing you closer to each, you’ve got the creative core of Davis’ work.
An extra Recharge: Thanks to readers who wrote in with tributes to drummer Roy Haynes on his 96th birthday, adding to the 22 musicians we interviewed:
You’ve given me lifetimes of joy and I come home to you every day. Bless you and thank you. I will always come back to your playing. It is the best of life.—Michael T.
Happy birthday to the still-reigning king of percussion, Roy Haynes. Your session at Newport with John Coltrane is the most potent hymn to freedom and the future that I’ve ever experienced. I wish you and all your brothers and sisters everything that you and Trane played and implied. Thank you for the blessings you continue to lay on my ears and my life. Back at ya, infinitely multiplied. Live long and enjoy.
—Scarlet T.
Happy birthday, many more. Chicago fan. Enjoy snap crackle for 60 years. Stay healthy and safe.—Albin C.
Snap, crackle, and oh my God he’s still got pop too! Have a great birthday.—Joe V.
Thanks for the memories and stories of Roy, one of my inspirations as a drummer. Saw him play trio at Jazz Alley in Seattle when suddenly this [very drunk listener] gets on the stage between encores screaming, “We love you, Roy!” He’s standing in front of his drums sipping his brandy while [this person] is pounding his drums. The pianist and bass player pack up while Roy in his cowboy hat and snakeskin boots just stands there with a big smile watching. Security escorts her offstage and the band comes back for one more.—Jud S.
God bless you, Roy. Your longevity gives and sustains life for the great art form you helped to create. Meeting you and jamming with you at places like the Steer Inn, Sonny’s Place, and Gerald’s and listening to your recordings gave my musical life a great lift and inspiration to live performing, composing, and recording. You are the greatest. I hope I get to see you once more.—Greg B.
One of the musicians we interviewed, Jon Jang, celebrated his own birthday this weekend, for which he ran a fundraiser to benefit the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center and a community of musicians. It’s exceeded its goal and keeps running.