Thanks to Farnell, ever the documentarian, for sharing his words and photos from the project.

Recently, I was asked by pianist Darrell Grant to be a part of his new project called Step by Step – The Ruby Bridges Suite.

Whenever I get the opportunity to play with Darrell Grant, I know that the music is going to be good, and I will have a great time as well. When he told me who would be performing, I could not turn this down. He mentioned drummer Brian Blade, vibraphonist Joe Locke, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and bassist Clark Sommers, some of the top musicians on the planet, and I knew I had to take this gig. Rounding out the band was Anthony Dryer who I have seen around Portland but never met, Marilyn Keller who I love to perform with, and John Nastos who always brings his “A” game to every performance he is involved with.

The crazy thing about this group is…

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About “Step By Step”-The Ruby Bridges Suite

We premiered my latest project “Step By Step.” a suite inspired by the story of civil rights icon Ruby Bridges. at Kaul Auditorium last night.

Since we did not have a concert program, I thought this blog would be a good place to provide information for those who are interested in finding out more about the piece and it’s background.

The suite  has nine musical numbers, which are interspersed with a narrative that tells the story of Ruby’s experience as the first negro grade school child to attend a white school in New Orleans.

I hoped to tell her story in with instrumental music, songs and spoken word drawn from poetry, oratory and passages from her autobiography entitled “Through My Eyes.”

The songs are:

1. Prelude

2. Step by Step

3. Why have you Forsaken Us

4. Summer 1959

5.  Tell You This (Jim Crow’s Song)

6.  Hold My Hand

7. The Cheerleaders

8.   Come In

9.  We Rise

The instrumental pieces: Prelude, Summer 1959 and The Cheerleaders each portray particular times or incidents in Ruby’s story.

Some of the source material for the narration (wonderfully done by actor/director Kevin Jones) include:

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

The Supreme court ruling from the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education

Excerpts from:

Speech to Niagara Movement by W.E.B. Dubois from 1906

“Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  from May 4, 1966

and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”

I also benefited from two very enlightening websites

Civil Rights Movement Timeline

Who was Jim Crow

Here is a link to the Oregonian A & E preview of the piece.

Here is a link to Ruby  Bridges’ website for those who want more information

I hope we can move forward to develop this piece and that it will be performed again soon.