My return home to New Orleans in 1989 to work along with Ellis Marsalis in developing the newly created Jazz Studies program at the University of New Orleans gave focus to projects on which I had been working for some time. One of those projects, The Silverbook Series, would become a major teaching tool and an important vehicle for “Keeping the Music…and the Musicians…ALIVE!”
Again, in building the Jazz Studies program, I saw a need for students to experience the recording process. I sought the help of Kalamu ya Salaam. His knowledge of the culture and his understanding of my goals led to the 1991 re-birth of A.F.O. (All For One) Records. This company had pioneered the recording of Modern Jazz in New Orleans as early as 1957 when the American Jazz Quintet recorded their first LP.
AFO now had the opportunity to continue its effort to introduce young players to the studio and to the public. AFO “Old School” players were: Ed Blackwell, Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Batiste, James Black… “New School”: Nicholas Payton, Victor Goines, Brian Blade, David Morgan, Glenn Patscha, Brice Winston…
I was invited to serve on the Board of Directors for the National Black Music Hall of Fame & Museum by its founder, Ms. C.C. Campbell-Rock. The organization needed to create a historical music exhibit using items from local musicians. The call went out but the response was poor. I was asked if I, as a board member, had any items that might be useful. It was decided, after examining my stuff, that the entire exhibit could be done with AFO items.
We now have three of the Foundation’s components:
- The Silverbooks
- AFO Re-birth
- The AFO Exhibit
The Vision came while working toward the Satchmo to Marsalis concert/fund-raiser put on by the University of New Orleans when Mr. Marsalis retired. That year was the Centennial Celebration for Louis Armstrong which raised the the awareness of New Orleans’ unique place in American and World History. The powerful impact of this music called Jazz has just within the last 20 years begun to be recognized as the National Treasure that it always has been. Even so, this recognition, as it related to New Orleans, is focused on the early music sometimes called “Dixieland”, “Ragtime”, or “Traditional.”
This small city has continued to produce, per capita, more music artists than any other in the United States.
The fourth component of the Foundation is:
- The Second Fifty Years of Jazz in New Orleans
This name is a working description of what we intend to do. From the basic work done by AFO Records and At Last Publishing Co. in the early 1960’s, we will go back to research the period from 1950 through to 2000. We will not only expand the AFO Exhibit, but also uncover many of the treasures of the period that have gone unnoticed by history.
The decision to bring these components under the shelter of a non-profit 501 © (3) organization came about upon recognizing the tremendous importance of the work and the meager resources (money and people power) at my disposal. I needed to beg for both.
I have been very fortunate here at home to have had several…many people who have offered, and helped me in many ways at many levels. Some are helping me now. I hesitate to name them here for fear I may omit someone. Even so, as the project expands and the work becomes more intense, we need more people…people who love this city, its music, and its musicians.
Thank you for your time and attention, and, if you are so inclined, I would welcome a response from you.
Peace be with you,
HAROLD R. BATTISTE, JR.