The Inner Sleeve - Wire N° 297 - November 2008
THE INNER SLEEVE
ARTWORK SELECTED THIS MONTH BY ROBERT WYATT
Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln and others Angolan Refugee Rescue Committee benefit concert poster 1963
Design by St Clair Clement
I've had this poster for a benefit concert at the Town Hall, West 53rd St, New York City, 7 September 1963, for over 40 years. It's precious, and hangs on my wall.
I didn't get to New York until nearly five years after this concert, when my jazz heroes and heroines became sidelined. When the rock invasion took centre stage. So this poster creates an aching nostalgia for the jazz years that I grew to love from a great distance. Time and space having had no effect on the connection I experienced.
It's for a concert on behalf of the Angolan Refugee Rescue Committee, featuring the most authoritative modern jazz drummer and mentor, Max Roach, with his jazz ensemble (plus a 16 voice choir conducted by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson - how I'd love to have witnessed that!) and the gritty but utterly sophisticated vocalist Abbey Lincoln.
The journey these two had already made in music is so interesting to me. Abbey Lincoln stepped into the limelight as a statuesque torch singer (appearing in The Girl Can't Help It I seem to remember), and even Max Roach had a glamorous movie moment (as the drummer duetting with Pearl Bailey in Carmen Jones). Then, just a few years later, with We Insist! - Freedom Now Suite, they emerged as perhaps the Malcolm X and Angela Davis of jazz culture.
I love this poster for the content, and for what it evokes, the tantalising prospect of a concert that I can only imagine, the culmination of an extraordinary era in the history of music, and the heyday of the civil rights movement.
Also, the form and style of the poster really appeal to me. The already archaic hand-set printing process, the use of wood letters, half tone blocks, and so on. The printer would very soon afterwards have been put out of business by new technology. And the vividness of the addresses for buying tickets, in the Bronx, Queens, Lexington Avenue - evocative stuff. Unlikely there's even a trace of those shops now.
This 1963 poster epitomises everything that came to matter to me as a fledgling musician, a poignant souvenir of what I still consider to be the Real Thing.
Robert Wyatt's back catalogue is reissued this month by Domino