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Honoring Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, and its Soundtrack

The Bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Sept. 15, 1963


By Matt Silver

On this MLK Day, we honor not just Dr. King’s words and actions but those of the broader struggle for civil rights. And we do so, in our small part, by pairing the stories of that era with the artistic response they incited.

Undoubtedly, the tragedies of that period shaped artistic expression as much as the triumphs, if not more so. The 1963 bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. is no exception. We invite you to read a bit about the tragedy below and engage with the following  musical statements, handpicked by our on-air hosts for this MLK Day.

John Coltrane’s “Alabama”

Charles Mingus’s Town Hall Concerts

Ramsey Lewis’s “Wade in the Water”

George Adams’s “Going Home”

Babs Gonzales’s “We Ain’t Got Integration”

Max Roach’s “Let Thy People Go"

Honoring Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, and its Soundtrack

The Freedom Riders


By Matt Silver

On this MLK Day, we honor not just Dr. King’s words and actions but those of the broader struggle for civil rights. And we do so, in our small part, by pairing the stories of that era with the music they inspired.

Read a bit about the Freedom Riders below, and pair with the following tunes, handpicked by our on-air hosts for the occasion:

Art Blakey’s “The Freedom Rider”

Chico Hamilton’s “Freedom Traveler”

Kenny Burrell’s “Freedom”

Dannie Richmond’s “Freedom Ride” (begins @ 8:30)

Honoring Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, and its Soundtrack

The Selma Marches: March 7-25, 1965


Civil rights marchers rest along the route from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in March 1965. Photo by Peter Pettus. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

By Matt Silver

In March 1965, beaten and bloodied, civil rights leaders and ordinary citizens persisted in marching from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. Even after being turned away not once, but twice—first by physical force, then by the legal force of a federal injunction. 

Nina Simone’s ’Nuff Said! Offers ‘Some Kind of Something’ on This and Every MLK Day

Nina Simone took the stage at Wetsbury Music Fair on Long Island in April 1968, three days after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.

By Matt Silver

Over the last several years, America has had to reckon with issues of race, class, civil rights, opportunity, and dignity in a way it hasn’t since Nina Simone first sang protest songs.

Perhaps as a byproduct of the moment, there’s been a resurgence of both popular and critical interest in Simone, the High Priestess of Soul and a civil rights icon. That’s why, on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m compelled to revisit Nina Simone’s ’Nuff Said!

KSDS GM Ken Poston Guests on Jazz Journalists’ Association Podcast to Discuss New Book on Gerry Mulligan

The New Autobiography as-told-to Poston Reveals Much without Telling All, Poston Tells Pod


Gerry Mulligan’s autobiography, as told to KSDS GM Ken Poston, was published in November 2022 by Rowman & Littlefield.

By Matt Silver

KSDS General Manager Ken Poston joined the Jazz Journalists’ Association’s (JJA) monthly podcast — “The Buzz” — this week for an authors’ panel discussing the three books published on and about Gerry Mulligan in the past year. One of those books—Being Gerry Mulligan: My Life in Music, the late baritone saxophonist’s autobiography as-told-to Poston—was a project thirty years in the making.

Get Your Groove Back This Halloween with These Five Tunes

By Matt Silver

Best of Halloween playlists are ubiquitous this time of year—and, frankly, most of them consist of the obvious, low-hanging fruit. Of course, clichés are clichés for a reason: they have staying power. So, here we acknowledge the very best of the tried-and-true—along with some...deeper cuts. From the absurd and campy to the spooky and truly frightful, you’re sure to find something in these five tunes that speak to what you love most about Halloween.

On Monday, Oct. 30, Brownie Lives!

Here's what's in store for KSDS's Day-Long Celebration of Clifford Brown's 93rd Birthday...and Why Clifford Brown Merits Special Treatment


Clifford Brown at Birdland in New York City, 1954. Photo by Herman Leonard. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

By Matt Silver

In 1957, Benny Golson wrote perhaps the most beautiful requiem in the jazz canon. Earnest and heart-wrenching “I Remember Clifford” is a bona fide standard, inspiring versions by Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, and nearly every jazz instrumentalist of consequence, including Golson himself.

But it begs the question: Do we follow the lead of Benny’s lament and do enough to remember Clifford ourselves? This year, we do. Here at KSDS, we aim to honor jazz’s great innovators, past and present. Clifford Brown, who tragically died four months shy of his 26th birthday in June 1956, is indisputably one of them.

Recap and Review of Jazz Live with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

Big Phat Band Packs Powerful Punch but Finesse, Chemistry the True Revelations

By Matt Silver

One great thing about staff here at KSDS is their versatility. General Manager Ken Poston basically built a jazz museum from scratch; Production Director Michael Rovatsos plays bass in the West Coast’s premier U2 tribute band, and "Phat Tracks" host Gordon Goodwin has won four Grammys and been nominated for over 20 more. Which is why when I went to City College’s Saville Theatre last Tuesday night to see and hear Goodwin preside over a radio program broadcast before a live audience, I wasn’t that surprised when a full-fledged big band concert broke out.

Musicians…they just can’t help themselves.

Recap and Review of Jazz Live with The Christian Jacob Trio

The Christian Jacob Trio Doesn't Deconstruct Standards; They Reveal What's Been There the Whole Time

By Matt Silver

The Christian Jacob Trio. From left: Jacob on piano, Trey Henry on bass, Ray Brinker on drums. Photo by Larry Redman.

I’ve been writing about jazz since 2016, which is not an eternity but more than a minute, and I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of pianist Christian Jacob until last Tuesday night. The reason I’m embarrassed is because Jacob’s chops, the staggering breadth of his musicality, warrant so much more than mere name recognition; they warrant the type of adulation given to all the other greats of today and yesterday— Brad Mehldau, Ethan Iverson, Joey Alexander, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, and even Monk before them—who approach jazz with the erudition of a classical concertmaster, a child’s playfulness, and an adolescent’s total disregard for boundaries.

Eastwood's Parker, an Analysis. Part I

Clint Eastwood’s Bird: The Good, The Bad, The Apocryphal

By Matt Silver

You get a pretty good sense "Bird's" intended visual aesthetic from its lobby card. Warner Bros., 1988.

Part I: Prologue, Immediate Reaction, Forrest Whitaker, Bird's Cinematography, and a General Verdict


I approach Bird as someone who loves jazz generally and knows more than the casual fan but less than the historians who get paid to be historians. Having said that, these are my thoughts – the good, the bad, the ugly—about Clint Eastwood’s Bird (1988).

The famous filmmaker Spike Lee, whose father Bill Lee, a jazz musician, supposedly knew Charlie Parker well, has criticized Bird for overplaying Parker’s character and behavioral flaws and underplaying the warmth and sense of humor that drew people to him.

Lee may very well be right—I can’t say; I didn’t know Charlie Parker personally, nor do I know anyone who did. But my sense is that Lee, and others who have criticized Bird similarly, are overlooking the most obvious thing about this depiction: It’s a movie! A big-budget Hollywood entertainment for as broad an audience as there can ever be for something about jazz or a jazz musician. Lee, more than anyone, should recognize that Eastwood’s treatment of the subject is not a documentary; after all, Lee’s no stranger to based-on-a-true-story moviemaking. He's been good (Malcolm X) but far from perfect (Summer of Sam). Trying to balance historical accuracy and biographical integrity with commercial entertainment value is a razor’s edge for artists in every medium to walk.