Jazz by Design: Freedom Beyond Words

PROGRAM (notes below)

Blues-Based Life – Darryl Singleton (b. 1963)

Daahoud – Clifford Brown (1930-1956)

Straight Life – Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008)

Salt Peanuts – Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993)

About Jazz by Design

Rude But Blues – Darryl Singleton

Blue Samba – Darryl Singleton, arr. Haas/Singleton

Oak Roots – Darryl Singleton


Pre-event Video

  • Video Production – Squeak Meisel, Chair and Associate Professor, WSU Department of Fine Arts
  • Music – Improvisations by Crimson Ties, the WSU World Music Ensemble recorded December 10, 2022. Ensemble Members: Clara Brown, Dominique Smith-Pierre, Gage Amonette, Joe-Henry McQuary, Meg Fritz, Rogan Tinsley

Drum Tapestry
Created by Rogan Tinsley

Fabric/ Fashion Elements on Stage

  • Armine Ghalachyan, Assistant Professor, Department of Apprel, Design, Merchandising & Textiles (AMDT)
  • Manal Shaheen, lecturer, AMDT
  • Saira Mosqueda Allan, senior, AMDT
  • Beatriz Rowena Gonzalez, sophomore, AMDT

My Shirt and Hat!
Created by Ginger Sorensen

Stage Manager and Lighting
Shaun Sorensen and the Bryan Hall Theatre Crew




There are different ways to describe or define “jazz.” One characteristic embraced by many is the idea of jazz being “blues-based,” though some refer to the early genre, others to the form, and still others to both. For me, both the genre and the form combine in a feeling and an approach which is encompassed by the word “bluesy.” The style and lyrics of “Blues-Based Life” are a celebration of choosing to live optimistically, despite circumstances and often by being ever-prepared to take life’s lemons and wryly spin them into lemonade.

I wake up ev’ry morning and I thank the Lord above for my blues based life
Don’t get confused I’m not just talkin’ bout that bad news blues
when I’m talkin’ bout this blues based life
It’s the colors all around from the clouds down to the ground that shape the sound of my blues based life

Hit the 7th every time, flat the fifth if you’ve got time
Let the third lead your way
And just play what you’ve got to say
In this blues-based life
When things get a little tense
A half step more they make some sense
Living this blues based life

Every step is in the scale and resolution never fails in this blues based life
But if the day goes off the rails sometimes you growl sometimes you wail
in this blues based life
but when the check is in the mail it’s like a melody that sails
over this blues based life.

I’ve got the 8 bar 12 bar 16 too
It’s all good just don’t turn around too soon
And ev’ry day I improvise my way
From 9th ii-V boppin’ a lively tune

Rhythm changes day to day
But the music ‘s here to stay
In this blues based life.


Despite their short time together the Clifford Brown/ Max Roach Quintet remains one of the most influential bop groups. I had access to a compilation album that contained most of the groups studio recordings and while pursuing my master’s degree I spent more time with that collection more than any other. In fact, the album’s owner sought me out years later thinking I might still have had his records. Unfortunately (in my mind), I did not, and I am not positive I would have admitted it if I had! It was difficult to choose which tune to include in this recital as there are many melodies, arrangements, and performances by all the band members that have had an indelible influence on who I am as a musician. While I have listened to and learned from many drummers, Max Roach was an early and permanent inspiration.

Though typically bop in use of chromatic melodic devices and ii-V relationships, composer Clifford Brown found means to express through use of tritone substitutions and delayed resolutions. The arrangement also adds interest, highlighted by the four-bar launch into the solo section.That phrase also serves as transition to the coda on the head out via an ear-tickling three-bar drum solo fill, finally ending in a way that completes an eight-bar phrase. In tonight’s version, that ending is extended. The original arrangement was likely, at least partially, the work of group arranger Richie Powell, who was killed in the same car accident that claimed both Powell’s wife and Clifford Brown.


The title track from Freddie Hubbard’ 1970 album “Straight Life” is my favorite recorded performance of all time. It embodies many elements that are integral to my love of music, jazz or otherwise. The opening trumpet cadenza in call-and-response with drummer Jack DeJohnette enraptured me at first hearing. That and the Afro-funk/fusion groove under a melody that I personally refer to as sunshine jazz. Growing up in Washington, D.C. my early experiences hearing live jazz were in the 70’s during summer jazz festivals. The weather was hot, the sun was bright, the musicians wore Afro-centric clothing, and the music was funky, free, bluesy jazz that as often as not included a drummer and a percussionist. Hubbard’s “Straight Life,” Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” and Hugh Masekela’s “Grazing In The Grass” are a few recorded examples of sunshine jazz. Though even non-musicians may have heard deriding remarks towards music with simple harmonic progressions, Hubbard and his group, which included a pre-crossover George Benson, found in a two-chord progression a source for soaringly free chromatic and polyrhythmic expression. For this performance, the instrumentation closely matches that of the original recording, other than the absence of drumset.


This anthem of the bebop era is always attributed to Dizzy Gillespie though some claim it was in collaboration with Kenny “Klook” Clarke. Though some have credited Charlie Parker as it’s sole or partial composer, Parker himself, whether in jest or in earnest, declared the tune was “composed by my worthy constituent, Mr. Dizzy Gillespie in the year of 1942.” A contrafact on the ubiquitous “Rhythm Changes” (a vernacular reference to the harmonic structure of Gershwin’s “I got Rhythm”), this burner was one of the tunes played at “The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever” by “The Quintet”- Bird, Dizzy, Bud Powell, Mingus, and Max Roach.


I have always felt called to the frontiers of expression despite the restraints of the musical (and social!) contexts in which I’ve usually found myself. Nevertheless I also recognize that the ability to navigate both musical and social structures afford connection and promote collaboration with those around us. But what are the boundaries of those structures, especially if we are supposedly free to express ourselves, again both musically and socially. When we go against social customs, one oft-employed descriptor is “rude.” The musical equivalent would be “dissonance.” This tune is an exploration of the most fundamental element of the jazz experience – the blues – mediated by harmonic and rhythmic dissonance not usually juxtaposed with perhaps the most intuitive of jazz forms.


Just as blues is the root of all popular music in America, samba is the root of Brazilian music. I wrote Blue Samba to perform on my master’s recital. At the time I had not heard of any tunes in a blues form with a samba feel and I thought it would be an interesting combination. When I began working on the arrangement for this performance, I collaborated with my good friend and frequent musical companheiro César Haas, who grew up with the samba tradition in Brazil. While the original performance of this piece was likely more blues than samba, this time, especially thanks to César, the opposite may be true…despite the use of Indian tablas!


A large part of my identity in undergrad was related to being a member of the marching band. Though it was not my personal case, many HBCU students choose their institution based on the marching band. And, though many fine classical musicians attend and graduate from HBCU music programs, many of us connect based on identification with marching band. Kappa Kappa Psi National honorary band fraternity is a special part of that experience for its members. The intake process, traditionally known at HBCU’s as “being on line,” involved the taking (in reality “assigning”) of a “line name.” Mine was “Oak.” To give some context, many KKPsi brothers are known equally, if not more so, by their line name rather than their given name. The HBCU band equivalent of this is a “crab name,” which is given, earned, inadvertently inspired by an act or habit, or otherwise evolved during one’s first year in the band. In both cases it is not uncommon for someone to be referred to by these given names by fellow students inside and outside the band, and in many cases for the rest of their life. Relatedly, I’ve taught many students who, after months of being in the band, still had no idea who “Darryl Singleton” was; they only knew “Prof. D.” This should give you an idea of the meaning given to names and identity in that culture.

Thus, when I wanted to write a tune that would express my “jazz essence,” I used the name that had great significance for my identity as a developing adult up to that time. The inspirations for “Oak Roots” include summer jazz concerts as a child, dashikis and afros, and the funk and freedom-inspired jazz sounds of the 60’s and 70’s. The 6/8 meter is a nod to the meter closely associated with traditional African rhythms. The ostinato and general style of the bass line is also related to African stylistic traits and was influenced by recordings such as John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”

African Heart 2017- Darryl Singleton. digital image.


Jazz is, as you may or may not know, a product of the forced migration/enslavement of Blacks to/in the U.S. Though, as with everything, there were exceptions, Blacks in America generally were not allowed to continue their musical (and other) traditions from their various African Cultures. They were taught Western European musical instruments and musical aesthetics. However, their African cultural instincts informed how they expressed themselves. Think of it like this, you can often tell where someone is from by their accent in speaking a particular language. Similarly, Blacks had ways of playing and singing with what I call a “Blaccent.”

Jazz is the result of European instruments, scale system, harmonies, and song form mediated by African rhythmic, melodic, and lyrical aesthetics. That personalizing of materials they were forced to use was one way that Blacks found micro outlets of/for freedom though they were still enslaved. Instrumental jazz has always been a personally expressive genre that has been a locus for expression of complex emotions that resist the constraint of words. As such, many jazz artists like Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane were recognized during the Civil Rights Era for expressing the pain, frustration, yearning, and hope of Black Americans through their music.

Fashion has ever been a daily decision through which we express ourselves on a spectrum with compliance and rebellion as the extremes. Growing up through the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s and 1980’s I experienced various phases of Afro-centric fashion including hairstyles, clothing, bracelets, and medallions. While those had personal relevance for me as an “Afro-American” (my favorite designation which also hails from that time) I quickly recognized that fashion spoke wordlessly of mood, identification, aspirations, beliefs, and more.

So “Jazz by Design: Freedom Beyond Words” is the guiding thought for this experience
that can be seen as a connection between jazz and fashion design as both arts 1) express emotion without words 2) display bold statements made by the practitioner, often in response to the collective voice of the people they represent and just as often in reaction to dominating forces in society.

“Crossing Paths” 2023 – Darryl Singleton


Before ever meeting all of the visible collaborators in this experience, I married a most wonderful woman, my wife Valencia who not only supports me but propels me in all my endeavors! I truly thank God for my spiritual sister, spouse, and biggest fan! I also acknowledge the ever present inspiration of our sons Samuel and Daniel, and my two daughters Atiya and Jasmin. And of course God also gets the credit for any talent I am able to share.

Thanks to the administration of WSU. I wouldn’t be in the Palouse, my new home, if not for Chancellor Chilton’s Cluster Hire Initiative.

I am grateful for the support I have received from the office of the College of Arts and Sciences, Todd Butler, dean.

The WSU School of Music is home to an extremely talented, creative, and inspirational faculty led by director Dr. Keri McCarthy and associate director Dr. Dave Turnbull.

We are also blessed to collaborate with an energetic staff, without whom many plans, hopes, and dreams would go unrealized!

Last and certainly not least, all of the past and present students who I have ever taught, interacted, or created with are a genuine fountain of youth. Thank you all for keeping me on my toes and being a source of inspiration!


When I first began planning this performance around a year ago, the original title/theme was going to be “The Other Fork.” Three of the pieces on tonights performance were composed in 1986. It was the first period in my life where I had opportunity to explore jazz in a systematic in-depth way. Life circumstances led me to decisions (wise and appropriate at the time!) that took me away from a budding concentration on jazz and towards other endeavors. Now that life has brought back to a focus on jazz, I felt it appropriate to revisit early explorations down that “other fork.” Tonight’s performance is the result. I hope it has been a positive and reflective experience for all who attended or viewed online. I will leave you with a word piece that, though “untitled,” speaks of decisions made and reconnection with paths once forsaken.

“untitled” 2023 – Darryl Singleton


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