For Immediate Release
The Arts Council
Contact: Kevin Ledgewood
“DOC” ADAMS and the BIRMINGHAM HERITAGE BAND TO PLAY BAMA THEATRE
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (October 2012) Frank “Doc” Adams, a legendary elder-statesman of American jazz and a Birmingham native, will perform a public concert with the Birmingham Heritage Band at the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.
The concert is the culmination of a three-day “Living Legends” program in which The University of Alabama honors an Alabama native who has made a profound and lasting contribution to both the state and national cultural heritage.
The concert coincides with the publication of Doc: The Story of a Birmingham Jazz Man, just published by The University of Alabama Press. Doc chronicles his experiences performing alongside “Fess” Whatley, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, Erskine Hawkins and others, as well as exploring his remarkable career as an educator and bandleader in his own right.
Doc Adams was raised in Birmingham and learned his art along with many other jazz practitioners through an unparalleled system of jazz apprenticeship rooted in Birmingham’s historically segregated high schools. Birmingham produced two legendary bandleaders— Erskine Hawkins and Sun Ra—and the city’s influence on national jazz culture has been tremendous, largely the work of Birmingham-born sidemen, composers, arrangers and teachers, who brought their unique training to bands across the country. Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, all of the country’s major jazz bands—the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and others—included Birmingham musicians, often in central roles. Most of these players were trained by a single local instructor: Industrial High School’s “maker of musicians,” John T. “Fess” Whatley, one of the true unsung heroes of American jazz. His fierce discipline and insistence on formal training and professionalism shaped generations of jazz musicians who in turn went on to shape America’s musical heritage.
Doc’s story also offers a valuable window into the world of Birmingham’s African American middle class in the days before integration. Throughout, Adams demonstrates the ways in which jazz professionalism became a source of pride within this community, also offering thoughts on the continued relevance of the music in twenty-first century Birmingham.
The substantial jazz culture and contributions of Birmingham have been long overlooked in the historiography of this most popular of American music. “Doc” corrects that oversight, presenting the city’s jazz heritage through the experiences and voice of a master musician and storyteller. Deeply personal and universally resonant, Adams’ story—and, with it, the story of a vibrant musical community—richly deserves to be heard.
Dr. Frank Adams first studied music in Birmingham, Alabama under Lincoln Elementary School’s William Wise Handy and Industrial High School’s John T. “Fess” Whatley. He has performed with Herman “Sonny” Blount (Sun Ra), the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Mantan Moreland’s Hollywood Revue Orchestra, the Howard University Swingmasters, Tiny Bradshaw, Lucky Millinder, Erskine Hawkins, and the Cleve Eaton Orchestra, among others, serving himself for fourteen years as bandleader of the Woodland Club Orchestra. Adams has been a tireless music educator in the Birmingham city school system. He founded the Birmingham City Schools’ All City Marching Band Festival and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame’s Student Jazz Band Festival, as well as a successful system-wide strings program in the Birmingham City Schools. He was one of the first inductees to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, for which he served as Executive Director and Director of Education, Emeritus.
This event is hosted by The University of Alabama Office of Economic Development, The Arts Council of Tuscaloosa, The University of Alabama School of Music, The University of Alabama Press and the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Alabama.