Thursday Night Jazz: Ben Barson’s “Brassroots Democracy”

Alphabet City 40 W. North Avenue Pittsburgh,PA15212

Join us for a free hybrid in-person & livestream event at Alphabet City in Pittsburg!

Celebrate the launch of Ben Barson’s Brassroots Democracy: Maroon Ecologies and the Jazz Commons. Unearthing vibrant narratives of New Orleans musicians, Ben’s book reveals how early jazz was inextricably tied to the mass mobilization of freedpeople during Reconstruction and the decades that followed. Black brass bands rehearsed participatory democracy through collective performance, and their militant spirit embodied the democratic ethos of Black Reconstruction—”Brassroots Democracy.” Ben presents a transnational “music history from below,” tracing how the families of prominent early jazz traversed New Orleans, Mexico, and Haiti, as they built communes, performed at Civil Rights rallies, and participated in general strikes.

Joining him will be a group of Pittsburgh and New York based musicians who will reimagine the music discussed in the book, and its resonance in our current moment.

You can purchase your own copy of Ben’s book, Brassroots Democracy, at City of Asylum Bookstore or direct from the publisher.

Featured Musicians:

Benjamin Barson: baritone sax, bass clarinet
Alec Zander Redd: alto sax
Gizelxanath Rodriguez: guitar, vocals
John Bagnato: guitar, banjo
Mark Michelli: piano
Eli Namay: bass
Hugo Cruz: percussion
Desmond Rucker: percussion

About the Musician:

Benjamin Barson is a saxophonist, historian, radical educator, and organizer. He is an assistant professor of music at Bucknell University. He received his PhD in Music from the University of Pittsburgh and recently completed a Fulbright Garcia-Robles postdoctoral fellowship at the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Mexicali, Mexico and a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University’s Africana Studies & Research Center. Barson has performed with luminaries including Fred Ho, Arturo O’Farrill, Craig Harris, and Geri Allen, and at a wide range of national and international venues, including the Kennedy Center, the Guggenheim Museum, CECUT in Tijuana, and the Mesopotamian Water Forum – an event organized by ecological activists in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan. He is the winner of the 2018 Johnny Mandel Prize from ASCAP for his composition “Insurrealista,” and was a member with the Afro Yaqui Music Collective when the group was named Pittsburgh’s “Best Jazz Band” by the readers of the Pittsburgh City Paper in 2018. Barson is also an activist, and was a cultural organizer in the campaign to free political prisoner and Black power activist Russell Maroon Shoatz. He currently works closely with a group inspired by Maroon’s legacy named Ecosocialist Horizons.

For more information and free tickets, please see the City of Asylum’s event page.

Multio-colored stripe-block image collage of hands playing a drum, a worker in a field, and other sketched elements with the words "Brassroots Democracy" in large while text across the top 1/3 of the image. Below that is smaller dark block text "Maroon Ecologies and the Jazz Commons". Below that in an indigo text is "'From now on, Brassroots Democracy should be our starting point.' - Robin D.G. Kelley" across the bottom. Benjamin Barson is in dark text at the top left of the image. All against a white background.