At a musical and literary tribute to two Brooklyn icons, both of whom lived in Fort Greene, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) recently hosted a celebration of the powerful creativity and lives of jazz bebop sensation Betty Carter and artistic legend Tom Feelings.
This celebrated event, co-hosted by the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), was held at the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York. The Church is pastored by the Reverend David Dyson, LAPC.
Long regarded by jazz insiders as the consummate jazz vocalist of the late 20th Century, Betty Carter is remembered for her adventurous scat style and distinctive interpretations, as well as for being a mentor to young musicians who went on to develop stellar jazz careers. Ms. Carter died on September 26, 1998 at the age of 68.
Mr. Feelings, renown artist and illustrator of children’s books with African and African-American themes, died on August 25, 2003 at the age of 70. Mr. Feeling’s best remembered illustrations are featured in Middle Passage: White Ships, Black Cargo, and depict his vision of the importation of slaves from Africa to the New World.
In discussing the significance of the event, Senator Montgomery said, "The spirit of these artists lives on in Brooklyn. I believe that this tribute provided a venue for showcasing timeless, artistic talent rooted in culture, tradition and community. Most importantly, it gave our young aspiring artists a unique opportunity to live-the-life and walk-the-path of Carter and Feelings through the artistic expression of those who knew and admired them."
To help honor the memory and celebrate the lives of Betty Carter and Tom Feelings, heartwarming stories of the late artists were shared by their family and friends, including members of the legendary National Conference of Artists Kwame Brathwaite, Izell Glover, and Richard Barcliff.
Danny Mixon, a close friend of Betty Carter and former member of one of her early groups, performed on piano some of Ms. Carter’s compositions, along with Lisle Atkinson on bass and Rudy Lawless on drums.
Consistent with Betty Carter and Tom Feeling’s commitment to African-American youth, young people from two local schools participated in the memorial event. Students from Brooklyn High School of the Arts read excerpts from, Open the Door: The Life & Music of Betty Carter and from Tom Feeling’s book, Soul Looks Back in Wonder. The students who read include, Mohammed Ali, Jamesha Blackburn, William Jones, Olivia Bellard, and Francine LaLanne.
Also, musical selections were performed by the High School’s Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of the School’s Music Director John Scandone and Mr. Mixon.
A unique dance was performed by the "And We Dance Repertory Ensemble" of the Ronald Edmonds Learning Center at M.S. 113 under the direction of Choreographer and Dance Educator Ruth Sistaire.