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Talking Music: Piedmont Blues


Nov 30 2016


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Forum for Scholars and Publics

011 Old Chemistry Building, Duke's West Campus Quad

Talking Music - The Making of 'Piedmont Blues'.png

Talking Music: The Making of ‘Piedmont Blues’

A Conversation with Gerald Clayton

Celebrated jazz pianist and composer Gerald Clayton, award-winning theater director Christopher McElroen, and UNC Folklore professor Glenn Hinson discuss the making of Gerald Clayton’s Piedmont Blues, in a conversation moderated by North Carolina Arts Council Executive Director Wayne Martin.

Piedmont Blues is a live concert presentation led by bandleader Gerald Clayton that explores the essence and impact of the Piedmont blues. The project features The Assembly — a nine-piece band led by Clayton and including vocalist René Marie and tap dancer Maurice Chestnut. The presentation has been conceived and developed by Clayton working in close collaboration with Christopher McElroen. Entwined throughout the live concert is an assemblage of projected film, new and archival photography, and folklore underscoring the verdant cultural landscape of the Piedmont region. Included amongst the footage are performances by some of the last of the living original Piedmont blues musicians: NEA National Heritage Fellow bluesman John Dee Holman, as well as Piedmont songsters Algia Mae Hinton and Boo Hanks (the latter passed in April 2016).

Taking its name from the Piedmont plateau region — the area that lies between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Appalachian Mountains from central Georgia to central Virginia centered in the Carolinas — the Piedmont blues is distinguished by its ragtime rhythms, fingerpicking guitar style, and understated vocals. The tobacco factories and warehouses of Durham, North Carolina — home to the American Tobacco Company (the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer) — were the epicenter for the Piedmont blues — the landscape from which the music was invented. Clayton’s Piedmont Blues premieres Friday, December 2, and Saturday, December 3, at Reynolds Industries Theater on Duke’s West Campus.

Free and open to the public. Light lunch served. A part of the Talking Music: Conversations with Scholars, Writers, Archivists, and Artists, co-sponsored by Duke Performances and the Forum for Scholars and Publics. Duke Performances is the lead commissioner of Piedmont Blues; co-commissioners include the Modlin Center for the Arts at University of Richmond, the Savannah Music Festival, and Strathmore. Critical support for Piedmont Blues has been provided by the Music Maker Relief Foundation — a nonprofit based in Hillsborough, NC — founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting musicians, ensuring that their voices will not be silenced by poverty nd time. Made possible, in part, with an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; a grant from the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; and a grant from New Music USA.


Gerald Clayton

Gerald Clayton “has proved himself one of the standout jazz pianists of his generation, possessed of silvery technique and an intent but relaxed way with a phrase” (The New York Times). This young jazz master grew up playing with his father John Clayton and uncle Jeff Clayton in their Clayton Brothers combo. The pianist/composer formally…...

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Christopher McElroen

The American Vicarious

Christopher McElroen is a Brooklyn-based theatre artist and the Artistic Director of the american vicarious. Christopher received a 2013 Helen Hayes Award for his direction of the world premiere stage adaptation of Ralph Ellison’s iconic novel Invisible Man. Alongside visual artist Paul Chan and Creative Time, Christopher co-produced and directed Waiting for…...

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Glenn Hinson

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

UNC Folklore professor Glenn Hinson has long been researching African American expressive culture, with focused investigation of musical, poetic and belief systems in African American communities. Much of his public sector work has been conducted in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and the Folk Arts Section of the North Carolina…...

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Wayne Martin

North Carolina Arts Council

Wayne Martin has worked at the North Carolina Arts Council since 1981 and became director in 2012. Over the years, his focus has been in the areas of community arts development, folklife and cultural and heritage tourism. He was a key staff member in the planning and implementation of the Arts…...

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