Today and every day those of us whose lives he touched celebrate the life and legacy of John Reese, founder of Black Arts Music Society (BAMS). Still a lasting impact upon this city, John’s powerful influence within the arts community in particular and the education of the public in general leaves an enduring legacy. Jazz concerts, public speaking, public radio and television interviews dot consistently throughout his life during the 70’s through the 90’s. Numerous businesses and patrons of the arts recognized and supported John’s work throughout the years. In addition, at other times, his own money, talent, time and sacrifice secured arts from national and international places from Pasadena to Paris!
This love of jazz, indeed profound, was as infinite as his love for the most important people in his life. That his family featured prominently as a driving force in John’s personal and public life gives insight into the man and the music. His wife Ellen’s unwavering support, his children’s undying admiration paint a colorful portrait — one which nurtured the gestalt (entire picture) if you will, to John’s creative masterpiece. Through them and perhaps for them and countless others, John worked tirelessly in his attempt, making the music major in Mississippi, a place rich in poverty and poor in mainstream appreciation/knowledge of the music born of its own cultural contributions.
Some of the musicians/artists who performed for BAMS over the years were: Alvin Fielder, London Branch, Russell Thomas, Ed “Kidd” Jordan, Clyde Kerr, Richard Brown, Clonzo May, The Holly Brothers, Ron Carter, Teddy Edwards, The Heath Brothers, Freddy Redd, Dr. Ronald V. Meyers, Sr., Mulgrew Miller, Alvin Batiste, Betty Carter, Cassandra Wilson, Margaret Rundles, Stafford James, Graham Haynes, Steve Coleman, Kent Jordan, Ameen Rasheed, Billie Higgins, Darrell Lavigne, Steve Turre and many more. A special thanks to Maxine Greg (NY) for support by providing jazz giants — Woody Shaw, Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon during the late 70’s and early to mid 80’s.
John Reese may not be here in the physical, but his one of a kind spirit and energy is deeply felt and remembered by many.