Music capital

Move Over Austin, Hot Lips and Harmonics Make Dallas a Music Capital

Austin likes to think of it as the musical capital of Texas, but we don’t agree. While Austin may be home to famous music festivals, Dallas is the foundation that shaped music icons like Erykah Badu, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Usher, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, all of whom have found their musical niche here. , a fact that many tend to overlook.

Oak Cliff’s Top Ten Records nonprofit Texas Music Archive initiative puts an end to that. The Texas Music Archive reinforces North Texas influence on music, especially jazz, in an educational documentary titled Hot Lips and Harmolodics – North Texas’ Contributions to Jazz Musicvs.

“People don’t necessarily see Dallas or Fort Worth as cities of music,” says Clarence Williams, board member of Top Ten Records, who wrote and directed the film in association with CommonLinq Creative Content Media. “When we think of music, we think of Nashville, New Orleans, New York and Los Angeles, but if people understood the amount of talent that has been dug up or taken from Dallas-Fort Worth and that is used in other places is It will help to understand that we really have to find ways to create an engine or hubs where we can cultivate our talents.

“We need to think about how we tap into this market to become one of those renowned musical cities that have contributed so much, not only to jazz, but also to gospel, R&B, soul, rock and all. aspects. ”

With Hot Lips and Harmonodics the organization wants to educate viewers about Dallas’ caliber of talent. The documentary explores the history of jazz from the 20th century to the present day with the support of Texan Jazz author Dave Oliphant, jazz historian Carl Woideck and others. The key theme of the film illustrates the integral contribution Dallas has made to the genre, such as promoting the musical art of Oran Thaddeus “Hot Lips” Page, which the film is partially titled.

Page was born in 1908 in Dallas, where he nurtured his musical inclination as a singer, soloist and trumpeter. While still a local, he toured with Ma Rainey. Page eventually left Dallas for New York in search of fame. Over the course of his career he has amassed an impressive resume with Walter Page’s Blue Devils, with Artie Shaw and The Orchestra, and with the Count Basie Orchestra.

Page is just one example of a high-talented North Texas man who had to leave Lone Star State to achieve fame.

Also credited in the title is the musical philosophy of the Harmolodic of Ornette Coleman, which has diversified the direction of the jazz genre. Coleman, originally from Fort Worth, is considered the founder of free jazz, a subgenre based on experimental improvisation. Through his expertise as a saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer, Coleman founded the musical philosophy of the harmonodic, a method of musical composition that equalizes rhythm, harmony and melody by focusing on the tradition of call and response from jazz.

“Top Ten Records hope to create a recording of this history and, for context, provide current examples of this historic musical lineage,” Top Ten Records said in a press release. “The scope of this story is long: the blues of Deep Ellum and early jazz players like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Stan Kenton of the popular Denton Jazz Orchestra, and the free jazz of Ornette Coleman of Fort Worth, none of them. between them only rose to fame in their hometown, but they certainly started in North Texas and encouraged many of the thriving musicians from their homes into their own careers in all major jazz movements and in all the great jazz scenes of New York, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Europe.

“If people understood the amount of talent that has been excavated or taken from Dallas-Fort Worth and is being used in other places, it will help to understand that we really need to find ways to create a motor or hubs where we can. cultivating our talents – Clarence Williams, Top Ten Records Board Member

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The film is part of the second phase of the Texas Music Archive initiatives. The first phase consisted of building a music library displaying the melting pot of Texas musical influences. It can be found in the Top Ten Records at 338 Jefferson Blvd. at Oak Cliff. The library includes vinyls, cassettes, videos and CDs of Texas musicians past and present, and media are available for loan. Library items include insets with research results and historical context on information cards, provided by Top Ten Record board members. Rare items are available for in-store listening only.

The library is funded in part by personal donations and artist donations. Musicians are encouraged to donate copies of their music to the library to solidify their contribution to the Texas musical lineage. Funding is also supplemented by grants.

The next step for the organization was to integrate the library’s wealth of knowledge into an educational narrative to promote media literacy. Encouraged by archivist and film contributor John Slate, the Top Ten Records Board of Trustees applied for a grant from Humanities Texas, an education-based nonprofit.

“The timing for us just worked in part because of the pandemic,” said EV Borman, Top Ten Records board member. “Writing grants for the city is very different from writing the grant I wrote for Humanities Texas. The application process was a bit more taxing for the Humanities Texas grant, and I’m not sure if I could have put that in place as well.

The grant allows the nonprofit to explore the history of jazz in North Texas and showcase the modern talents of North Texas. Today the genre is alive and well in Dallas thanks to musicians such as RC Williams, Roger Boykin and Dennis Gonzalez. Closed sets by Shaun Martin of Williams and Dallas, Jackie Whitmill, Robert Trusko, Jonathan Mones and Jelani Brooks were filmed for the documentary.

Borman says the documentary intends to fill the educational void, which has contributed to missed opportunities and a lack of cultural integrity. By showcasing a rich history and current local talent, the team behind Hot Lips and Harmonodics aspires to generate the pride and support of local artists to prevent them from seeking fame elsewhere.

“All musicians, especially emerging musicians, don’t do anything and it’s industry wide, not just in Dallas, but Dallas is especially bad for not wanting to pay performers properly,” Borman said. “And so it goes with the idea that Dallas is not a city of music, so why bother?” “

The film will premiere at 7 p.m. on December 28 at the Texas Theater (231 Jefferson Blvd.). After the premiere, the documentary will be available on Top Ten Records’ VHX and YouTube channels.