Black Art Jazz Collective
It is easy to misconstrue a name, especially when it is so obviously tied to politics and racial identity. Born during an important period of Black identity in the arts in the early 2010s, Black Art Jazz Collective brings together an accomplished ensemble of young African American musicians who felt that it was necessary to celebrate Black culture in a positive way. The focus on camaraderie between members who grew up playing music together comes through in their music.
The Collective was co-founded by drummer Johnathan Blake, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. All graduating from esteemed music programs in the Northeast at the same time, the three quickly became ingrained in the New York jazz scene as leaders and invaluable members of ensembles led by legends like Tom Harrell, Bobby Hutcherson, Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter.
The first addition the trio made was the great bassist Dwayne Burno, an individual who really espoused professionalism and dedication to his friends. Being older than the others, Burno’s influence and attention made an impact on all of them. The ensemble also featured trombonist James Burton III (an adherent of the school of Curtis Fuller and J.J. Johnson and another Jackie McLean alum) and the great pianist/composer Xavier Davis.
The Black Art Jazz Collective’s first performance was at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in April 2013 with Burno. His passing in the following December was a shock and upset the jazz world, not to mention the Collective. It would prove to be a challenge to find a replacement for Burno. It wasn’t until Pelt recommended Vincente Archer that the group found a perfect replacement, one who had connections to all the members and who was influenced by Burno.