BLAST FROM THE PAST: Sanders jazzes up Black Hall of Fame event

Posted: March 4, 2018 at 2:27 a.m.

The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Distinguished Laureate Series VII was free, but "sold out."

No wonder. This incarnation of the series, during which a Black Hall of Famer returns to lecture or perform, featured 2004 inductee and jazz saxophone great Pharoah Sanders and his band. The performance took place Feb. 24 at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College's Center for Humanities and Arts.

Wine, beer and heavy hors d'oeuvres were offered at an hourlong reception prior to the concert, which opened with greetings by Danyell C. Cummings of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation and Margaret Ellibee, chancellor of UA-Pulaski Tech. Cummings introduced Charles Stewart, Black Hall of Fame chairman, who made remarks and introduced Sanders, a graduate of the former Scipio A. Jones High School in North Little Rock and friend of the late John Coltrane. Sanders was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2016. Among the special guests that evening were the Rev. Thomas Banks, who sold Sanders his first instrument.

Sanders -- who spiced up an exceptional performance with a bit of dancing and urging the audience to sing along -- was backed up by the trio of pianist William Henderson; bass fiddle player Nathaniel Reeves; and drummer Justin T. Faulkner. Sanders alternated between performing with the trio and retreating to the back of the stage to let them go it alone.

Sold during the evening were copies of Seeds of Genius: 25 Years of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, the coffee-table book marking the 2017 silver anniversary of the event. After his performance, Sanders signed books, programs, record albums and CDs for guests.

Program inserts afforded attendees a chance to donate to the foundation, which distributes grants to nonprofit organizations dedicated to the improvement of underserved communities.

-- Story and photos by Helaine R. Williams

High Profile on 03/04/2018