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Arts

Don't Call it Jazz, Barbara Morrison

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Barbara Morrison was an incredible jazz vocalist, and an iconic figure in the Los Angeles arts community. She performed with some of the most important figures in jazz and R&B including Johnny Otis, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Doc Severinsen, Ray Charles, and more.

In addition to her legendary career, she was a community leader, opening both the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center (a 100 person theatre) as well as the California Jazz & Blues Museum. Both of these establishments were located in Leimert Park, a historical and important Black neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles.

I had the pleasure of directing the Funk Orchestra, a community group at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center through Harmony Project, a music education non-profit. Barbara was often there on Saturdays when we rehearsed, and was always generous with her time, teaching me about the neighborhood, her theatre, and telling me stories of her career.

Many wonderful young LA musicians used the BMPAC as a stepping stone to get their chops up, and she would often perform there herself.

Barbara Morrison was a phenomenal performer, a beautiful vocalist with unique and artful phrasing. She would expertly hold command over the crowd, and would raise our life conditions as we basked in her joy and power.

Sean O'Connell, a great jazz writer and journalist, wrote a moving obituary for Barbara Morrison that I would recommend everyone read. I'll link to it at the bottom here.

Rest in peace Mrs. Barbara Morrison. Thank you for everything you gave us while you were here with us.

Barbara Morrison Obituary:

https://www.justjazzfoundation.org/blank-page-1

Playslist:

  1. “Work Song”

2. “Don’t Take Your Love From Me”

3. “I Wanna Be Loved”

4. “Bye Bye Blackbird”

5. “Never Make Your Move Too Soon/Smack Dab in the Middle”

6. “Blues for Ella”

7. “My One and Only Love”

8. “You’ve Been a Good Old Wagon”

9. “Someone Else is Stepping In”

10. “Los Angeles, Los Angeles, the City by the Sea”