One of the nice things about this project has been the ways people have come forth to share their ideas and expertise. This past December, I received an email from researcher Noel Thomas who wanted to share an project he produced in 2018, a podcast mini-series about Montreal’s jazz history.
This miniseries is part of the larger Historians Recount podcast project, which Thomas co-produced with with other researchers, including our own organization’s (QAHN) Dr. Dorothy Williams—Canada’s foremost scholar of the history of Quebec’s Black community. You can access the four episodes at this link.
Montreal’s historic Black community in little Burgundy was the epicentre for jazz culture in Canada between the 1920s and 1970s with a healthy roster of venues like the legendary Rockhead’s Paradise. The memory of jazz music is still strong in the neighbourhood: giant murals on in the neighbourhood pay hommage to two of Canada’s foremost pianists, Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones who were both raised in the neighbourhood. Dr. Oliver Jones remains an active community member who is often seen attending neighbourhood events and supporting community initiatives; his annual golf tournament, for example, raises money for the Union United Church (Canada’s oldest Black congregation), Tyndale St-Georges Community Centre, and other organizations. A third massive mural pays hommage to Oscar’s sister, Daisy Peterson-Sweeney, who taught countless young musicians in the neighbourhood, including her brother and Oliver Jones. Daisy also helped found the Montreal Black Community Youth Choir (now known as the Montreal Jubilation Choir). Many feel she was as equally gifted as her brother.
Podcast producer Noel Thomas – originally from New York – arrived in Montreal near the tail-end of Montreal’s jazz heyday in the 1960s. He was captivated but what he saw and heard in the jazz scene. Over the years, he made recordings and conducted scores of interviews with our city’s jazz stalwarts. His podcast series weaves compelling interviews, narration, and music to tell the story of jazz in Montreal. I want to thank Noel for reaching out to our project. His mini-series helps tell of a vibrant and pivotal time in Montreal’s cultural history and of the essential contributions made by Quebec’s Black English-speaking community.