The Black Artist? A Very Belated 158-Word Review of “Elvis”

Freedom Suite?

An overlong but serious and well-done meditation on how Black American artistry is the engine for true 20th-century American freedom of any type, perhaps of any time. The first half grounds itself in a Magic Negro experience par excellence, a remarkable 21st-century achievement because it pretends to take on the issues directly; it attempts to muddle the mind so that cultural theft is confused with willing baptism into the Church of the Real Thang. In this flick, Elvis–whose early life is presented with all the speed, rhythm and wail of early rock ‘n’ roll and then some–is recast by biopic history as a public champion of Black stylings, his struggles made to mirror and parallel another, and more dangerous, freedom movement taking place outside his door and largely off-camera. And then the bejeweled latter half, the slow, disappointing realization of being lied to, exploited and manipulated by The Man. Powerful, but ultimately, however well-intentioned, racially manipulative.

“The Encyclopedia Of Newark Jazz,” Barbara J. Kukla’s New Book

I just got this today from the author, a former colleague of mine:


The Encyclopedia of Newark Jazz, set for release in late May, is Barbara Kukla’s sixth book about the people of Newark and its rich history. Her previous books include Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50, and America’s Music: Jazz in Newark.

Kukla’s latest work includes more than 300 capsule biographies of Newark jazz musicians and singers, most with photos. There are more than 400 photographs in all, many of which are historic, and a wealth of flyers, including one for an appearance by John Coltrane at a city club in 1950.

Newark’s own, Sarah Vaughan, one of the world’s most legendary jazz singers, is featured on the cover with James Moody, whose career is celebrated each November at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and the blues and jazz singer Miss Rhapsody (1902-84) to whom the book is dedicated.

“Most jazz books tend to be repetitive, so I try to dig up new stuff about artists like Sarah, Moody, Wayne Shorter and Woody Shaw,” Kukla says. “This time I interviewed Sarah’s sister and Moody’s widow; former Newark Mayor Ken Gibson, who played in a band with Wayne Shorter in his youth, and Clem Moorman, who still performs professionally at age 101. He’s the father of singer Melba Moore .

Kukla worked at The Star-Ledger for 38 years, most of that time as editor of the popular “Newark This Week” section. For information about the book or to schedule a talk, contact the author at or (973) 325-370. The book is $29.99 per copy.