Panel Discussion on Jazz

Irene Crutchfield is a native of Hot Springs, Arkansas who grew up in a musical family. She began performing regularly in and around Central Arkansas beginning in the early 1960s with John Puckett and Art Porter, Sr. She has fond memories of working at The Diplomat Club on Little Rock’s West 9th Street, as well as at other venues in the region for many years with Porter’s bands.

Bill Huntington is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, but currently lives in Little Rock. He began studying jazz banjo in the early 1950s with several first-generation jazz players, including Lawrence Marrero, Emile Barnes, and Albert Glenny (who at one time played bass for Buddy Bolden’s band). Huntington later switched to guitar, and was even featured in DownBeat magazine in 1960 as being hot young talent from the Crescent City, before settling on bass. He spent many years playing throughout the world, including stints living in the San Francisco Bay Area and Atlanta, but ultimately had a lengthy career based in New Orleans as a teacher at Loyola University. He’s been instrumental in mentoring many of the current generation of leaders in the jazz genre who came up in the New Orleans scene. His recording credits are wide and varied, including long-time collaborations with Ellis Marsalis and Bennie Wallace, among many others.

Alvin Fielder was born in Meridian, Mississippi and is currently based in Jackson. His interest in jazz drumming at an early age led him to be active in the music scenes in his native Meridian, then New Orleans, Houston, and Chicago. While in Chicago from the late 1950s through the late 1960s, he became one of the founding members of the famed Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) organization in 1965. During that time, he played with everyone from Sun Ra to Muhal Richard Abrams to Roscoe Mitchell. Fielder returned to Mississippi in the late ’60s to work in his family’s business but continued to be an advocate for the arts, including the formation of the Black Arts Music Society (BAMS) in the 1970s. Mitchell worked closely with the Nixon Administration to integrate Mississippi schools.

London Branch is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in a musical family, taking up the trumpet at an early age before switching to bass. He’s collaborated with artists ranging from Muhal Richard Abrams to Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell to Hamiet Bluiett. Branch lived and taught bass in both St. Louis and Chattanooga. He moved to Jackson, Mississippi in the 1980s, was a member of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra for many years, and was a key figure in building the Jackson State Symphony Orchestra. He’s continued to perform both jazz and classical music professionally through the years.