A standing ovation with Luques Curtis, JD Allen, and Rudy Royston.

The history of jazz, born in America’s south, is also the history of race in our country, and the talented and determined individuals that contributed to our culture. Trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk were both attacked by police on different occasions, but unfortunately, I’m sure there were others too.

Pianist, composer, and band leader, Duke Ellington, was famous for having his own train to take his band on tour, but it was a necessity so that they had a place to eat and to stay since many hotels/restaurants were for white people only.

Yet Miles, Monk and Ellington still continue to be some of the greatest and most revered artists in the history of our country – Duke Ellington was even commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II to compose specifically for her, a lovely piece he entitled The Queen’s Suite.

Our jazz legends have enriched our culture and continue to inspire today. We are all familiar with their names: Miles, Monk and Ellington we easily recognize, but so are “Count” Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Louis “Pops” Armstrong, John Coltrane, Art Tatum, Charlie “Bird” Parker and Billie “Lady Day” Holiday: all household names today after fifty years or more. Their talents, as well as many others, have contributed not only to jazz worldwide, but to the culture and history of America.

These composers, performers and musicians create pride in our country’s cultural contributions in music, and are proof that Black lives have contributed and mattered throughout the history of America. Who are tomorrow’s legends? Hah, that’s a tricky one, right?

Since my first band, I have always reached out to today’s jazz luminaries to record and tour with, and I’ve been lucky they’ve joined me. I’ve always looked for great musicians from a variety of backgrounds because diversity of ideas naturally stimulates creativity. So today I’d like to share these modern day leaders – some of the most talented musicians and composers today – there are a lot of great memories we have shared over the years!

Thanks for letting me share some of my favorite musicians!

– Lisa

lisa hilton with her band members