‘No more starving artist’: Black Music City grant recipients reveal their work on Juneteenth

Twenty-three artists received grants ranging from $1,000 to $3,500 to create new work that recognizes or is inspired by Philly’s Black music history.

You’ve probably never heard of Frank Thurmond Fairfax, an influential Philadelphia jazz bandleader and union organizer for Black musicians in the 1930s.

Joshua Lee, an accomplished jazz saxophonist from South Philadelphia, has set out to change that — with a seven-piece band and a $2,000 grant from the Black Music City project.

On Saturday — Juneteenth — at REC Philly, the coworking space for Philly creatives, Lee’s band performed a new arrangement based on one of Fairfax’s lead sheets — basically the melody and chord changes — that he obtained from the late musician’s son.

“It’s something we didn’t learn in school. And I went to school for music,” Lee, 26, a Temple University graduate, said of Fairfax. Lee said Fairfax is sometimes overlooked in Philadelphia jazz history because he didn’t record music, thinking it would make him obsolete.

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