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Writer W. Royal Stokes Returns to Washington for Jazz Forum at UDC | Arts & Culture

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Writer W. Royal Stokes Returns to Washington for Jazz Forum at UDC

This story was sent to us by the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives.  If you would like to see your event or story on our Where You Live websites, e-mail us at neighborhoodtips@wusa9.com.

The University of the District of Columbia welcomes jazz author, historian, radio personality, and critic W. Royal Stokes back to his home town for a special appearance on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 from 7-9 PM as part of the Jazz Forum series presented by UDC’s Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives.

The author of four books on jazz, Mr. Stokes is a D.C. native and a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School who relocated to West Virginia four years ago after a long and productive career that included more than three decades in the Washington area. He will speak about his life and involvement in jazz as well as about the collection he recently donated to the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives, which consists of more than 2,000 books and 3,500 compact discs.

Speaking about the collection, Dr. Allen Sessoms, President of University System of the District of Columbia said, “This new donation from W. Royal Stokes is a perfect match for the University as he has long been the premier chronicler of jazz in Washington, D.C. The Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives continues to position itself as a significant force both locally and nationally in collecting and preserving jazz materials.”

W. Royal Stokes was born in 1930 in Washington and his first home, on 19th Street in Adams Morgan, was in the same building that in the 1940s housed the after-hours jazz club Villa Bea. Introduced to jazz through 78 rpm records left behind when his elder brother joined the Navy in 1943, Stokes had his first experience with live jazz through a 1947 performance by the great Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars at the Club Bali on 14th Street, NW.

Academic studies took Stokes from D.C. to the University of Washington where he earned B.A. and M.A. degrees, adding a Ph.D. from Yale University in 1965. He was a classics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Tufts University, Brock University, and the University of Colorado, teaching Greek and Latin languages and literature and ancient history. In 1969 he left academia and returned to his hometown, where, from 1972 to 1987, he hosted the programs I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say… and Since Minton’s on radio stations WGTB and WPFW. From 1978 to 1986 he was the jazz writer for The Washington Post and he also wrote for JazzTimes, serving as its editor from 1988 to 1990. After leaving the Post and JazzTimes, Stokes was editor of Jazz Notes, the publication of the Jazz Journalists Association from 1992 to 2001 and he is still active in the organization.

His first book, The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 was published by Oxford University Press in 1991. Oxford also published his third and fourth books, Living the Jazz Life (2000) and Growing Up with Jazz (2005), which each present “a sort of oral history” that situates D.C.-based artists such as saxophonist George Botts and pianist John Eaton alongside Art Blakey, Don Byron, Diana Krall, and others from New York, California, Europe, and Asia. Stokes’s second book, Swing Era New York (Temple University Press, 1994), presents the photographs of Charles Peterson, a jazz guitarist and trained photographer who created many remarkable images of musicians both on- and off-stage from the mid-1930s to the early 1950s. The photographs were prepared by Peterson’s son Don and Stokes wrote the accompanying text. At age 80, Stokes shows no sign of slowing up. He is at work on three more book projects, including a novel, another set of musician profiles, and a family history.

The Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives is the University’s stellar jazz research and resource center that houses several major collections including the collection of the late Felix Grant, the internationally renowned jazz authority and radio personality.

The Jazz Forum series is the research and outreach initiative of the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives. These regular events feature lively presentations on diverse aspects of jazz from authors, musicians, educators, and a wide range of scholars. Presentations are held in UDC’s new state-of-the-art Recital Hall and are digitally recorded for later access on the website of the Jazz Archives.

All Jazz Forum events are free and open to the public. The UDC Recital Hall is located in Building 46-West on the UDC campus at 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008. The campus is easily accessible on Metro’s Red Line, Van Ness/UDC station.

For more information, contact the Felix E. Grant Jazz Archives at (202) 274-5265 or via email at jazzarchives@wrlc.org.