Pure Jazz Magazine Vol 7 Issue 1 Horace Silver-PJM 2016


Pure Jazz Magazine is a semi annual magazine featuring in depth Jazz stories, interviews plus other information you may find interesting. Based in Brooklyn, USA for the world.

help. When I asked the Senior Editor Fikisha

Cumbo how she became involved with Pure

Jazz Magazine, the story she told mirrored my

own. Jo Ann just walked up to her at a public

affair and simply beguiled Fikisha with her

inimitable charm; she told Fikisha that she

was a fan of her television show on BCAT, introduced

herself and they were soon talking

about their

mutual love

for Jazz and

their individual


to document

and preserve

this priceless


Thus began

a friendship

that produced

a body

of very valuable


Looking over

the course of

Jo Ann’s life

one can easily

see how she became dedicated to the project

of preserving our cultural legacy. Even before

she earned a degree in communications

from Hunter College, graduating Magna

Cum Laude, she was involved in important

cultural work. For several years she worked

as an administrative assistant to Joan Maynard,

Founder of the Society for the Preservation

of Weeksville and Bedford Stuyvesant

History, which evolved into the Weeksville

Heritage Society.

It was here that she learned the critical importance

of preserving the Afro-American

cultural heritage, and she also discovered

the difficulties of disseminating that vital

information to Afro-American youths who

desperately needed this kind of cultural literacy

as equipment for living. Jo Ann could

see that black youths needed cultural enrichment

as much as the economic stability that

comes with employment. She understood

that while jobs were essential to make a living,

they needed a rich cultural experience in

order to make a life. In this sense her attitude

echoed that of Dr. DuBois who noted that

Booker T. Washington’s idea of education,

with its single-minded focus on the acquisition

of wealth would produce “money makers

but not men.”

The things Jo Ann learned from working on

the Weeksville project and her later work as

Circulation Manager for Unique New York

Magazine, published by radio personality/

entrepreneur Vy Higgenson, converged in

the founding of Pure Jazz Magazine, whose

publication was a labor of love and a testament

to what one can accomplish with dedication

and hard work. Over the course of 17

years she published the most unique magazine

dedicated to covering the

art of Jazz. Unlike much better

financed and broadly distributed

publications like Jazz Times

or Downbeat, there is no debate

about whether Jazz is a complex

art music invented by Afro-

Americans, who also produces

virtually all of the art’s major innovators.

As the San Francisco based sociologist

and Jazz D.J. Frank

Kovsky pointed out in his insightful

book Black Nationalism

and the Revolution in Music,

whites that are not involved in

Jazz readily admit that it was

invented by black people but it

is not art. While whites that are

involved in Jazz admit that it is art but black

people didn’t invent it. There was none of

that nonsense at Pure Jazz Magazine, and

that was purely the result of the vision of its

publisher. Although I had published essays

about Jazz in a wide array of publications,

writing for Pure Jazz was a special pleasure.

Jo Ann shared my vision of the importance

of the art form, and she was especially enthusiastic

about my essays on black women

performers. These include essays on the incomparable

Valadia Snow, “Forgotten Genius;

Jean Carn, Arise and Shine; Abbey Lincoln,

The Death of Sister Soul; etc.

In looking over the life and work of Jo Ann

Cheatham several things stand out: her desire

to preserve and pass on the best of our

cultural traditions; her commitment to

teaching the youths in ways that will help

them become the best that they can be; and

her dedication to working with and raising

up other women. The best of what she was

came from her tutelage under strong black

women, and her good works represented the

fruits of their labors. And in her dedication

to teaching young people places her squarely

in the tradition of such great black women

as Mary McCloud Bethune, Dr. Anna Julia

Cooper, Marva Collins, et al.

Nowhere is Jo Ann commitment to helping

black journalists develop or improve their

skills more apparent than my own experience

with her. I had begun taking pictures

with very small ambitions. I did not think of

myself as a photographer and with no aspirations

of becoming anything approaching an

artist. I only wanted to be able to take clear

pictures to accompany articles I was writing.

But one day Jo Ann, a highly skilled photographer,

looked at some of my pictures and

told me that she thought I had a “good eye

for capturing an image.”

However she told me that I needed a better

camera, and then she gave me a Nikon as a

gift and bade me to go forth and do something

special. That was about eight years

ago. On March the 6 th , this year, my first solo

photographic exhibition opened in the gallery

of the beautiful Dwyer Cultural Center

in Harlem. Since I had been living mostly

in California for the last two years - where

I am working on a book length photo-essay

on the work of San Francisco Bay Area Ceramic

Sculptors, under the auspices of the

Oakland Museum of Ceramics – I had been

out of touch with Jo Ann.

Alas, when I called her excitedly to inform

her about my forth coming exhibition, “The

Elegance of Afro-America: Black style as a

Weapon of Liberation,” I was informed that

she had lately danced and joined the great

ancestors in that place which the poet William

Cullen Bryant call “That mysterious

realm where each shall take his place in the

silent halls….” Jo Ann was born in the same

year as me, but she was one of a kind; when

the Gods made her they broke the mold. I do

not believe we shall see her likes again.

Playthell G.


Harlem, NY

April 15, 2016

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