Nicole, my parents and I took a trip down Highways 37 and 62 to Bentonville, Arkansas, where one of our very favorite museums lies tucked into a lovely wood: Crystal Bridges. I’ll let you click that link to read the story behind it, but suffice it to say it’s a perfect home for an impressive collection of American art, and it’s free. Yesterday, we explored a Frank Lloyd Wright Usorian home (I’d live in it; my parents and wife would not) and absorbed the bounty of Soul of America: Art in the Era of Black Power, which runs until April 23rd, if you’re interested. My favorite artists in the collection? Narrative quilt maker Faith Ringgold and collagist Romane Bearden. But those two names are just scratching the surface of those whose work are represented. The special program, which costs $10 (a steal, considering), even has a booklet one can hold onto; it provides patrons three expertly-selected music playlists that mirror the artists’ concerns.
Because we were preoccupied with art, NCAA basketball, a game of Five Crowns, and each other’s company, Music wasn’t much on the menu. But on the way back from Bentonville–when intermittent service allowed it–we enjoyed the greatest hits of Louis Jordan, Brinkley, Arkansas’ best-known citizen and bedrock innovator in rock and roll. When you listen to Jordan, you get a lot: rockin’ rhythm, a mischievous and observant lyrical eye, sly singing, sharp alto sax playing, and a seemingly bottomless well of classic tunes. And though black power aficionados might possibly view Louis is an Uncle Tom variant, I and many other folks would argue that he was one of the first performers to play songs that reflected black life, and pulled white listeners in. Plus, anyone sworn by such a range of luminaries as Sonny Rollins, Chuck Berry, and Ray Charles must be taken seriously in cultural conversations. Here’s our favorite single-disc Jordan collection, and a great place to start:
If you like that, go here: