The Frederick Douglass Jazz Works
Ruth Naomi Floyd presents, “Frederick Douglass Jazz Works,” was created in honor of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), an enslaved African in America who escaped to freedom and became a leading orator, political activist, abolitionist, writer, banker, ambassador, theologian and statesman. In this work, Ruth presents jazz comprised of her original compositions paired with the actual words from the speeches and writings of this powerful, timeless luminary. Illustrated through the art form of jazz improvisational music, the “Frederick Douglass Jazz Works” illuminates the themes of tragedy, grief, despair, and injustice of American slavery but through the multi-faceted prism of hope, joy, perseverance, and triumph— all with Frederick Douglass’s own words.
Rooted and grounded in a faith ethos, Ruth Naomi Floyd has been a presence and worker in areas of the arts and justice throughout her career. Holding these themes in poetic tension within her body of creative work, Ruth has lectured prolifically on the intersection of beauty, theology, and the arts throughout the world. She believes strongly that music has the power to speak profoundly to the human condition and that the arts are essential to life and its spirit.
The message found within this project is remarkably relevant to today’s socio-cultural context. The vast collection of writings and speeches penned by Frederick Douglass about the America in which he lived resonate powerfully and ring even true today, as his words both compel and inspire us to go even deeper and to examine our own America, our culture, and our world.
Ruth Naomi Floyd and her ensemble are in the process of recording
the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works! Release date to be determined.
Best Vocal Recital Award, San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice Awards for 2019- 2020 for the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works concert at Biola University.
Video: "Press On" from Frederick Douglass Jazz Works performed at Biola University in February 2020.
Composed by Ruth Naomi Floyd
- Vocals: Ruth Naomi Floyd
- Tenor Saxophone: Keith Loftis
- Piano: James Weidman
- Double Bass: Matthew Parrish
- Drummer: Mark Prince
Stunning, Aural and Historical
Selected Performance Reflections
"The Frederick Douglass Jazz Works" - centering around its namesake, his legacy and his message - the vocalist, composer, and critical artist is calling forth something more from all who dare bring their ears and hearts."
~ The Rev. Charles "Chaz" Howard, chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, and an editor and writer. WHYY in partnership with PBS and NPR.
"This body of work is extremely dense and yet Ruth Naomi Floyd presents it in an accessible manner that takes us on a stunning, aural and historical journey. "Frederick Douglass Jazz Works" illustrates Ms. Floyd's strengths as a composer, vocalist and historian. The complex music compositions, Fredrick Douglass' timely and biting words, the beauty of Ms. Floyd's voice, and the brother and sisterhood that Ms. Floyd's shares with her ensemble reminds us of the importance and relevance of Douglass' mission.
~ Natalie Francis, audience member
"Ruth's undying commitment to the revolutionary, prophetic and incisive words of Douglass are swaddled in her own very inspired composer's ear. Here's to all the FDJW programs to come!"
~ V. Shayne Frederick, Orator & Vocalist
"The powerful words of Frederick Douglass, together with the music and vocals, create an inspiring performance that reminds us that there is much work to be done to complete Douglass' vision for America. This performance was, for us, an extraordinary moving event, and one you do not want to miss!"
~ John Leonard, Pastor of Cresheim Valley Church