Racial Identity and Three Lives
Good bassists are in demand by a variety of artists. If they can read as well as swing, they play everything from rock to symphonies. For many musicians the experience of working with people of different races, economic backgrounds, and sexual orientations is a lost opportunity. They stick to the music at hand and pay scant attention to anything else. But for bassist John Loehrke, playing with musicians from all types of backgrounds has enriched his life and made him attentive to the impact of race in jazz. After playing around Detroit he moved to New York City in the 1970s, where he currently resides. He has performed with a number of prominent jazz and cabaret artists including Chet Baker, Oliver Lake, Henry Butler, Dakota Staton, Margaret Whiting, Pony Poindexter, Horace Parlan, Lee Konitz, and Karen Akers in addition to show and symphonic work.
CG: Do you think the racial climate in jazz is different now than it was when you started playing?
JL: Absolutely. It's much worse. In the 1970s I'd be playing in these after-hours clubs in Harlem and the Upper West Side that were 75 percent black, 25 percent white. And it was very cool. A lot of the musicians had adopted African and Islamic names and wore dashikis. But