And All That Jazz

The Class of 2005 already has met James McBride, who was wearing his author hat at the time. Back in 2001, they read his autobiographical tribute to his mother, The Color of Water, for their “Introduction to College Life” class.

On Wednesday, February 5, they and the rest of the Moravian community will see James McBride in his other hat, which belongs to a virtuoso of the jazz saxophone.

Actually, he’ll be wearing both hats at the same time, for his performance at Foy Hall will include excerpts from The Color of Water and from his novel, the newly published Miracle at St. Anna, complemented by the music of a 12-member ensemble that includes some of the fastest-rising stars in the jazz firmament.

“The book is about identity, coming of age, and the value of education,” says April Vari, dean of student development, “and it had something to say to students.”

Kate Laczynski ’05, Pearl River, New York, remembers it as “a story of someone growing up who didn’t have a perfect life—and no one I know has had a perfect life.”

McBride’s discovery that his mother, whom he had thought was African-American, was actually Jewish, didn’t seem exotic to Kate: “I have a friend whose father is African-American and mother is Jewish,” she says, “and she told me ‘I am black,’ and she is just the whitest person! So I told her she had to read this book.”

Their experience did not end with reading, however. “As part of the common reading program, we bring the author to campus,” April says. “It adds richness to the experience.”

McBride told the students that he had written The Color of Water partly in Bethlehem, while visiting Leander Bien, then an artist-lecturer in piano in the Music Department.

“He came here for a few weeks one summer and stayed at Leander’s apartment so he could be in our quiet Bethlehem and do some writing,” says Judith Bernd, secretary in the Music Department. “Yes, he is a very good friend of Leander—he was best man at Leander’s wedding.”

The group making music with McBride is not the small ensemble with which he usually records. It’s a hand-picked band that has come together for a documentary, The Process, about the creative lives of jazz musicians, being filmed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs).

The players include Sarah Jane Cion (piano) and Laura Dryer (alto sax and flute), who have already released solo CDs; Myra Casales (percussion) from Cuba, who tours with Regina Carter; Calvin “X” Jones (bass), a colleague of Cassandra Wilson; Patrick “Face” Rickman (bari sax) of Winard Harper’s band; and Monte Croft (vibraphone), one of the best in his field. Vocals are by songwriter Dana Crowe and his daughter Chelsea, 17.

The performance includes music from The Process, and a CD will be on sale in the lobby.

8:00 p.m., Foy Hall. $10, $5 seniors/students. Ext. 1650.

McBride will sign both books earlier that day at the Moravian Book Shop--610 866-5481 or

January 28, 2003

Eyes Wide Shut
A column by Tom Teepen (Cox News Service) about the benefits of affirmative action in college admissions.

Payne Gallery exhibit
Closely Watched Trains
Czech Holocaust film to be shown at Moravian.
And All That Jazz
James McBride to read from his books and play with outstanding jazz ensemble.
Campus calendar of events.
Faculty/staff/student achievements.