Q Conversations 4: Jazz Singer and Photographer Ruth Naomi Floyd
While I was in the States at the end of last month, I had an afternoon to kill in Philadelphia. So the completely obvious thing to do was record another Q conversation. This time I sat down to chat with Ruth Naomi Floyd, whom I’d met at the European Leadership Conference in Hungary a few years ago. It’s available on iTunes podcasts, or if you prefer a direct feed, here on Jellycast.
We had hoped to record our conversation in a coffee shop, only to find that just as we got round to actually recording something, it was closing. So we headed round the corner to an empty 10th Presbyterian Church and simply did it there. Ideal. Our conversation covered a lot of ground, from the African-American experience and cultural legacy (from the spirituals via the blues to Jazz) to civil rights, and her work with HIV/AIDS people in Philly and East Africa, without forgetting her photographic work in black and white portraiture.
In passing, we encountered Queen Victoria, Malcolm X, Gethsemane, white guys playing jazz (‘All I want to know is if they can swing!‘), the great note after the wrong note, justice peace and all that jazz. We even got on to church planting in the inner-city. It was a blast and an inspiration. Hope you’ll enjoy it too.
You can find out more about Ruth and her music on her official website. The albums from which I took excerpts for the podcast are:
- Walk and not be faint (1999)
- Fan into Flame (2002)
- Root to the Fruit (2006)
But as far as I can tell, the only album for download is Heaven In A Nightclub, from which all the excerpts on the podcast are drawn. This is a live recording of a whole series of events that Ruth and Bill Edgar (from Westminster Seminary) have put on around the US and Europe, designed to give insight into the deeply theological roots of Jazz.
They’re accompanied here by Joe Solzano on sax, and the extraordinary John Patitucci on bass (listen out for his remarkable solo, Jesus on the Mainline). Bill Edgar gives a thoughtful, historically rich intro to many of the tracks, though not in a heavy or intrusive way. Once heard though, worth unchecking the talky bits to get the musical bits straight. I reviewed it on Amazon here.
There is not a lot of her photography online, but you can get the idea from the few she’s put on her photography page (screenshot below). As she describes in the podcast, she’s fascinated by the spectrum from black to white in her portraits, and they really do make you see the textures of grey in a new light. They are stunning.
She’s a brilliant musician. Though, having said all this, and despite thoroughly enjoyed my time chatting with her, I’m not sure even that is enough to justify spending this much on one of her albums!! The good thing, though, is that Amazon is not the only way to buy CDs. Best to do it through her website.