Sammy Davis Jr first appeared on his own CBC TV show 'Parade' when U.S. television did not welcome black performers

"...it seems the first thing people try to do is classify you. They’re all trying to figure out whether to call you a rock singer, a folk singer, or whether you have a country sound. The only sound I have is me."

That's how Anne Murray introduces CBC TV's new series ‘From the Vaults’ in an opening archival clip. It's an observation that could often be said about jazz, which is frequently evolving, embracing, extending - and hard to classify sometimes.

The series’ six weekly shows – to which OttawaJazzScene.ca was given an advance view – span 60 years of Canadian music on CBC-TV. They include segments which will be of specific interest to jazz and blues fans. Other segments have interesting angles on Canadian musical history, and on our society and the culture which helped create and shape it. The first show airs on Thursday, November 15 at 9 p.m. on CBC TV. It will also be available on the CBC TV streaming app.

Episode 1, 'Land of Opportunities' features Sammy Davis Jr performing jazz standards in his own CBC special. ‘Parade’ aired during a tumultuous time in U.S. history when it would have been impossible for him to appear on U.S. television as a black performer. Another segment shows Muddy Waters and other well-known blues musicians performing together in a pioneering CBC show whose producers improvised to create a successful and unique show.

From the Vaults doesn’t just simply present a string of archival music show clips. Musicians and others who have studied and written about the music speak about the performances in context of society at the time.

Episode 1 talks about Canadian opportunities for black performers not found in the U.S. Ex-Ottawan Paul Anka talks about the influence that Sammy Davis Jr. had on major popular musicians for decades. Toronto jazz pianist and festival organizer, and draft evader Bill King speaks emotionally about the role that singer-songwriter Joan Baez had on him moving to Canada.

Episode 2, ‘Turning Points’ looks at personal and professional turning points of musicians and their legacies. An excerpt of Oscar Peterson’s premiere of his Canadiana Suite on the Wayne and Shuster Hour – not seen since 50 years ago – is featured. Pianist Michael Kaeshammer talks about Peterson’s development as a composer with that album. Dave Young, who played with Peterson for about 35 years, speaks about the making of the album.

Peterson was a fan of Duke Ellington, whose own past CBC performance makes a reappearance in the Thursday, December 13 show.

Beyond jazz, From the Vaults shares rarely seen historic performances and candid interviews with big Canadian names in music over the past 60 years including Jeff Healey, Leonard Cohen, Harry Belafonte, Céline Dion, The Guess Who, Shania Twain, Buffy Sainte Marie, Bryan Adams, and more.

As producer and editor of OttawaJazzScene.ca’s Inside the Scene video stories, I found the black and white footage, photos, and historic production values to be striking. I repeatedly paused, rewound, and looked at them more carefully – one modern advantage of watching this fascinating material almost 50 years after it first aired.

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