BY ASKAI TOURÉ
BENICIA, California - More than 50 friends, collaborators, and colleagues of Frank Kofsky met here January 11 to celebrate his life.
Kofsky, a professor of history of California State University at Sacramento, author, and frequent lecturer on jazz, was 62 years old when he died November 19. He was the author, among other works, of Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music, its revised edition John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960s, and the forthcoming new book Black Music, White Business: Illuminating the History and Political Economy of Jazz - all published by Pathfinder Press.
Messages from friends and colleagues around the country, read by his wife, Bonnie Kofsky, and others characterized Kofsky as "a man of passion," someone who "loved a good argument," and one who "vigorously defended his views." Several, including colleague Joe Morrow, noted the fight that Kofsky - an outspoken partisan of the movements against the Vietnam War and for Black rights - had to wage to keep his teaching post.
A number of the messages noted, as one put it, that Kofsky had a "quality that allowed him to take seriously the views of those with whom he disagreed and propose they continue the discussion." A former student told of a series of lectures Kofsky gave on the Vietnam War, which were attended by several veterans, some of whom still defended the U.S. role in that war. "The discussions were quite heated," she recalled, "but Frank always left them with a sense that while he disagreed with their views, he respected them."
Glenn Spearman, a jazz musician and instructor at Mills College in Oakland who was a longtime friend of Kofsky's, commented that "Frank knew jazz. He respected and knew the hard way jazz artists have to go in the United States."
Spearman said he first read Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music in 1970, and uses it to this day in his classes. He thanked Pathfinder for keeping the book in print, and said he looked forward to reading the new edition.
Michael Baumann, representing Pathfinder, presented Bonnie Kofsky with a copy, just off the press, of John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960s.
He explained that "Pathfinder is proud to have been associated with Frank Kofsky and his pioneering work in the history and political economy of jazz for nearly three decades."
In 1969, Baumann said, when Kofsky first came to Pathfinder, "he had a manuscript no other publisher would touch with a 10- foot pole. It was a book that rejected the work of virtually every one else then writing on jazz, a book that explained the deeply interconnected relationship between jazz as a music form and the social history of the Black nationality in the United States - above all its intransigent fight against racial discrimination."
"Pathfinder publishes just those kind books," he said, "books that tell our own true history as working people."
Music was provided by a combo made up of Spearman on saxophone, pianist Matthew Goodheart, and drummer Donal Robinson.
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