The Curb Institute at Rhodes is dedicated to the preservation of the rich musical history of Memphis. This April, the Institute has the privilege of honoring two foundations of this tradition, jazz pianist Harold Mabern and singer Joyce Cobb. Both artists will perform concerts on Rhodes’ campus, offering students the opportunity to experience a lesser-known element of the Memphis music narrative, jazz, as well as a chance to listen to two legendary musicians.
The preservation of Memphis music, however, is not only promoting the great artists who have made Memphis music what it is. The preservation of Memphis music is also the creation of Memphis music. It is building on the spirit and the sound of the tradition while pushing it outside of its traditional boundaries.
This preservation-through-innovation approach underlies the content the Institute creates, most recently in the Friday Night Lodge filmed series, which will feature Rhodes and Memphis-based artists performing an intimate set in Harris Lodge for Rhodes students. Within this space, the Institute hopes to stretch this narrative of Memphis music, opening it to new voices and new sounds, while encouraging Rhodes students to be an active member of its preservation. The first performer, Memphis native and Institute Fellow Dré, took this process in front of the student body when he opened for Wale at Rites of Spring. These events are helping to ignite a new generation’s passion for the rich musical tradition of Memphis, and for the rich possibilities this tradition has opened up.
Text by Sean Moore