, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 13, 2014

Jazz fest opens Juneteenth celebration

Muskogee great Jay McShann saluted at performance

When jazz great Jay McShann left Muskogee and moved to Kansas City, he became the “foundation of Kansas City jazz,” said the Rev. Ronald V. Myers Sr., M.D.

McShann was honored Friday during the annual Jay McShann Muskogee Juneteenth Jazz and Arts Festival at Smokehouse Bob’s Bar-b-que Restaurant on North 11th Street.

Those attending enjoyed an afternoon of jazz music and Smokehouse Bob’s barbecue.

Myers, the chairman of the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign and the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, was the special guest for the event.

“It’s always an honor to come to Muskogee, Oklahoma, to honor one of the greatest jazz musicians who ever lived,” Myers said. “When you talk about great jazz musicians, New Orleans talks about Louis Armstrong. Louis Armstrong went around the world, was in fact the first ambassador for jazz. But here in Muskogee was born a musician who you mention with Louis Armstrong in terms of greatness — and that was Jay McShann.”

Charlie Parker was discovered by McShann. In fact, Parker’s first group was McShann’s group, Myers said.

“Jay McShann went around the world, based out of his great work in Kansas City as a great musician,” Myers said. “So it’s always an honor to come to Muskogee to honor the great Jay McShann.”

Myers played piano and trumpet during the festival. Other musicians who provided jazz music included Lee Norfleet, Andy Livesay and Pat Moss.

Friday’s festival is one of two Juneteenth events in Muskogee.

Juneteenth activities are scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Thursday at Elliott Park. The event will include guest performances and free barbecue from Smokehouse Bob’s.

Juneteenth celebrates the date Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, according to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Oklahoma is one of 43 states that recognizes Juneteenth as a state holiday or special day of observance, Myers said. The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation is working to make Juneteenth a national day of observance, he said.

Reach Anita Reding at (918) 684-2903 or

If you go

WHAT: Juneteenth activities featuring music and free barbecue.

WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m. Thursday.

WHERE: Elliott Park, Altamont Street.

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