Stax mu­seum di­rec­tor amps up of­fer­ings with Hayes, Man­ning tributes

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MUSIC - By Bob Mehr

Com­ing into his job as di­rec­tor of the Stax Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Soul Mu­sic, Jeff Kol­lath had a sense of just how deep and pow­er­ful was the story of Soulsville. But af­ter eight months head­ing the mu­seum, Kol­lath has an even deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion — not just for the his­tory, but also for the legacy that con­tin­ues at Stax.

“There’s al­ways go­ing to be some­thing in­her­ently in­ter­est­ing about the mu­sic and that core Stax story, but there’s so much more than that,” says Kol­lath. “Re­ally, Stax is about a mes­sage of em­pow­er­ment and op­por­tu­nity. Be­ing here on the cam­pus for the last eight months, I see that ev­ery day with The Soulsville Char­ter School and the Stax Mu­sic Academy. To see the man­i­fes­ta­tion of that legacy still con­tin­u­ing to­day, it’s re­ally great. It’s what drives a lot of us here on cam­pus.”

Kol­lath, 38, came to Stax last sum­mer, hav­ing spent eight years work­ing as cu­ra­tor of pro­grams and ex­hi­bi­tions for the Wis­con­sin Veter­ans Mu­seum in Madi­son. He also worked as di­rec­tor of mu­seum ex­pe­ri­ence at the Mil­wau­kee County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Most re­cently, he served as the pub­lic hu­man­i­ties man­ager for the Cen­ter for Hu­man­i­ties at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin in Madi­son. Be­yond his cu­ra­to­rial ex­pe­ri­ence, Kol­lath has a back­ground in African-amer­i­can and soul mu­sic his­tory. He holds a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in his­tory and a mas­ter’s in pub­lic his­tory, for which he wrote a the­sis called “Soul City: In­di­anapo­lis’ African-amer­i­can Com­mu­nity and Soul Mu­sic, 1967-1974.”

Kol­lath has spent his first months on the job get­ting to know Soulsville as a com­mu­nity and Mem­phis as a city.

“The main thing is get­ting fa­mil­iar with peo­ple in town, and re­ally try­ing to de­velop col­lab­o­ra­tive re­la­tion­ships with as many like-minded or­ga­ni­za­tions i n Mem­phis, and out­side of Mem­phis, as pos­si­ble,” says Kol­lath, who is work­ing to strengthen the mu­seum’s ties to venues like the Le­vitt Shell and or­ga­ni­za­tions like the Ten­nessee Arts Com­mis­sion, and has be­gun work­ing with record stores like Shangri-la and Goner. “It’s im­por­tant to have re­la­tion­ships with record stores for a lot of rea­sons. The main one is that it fur­ther af­firms how much we value mu­sic. Not just mu­sic of the past but cur­rent mu­sic, too.”

Ul­ti­mately, Kol­lath says, “What I’ve found is there is a real hunger for the Stax story and how it can be ex­trap­o­lated in a va­ri­ety of ways.” He has be­gun to pro­gram along those lines.

This week, in part­ner­ship with In­die Mem­phis, the Stax Mu­seum an­nounced its first “Soul Cinema” se­ries. The spring screen­ings, held at the mu­seum, will fo­cus on the films of Isaac Hayes. It kicks off Feb. 29 with Hayes’ 1974 blax­ploita­tion clas­sic “Truck Turner.” That same year’s “Three Tough Guys,” (costar­ring Fred “The Ham­mer” Wil­liamson) shows March 28. The pro­gram­ming cul­mi­nates with “Shaft,” fea­tur­ing Hayes’ Os­car-win­ning mu­sic, on April 25.

“They’re films that cap­ture a cer­tain era in Amer­i­can and African-amer­i­can cinema,” Kol­lath says. “And in­ter­est­ingly, Stax was a com­pany that had planned on go­ing fully into the The Stax Mu­seum’s “Soul Cinema” monthly film­series kicks off on Feb. 29 with the Isaac Hayes fea­ture “Truck Turner.”

movie busi­ness — and if things had gone dif­fer­ently with the com­pany’s his­tory, they might have,” says Kol­lath. “For us, the mu­sic in th­ese films in par­tic­u­lar shows the breadth and depth of Isaac as a writer and com­poser.”

The mu­sic from the films also high­lights Hayes’ work with mem­bers of the Mem­phis Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, who added strings to many of his most no­table works. On April 27, the re­la­tion­ship among Hayes, Stax and the MSO will be part of a live per­for­mance and panel at Stax’s Stu­dio A, fea­tur­ing mu­sic from sym­phony play­ers,

in­clud­ing vet­eran vi­o­lin­ist Ann Sper­beck, and mem­bers of Hayes’ band.

Kol­lath has more in store for the spring. Next month, Stax will shift the fo­cus to one of the key be­hind-the-scenes fig­ures in Mem­phis mu­sic: en­gi­neer, pro­ducer, player and pho­tog­ra­pher Terry Man­ning.

On March 12, an ex­hibit of Man­ning’s mu­sic pho­to­graphs will open at the mu­seum (it will be on dis­play through June 30). Man­ning will also per­form with the Stax Mu­sic Academy on March 15 (part of a se­ries of ap­pear­ances that month to pro­mote his new record).

The photo ex­hibit is the first long-term show of Man­ning’s pho­tos. A for­mer free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher for Bri­tain’s New Mu­si­cal Ex­press mag­a­zine in ad­di­tion to his stu­dio work with Stax and Ar­dent, Man­ning’s im­ages cap­ture some of the gi­ants of Mem­phis and ’60s mu­sic.

“There are some re­ally amaz­ing im­ages,” says Kol­lath. “There’s Terry’s shot of Steve Crop­per mix­ing ‘Dock of the Bay,’ a day af­ter Red­ding’s pass­ing. Pho­tos of Tom Dowd and Dusty Spring­field record­ing ‘Dusty in Mem­phis.’ Can­did shots of Booker T. and var­i­ous other Stax and Ar­dent stars. It’s a rich col­lec­tion of im­ages.”

Stax’s con­cert pro­gram­ming will con­tinue in April, with the re­turn of the “Live in Stu­dio A” se­ries, which will fea­ture day and evening shows from Nick Black, South­ern Av­enue and the SMA Alumni Band, through the sum­mer.

For the fall, Kol­lath has se­cured an­other ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hibit, called “Mo­town in Black and White,” a col­lec­tion of im­ages and ephemera from la­bel em­ployee and ar­chiv­ist, the late Al Abrams. Abrams also worked with Stax in the mid-’60s, and the ex­hibit mixes and jux­ta­poses Mo­town ma­te­rial with var­i­ous Stax pieces from his col­lec­tion.

The mu­seum is al­ready eye­ing pro­gram­ing for 2017. Next year will mark sev­eral key events in the la­bel’s his­tory: the 60th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of Stax’s pre­cur­sor, Satel­lite Records; the 50th an­niver­sary of the 1967 Stax/ Volt Euro­pean tour; and the 50 years since the death of Otis Red­ding.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.