Music has had always had a place in the heart of Clark Atlanta University and its parent institutions, Atlanta University (1865) and Clark College (1869), dating back to Lift Every Voice and beyond. Jazz has a special place in CAU history, from swing band and swing to bop to contemporary style. Here are some influential alumni, faculty members and others with ties to Clark College, Atlanta University and Clark Atlanta University who have made tremendous contributions to jazz music:

Harry Pace
Founder, 1st Black-owned recording company,
Black Swan Records
Atlanta University, 1903

Harry Herbert Pace, African American music publisher, insurance executive and founder of the first black owned recording company in the United States, had humble beginnings hailing from Covington, Georgia. Pace graduated as valedictorian from Atlanta University; under the guidance of mentor & professor W.E.B. DuBois, Pace worked in the printing, banking, and insurance industries in Atlanta and Memphis, TN. In Memphis, Pace met and collaborated with W.C. Handy to form the Pace and Handy Music Company, based in New York. Resigning from the partnership, Pace started his sonograph company, Black Swan Records, in Harlem, New York in 1921. The first widely distributed label to be owned, operated, and marketed to African Americans, released over 180 jazz, blues and classical records between 1921 and 1923.

In 1925, he founded the Northeastern Life Insurance Company in Newark, New Jersey, a venture that became the largest Black-owned business in the North during the 1930s; Pace also developed a fondness for politics, becoming active in Democratic Party and starting a law practice in Chicago, Illinois.





Fletcher Henderson
Pianist, Composer, Bandleader
Pioneer, Big Band, Swing Jazz
Atlanta University, 1920

James Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr. stumbled upon his music career while seeking postgraduate work as a chemist in New York –and winding up with a job writing sheet music instead. In 1921, he took a position at Black Swan Records, the first black-owned recording company, organizing small bands to back singers like Ethel Waters. Henderson played piano for leading black singers on more than 150 records between 1921 and 1923, before beginning a full-time career as a bandleader.


In 1924, Henderson and his musical director & alto saxophonist Don Redman began to redefine the orchestra’s sound with repeating riffs and call-and-response musical arrangements, birthing the big band and swing band sounds. Henderson helped launched the careers of trumpeter Louis Armstrong and arranger/bandleader Benny Goodman, who took over Henderson’s band in the 1940s. “King Porter Stomp,” “Down South Camp Meetin’,” “Bugle Call Rag,” “Sometimes I’m Happy,” and “Wrappin’ It Up” are among the Henderson arrangements that became Goodman hits.





Wayman A. Carver
Composer, Flautist, Educator
Clark College, 1929

Carver’s uncle and father introduced him to jazz at an early age; he began playing flute, clarinet and saxophone in the Metropolitan Marching Band of Portsmouth, Virginia. While enrolled at Clark University, Carver organized a group of students and city musicians known as the Collegiate Ramblers (Collegians), who played for social events on and off campus. Upon graduation, Carver moved to New York City.

Through the early 1930s, Carver was in-demand with swing bands as an instrumentalist, playing with Dave Nelson, Elmer Snowden, Benny Carter, and Spike Hughes, and recording some of his best solos. From 1934 to 1939, he toured with Chick Webb’s band, arranging & composing songs and playing in the saxophone section. He was well-featured on four 1937 titles by Chick Webb and his Little Chicks, a quintet matching his flute with Chauncey Haughton's clarinet. Carver remained with the orchestra as it continued under Ella Fitzgerald's leadership after Webb's death (1939-1941). In 1942, Carver returned to Atlanta to serve as an associate professor of music at Clark College. There, he directed the concert and marching bands; composed an overture, “Road To Metropolis,” a march “Jolly Roger”, and wrote the music to the College fight song “Hail Roaring Panther”. Carver also organize the first elementary school bands for Atlanta Public Schools. Among his students were George Adams, Marion Brown, and James Patterson.





Columbus Calvin “Duke” Pearson
Producer, Blue Note Records
Pioneer, hard bop
Clark College, 1950s

Atlanta native Columbus Calvin Pearson was introduced to brass instruments (mellophone, baritone horn, trumpet) and the piano as a youth. His uncle gave him the nickname Duke after piano virtuoso Duke Ellington. After attending Clark College and completing his draft in the U.S. Army in 1954, Pearson worked as a pianist in gigs throughout Georgia and Florida before moving to New York in 1959. There, he joined Donald Byrd's band and the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Sextet and accompanied Nancy Wilson. In 1963, he arranged four numbers for jazz septet and eight-voice choir on Byrd's innovative A New Perspective album; one of the tunes was "Cristo Redentor," which became a jazz hit.


From 1963 to 1970, Pearson was A & R for Blue Note Records, helping shape the hard bop sound for the jazz label; he was in charge of several recording sessions for the label, while also recording most of his albums as a bandleader. The Byrd-Pearson Band hired pro players including Pepper Adams, Chick Corea, Lew Tabackin, Randy Brecker, and Garnett Brown. Pearson continued to accompany vocalists in the 1970s, such as Carmen McRae. He returned to his alma mater Clark College to teach music in 1971.






Marion Brown
Alto saxophonist, ethnomusicologist
Clark College, 1950s

Atlanta native Marion Brown proved to be a key figure in the free jazz movement, “an approach to improvisation that challenged conventional notions of harmony, rhythm, pitch and pretty much everything else” according to the New York Times. Brown studied Brown was largely associated with the avant-garde movement of 1960s New York, working with John Coltrane and Archie Shepp.
In the 1970s he taught African and African-American music at Bowdoin College and studied ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.







George Rufus Adams
Jazz musician,
Clark College, 1950s

George Rufus Adams played tenor saxophone and flute and was co-leader of the Adams-Pullman quartet, which he played with Don Pullen and Dannie Richmond. After completing formal training at Clark College under the tutelage of Wayman A. Carver, George Adams started his career playing rhythm and blues in organ trios, working with Sam Cooke and other locals. In 1965, he left Atlanta for New York and went on to work with several notable musicians, including Roy Haynes (1965-1972), Art Blakey, Charles Mingus (1973-1976), Gil Evans (1975-197S), McCoy-Tyner (1976-1979) and Archie Shepp (1978).


In 1979, Pullen, Adams and Richmond formed the Pullen-Adams quartet, mixing influences from gospel & blues, funk, rhythm and intensity to produce post-bop records well into the late 1980s, including “Saturday Night in the Cosmos”, “City Gates”, “The Great Escape”, and “Big Alice”.







James H. Patterson
Educator, director CAU Jazz Orchestra
Clark College, 1957

James Hardy Patterson is the director of critically acclaimed and world-renown Clark Atlanta University Jazz Orchestra. Numerous jazz greats from Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell, Regina Carter, the Marsalis brothers, Freddy Cole & Trio and more have performed as soloists with the orchestra. 

Having appeared as the opening orchestra for Nat Adderly, Cab Calloway, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Dexter Gordon, Al Jarreau, Billy Taylor, and Sarah Vaughn, the group is also featured in the outstanding film In Search of Improvisation: The Essence of Virtuosity in Jazz with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Mary Lou Williams, and other notables.

The CAU Jazz Orchestra (CAUJO) has performed at several international jaaz festivals and events, including the Montreux International Jazz Festival in Switzerland, with Dizzy Gillespie; the North Sea Jazz Festival in Den Hague, Holland; the Grand Parade du Jazz Festival in Nice, France, and the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy. Patterson created the James Hardy Patterson Foundation Inc., which provides music education to undeserved children in Atlanta and hosts the Duke Pearson/James Hardy Patterson Foundation, Inc. Summer Jazz Camp.