Deep Deuce Jazz Roots

“There was a disconnect,” remembered Walter F. “Doctor” Taylor, III. The musician behind the most recent revival of jazz in Deep Deuce had a precious legacy to protect: the history and culture of a community and its music.

story by George Lang | photos by Trace Thomas

“There was a disconnect,” remembered Walter F. “Doctor” Taylor, III. 

The musician behind the most recent revival of jazz in Deep Deuce had a precious legacy to protect; the history and culture of a community and its music.

There is such a thing as cultural gentrification—an erasure as definitive as the replacement of historic Black jazz clubs and businesses with sleek lofts, and streets where African-American faces are rarely seen.

“When they started with the jazz down in Deep Deuce, they went to the schools,” Taylor said. “They went to UCO’s school of music and to OCU and places like that, but hadn’t spoken to anyone that actually had history with Deep Deuce. Some of them were calling it Bricktown, and I was like, ‘Hold the phone—you don’t know what’s going on here.’”

It’s a heritage richly deserving of celebrating and preserv-ing. Oklahoma City’s jazz musicians in the 1930s and ’40s, especially, are all over the jazz canon. Swing guitarist Charlie Christian was discovered by Benny Goodman’s brother-in-law, and recorded with Goodman’s Sextet before dying of tuberculo-sis likely contracted in low-income housing in OKC. Christian is widely credited with bringing electric guitar forward as a lead instrument alongside reeds and brass in swing orchestras (also check  Charlie Christian: The Genius of the Electric Guitar and Charlie Christian-Jazz Immortal).

Jimmy Rushing—famed vocalist for Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck—still holds strong in vinyl and on Spotify. (We’re especially partial to Rushing’s LP with Brubeck.)