On February 22 + 23, 2019, Fresh Cut Orchestra and Melanie Charles performed a timely restaging of We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, a landmark recording from the civil rights era.

We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite is a recording that embodies the power of protest, the most openly political jazz recording of its time, the piece combines musical prowess with political dialogue. Released in 1960, the Freedom Now Suite’s five movements chronicle slavery, emancipation, the Civil Rights Movement, and the African Independence Movement. Max Roach and his collaborators Abbey Lincoln, Booker Little, Coleman Hawkins, and Michael Olatunji had intended to perform the work on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1963 but were barred from doing so. In honor of Juneteenth, a celebration of Freedom Day, we would like to offer four movements from the restaging of this masterwork, performed at BMCM+AC by Fresh Cut Orchestra and Melanie Charles. Recordings of the performances of “Driva’ Man,” “Freedom Day,” “All Africa,” and “Tears for Johannesburg” can be found below.

We are continually revisiting We Insist! through this contemporary restaging, because it highlights how the ongoing call for freedom has yet to be met. The revolution remains unfinished 60 years later. We hope that these performances give you time to reflect on the work to be done today, tomorrow, and moving forward until the call is finally answered.

Cover of We Insist! featuring a photo from the 1960 Woolworth Sit-Ins which sparked protests for equity and desegregation across the Jim Crow South.

Presented as a part of Come Hear North Carolina, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Natural & Cultural Resources and the North Carolina Arts Council. Additional support provided by UNC Asheville.