Thursday, 18 June 2020 13:24

Coltrane mural puts Hamlet 'on the map'

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A mural of jazz legend John Coltrane, who was born in Hamlet, has been the talk of the town and beyond. A mural of jazz legend John Coltrane, who was born in Hamlet, has been the talk of the town and beyond. Kenny Melvin - Richmond Observer

HAMLET —  News of the new John Coltrane mural on the side of the old Hamlet Theatre has spread throughout the world on social media.

Interim City Manager Bill Zell told the City Council Tuesday that artist Scott Nurkin has heard from places as far away as Australia and Japan in regards to the mural, as, apparently, photos have been texted all over the world.

“So little Hamlet is on the map,” he said.

The mural, based on a photograph by Chuck Stewart, is the first in a series Nurkin has planned in birth towns of musicians across North Carolina.

Council members thanked Zell for helping to make it happen.

The project was supposed to be included in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget, but when the city faced a shortfall due to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners changing the sales tax distribution method in April, it was one of the items slated to be scrapped.

Councilman Jesse McQueen said he was “so upset and frustrated” that the city wasn’t going to be able to complete the project due to budget concerns.

But, council members said Zell was able to find the city’s $5,000 contribution in the current year’s budget to pay for it. Councilwoman Abbie Covington previously told the RO it was $6,000.

“You’re an interim city manager and you did not have to do that,” McQueen told Zell. 

“And I really appreciate you doing that,” he added, which led to a short round of applause.

The total cost of the project was $12,000, with the remaining $7,000 coming from a grant, Zell said.

“(I’ve) heard nothing but great things all over,” Councilman Maurice Stuart said.

Councilman Eddie Martin concurred.

“I haven’t heard one thing other than how beautiful it is, how talented the man must be to do that, ‘It’s great,’ ‘It’s awesome,’ those are the comments I’ve heard,” Martin said.

McQueen described the mural as “absolutely stunning.”

“What really impressed me was, I rode by one morning and there was nothing there, and I rode back by that afternoon — I was expecting a stencil … — and when I came back through I saw the head and part part of the shoulders and I was like, ‘This thing’s being done free-handed. This guy’s got some talent,’” McQueen said.

He added that the mural has been “good PR” for the city.

Gerard Morrison, founder and organizer of the annual John Coltrane Music Edutainment Festival, called the council earlier in the meeting to commend city leaders for helping to fund the 50-foot portrait of the jazz legend.

“I think during this time of corona and stuff going on in Minneapolis and abroad, that brings a good musical peace,” Morrison said.

Morrison recalled Coltrane’s tune “Alabama,” about the 1963 church bombing that killed four African American girls, and wondered, “What would Coltrane play now?”

“Hopefully, that harmony can pass on amidst this time, right now,” he said. “And hopefully folks can be in a harmonious mode.”

Morrison also mentioned that June is Black Music Month and encouraged council members to express the impact of black music on their lives — “from protest music, to love music, to baby-making music, to happy, joyful, and even sorrowful music.”

“Because we had one of the world’s best musicians, composers who’s known across the world, I think this was apropos to make sure we acknowledge Black Music Month,” he said.

“I’m not sure if y’all timed it that way, but it sure is good to see Coltrane come up on that building during Black Music Month.

Martin said he couldn’t help but think of the artists he “really enjoyed” when he was younger, naming off country singer Charlie Pride, early rock icons Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, in addition to Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole and the Platters.

“I could name others, but that’s just some of the people that I look back and remember that really had an influence in my life as a young teenager and doing the things that we did back in my day,” he said.

Councilman Oscar Sellers piped up, “What about Smokey Robinson?”

“Well all of ‘em,” Martin replied. “I could keep on naming them.”


Last modified on Thursday, 18 June 2020 13:33