Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Brooklyn Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene on Feb. 27 honored American jazz, tenor saxophonist and flutist Harold Ousley at a grand celebration marking Black History Month at the Dr. Susan Smith McKinney Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (DSSM) in Central Brooklyn.
Clarke and Adams’ citation and proclamation, respectively, were read by Michael Tartaglia, executive director of DSSM, where Ousley is a resident; while Eugene personally presented the City Council proclamation.
“Harold Ousley is a true American icon, a renowned jazz musician whose remarkable career spanned three decades and whose legacy and accomplishments will endure forever,” said Eugene, who represents the 40th Council District in Central Brooklyn.
“Mr. Ousley is truly most deserving of the recognition he is receiving this evening,” he added.
One of Ousley’s two daughters, Sheronda, was on hand to share the honor with her wheel chair-bound father; while the other daughter, Sandra, expressed her delight and appreciation in a telephone call from Florida.
Shiranda praised the center’s administrators for their “wonderful” support, disclosing that she had recommended the institution twice to others – first to her husband, who suffered a stroke five years ago, and then to her father, who has been a DSSM resident since 2012.
Ousley’s honor, which included “red carpet treatment,” was part of the grand celebration, dubbed “From Drums to Jazz,” focusing on the influences of music during the Civil Rights era in the U.S.
The celebration included performances by local drummers, singing, poetry readings and cinematographic presentations. Ousley’s biography was read by Victoria Glasgow.
Ousley was born on Jan. 23, 1929 in Chicago, where he also grew up. He began playing professionally in the late ‘40s.
Backing vocalists was one of his strengths: He played with Billie Holiday at one point; and, in the late ‘50s, he backed fellow Chicago native Dinah Washington.
Ousley also played with Gene Ammons in the ‘50s and ‘60s. In addition, he played with Dionne Warwick, Machito, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
The accomplished tenor sax player bandleader was also a composer and inspirational educator, believing that music “must nourish, console and inspire all people.”
It was also during the ‘60s that Ousley started recording as a leader, releasing his first record, “Tenor Sax,” in 1961.
In the 1970s, he played with Lionel Hampton and Basie in addition to releasing more material. He also recorded albums for Muse in the ‘70s.
In 2000, Ousley returned to the studio and recorded “Grit-Gittin’ Feelin’” for Delmark.
The program was coordinated by Trinidadian-born Angela Cooper and moderated by Dr. Steven Wells.
DSSM is part of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), which oversees municipal hospitals in the city.