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Delilah Jackson thoughts, Zon del Barrio

Ron Scott | 3/18/2013, 12:34 p.m.

Long before jazz vocalists Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan took to the stage, the multi-talented Blanche Calloway (older sister of Cab Calloway) was already there. She got her start in 1921 with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle's musical "Shuffle Along."

In 1931, she became the first woman to lead an all-male big band, Blanche Calloway and Her Joy Boys, which included Ben Webster on tenor saxophone and Cozy Cole on drums. With such personnel, it isn't surprising that critics called it one of the top 10 African-American orchestras during that period.

Florence Mills, another singer, dancer and comedian, also earned accolades for her role in "Shuffle Along." During those days, singing was not enough entertainment; singing, dancing and comedy were all part of the performance.

These were just a few of the women who paved the way for many of today's jazz performers as well as performers in other genres. One person who kept women like Mills and Calloway alive in the minds of the masses was cultural historian Delilah Jackson, a one-woman torchbearer of the legacy of Harlem and Black arts.

Jackson, who recently passed away on Jan. 12, was a true beacon, a diligent community educator who delighted many by presenting her Black films, by bringing tap dancers to Cobi's Place (Cobi Narita's venue) on a regular basis and by conducting seminars.

She shared her wealth of knowledge through lectures at Columbia University, the Smithsonian, the New School and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

As an avid collector of Black memorabilia, she shared clippings, photographs, posters and the like with her audiences. As a native of Harlem, she knew many of the elder actors, singers and dancers who she often introduced during her talks so people could get real historical information from the source.

During this month of celebrating women, Jackson is truly one of those significant women who deserves to be honored. Hopefully her Black Patti Research Foundation, which she started in 1975 to promote her work, will continue in the future with her daughter Jill Jackson.

Aurora & Zon del Barrio will pay tribute to the "women of the clave" on March 22 by celebrating the music of Celia Cruz, La Lupe, Lynda Leida and Fe Cortijo. Shows are at 8t and 10 p.m. at SOB's (204 Varick St.).

Rosa Soy of Latin Fever, the 1970s all-girl group produced by Larry and Rita Harlow, has also joined the lineup.

Aurora & Zon del Barrio is a product of the streets of Latin New York that combines varied Latin genres with the African Diaspora in a funk-based sound of classic salsa, plena, merengue, bomba and boogaloo.

This group of young and veteran musicians is led by music journalist and historian Aurora Flores, with musical direction provided by multi-instrumentalist David Fernandez.

With original tunes penned by Flores, Zon del Barrio introduces the

dynamic young vocals of Hector "Papote" Jimenez, who has spiritual tracings of

Latino singers such as Benny More, Ismael Rivera and Hector Lavoe.