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Seeing history through a jazz perspective

By Matthew Hansen | 12 Jun 2014

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Most days, you can find Frank Fisher sitting at his piano, bouncing out a melody on the keys or scribbling down a key change on his worn composition pads. Once per week, he’ll join bandmates, lift up his horn, and play, a motion he has made, in one form or another, for the last 70 years.

Fisher is one of the oldest jazz musicians still active in the Bay Area, and his sweeping memory still picks up moments from the glory days of American jazz. But his life also spans some of the most turbulent periods of American history, from segregation to World War II to the nascent civil rights movement. Through it all, he’s played, loud and clear, on his horns.

In “The Life and Times of Mr. Frank Fisher,” Fisher narrates his experiences growing up in the segregated South, first encountering Europe amidst the bombing raids of the world war and gigging with some of the biggest names in jazz as they traveled through California. He reflects on a changing Bay Area, and how demographic and economic change have been a boon and a hindrance through the years. This special multimedia report examines the historic context in which Fisher lived and the musical moments he remembers most.

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The Life and Times of Mr. Frank Fisher

Text, images, video and site design for “The Life and Times of Mr. Frank Fisher” by Matt Hansen, a 2013-2014 master’s student in the Stanford Journalism Program.

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