The Color of Jazz: A White Musician’s Place in A Black World.

Brittany Talissa King
9 min readSep 8, 2020

A young musician in New York grapples with his success within a black genre.

HARLEM, NEW YORK — It’s Saturday in August, and it’s hot. Tony Glausi is wearing a funky floral button-up performing with his four-piece jazz band at Home Sweet Harlem. “Thank you for coming out, everyone. I’m Tony,” he said. He motions his hand back, giving attention to his band-mates before picking up his brass trumpet. The entire band is different hues of brown.

Tony is a tan shade of white, with hair styled like Elvis Presley. “Anybody else wants to come up and play?” Tony opens the performance to the entire crowd. One by one, local musicians and regular patrons take the stage as Tony sits behind the keyboard.

“I love the synergy with him and the other musicians,” said Donna, the owner of Home Sweet Harlem. She met Tony soon after he moved to New York. “I love their silent language. Their nods, the smiles,” she said.

Three months later, Tony is at The Rum House in Times Square. He is wearing a tailored black suit, white collared shirt, and black patent shoes. He moves around the room and politely greets the audience between his sets. There’s no announcement for the guests to join him on this stage, “It’s more formal, not like Harlem,” said Tony. This band is called “Tony Glausi and

Friends.” They all match Tony’s attire, frequency, and race.

“He’s truly a showman,” said Donna, “He’s making it happen for himself.”

Tony Glausi is one of the most successful jazz musicians in his generation. He’s an international trumpeter, keyboardist, and composer. He has performed over a hundred times on stage around the world — and has recorded 25 studio albums. Additionally, he’s recognized in the “Downbeat Jazz & Blues Magazine” for his innovative compositions.

In 2016, he received the Laurie Fink Career Grant, which recognizes outstanding jazz talent.

He won first prize in the 2017 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Solo Competition, first prize in the 2017 ITG International Trumpet Competition, and first prize in the 2014 National Trumpet Competition. He’s received full-ride scholarships to the University of Oregon to complete a bachelor’s in jazz…

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Brittany Talissa King

Writer and journalist. I explore race and social issues through history and pop-culture. @b.talissa IG. @KingTalissa Twitter. Journalism MA — NYU.