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Black Music: Bringing Atlantis Up to the Top

Black Music: Bringing Atlantis Up to the Top

Black Music: A Particular Section
April 16, 1979

Bringing Atlantis As much as the Prime

…the rhythm is so hip that it may comple­ment all that intellectual shit that’s been happening, which is cool to some extent. 
—George Clinton to Chip Stern

One of the great issues of the develop­ment of jazz during the last 20 years is that the aesthetic battles engendered by the innovations of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and John Coltrane befell in a group that was far removed from the sources of the music. In Greenwich Village and the Lower East Aspect, musicians played for individuals whose solely contact with the wealthy layers of African-­American culture that the music so typically symbolized was by way of the proxy of bohe­mian social life and interracial romance. Consequently, the music often sounded very European despite the proclamations about its blackness: The dance rhythms and the ten­sions of syncopation towards a pulse have been deemphasized; limited tonal vocabularies have been typically employed; and an abundance of absolute fakes, or players of small talent and far con, justified their ramblings with a fraudulent and pretentious mysticism (if one performed as horribly as a few of these men did, one should have been praying on a regular basis — ­for expertise if nothing else). Beneath the pres­sures of rejection and hostility a number of excellent gamers made use of inept or ignorant musicians, dismissing craft and information as too proscribing. Even Coleman, Coltrane, and Taylor typically employed musicians who have been “avant-garde” only as a result of they might not fulfill the technical requirements of another jazz type.

Yet on the similar time there was an incred­ible confusion over the character of the black id. It infested artwork in addition to politics and resulted in quite a lot of moderately simplistic and ludicrous ancestor worship, intellectual irresponsibility, primitive mask-wearing, and counterfeit militancy that regularly had extra to do with renegade dilettante romance than extra fascinating mixtures of notes, sounds, colors, and rhythms. It proved once again that there is some kind of pendulum inside the black arts group that swings forwards and backwards between mental ambition and the rejection of intellect in favor of a willed savagery. In fact, as with Duke Ell­ington, an unpretentious melding of the two wouldn’t only be ultimate aesthetically however would in all probability obtain what probably the most intel­ligent of 20th-century individuals are making an attempt to do: Mix mind with emotional, spirit­ual, and physical vitality.

The upshot of the confusion, nevertheless, was a scorning of intellect in favor of “power” and a narrowing of stylistic prospects that resulted from rejecting tempo, meter, har­mony, intonation, repeating type as symbol­ized by the refrain, and even swing as “European.” Consequently, some very gifted gamers have been caught saying things as silly as “You’ll never play bebop better than Fowl so why attempt? Do one thing new.” At one level, genuine artists similar to Ornette Coleman and Archie Shepp have been thought-about previous hat or reactionary because they swung, have been lyrical, or reminded one of many richness and breadth of the custom. Not solely had the child been thrown out with the bathtub water but the tub as properly. Thus, the avant-garde acquired an audi­ence solely in Decrease Manhattan and Europe. Coltrane alone led a band at the Apollo.

Coltrane had a black following while a lot of the avant-garde didn’t because Elvin Jones had orchestrated the triplet blues beat into a classy fashion that pivoted on the boody­-butt sway of black dance. In tandem, Col­trane and Jones created a saxophone and drum group that reached approach again to the sax­ophone of the sanctified church shouting over the click of these sisters’ heels on the ground and the jingling, slapping pulsation of tambourines. The sound was lifted even greater by the antiphonal chants of the piano and bass played by McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison, whose percussive phrasing helped prolong Jones’s drumming into tonal areas. The truth is, one might say that both Coltrane and Coleman have been probably the most refined of blues shouters. But Coltrane’s fascination with African music gave him an edge, for he was to discover in his personal method the connection between harmonic simplicity and rhythmic complexity held together by repeated figures performed on the bass and piano. Actually, one might say that the precise time or the central pulsation was marked by the piano and bass whereas the complicated variations have been made by saxophone and drums.

What made Coltrane’s conception so vital was that it coincided with the interest in African or African-related dance rhythms and percussion that has been re­vived at the end of each decade for the last 40 years. One saxophone player even advised me that the first time he heard Coltrane, round 1961, he thought that a new sort of Latin jazz was being invented. I recall, too, that during these highschool years the mambo and the cha-cha have been gauntlets of magnificence. Norman Whitfield’s writing at Motown for the Temptations and Marvin Gaye leaned on congas and bongos, and the dance energy of the drums came to the fore, typically mild­ly and elegantly, as in the bossa nova. The very nature of most black African music, which is layers of rhythm in timbral and me­lodic counterpoint, and the exploration of the blues have been the sources of the dominant aes­thetic directions in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock. For the jazz gamers those reinvestigations of roots referred to as for the sorts of virtuosity developed by Elvin Jones and Tony Williams if another degree of polyrhythm was to be achieved; James Brown’s huge band, whereas alluding to Gillespie and Basie, advanced a method through which guitars turned percussive to­nal devices staggered towards chanting bass strains, two drummers, and arrangements that have been riffish, percussive, antiphonal; rock players started to research the electronic textures and contrapuntal prospects of Level overdubbing.

Level of reality: all the musics turned more complicated in a method or another. They usually all influenced each other in a method or one other. Percussion, multi-layered struc­tures, modality, social consciousness, and mysticism traveled by means of all of them.

However with the dying of Coltrane in 1967 and the media dominance of rock, the new jazz began to receive less and less attention. Jazz itself appeared to exist outdoors the large dance-­oriented rituals corresponding to Woodstock or the live shows and dances given by men like James Brown. Virtually comically in tune with the occasions, Brown flipped over from “America is my residence,” which has one of the nice strains — “I received a jet!” — to “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Militancy to bop by.

What was so essential about Brown, nevertheless, was he had the most effective band in rhythm and blues and he might out-dance everyone. He had the type of efficiency power men like Mick Jagger have been on the lookout for, however it never appeared to fall into hysteria or the stiffness blacks affiliate with white dancers. Yet the best way white individuals have been singing and dancing seemed to say more about their actual ambitions than a lot of the nationalistic political speak within the black group. That is to say, I consider Mick Jagger and all those others needed rather more to enter the world of pul­sating grace and erotic magnificence they recog­nized in black music and dance than black individuals of the same era truly need­ed to be Africans. At this time black individuals are back to making an attempt to make their method into America. Mick Jagger continues to be coon-shouting and -­shaking. And if John Travolta, who was laughed at in Saturday Night time Fever by many black dancers I know, isn’t a body snatcher, what is he? Did America ever see Soul Practice?

Younger black individuals in pursuit of identi­ties separate from those of each mainstream and alternate-culture America rejected traditional figures akin to B.B. King, Howling Wolf, and others because they felt these mu­sicians had been taken over by hippies, whom they found crude, lame, bizarre, and nasty. It was also true that Chuck Berry’s rhythm was outdated for black dancing — the dominant beats have been those of Motown, James Brown, Otis Redding, and Sly Stone. Aretha Franklin reinvented the gospel beat for common music as Ray Charles had earlier. The phrasing of Marvin Gaye, Smokey Ro­binson, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross, the Impressions, the Temptations, and Dionne Warwick was rather more supple than that of the rock singers, suggesting the influence of jazz in the methods they soared by way of or syn­copated the time.

Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix turned the gods of the black drug tradition, which attracted black people who have been — in contrast to sanctimonious nationalists — social adventurers, traveling from white to black circles, learning the language of the psychedelic world and reworking it for their own ends, keeping up with the dances and music of rhythm and blues whereas embracing the intellectual context of rock musicians’ experiments with electronics. Stone and Hendrix muscled in on that, Stone anchoring himself in the musi­cal blueprints of James Brown’s Stay at the Apollo albums and Hendrix in the innate avant-garde high-handedness of the blues guitar custom, people to city. Both labored with an audacity like that of Muhammad Ali or the basketball players who have been utilizing “the grasp” and turning the game right into a high-­velocity and illusive African-American dance. For the blacks inside the drug culture Hen­drix not solely prevented much of the clunkiness of rock however seemed to have conquered the shape. “Jimi’s on the market castrating those acid­-head white boys,” they used to say. When he died, some advised me, “I guess all them white boys — Jagger, Eric Burdon, and the remainder of them — are glad he’s lifeless. It’s like this: the kinds of white boys who get over with white women because they remind them of nigguhs without the nappy hair and the large lips, they get nervous when the actual thing comes round.”

Round that point legend had it that the Funkadelics came on stage bare at Mave­rick’s Flat in Los Angeles. Issues have been get­ting even looser than Hendrix had set up. But, there had been essential rumblings in the jazz world as properly. Most blatant was Ornette Coleman’s performance at City Hall in De­cember of 1962, when he mixed his common trio with r&b gamers for a bit entitled “Blues Misused.” It was recorded, but by no means released. I have heard it. It predicts the fu­sion era in no uncertain phrases. 1962. In 1967, Archie Shepp recorded Mama Too Tight, which was a bow to James Brown, simply as Brown’s Tremendous Dangerous included a tenor saxo­telephone solo that seemed a bow to Albert Ay­ler, if not Coltrane.

Then Miles Davis stepped into the game. I think about Filles de Kilamanjaro his final completely masterful recording and “Mademoiselle Mabry,” which is included within the album, an absolute innovation in jazz rhythm that stands alone and has but to be investigated. It was recorded in 1968, apparently. But, in fact, Bitches Brew was his blockbuster and the report that unarguably announced the start of an everlasting development. The report by no means really gassed me, but I found the music on At Fillmore fascinating for it was typically phrased with such angularity, suspense, gloom, and wit that it made me think of how Thelonious Monk may need performed funk. On reflection, it was clearly funk not rock, that Miles Davis was scuffling with there.

Most of all, it’s clear now that Davis had deemphasized complicated melody and harmony in favor of percussion and sound. Virtually each piece from these years was too long for my style, and was often tough, typically sensible, off-handed, and sloppy on the similar time. Still, the sitars, tablas, conga drums, Fender basses, electric keyboards, reeds, and trumpet (first acoustic then electric) came together in very unique methods. By the early ’70s, Davis had recreated in jazz-funk lan­guage an African percussion ensemble fleshed out with electrical devices. The master drummer within the African ensemble sig­nals the top of a piece and cues the gamers to vary up gears and instructions; Davis sig­nals either together with his horn or together with his raised and lowered arm. (James Brown uses verbal cues.) In Live performance is an instance, although it is so poorly recorded that the colors Davis was making an attempt to develop don’t come by means of with readability.

Since Davis started his experiments, jazz musicians have recorded quite a lot of music which has been referred to as crossover, fusion, jazz­rock, and what have you. Most of it is, to my ears, garbage. Not as a result of crossing idioms is a nasty concept, but as a result of so few of the gamers consider in the music, and because, as Herbie Hancock as soon as pointed out, many jazz players have issues enjoying the more intricate funk rhythms and phrases with any creativeness or subtlety. R&b musicians like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Marvel, however, have executed very nicely with influences from jazz (e.g., the bridge of Marvel’s “Too High” comes from the piano vamp of Duke Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle”).

However, there’s now a search for a combination of the sophistication of jazz and the fluidity of the polyrhythms that have developed inside the black dance world over the last 15 years, or at the very least since James Brown’s “Chilly Sweat.” But we are also in a period of percussion fever. Drums are in all places and dancers are doing issues with the particular person elements of the arrangements, not simply dancing to the apparent accents, which makes for a particularly intricate array of types. There’s additionally a response towards the pretentiously mental directions sure wings of the jazz avant-garde have taken just lately. Additionally, increasingly jazzmen are starting to feel as though they are segregated from the black group. The bridge could possibly be dance rhythm.

George Clinton is the person many youthful jazz players are listening to now, and Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Pricey is usually discussed. Clinton is the Solar Ra of funk; his work exemplifies Miles Davis’s statement that things at the moment are so slick an artist can play the complete music of the last decade in a number of phrases. In different words, entire worlds of as­sociation could be summoned with the appropriately chosen notes. In a Parliament selec­tion, as an example, Sly Stone might be prompt in one phrase, Marvin Gaye in another; a flash of harmony will recall the Impressions, just as a number of grunts on “Anger,” (Here, My Pricey) will reinvent in a single’s thoughts all the arrangement of Sam Prepare dinner’s “Chain Gang.” It seems as though the comprehensiveness one hears within the music of Duke Ellington, Solar Ra, Charles Mingus, the AACM, and Arthur Blythe is now coming into r&b.

What appears to be about to occur is what LeRoi Jones referred to as Unity Music in 1966. It’s going to embrace the whole range of black music, perhaps in one long efficiency, however pivoting on the drums. Jerome Cooper has developed a completely unique type of solo percussion that includes simultaneous use of lure drum set, African balafon, and a double-reed Mexican wind instrument. He writes compositions which are the blues and funk one other method. The truth is, I consider that when Clinton will get wind of Cooper he may use him. Somebody will. Ju­lius Hemphill has typically worked with these rhythms; “Pores and skin 2” on Coon Bidness and the monumental Dogon A.D. (each on Arista) present more than just a little potential. James “Blood” Ulmer has not solely created probably the most unique guitar fashion and system since Wes Montgomery but is now on the brink of ex­tend the chances of funk. After having conquered the European orchestra on his own terms, Ornette Coleman is now making an attempt to foment revolution on the planet of dance rhythms; Dancing in Your Head and Physique Meta present that he’s proper across the nook from the world George Clinton’s music is implying. David Murray has written a couple of songs which have the touch of fashionable hits and his background in funk provides, him command of the idiomatic nuances of the fashion.

None of that is to say that everybody in jazz will go over to funk, but I do consider that the best way during which Marvin Gaye organized rhythms on Right here, My Pricey‘s “Time To Get It Collectively” exhibits that sure r&b musicians have been far more profitable than many jazz players in organizing a number of rhythms that maintain the dance groove and the uses of drums, not just for rhythms but colors and contrasting strains, is the important thing to what is going on now. And wasn’t Charles Mingus’s last great com­place entitled Cumbia and Jazz Fusion?

The reluctant maestro of the Miles Davis faculty could possibly be Wayne Shorter, whereas trum­peter Olu Dara seems to have most success­absolutely expanded on the more viable parts of the Davis fashion since 1969. In his collaboration with Milton Nascimento, Native Dancer, Shorter managed to take care of lyri­cism, intervallic boldness, great rhythmic au­thority, and swing. Having begun in 1976 what he calls the Okra Orchestra, Dara, who is the adventurous equal of any contempo­rary trumpet participant, develops written and improvised music over orchestrated percus­sion, voices, acoustic bass, and electric strings. An album that would set new tendencies was recorded by Dara for Alan Douglas, however was never launched. It was an outstanding combina­tion of ethnic and well-liked rhythms with sim­ple or intricate melodies and the vanguard improvising of Dara, Hamiet Bluiett, David Murray, and Arthur Blythe. Blythe’s two latest releases are also central to the dialogue. Bush Baby (Adelphi) finds the leader’s alto accompanied by tuba and single conga drum, comprising probably the most unique sounding rhythm part in current reminiscence. The al­bum is a unprecedented exploration of the blues, of tempo, and of swing, whereas “Down San Diego Method” (Lenox Avenue Break­down — Columbia) completely locations trendy improvising in a dance state of affairs. It may be danced to or listened to.

I’m confident we are on the verge of hear­ing some exceptional music, music that may minimize across more strains than ever, and shall be a lot richer than the mechanical get-down music and would-be dancing of motor-booty affairs. As George Clinton says, “The rhythm of imaginative and prescient is a dancer.” I’m positive that the new mixtures of rhythm will permit jazz to take care of its sophistication and but be more simply communicated. It is as though what was avant-garde is now previous hat in cer­tain respects if it does not swing. In musical terms we’re shifting toward what literary scholar Werner Sollers has referred to as “populist modernism.” I feel so, anyway. ■

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