Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ode to Hugh Masekela and Albert the Bass Clarinet.










Before I riff on Master Hugh Masekela, silent K in the pronunciation as instructed by my editor here at Fat Eb, a quick shout out to Albert the Bass Clarinet. Ahh Albert. I'm really gonna miss you man. My first Bass Clarinet, the one I jumped down into the subway tracks to save as detailed in my book New York City Subway Drama and Beyond, was relocated to California after a severe neck injury. I  left him in the care of Dave the Jewel Sewelson, so I know he ended up in a happy home. Dave is one of my favorite people on Earth (get ready for his big band to invade the Lower East Side in May). I found Albert, my second Bass Clarinet, at Roberto's in NYC 13 years ago on consignment. I paid way to much for him with money I didn't have, believing we were meant to be together. I named him Albert because he was stamped "Vincent Albert" on the side and Vincent just didn't fit. We went on to make a bunch of records together, traveled to Europe a few times, and spent quality time with each other damn near every night for over a decade. I attempted a true double with my trumpet and tried to dedicate equal time to both. Eventually I needed to take my trumpet chops to the next level and, with a new lady Alto Clarinet in the mix, and Albert having reached his twilight years, I decided to let him go. He ended up in exile on display at Sam Ash, looking at me every day wondering why I had done him wrong. His story wasn't over however, and when Paloma from Argentina arrived to take him away to a better place, we had to endure a painful separation. I thought I was over our relationship and had let go, but seeing him go out the door to never return I was flooded with memories of all the music we made together. Albert told me to remember the good times. Here we are preaching together with my band Morcilla.

God Love Sex

Peace to you my brother. Vaya con Dios.

I may return to the path of the BC someday if I can find a good one. With Lady Alto, I have pursued real clarinet chops, and my trumpet and I have never been tighter. I thought everything was cool, until HUGH MASEKELA AND HIS FLUGELHORN ARRIVED.

I am straight reeling from seeing Hugh at Jazz at Lincoln Center this past Saturday night with my editor. There was a very short but interesting pre-concert discussion about Hugh, in which I learned a great deal about him that I didn't know, especially that he was married to Miriam Makeba and that he was exiled from South Africa because of his public opposition to the evil Apartheid. The last time I was at a JALC discussion, it was about Downtown Free Jazz in NYC. The discussion was led by Dr. Lewis Porter with Daniel Carter on the panel. This really happened! We need more of this stuff. People with beef about JALC being racist need to see the entire hallway dedicated to Dave Brubeck. Seeing his manuscript for a piece called "They Say I Look Like God", sung by Louis Armstrong, really shook me up. It was a profound moment in the music of Pops. People with beef about a block against free Jazz should see the words SUN RA in HUGE letters on the wall. Bottom line is there is big time $$$ going down at JALC, but it's not all bad news. Hugh was good news. Big time good.

Way up in the balcony I could not get over these giant speakers built into the ceiling that enabled me to hear every note with incredible resonance right down to delicate percussion. Hanging down on chains, these speakers looked like something out of science fiction. How the hell did they get them up there?

Finally it was time to get down to business. Not unlike how I saw Billy Bang do at the Vision Festival, I saw Hugh completely own the crown within seconds. Uh-oh..I clearly had slept on his chops. That Flugelhorn sounded radiant, crisp, clear, bright, seasoned, and wise all at once. Months ago I had streamed some of Hugh's early albums on Spotify at Sam Ash and was shocked to hear my own sound!  How could I sound like someone who's music I never really sat down with? I had to investigate in person. Hearing myself in Hugh explained me to myself a little more. The only way to really hear a musician is to hear them in person, the internet will never really translate.  

Once the groove and vibe were established, Hugh took everybody on a journey, with songs that spoke of unity to one darker one about the coal train which was used to carry migrant workers from all over Southern and Central Africa to work in the perilous South African mines. The song about the train, "Stimela",  was profound. The way he performed it, it was as if the song gave the people who suffered a spiritual victory. As if he somehow healed everyone from the experience.

Hugh called people out for practicing politics and holding the whole human race back. Imagine what we could do with the gift of planet Earth were we not so hell bent on destroying it? Hugh delivered his message directly, speaking at the mic between songs.

Straight comedy was also applied. After Hugh got the crowd to sing back to him on a level I have never heard from any audience, he said "Some of you have never screamed like that in your life, not even in bed!" 

Then there was the dancing! What? Hugh was dancing and improvising with some traditional African dance moves like a man in his 20's! My knees cringed as he went down low time and time again. As old as I feel turning 44 this Friday (even though I look 33), if I have even half of the energy Hugh has now I'll be satisfied. That life spirit! The abundance! His uplifting music turned stuffy Lincoln center into a musical church. No intermission. Just one long ceremony with a natural ending. I was waiting for Wynton to come out and jam, but didn't see him. Maybe Hugh could get him to loosen his tie, eh eh.  

What got me most of all was seeing something that many folks might not see. The reality of the trumpet Shaman. People that come to Earth to heal us and show us the way. They posses the gift of being great trumpet or flugelhorn players. They sing. Their message is an affirmation of the joy of life. I saw Hugh Masekela as the Louis Armstrong of Africa in 2014.

Going deeper, I saw a real connection between Hugh and Roy Campbell. They both have incredible brass chops, they both sing, they both protest injustice, they both affirm the joy of life, and most of all they get down musically in a natural way, on truly deep levels that you can't learn in school. These guys are and were master storytellers about life. It comes through in their horns, those glowing bells. Hugh got me back into my idle Flugel!


Having investigated darkness in music for far too long, I'm now considering how to step into the light.


Thanks to Hugh, Roy, and brother Albert for lighting the path.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Into the Hot with Anders Nilsson


I first met brother Anders Nilsson on Third Street. Third St. was an underground session that went down on East Third in NYC almost every Wednesday for over 10 years, with Sabir Mateen and David Gould being its two constant pillars of strength. We played free. I was instantly intrigued by how Anders responded to what was going down. Here was somebody not only pulling from all parts of Jazz history, but also pulling from music outside of Jazz entirely. He was feeding me chords, at just the right time that tasted especially good, like when you eat a fine meal at a gourmet restaurant. He had extended ideas, and he had the Krunch, or that wrinkle in the sound that only guitar players can bring. He wasn't afraid to take a dip in the pool and believe me, with Sabir present this session could BOIL. Later on Anders would be featured on my record, “Trumpet Rising Bass Clarinet Moon”. We love to Reminisce about some of the reviews we got, one in particular which referred to Anders guitar as a “shimmering ax”. Anders is also a core member of the 12 Houses. He’s been high on my list of people I've wanted to interview for Fat Eb and given our relationship, I knew we could try something a little different. Rather than the usual question and answer format, we decided that we would have a public conversation. What follows is no different from a musical exchange between us. The only difference is that words are revealed for the world see.

Anders: Matt, you are obviously a poetic being in your own right, what are your thoughts on the difference between the morning mind vs.the evening mind?

Matt: Reality, as I understand it, requires humans to sleep at night as the world turns to the shadow. It is in this time that the body rests and the soul deals with higher reality. Much of our daily night time experience is denied to us as it's related to our core study on Earth, but when you rise you may take something from the night time experience. A message of positivity perhaps or a sense of hope. Perhaps you processed something that is very important to you, that you may not think about during your daily routine. The morning mind also leads me to think of music related to that time of day. As I understand it, Indian Classical music has music, even scales related to this time period. In this way music can access that same hope, positivity, and power of creation.

In retrograde, I think of your record Night Guitar. Darkness is always associated with the darker side of life. The Devil Card in the tarot deck. Sex. Drugs. Getting high. These are all considered night time activities, although it's certainly possible to shoot up and have sex in the bright Sun. Its just not done as often. In order for any soul to grow, I believe they have to dance with the dark, so to speak. When you dance with the dark you find out who you are and most importantly, how much you love and believe in yourself. Some people need to test their own limits, and some need to take their night mind to the extreme, like the notorious Brother G. I sense both the morning and night mind and their greater realities in your music my brother, and that is one reason I love it. You dance in the dark but there is an ever present hope. . .
 
Om, I mean On the rebound Anders, I'll take us back in orbit of planet music without landing. Perhaps we'll visit Saturn's moon Titan where I understand there is real potential for life to exist as WE know it. I'll ask you to speak about music that has deeply impacted your core structure, that is not guitar music and not Jazz! The stage is yours. Perhaps you could look at this question from both a morning and night time perspective?

Anders: Scene du jour: I just woke up in my Brooklyn apartment, the bedroom is next to a street near a school. Every school day between 8-8:30 am a lot of parents drop off their children there, which causes some traffic delays and ensuing impatient honking. This particular morning one driver was sufficiently pissed off already to let the horn ring in protest for an extra long while followed by shouting the everyday low steam towards someone through his opened window. We’ve all been there, the attention reduced to your immediate agenda and everyone else should just vanish and understand how pressing things are for you. Boo-hoo. Zen Buddhists talk of a small mind vs. big mind. In my experience the small mind deals with opinions, short-term plans, feeding the ego, imposing control, marking your territory. The big mind sees the world as an entity, notices things, relates, accepts feelings. Dreaming, the night mind, is included in the latter. No boundaries, vast possibilities. During waking hours the world tends to shrink and decisions need to be made quickly. After the first cup of coffee the wheels are turning more aligned, you switch on your practical, and efficient side. It’s a form of doping that turns you into more of a well-oiled machine, not registering the spectrum of sensations as much as a side effect. I remember reading a book about the industrial revolution in high school. In it the author had written “no industrial revolution without coffee.” I certainly am hooked, and enjoying it.

My daily cycle tends to have patterns - if I’m lucky to have free time early in the day I like to play just a few sounds, say hello to the instrument and relate to sounds in a small way, gradually lubing up the muse. The dreams from last night are often still fairly present before fading out when the mind gets busy. Perhaps this state of mind warranted the morning ragas of India? The ears are tender, I want to play softly and pay detailed attention, articulation is essential. When I go play a session early in the day this delicate condition flavors the proceedings, I want to leave space, let the sounds come to me. After the ears have been “woken up” and the buzzing thoughts have entered and taken hold of the mind the attitude and ensuing playing patterns get more busy and firmed up. I’ve noticed that playing after the afternoon lull between say 3 and 4 pm that things are different, more active and broader-stroked, with sweeping statements, cruising less discerningly on musical references in and outside of yourself, being reminded of yesterday’s knowledge, pacing, tendencies etc. are all playing their parts. After the morning innocence has passed the focus seems to be going towards getting yourself in gear and exploring the ground you are interested in musically, working on things, you know - play!

I tend to be attracted to music that has built-in tension, which you could say is a form of darkness maybe. Harmonic dissonances yes, but also energies rubbing against one another between the instruments. It’s not entirely fair to divide music by others into light and dark categories but in order to make some examples of what we’re talking about I’ll do it. When I was 14 a friend of mine and I would get off on Metallica albums after school, goose-bump inducing and powerful. That music transported us out of where we were. In high school the relentless playing of the Coltrane Quartet would take over me, especially all the modal pieces with so much space for them to fly over a fundamental vibration. Miles’ late 60’s and 70’s music, Indian music, Arnold Schonberg (pre-12 tone), Anton Webern, Olivier Messiaen, Bernard Herrmann, Black Sabbath, Moroccan Gnawa music, and other things. Aside from the “classical” composers listed, whose narrative and constant variation I admire, a common denominator among these influences is an elevated quality generated by a one-note center and rhythmic cycles, somehow inspiring a sense of core and personal, believable expression. A lot of groovy “folk music” from around the globe fits this general recipe too. To contrast this heavy dark stuff I of course also dig music with more brightness in it - Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, Julius Hemphill, Duke, Carl Stalling. I guess a lot of good jazz stuff has a bubbliness to it and a free air about it, but I wasn’t supposed to talk about jazz...

I have this cassette tape of a great saz player from Turkey - Talip Ozkan. On it is a song with words by Kul Nemisi, a troubadour of the 15th century: Sometimes I go up in the sky and observe the world - sometimes I’m coming down and the world observes me. Does this relate to your experience too….?

Matt: My first response is to the cassette sound! I have a box in storage of concerts on cassette. Nothing like that sound! Roy Campbell recorded EVERYthing on Cassette right to the end. The next impression these words bring is that of some of the holy, mystical spiritual experiences I have had when indeed the line between above and below is blurred to the point of non-existence. I've had real conversations with both Raphe Malik and Roy Campbell both after their death. I have been apart of psycho-spiritual healings with people I hardly know. Next book perhaps or part of the course I intend to teach on the metaphysical power of sound.

I was in a band called Eye Contact once and sometimes I would just veer of into a major sound that opened a door between me and the other side. I'll never forget that feeling. It culminated in a record we did called "Eye Contact with God". It's really something. You have to be in the right environment, around the right people to make it happen. That's one reason you’re in the 12 Houses. You’re one of the vital parts of my quest to tune the world.

An extreme version of what we’re talking about is the time when I let the late brother of my first mentor Frank "Fat man" Humphries take a solo THROUGH me. I channeled him while playing trumpet. Then there was the time I channeled John Coltrane to talk to Ornette Coleman. It really went down. To hear more about these events, folks will have to seek me out in person or maybe cop my last book The Jazz Musician's Tarot Deck. Anders I will now give you 3 words to riff with my brother. Here they are:
"Skies of America"...

Anders: That’s some heavy stuff you’re laying down there Matt…I always liked very much your words “tuning the world”! To some extent that is what we do to each other with music and by other means, to the people in our lives. Glad to be part of 12 Houses, very special energy around this. “Skies of America”…, Ornette Coleman has the best album and song titles; hitting the mark, setting the tone, with love for humanity - the music speaks! Had he added a word starting with the letter R, the acronym would read “soar”. It’s strange in this present era that is so verbal-driven and labelling-conscious how words often connote expectations and already formed opinions, perhaps even more so than in the past? During the last few days I’ve been enjoying the Terje Rypdal ECM-album “Waves” (with Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet, do you know his playing?, and with Jon Christensen on drums). It also suggests sky music, that of the North perhaps, the air I used to breathe. You notice how air moves at different speeds in windy climates? There are gusts of faster passages that stroke your skin according to its own, (to us), erratic schedule. Wayne Shorter talks about the nature of the wind really well in the liner notes to “Odyssey of Iska” - one of my favorite albums. The skies of America are not provincial, it’s the same freakin’ air all over the world. Some media people, and representative spokes persons with stuff or opinions to sell, tend to erroneously label local dynamics as “universal”, it’s so obviously wrong; Universal health care etc. Come on! I find that America loves to exaggerate and be self-centered. Who doesn’t? The present day problems never go away. The gross imbalances, unfairness, sour odds that yield cynicism, greed, arrogance, and conformity, are the same old negative things that condition the individuals in many regards. What can break the spell? During one of my slurs against the human race I asked my wife something like - “How can you be happy in a world which is so dark, corrupt, and full of fake shit, blah blah etc.?” Her response? …it goes: ”How can you be unhappy with all the wonderful things around you?” One finds happiness wherever. Most of my latest work comes from sitting down working on being true to myself with the guitar in hand, and challenging that, bringing that to new and old groups and collaborators, it’s a work in progress.
 ---------------------------------------------
Well folks, that's all for now. Anders and I could go on for an entire book most likely. Hopefully this whets your appetite to come hear us hurl notes at you in person. We're creators and we’ll be creating until our final moments. Do check out Anders as soon as you can.


*****



Monday, March 10, 2014

Rule Breaking 101



An out of work actor came into the store last week and bought a pocket trumpet with the intent to get his busk on. He asked me what he should know before the great descent. Having done a tour in the subterranean caverns I told him the frank reality is that his wheelchair gives him an edge. It seemed that he really needed the chair so I explained that busking works much better when the need is real. I know a guy who walks down into the subway with his chair folded up who then opens it up, sits in it and plays trumpet. That's no different then the "blind guy" wearing shades who knows where to place his cup when you hold out that nickel. When people are truly struggling and their lives have broken them to the point where they have to beg for $ you can usually tell if it's real. A Seeing eye dog makes it real. Dogs want to work. Gotta love em'.
 
Down in NYC these days many of the hustlers have lost the edge. They have no game, no pep in their step. Same old routine delivery. No sense of urgency. You cant get on the uptown A train without somebody coming through asking for whatever you got. The other day 2 guys came in from opposite sides of the same car and both made their pitch at the same time. As they got to the center they tried to talk over each other. Boundary issues you dig. I'm seeing more and more of these folks. More woman down there as well.  

I told my man at the store that territory is what it's all about. Other hustlers will confront you saying they own the spot your in. When they do you can fight for your right to party or bounce to a less lucrative location. If your trying to give music to people then at least your trying to reach for a positive exchange. Just don't be like Love Supreme, also known as Birdman, and tell people to pay you to STOP playing. Also, go to crowded subway platforms during rush hour. Ching ching.

Like many things in life it's all about knowing the rules so you can find creative ways to break them. It took me a long time to learn some of the laws of how music works. I'll never forget my 2 weeks in the William Patterson Jazz program that I had before they found out I was broke. I was in an ensemble with the great bassist Rufus Reid who called Billie's Bounce. On the 5 chord I played a ridiculous chromatic excursion into the beyond out of nowhere. Rufus stopped the band cold and asked me a blunt question that made me bristle.

"Why?"

Yesterday at the second Roy Campbell memorial I got into a discussion with the great bassist Ken Filiano after we had launched into a microtonal spiritual. Rufus Reid came up again in conversation. Ken told me that Rufus explained the challenge in playing the same material over and over again as Rufus had played Green Dolphin Street with Dexter Gordan countless times. Rufus explained that every time Dexter played that tune he played it like it was the FIRST time. We also know Dexter practiced drunk, but I'm not going there. Bob Feldman told me a great story about riding the elevator with Dexter at Manhattan Plaza. The door opened up and a little girl looked up astonished at long tall Dexter standing before her.

"Well hello there little lady!" Dexter proclaimed as he looked down, putting her at ease. 

Music wise it all started to coalesce in a Bern Nix quartet rehearsal a couple of days ago. All though we work on new material we always play through the book of Bern's tunes. The last few sessions I have witnessed the tunes and our group language that only we can speak together reach an entire other level. On several tunes I finally figured out how to really play them, after playing them for over 3 years! Playing a song for 3 years to unlock it's secrets reminded me of how you can spend 3 years trying to reach maximum expression of difficult Yoga poses. Yoga has had major impact on my trumpet playing. Sonny Rollins does Yoga, so the company I keep cant get any higher than that. The Bern Nix quartet is the greatest and most important band experience I have ever had to date. We have reached a place where we take chances constantly and they ALL work. We are at the point where we can improvise from one tune to the next like the great Miles quintet.


In short, we have all spent many years learning the rules.


Now we take great joy in breaking them.
 

There's no rule that says you cant play trumpet and Bass Clarinet, but it sure seemed that way when I did it. Like OC I went somewhere else. Blog on the OC trumpet and violin in the dome. When I switched to alto clarinet one of the reasons was OC had a rule that said I needed an Eb horn. Years later I'm dealing with Sabir's urging to push for a real clarinet sound. Russell Procope has ALL the wood. There's something to writing your own musical laws.

Roy Campbell would approve of both writing and breaking. I saw him sitting down next to my future wife in the front row yesterday as we were about to take off at the Launch Pad in a barrio going through a major transition in Brooklyn. Roy had on that smile that said so much. He knew that I could see him, and that it meant we had to take care of business music wise. I played William Parker's song Ascent into Heaven for him.


We reached the top of Brooklyn mountain about 40 minutes later.


*****     *****     *****     *****     *****


To Be Continued here. Bern Nix quartet and Charles Gayle trio. March 11th.


Happy Birthday to Grandmaster OC who once informed me he was indeed the MOON. A positive thing about Facebook is seeing that he has touched so many of us out here. Everything I've ever done or tried bears the stamp of innovation by this true Pisces. We can all thank OC for making rule breaking a tradition! (Hey...that means JALC is not following...uh..not going there)



*****














Monday, March 3, 2014

Unity




Having attended far to many memorials over the years in NYC the one that just went down at Roulette for Roy Campbell Jr. will forever stay in my memory. I usually leave memorials with the shadow of gloom creeping in over the horizon suggesting a permanent drop in temperature. Not this time however. Tazz would not allow it. He in fact looked over us on a giant screen behind us larger than life as if he where watching from above. He was in the house. Believe that.

Yes, as a giant orchestra that would have never gathered together dug deeper into Ascent into Heaven by William Parker I witnessed people rise from their chairs and start dancing in the aisles in celebration. Not unlike the tradition in New Orleans where you deal with the sadness head on but then move into celebration of a life and that another Saint Marched right on in. In the end everything is ok you see as we all return to a place of total Love.

Just as he did at the wake Roy again delivered a direct message through his sister to those gathered as only he could.

"This is Tazz but I no longer have a dilemma. I have entered the New Kingdom."

This referred to a song he wrote and a record he made. There was no doubt Roy had an open line. This wasn't one of those creepy text messages from beyond like they had on Montel Williams.

Just as he stated at the wake, Roy stressed that it was ALL about the music. Music was his mission in life. He urged us all to remember this and keep up the struggle. I felt the seed of revitalization take root deep down below.

Hearing Roy bring this up twice from the beyond really helped me get back to the core. Just why do so many of us struggle so bad to live lives of music? I have older brothers who have given their lives over entirely to it. Once you begin this life there is no turning back. After 25 years of trumpet playing myself, the shore is a mirage in an ocean with no beginning and no end. The water can get COLD. The sharks will display their fins above the surface and start that dark dance where they circle around you like vultures waiting for you to reach your expiration date. Yet, we must not yield. . .

Simply put, we MUST continue.

I have always believed in the power of the kind of music we make but I see more and more just how relevant and vital is. If we stop the balance of life will be upended. There must be Art to match all the mindless greed. More and more people will get it. More and more people will need it. Just like Albert forecast years ago when the plans to gentrify NYC where activated.

Indeed during the Roy Campbell memorial I felt a sense of peace and unity that built and built until we ended with the orchestra playing Thanks to the Creator. Nothing tastes better than a full cup of gratitude you dig. I felt this unity, especially amongst us trumpet players, famous for our big ego's. I felt no political bullshit, no jealousy, no posturing. Just like Roy everybody was being their real selves. Everybody was being themselves together. It was all about the music at last.

Let's take this dose of the real reality and move on as a united musical army. Music CAN change the world for a better good and higher purpose!


Leave it to Tazz to bring us all together...



******





PS

"Everyone deserves more than to survive. They deserve to live."  Steve McQueen

Mad props to all involved in the creation of 12 Years a Slave.


 *****

Nemesis plays for Tazz

Roy Campbell memorial orchestra


*****

  

What is Jazz? by Roy Campbell Jr.


Roy Campbell Jr. 1982

According to the dictionary Jazz has the following definitions:

To copulate
Jive
Make nonsense
Exaggerate
Music that is highly rhythmic with solo and ensemble
Improvisations

Jazz is also associated with...

Blues
Pain
Loneliness
Sadness
Depression
Suffering
Frustration
Ignorance
Benign
Critics Polls
Down Beat, also known as BEAT Down
Talent Deserving Wider Recognition
TDWR after 15 to 25 years of display
Being referred to as an up and comer at the age of 40 or 50
Instruments in need of repair
No Gigs
No money
Moving fast and getting nowhere
Exploitation
Getting paid off the door
Wondering if you'll get paid after the gig
Being appreciated in foreign countries but ignored in America where the music developed
Clubs, Funky Joints, and Smoke filled rooms
Small stages
Dressing rooms the size of closets filled with trash or no dressing rooms at all
No guests on the guest list or only 2 per week
Wondering if your going to cop tonight
Being fucked up on coke,heroin,or smoke
Groupies
Cheap thrills
One night stands
Pimps, gigolos, and whores
Freaks
Poor Sound equipment

Inhuman circumstances and conditions leading to sickness, and most of all early or premature death.

Yes...early death is an important feature because the best Jazz musician..

Is a dead musician..

After your dead you will be recognized.
People will be saying "Oh wasn't he or she so great?"
Record pirates will release unknown tapes and legendary recordings

All who can will capitalize on the death of the next late great Jazz musician


Roy Campbell Jr. July 1982



Click here for a reading of this piece by yours truly

Originally published in "The Bill Collector", by William Parker

Thanks to the Creator.


*****















  

           

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hope


Before reading dear reader please peep this

That was from the 12 Houses recent concert dedicated to Roy Campbell.

*    f     l     a     s     h     b     a     c     k     *

It's 1995 and Francois Grillot and I are running a straight-ahead jam session at the Rainy Daze in Chelsea NYC. It's a parking lot now. We have had this session for almost a year. A guitar player comes in I don't know. In this early stage of musical evolution I was all about straight ahead playing. I had no idea that an out scene even existed. Ironically Warren Smith's studio WIS was a few doors down and I didn't even know it.

The Guitar player wanted to play free and I didn't know what that was. I wasn't down. Shit, I had just had lunch with Wynton Marsalis. I told the cat to learn a tune and come back. The following week he came back wanting to play free again and I said to pick a tune,any tune, and I'll make sure we play it. Week three he still wanted to play free and I got tight. He left with both of us having a twisted vibe.

19 years later Juan Quinonez brought the blues to the 12 Houses on the spontaneous vibe and he brought down the house. It was a ball to fully resolve the rocky road we had tripped on back then. After Juan got down with us it was time for what I call my hit song. Laura Ortman and I have history from being in a band called Stars Like Fleas together. Simply stated, Laura and her violin give me hope. The last song we played that night was called Faith. Mine may have been recently restored.

Things are shifting you see. Slowly, but surely. Perhaps that spiritual awakening Alice Coltrane spoke on is being distilled to us at last. It's like the old Gold Miners sifting for more than the usual fools gold you dig. Peep THIS:



That's a screen shot of Roy Campbell on the Grammys. Roy transcended all the categories but this still means that somebody got it right! Somebody actually did the right thing floating in sea of deep rooted superficiality that leaves most of us like people without faces!

The nitty gritty for me has been an experience with HOT Yoga. Led there by a very special person I found myself in a public healing chamber. My Osteoarthritis got scared since it knew that this meant it's final days had arrived.

Now you see my plan Osteo. Now you see. Your final days have arrived. Fall you will. Fall you must.

FALL.

I may have almost fallen a few times in this volcanic environment yet I did not fail. Two days without a knee brace after 3 sessions. The brace just sits in the corner now rotting away. You served me well but now you to must go. Hooked for life I am. Evolve or die we must. If you catch my Yoda practicing Yoga vibe just know that I was there for Star Wars at the movie theater opening night. The first one with Luke and Ben back in like 78.

What really got me about these community Yoga sessions was that they were packed with people from all ages, races, and backgrounds. I translated what I saw as poor and rich, young and old, male and female, black and white, gay or straight, teachers, police, musicians, everybody working on themselves together in northern New Jersey. There were no stereotypes here! (I truly despise when stereotypes get validated). Every time you strike a Yoga Pose you engage your soul and your relationship with greater reality on some level. If your open you will receive. As for me I've learned that the human body really does work if you can survive the thousands of options we have to destroy it.



I've also seen the future.



And it gives me hope.



TBC with Shayna Dulberger in a few hours. 3 Bern Nix concerts on deck. Interviews on the way dig.

 
 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sound





As interviews have commenced with Sabir Mateen, Francois Grillot, and Anders Nilsson I need to riff on a blog in my dome for a week now about sound.  All the Hot Yoga I'm doing is opening the windows up wider than usual. I know this wind, I've felt it before.

It started as usual at the Ash where I end up being the bartender as musicians sit down and start telling me their problems. Good thing I was a telephone psychic for a year. Trouble is that most of those calls were woman involved with married men.

A woman came in to the store to return a clarinet and told me it didn't have the right sound. The clarinet worked but it was the wrong sound. She asked me to demonstrate Alto and Tenor sax because they might have the sound she wanted. She was in her 50's or 60's and had very limited experience with music. I relish an excuse to play saxophone with my alto clarinet chops so I was game. She listened intently and quickly had the epiphany that Tenor was the sound she sought, as she sensed a spiritual component within. She then said she would pursue tenor as a spiritual practice. What? Now you really got my attention.

I immediately wrote down John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Pharoah Sanders on a piece of paper and attempted to give it to her saying that these three guys where big sign posts for her to use. She refused to look at the paper and brushed it away. I was shocked.

"Whoever they are they have their sound. I don't want their sound, I want mine."

I could not resist asking her at the very least if she had ever heard of John Coltrane. I shouldn't have done that!

"I have not heard of him nor do I ever want to hear him. I'm just so happy with Tenor. Tenor is the way to go for me!" 

I told Olivia that I can't wait to hear her when she's ready.




Our exchange got me to remember something that Ornette not only said to me but did to me. Years later I finally understood what went down. I was over there playing and had no idea what Harmelodics was. I was reaching out just trying to prove that I could play.

"I know what I'll do, I drop my glissando above the staff, it's like 5 notes at once in a big ol smear of color."

Ornette stopped the music like when you pull the record needle off the record and you hear that scratchy sound before it became part of the DJ language. He then dropped the bomb:

"Why would you play a sound if it wasn't an idea?"

I was a very different person up to that point. I used to at times experiment with sound. Not as much as folks like Peter Evans or Nate Wooley but I would go there. Now I was trapped and a deer caught in the headlights of a grandmaster. I had no choice but to walk away from sound experimentation forever. I became obsessed with having something to say. I always had plenty of words but now I needed my notes to make sense. I needed to complete my sound sentences. I have never been the same.




The pursuit of the actual sound I seek continues to elude me but I'm getting close. I've been scouring the outer rim for quite some time. My own recent epiphany came as I was talking to William and Patricia Parker. As we worked on a list of trumpet players to play on a memorial for Roy Campbell I saw that damn near everybody is playing cornet. I myself was seduced and made my silver 37 Bach cornet my main horn for the last several months. Hold up. Everybody is playing cornet? Gotta go son! I immediately went looking for a Bach trumpet with no silver on it as that brightens the tone. A 43 size bell or a 72. I need that sound. I think I found the horn but she unfortunately will require extensive surgery. I'll be there waiting for her when she wakes up.  

I'm still down with Cornet but after immersing myself inside a really bright and clear sound I need to dance in the dark. I also need to return to power. I still need the light but I crave that dark. Can a bright sound suggest hope? Can a dark sound suggest isolation? When people would say to me that Trane didn't have a real soprano sound I would look at them baffled, but know I get it. Now I see. It took me years to get a real clarinet sound. It's something. Paul Gonsalves had several sounds. All him. All tenor. The way people get recorded changes their sound and the way you hear it. Always best to hear somebody in person. Front row! Matana Roberts..now that's a sound. One of my favorites. 

The closest I ever came to hearing the sound in the back of my head was on a Mat Maneri record. It was big ol' signpost. He bowed the low C on the Viola. It may have been a 5 string electric violin. It was amplified. The sound entered my bloodstream and I have never been the same. Is the sound unattainable? The search for the sound in myself based on that sound is what the title of and this blog is all about after all. There is something deeper behind the relationship of you to your sound. If you transform and evolve as a person I believe your sound can change. You are your sound. I once developed a course relating every note to a specific chakra color in which a direct relationship between sound and the human body could be established. In this way sound then connects to specific aspects of the soul and greater reality. Trane left to deal with this directly! Back on Earth 4.0 were getting closer still in the here and now. It's time.


In my sound course I had a chart using the Bass Clarinet. The break in the middle of the horn was the equator, separating the top and bottom of the world.


The search for sound continues you see.


And never truly ends...




For Booker Little and his stock mouthpiece.



*****