Visionary Musicians Seek Truths for the Future in a Spiritual Past

Moor Mother, Ben LaMar Gay, Angel Bat Dawid and other jazz-adjacent storytellers are embracing tradition and questions about the nature of performance.

Comments: 8

  1. Glad to learn of this musical activity. Reflecting upon swing and modern jazz, there is a deep spirituality expressed chiefly through the imposition of an overall syncopated triplet feel of transcendence over the duple feel of oppression and mundanity. One wonders about the role of Native Americans in the bloodline of jazz given the historical interweaving of cultures. Too often its overlooked how John Coltrane’s immersion into Indian classical music and its spiritual basis, synergizing those experiences with his pure jazz identity, created a potent synthesis that transformed Western classical, rock, and jazz at once.

  2. @Michael Robinson One unforgettable moment in my own musical life occurred when an African American gentleman from the audience approached me after a program I gave at California State University Dominguez Hills, and related movingly how deeply spiritual he found my music for meruvina.

  3. @Michael Robinson How do you quantify a difference between a triplet feel and a duple feel. I've heard Wynton Marsalis make a similar case by saying that swung notes are better or superior than notes not swung. I would simply ask anyone making this claim to prove it. And why would spirituality, whatever that is, be more prone to exhibit itself, however you could show that, in a triplet based/swung grid than in a duple grid? Duple = oppression? That's a very interesting claim and one that could be easily disproved. I'm also left wondering what classical/orchestral music was transformed by Coltrane? Transformation is quite a change. What I'm seeing in the last 10 years or so is young people looking back to the 60s & 70s for some kind of inspiration and direction in what is called jazz today. Roy Ayers, Eddie Harris, Donald Byrd & the Blackbirds, Grover Washington, Headhunters, and a host of other artists and groups from that time could be plugged into any of the young artists you have mentioned and you wouldn't find anything amiss. I would say that there are those who have a forward vision, not a retro view, that are the new voices today. A number of them are mentioned in Only-NeverInSweden's post. Steve Coleman, Jonathon Finlayson, Cooper - Moore, Darius Jones, Gerald Cleaver and others are on the cutting edge and not trying to repackage the past. I don't know if one would find spirituality within their music but if it does exist I'd go looking there first.

  4. @Magan While I prefer not to respond to someone who doesn't reveal their actual name, my sense is that you are missing the historical context out of which jazz arose regarding triple and duple feel. The Western classical music transformed by Coltrane references mostly Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Philip Glass and La Monte Young. I'm not familiar with most of the musicians mentioned in your last sentence, but emulating avant-garde styles of the past is not forward looking. Not sure how to respond to someone who doesn't experience spirituality in music, but I know Johan Sebastian Bach, for one, discerned it being there.

  5. We are on our own now, we being listeners who have decided as I have to listen only to new music when I am the one who only listens when full concentration is possible - middle of the Swedish night perhaps. We will take any help we can get in finding new music worth trying out. Nate Chinen's "Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century" is an example of help that can be given, Bandcamp is another. Maybe more musicians could help us by listening to Jason Moran's piano and Adrian Piper's plea to artists to write about their art and then doing just that. Jaimie Branch's "Fly or Die" that she sees as a complete suite as I do provides fragmentary explanations and we can hope that she and others will do more. There is one paradox as concerns beyond-genre musicians telling us what they are doing. Vijay Iyer, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and others old and new are professors of their music but I do not see them writing full fledged analyses of what they and others are up to. Duke Ellington had that phrase long ago - Beyond Category - and that is where I want the music to go to.

  6. What makes any of the music or artists visionaries. Moor Mother has some different takes on a few things but visionary is quite a lift.

  7. Giovanni Russonello offers what he and his editors define as "visionary". That is a term reserved for those who present ideas that challenge the public perspective. What is the public perspective that is being challenged? In what way are the artists challenging those notions? Being confrontational is not being visionary. Being contradictory is not visionary. A visionary presents original thought, which can be presented confrontationally, or offer contradiction. But, more often, it is ideas that uniquely describe something that everyone thinks they know about. Unfortunately, most people understand ideas based on what they learn from others. It is the true visionary that can discard those notions and see things others cannot.

  8. I have sent a tweet to the author asking him to talk with his editors to find a way to make critics notebook more visible. I found it when going through Times Wire, otherwise I never would have seen it. If there was a Public Editor I could write to her to tell her about problems with hidden articles and articles where comments are closed before most of us ever see them. Comments are still open but my 2d submission is not here so will tweet Russonello again if this article remains unseen. Citizen US SE