Wednesday, July 25, 2012

ONWARD CHRISTIAN FASCISTS

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree
It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me -
it's just that God does.
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ONWARD CHRISTIAN FASCISTS 
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It is easy to claim you love the Lord
as you show up on Sunday to pray;
Then denigrate as heathens all those
at home sleeping
instead of living their lives your way."
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It is easy to cry out,
"Oh save them, Lord!"
of those
immune to the games you play,
As you worship the scriptures
that serve your purpose,
and ignore
those that don’t go your way.
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While the "heathens" do rest
like God did suggest
on this 7th and most sacred day,
You spend the day frowning
while literally drowning
in hatred even as you pray.
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THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF CRYSTAL SPRINGS
THE HOUSE OF SATAN
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GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS
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It’s indeed ironic that the task of saving this country from fascist hypocrites and corporate thugs has fallen on the shoulders of one lone Black man. It shows that God has a sense of irony. God seems to be saying, "This nation’s greatness has been built upon lies, injustice and hypocrisy, so now you have a choice - you can either confront your hypocrisy, or allow it to become the instrument of your destruction."
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Did God talk to you about that, Pat?
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Related Post:

Eric L. Wattree
Http://wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reflections on the Stanley Crouch, Mtume Debate on Modern Jazz

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

Reflections on the Stanley Crouch, Mtume Debate on Modern Jazz
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I recently watched the debate between columnist Stanley Crouch and percussionist James Mtume on the evolution of modern jazz with great interest. Crouch, the steadfast jazz purist, essentially took the position that much of what’s passing for jazz today is actually a corruption of the art form, while Mtume took the position that Crouch was simply out of touch with the new face of jazz.
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In my opinion, Stanley Crouch was right, and James Mtume was simply remaining consistent with what his musical philosophy seems to advocate - playing to the audience and giving applause priority over substance. But Crouch made the mistake of not framing the issue in a way that would allow him to sieze the bottom line. It’s not about the new versus the old; what the discussion is actually about is quality versus lesser quality, and that can be measured.
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First, just because something is new doesn’t mean that it’s better. The problem with a lot of electronic music is electronics is being used to camouflage a lack of technical competence. There’s so much noise and electronic distortion going on that it gives the musicians the "freedom" to play bad notes, be less than melodic, and play musical nonsense. Where, on the other hand, acoustic music is intimate. It’s purely about the musician and his technical ability. Period. If Bud Powell played a bad note, or played the wrong chord progression, it would stick out like a soar thumb. But if he was playing electronic music there’s so much chaos and distortion going on that nobody would notice.
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Mtume was also talking about "technical exhaustion." He said that after a given time, in a given context, everything has been played that can be played in a given form of music. That’s also nonsense - in fact, the ability to do something new with the rhythm and chord progressions of "Stella by Starlight" is exactly what we mean by art.
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Wattree's Chord Chart
There are only ten basic numbers known to mankind - 0 to 9. Yet we can take those ten numbers and combine them in an inexhaustible number of ways. On the other hand, there are TWELVE notes in music, and just like with numbers, you can build an infinite number of scales, chords, and rhythmic constructions with those twelve notes. So Mtume’s claim that you can "exhaust" the possibilities of what can be played on a saxophone is total and demonstrable nonsense.
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The fact is, Miles started having problems with his chops so he went into retirement. But he loved music so much that he wanted to get back into the game, so being the genius that he was, he simply INVENTED a form of music that he could play. Then we had a generation of musicians who came along behind him, who didn’t have a vision of their own, that built an entire musical movement based on what Miles created to accommodate his old age and disability.
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And finally, Mtume justified this "new music" by saying that it inspired young people who weren’t previously into jazz. But the fact is, art is NEVER suppose to lower itself to accommodate the tastes of the lowest common denominator of the people. Art is suppose to raise the consciousness of the people up to it. That’s why it’s called art.
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But the fact is, there’s a very simple way of resolving this debate over the relative merit of this so-called "new thing" over what I'll simply call conventional progressive jazz.  Much like with good parenting, you can measure quality by what quality produces. So we can easily measure the relative quality of the two eras by measuring the quality of what the two respective eras have produced. Where is today’s equivalent of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, or Jackie McLean?  And where are today’s jazz standards, like 'So What,' 'Round Midnite,' 'Moody’s Mood for love,' 'Impressions' or 'A Night in Tunisias?' I’ll tell you where - they don't exist.
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The great jazz standards of the past are no longer being produced because the towering jazz giants who produced them have become all but a thing of the past. I can’t think of one person of the stature of Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, or Jackie McLean that’s been produced in over thirty years, and there’s a good reason for that - the quality of the music that’s been produced over the past thirty years is not conducive to producing people of that stature and creative ability. That in itself should close the case on this debate.
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But now let’s look at how young some of the old-school giants of jazz were when they reached their musical maturity. Charlie Christian, the father of the modern jazz guitar - died at 25. Charlie parker - died at 34. Clifford Brown - died at 25. Booker Littler - died at 23. Paul Chambers - died at 33. Fat Navarro - died at 26. So John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy were relatively old men when they died - John Coltrane died at 41, and Eric Dolphy at 36. So many of the giants of the past made their mark on the world and moved on long before many of today’s musicians have even gotten all of their scales together. And there’s a reason for that - because in the past young musicians were held to a much higher standard, and exposed to a far superior quality of music, and musicianship.
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The Jazz Crusaders as young up-and-comers
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The musicians of the Bebop and Hard Bop eras understood from the outset that they weren’t going to get rich playing the music that they loved, so they sought to validate themselves through excellence, while many of today’s musicians are in a hurry to learn their chromatic scale so they can run out and achieve wealth and fame - they figure they can learn to play in Gb Maj while they're on the road. Then they get out and play distorted chord progressions, add a thunderous beat and loud electronic distortion to camouflage their limitations, and label it as "The New Thang." Thereafter, they slap one another on the back as brilliant, and dismiss those of us who recognize it as noise as being "out of touch."
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So the bottom line is, many of the so-called musical "revolutionaries" never took the time to learn what jazz is really about. Jazz is more than just another form of music, and it's not just fun-n-games. Jazz is also a way of life. There’s a political component to it - a way of thinking that reflects a unique way of viewing reality. So jazz purists are not simply upset over a modified beat and the introduction of electronics, they're also upset over the caving in to mediocrity and the abandonment of the political principles and qualities that jazz represents.
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After all, one of the greatest contributions that jazz has made to the black community is informing the world that we're not the frivolous and thoughtless people in which we'd previously been portrayed. The harmonic complexity of bebop served to bring the dazzling intellectual capacity of black people to the world stage. So naturally, jazz purist are both reluctant and hostile to going back to the people-pleasin' days of what is essentially a musical form of Steppin'-Fetchism.      
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Jazz has traditionally been the cultural anthem of social revolutionaries - both Black and White - who are willing to fight the good fight. Thus, jazz purists resent the mongrelization and surrender of those principles in lieu of "Can we all just get along?" To them, that represents the selling of our principles. That's why the word "commercialism" is looked upon with such disdain by those of us who have come to be known as jazz purists. We're not merely fighting to defend our right to be snobs. We're fighting to defend excellence from sliding down the slippery slope of corporate profit and mediocrity; we're fighting for a way of life, and we're fighting a political battle against the dumbing down of America as a whole. Our fight is an essential part of our jazz tradition. It's expected of us, because that's what jazz is all about - pushing the envelop, and never caving in to convention.
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So you can’t just put a funky beat behind noise and call it jazz, because once you go frivolous, the spirit of jazz has been abandoned. While jazz does kick up it's heels on occasion, it's a very serious form of music that’s designed to appeal to the mind, not just the ass. For that reason, a logical and organized structure is essential to its character. Without that, and it’s arrogantly distinctive swagger, it's not jazz - Period.
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MILES
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We knew him as Miles, the Black Prince of style,
his nature fit jazz to a tee. Laid back and cool,
a low threshold for fools, he set the tone
of what a jazzman should be.
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Short on words, and unperturbed, about
what the people thought;
frozen in time, drenched in the sublime,
of the passion his sweet horn had wrought.
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Solemn to the bone, distant and torn,
even Trane could scarcely get in;
I can still hear the tone of that genius who mourned,
that precious note that he couldn't
quite bend.
*

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Eric L. Wattree
Http://wattree.blogspot.com
Ewattree@Gmail.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Presenting Ms Rita Edmond - The Contemporary Face of True Jazz Royalty

Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

Presenting Ms. Rita Edmond - The Contemporary Face of True Jazz Royalty
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If you’re a jazz lover and want to look upon the contemporary face of jazz royalty, take a moment to go check out Ms. Rita Edmond on Youtube. She's the jazz world's best kept secret.  She's currently working on her third CD, but even on her first CD, she made it abundantly clear to this writer that she hit the ground fully seasoned as one of the greatest jazz singers alive today. I know, that's a mighty lofty claim to heap onto the shoulders of a relatively new artist, but I'm not given to hyperbole, so I fully intend to back up my assertion with the contents and attachments to this piece.
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Ms. Edmond moves between sultry sophistication, hard driving swing, and childlike innocence without any effort at all. There are many great singers out there , but from the very first bar of anything Rita does, she clearly distinguishes herself as one of those rare individuals who was born to do exactly what she’s doing, and nothing else. She swings with the effortless grace of a Sliver Shadow cruisin' down Pacific Coast Highway, and her ballads are lush with sultry passion, personal depth, and individuality.
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You can't "learn" to sing like Rita Edmond. You either have it, or you don't, and there's only one or two lucky few in a generation who do - but Rita, like Ella and Sarah, is one of those lucky few. But don’t just take my word for it, go check her out for yourself and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that she’s a once in a generation talent, and clearly the heir apparent to some of the greatest divas that jazz has ever known.
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Along with this piece I'm attaching three links to make my point - ‘Here’s to Life,’ ‘Embraceable You' (Live at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) , and ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ - and each tune shows a different side of her tremendous, and still growing, musical personality.
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‘Here’s to Life’ is a beautiful ballad that’s been done by some of the greatest singers who’s ever lived, yet Ms. Edmond’s version is as good or better than any version of this tune that’s ever been recorded. The soaring passion that she brings to this tune makes it almost impossible for anyone who’s ever had to struggle through life’s adversities and then managed to survive to continue to fight the good fight, to listen to with a dry eye.
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'Embraceable You,' (featuring Harold Land, Jr. on piano) demonstrates the ease in which she can establish the mood of a song and captivate an audience. It also shows an artist who is so comfortable in serenading an audience that it seems like she was born on stage. And after the piano solo, notice the effortless spontaneity in which she throws in a lick that's so exquisite that it sounds like it should have been written into the tune. You won't be able to miss it, because the audience places an exclamation point of approval immediately afterward, as she casually, and routinely, moves on to the next phrase, as though it's all in a night's work. 
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Finally, she does ‘It Might As Well Be Spring,’ a tried and true jazz standard. Not everyone can do this tune well, because it’s such a jazz staple that it’s hard for a singer to put their personal stamp on it, and whenever they try, they either over sing or under sing the tune.  But Rita swings through it effortlessly and makes it her own. King Pleasure himself would smile at her rendition.
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I also wanted to add Ms. Edmond's rendition of ‘This Can’t Be Love’ as an attachment, but unfortunately, it's not available on Youtube. Nevertheless, it deserves a mention. On that tune Ms. Edmond displays yet another part of her musical vocabulary - her growing chops as a scatter and her ability to swing with the best of them. In this case, she scats in unison with yet another powerhouse, tenor sax player Ricky Woodard, and they’re pushed forward by the hard driving rhythms of Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath of the illustrious Heath Brothers on drums - and when it comes to the aristocracy of jazz, they don’t come any more blue-blooded than Tootie. So here, Rita is being tested by fire, and she literally danced through the flames with blissful abandon.
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So in spite of Ms. Edmond’s unassuming manner, whenever she picks up a mic, her tremendous confidence, individualism and flawless delivery seems to say, “There’s a new diva in town” - and I say, it’s about time! 
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Eric L. Wattree
wattree.blogspot.com
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Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everyone who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.

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