Saturday, November 07, 2015


Beneath the Spin * Eric L. Wattree

When I sat as a child, untested by trial, 
isolated and alone in my room,
my mother was concerned that I never yearned
for what a child was expected to pursue.
No toys or noise, or shootin' marbles with the boys,
laughter or playing for me.
It was always sitting and staring out at life,
and preparing for what I knew it would be.
I could see life coming, don't ask me how, 
but something told me that life was no game.
When we sang songs in school 
that made kids happy as a rule,
all I could here was Miles as he Brood.
Miles, Trane, Jackie, and Bird,
that's all I ever heard.
Observing oppression and indignity while 
my people 'Danced In The Street,'
rendered the joys of Motown absurd.
Never free to enjoy the delusions of childhood,
from infancy, to the concerns of man. 
It was all a part of the Black experience -
I'd love to live it over again.
When Jackie McLean first appeared on the scene, he swung it like nobody else. He stood all alone, with that bittersweet tone, owing nobody, only himself. With his furious attack he could take you back to the beauty of Yardbird’s song, but that solemn moan made it all his own, as burning passion flowed lush from his horn. Hearing “Love and Hate” made Jazz my fate, joyous anguish dripped blue from his song. He both smiled and cried and dug deep-down inside, until the innocence of my childhood was gone.
He took me to a place that had no face, I was so young when I heard his sweet call, but he parted the fog and in no time at all, a child of bebop sprung fully enthralled. As I heard this new sound, and embraced the profound, childish eyes now saw as a man. I stood totally perplexed, but I couldn’t step back, from the hunger of my mind to expand.
I saw Charlie and Lester, and a smiling young Dexter, as I peered into Jackie’s sweet horn; it was a place that I knew, though I’d never been to, but a place that I now call my home.
So who did I turn to, when nobody needed me?
I reached within, nourished my mind,

and let destiny free me. 


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. 
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.       
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
Toward the end 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 a generation of musicians who came along behind him, and who didn’t have a vision of their own, built an entire musical movement based on what Miles created to accommodate his old age and disability - we call it "Fusion."


Eric L. Wattree
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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