“For me a moment is Solid. We don’t have time but we have the moment.”
“To create art what I feel counts is to have intuition, instinct, and spontaneity.”
I find the fact that I can read difficult to comprehend, and therefore I stumble along as I do so. With writing, on the other hand, I find the process a bit more natural, though awkwardly so; it is usually one or two steps behind the thinking that creates it. This always frustrates me even though, in point of fact, both are unnatural and require learned behavior, like elections.
During the Jazz for Obama benefit at Symphony Space, Andy Borowitz stated from the stage that “watching cable news about politics is like being in a garden when you want to be in Italy.” So began a night that consisted of duos and quartets with folks like Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Jim Hall, Jimmy Heath, and Arturo O’Farrill. Geri Allen, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Peterson, and Christian McBride did the most “out” piece of the night, Ravi’s dad’s “Wise One.” Dee Dee Bridgewater and McBride did a bump-and-grind version of “Do Your Thing.” The empathetic Allen and Jeff “Tain” Watts played “Freedom Jazz Dance” with a somewhat bewildered Henry Grimes, who didn’t seem to know when to stop. There was a quartet with Brad Mehldau, who always seems a bit bipolar, and the duo of Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens, an out-of-place, female Simon and Garfunkel. The show-stoppers were McCoy Tyner in duo with Joe Lovano on two Tyner originals, “Spirit Walk, Spirit Talk” and “Search for Peace,” with Tyner so strong that for the most part Lovano stood there mute and awestruck. The night ended with Roy Haynes, “accompanied” by Lovano (again really sluggish), McBride, and pianist and event organizer Aaron Goldberg, turning in a 15-minute drum solo that caused the other band members to fall silent. Well, the elections are over but I’m not sure this concert had anything to do with Obama’s victory. Three weeks later, Tyner turned in a less-than-powerful set at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room with Gary Bartz, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette, doing what was billed as the “Gentle Side of John Coltrane”—with, ironically, DeJohnette banging his brains out.
Seventy-seven-year-old George Coleman did a smooth swingin’ set with his organ quintet at the Jazz Standard. The highlight was a rendition of “Mack the Knife” that sent me reeling.
We lost many musicians this year, among them drummer Tom Bruno, pianist Borah Bergman, and saxophonists Byard Lancaster, John Tchicai, and David S. Ware (the youngest, at 62). All contributed their voices to the “free” jazz vocabulary. It was heartbreaking to see so many great players, all of whom I knew musically and personally to varying degrees, leave us in such a short period. Ware, beside leading his own groups since his arrival in New York, played with Cecil Taylor and Andrew Cyrille and developed his own personal big sound. Lancaster and Tchicai were pillars of the ’60s avant-garde jazz scene. Bruno and Bergman, in their own unique ways, took their instruments to new places.
Another loss this fall was raconteur, eccentric, and entrepreneur Steve Paul, who together with Johnny Winter co-founded Blue Sky Records, which helped resuscitate the career of Muddy Waters. In the ’60s Steve hosted Steve Paul’s the Scene, a club that featured such notables as Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Joplin. I used to go there on weekend afternoons to catch folks like Freddie Hubbard. When I asked Steve once why he had jazz in the afternoons, he answered simply that he hated jazz and that that was reason enough. When I asked him if he liked having two first names he grinned a tired, mischievous grin.
I know my place. I’m no critic or historian or musicologist. And as I intimated at the beginning, I don’t read much. But I’ve always kept my eyes and ears open, so if I don’t let my pride, rage, jealousy, or fear get in my way, and if I don’t wonder too much about how others create their process, I’ve managed to judge clearly. As the saying goes, “Stop! Look!” and “Listen my children and you shall hear the midnight ride of” music. I wish everyone a good 2013. And as I turn Hampton Hawes up a bit let’s hope the Republicrat getting sworn in for a second term will not make things any worse.
Dedicated to all who lost life or property during Sandy—my deepest sympathies and solidarity.