“Wouldn’t it be funny if The Finger had designed us to shit just once a week?”
- Frank O’Hara, poet
“If you should see a man…talking aloud to himself don’t run in the opposite direction…but run toward him for he is a poet…you have nothing to fear from the poet but the truth”
- Ted Joans, poet
I’m on my way to the West Coast and I just had a book party for my new book, Where the Night and Day Become One: The French Poems, which is a selection of writing between 1983 and 2017. I’m really happy about this book but, like with so many other projects, the key is will the book sell.
Unfortunately I didn’t see much through February and March due to a severe case of shingles which I found out many people have had. And boy is it painful and the pain can go on indefinitely. I’m speaking into my computer and as a result many mistakes occur [I can see Ed.], but I don’t want to drive George, my editor, crazy, so I’m changing as many of them as I can. There’s Fred Hersch solo piano racket playing in the background. Whoops, the machine actually wrote “racket” when I said record, even though it’s actually a CD. I thought I’d give you at least one example of a mistake so I left it alone. And by saying this George will also leave it alone.
Hersch has had a long career and this CD along with the book, Good Things Happen Slowly, has garnered much praise. He’s never been my thing—I get what he does and in his own right he’s an heir to Bill Evans, and though it took me years to appreciate Evans and his beauty, no one can compare—at this point in my life Evans is maybe one of my favorite artists.
In January I attended a memorial. Well, let’s call it what the organizers called it, “a musical tribute to Muhal Richard Abrams.” It was a star-studded AACM line-up that included Steve and Iqua Colson, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake reading a poem, Reggie Nicholson—who gave an astonishing solo drum performance—Thurman Barker, Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, Craig Harris, Thomas Buckner, Andrew Cyrille, Tomeka Reid, Amina Claudine Myers, Marty Ehrlich, and others. It was a long program that had to be over by 10 p.m. Last but not least on the bill was the long anticipated set by Anthony Braxton’s trio.
Braxton had spoke about Muhal earlier and while Nicholson set up he and I enjoyed a wonderful, laugh-filled, twenty-minute conversation. Though the evening was filled with many memorable moments I was completely, and I mean this, brought down when Braxton and the rest of the trio—which included Taylor Ho Bynum—approached the stage. Braxton walked off the stage toward the mic and said sorry but that there were basically only five minutes left and that he was asked not to play. Everyone was told they had to leave the room. I left to go to the subway but decided to go back to say goodbye to Braxton in the dressing room. Maybe twenty years ago he would’ve just gotten up there and played for those five minutes but maybe I’m wrong.
Some Muhal words of wisdom contained in this segment from a longer poem. This part was written at the memorial. His words are in italics:
said something about song sparrow / like a bird sound / singing songs
both relevant & not / “fugues & other forms of music reduced thru glyphs”
(i feel like a stranger an Interloper wherever i go)
said: “now one artist has a different way of crafting one’s art from
another despite what the two have in common as intellectuals”
"there are those that play along & those that play within”
& conversation continued… said that
“if i deny any part of myself i deny the truth” said that
“rule: we’re gonna start you’re gonna hit so listen.”
Another memorial I attended was for the poet and lyricist Holly Anderson who I knew vaguely. She was married to the drummer Jonathan Kane who lead the group February. I met them way back at the beginning of ISSUE Project. It was a heart-rending affair yet, as in the case with some of the testimonial presented at Muhal’s tribute, was at the same time extremely uplifting. There were speakers paying homage to Holly or reading her work. And there was lots of Holly herself doing the same while being interviewed. There was tons of music, socializing, and great food. It took place at the new ISSUE space yet at the same time there was so much warmth in the room that it felt like we were in one big living room, Jonathan and Holly’s living room. The best thing was that Holly’s presence was everywhere.
I caught an interesting house concert in Daniel Goode’s Loft, solo piano recital by Dutch composer/pianist Dante Boon. All but two of the composers were new to me, as was Boon himself. I recognized John Cage and Michael Vincent Waller, whose CD on Phill Niblock’s label I suggest you check out. The majority of the pieces ran together in what Boon described as a continuation of the Cage piece by composers influenced by his late piano music—they formed a collective called Wandelweiser. Cage said he was able to write these slow piano pieces “now that his friend Morton Feldman passed away.” It was a snowy night and the slow music fit perfectly with the mood of the weather. Waller’s pieces were the most melodic, somewhat romantic and had the feeling of Chopin, Debussy, and Mompou.
As the liners proclaim, “Hope cries for Justice is a coming together of poetry, myth, music…” That said, the new CD by Patricia Nicholson and William Parker says all that and more. From grown-up fairytales to further stories of the Tone World to seeking lost souls to being called forward to act and not sit still—with Parker on donso ngoni and bass and Nicholson, who wrote the text, on voice—it is composed of good old fashioned teaching and preaching, pleas to open our eyes to the struggle, calls for solidarity and how love can conquer oppression, all done with a relaxed but powerful and defiant narrative. On the last piece, “The Wall Between,” Nicholson intones over and over “Build a wall…” But by the end of this dramatic piece, after stating the ironies that walls are both dividers as well as unifiers, she ends the CD by intoning “a wall that is a channel,” waking us to the realization that the only way to succeed is by crossing that channel together—or we’ll drown. The CD is on Parker’s Centering Records label.
Speaking of channels, keep that dial tuned for this year’s Vision Festival, organized by Nicholson, which will take place May 23-28th in Brooklyn’s Roulette. It will honor Dave Burrell and will feature such greats as Archie Shepp, Matthew Shipp, Joëlle Léandre, Cooper-Moore, Kidd Jordan, Mary Halvorson, Jamie Branch, Kris Davis, Tyshawn Sorey, Charles Gayle, Mohammad Ali, and a host of others.
Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy is worth seeing for many reasons. The film about the sculptor/earth artist is shot beautifully and has a terrific soundtrack by Fred Frith that both blends and contrasts with the film’s natural sound. Besides the scenery, whether urban or country, it is what really makes the film. At times Frith mimics nature. But nature itself is the star. As Goldsworthy himself intones early on, “When I was young I didn’t get it. Now I realize that I just can’t distinguish. Nature is everywhere.” Though Frith’s subtlety works beautifully there is enough natural sound to sustain the film. As I once put it in a poem “…with the movement thru the trees the realist music there is…” In the end natural sound being the most revealing.
Though as Goldworthy might have it, maybe there truly is no difference between Frith’s music and the wind.