Tomorrow morning there will be reports of throngs. We should ask before the fact: to what end? Without the consequence of something better -- for you, for your neighbors, for me, for my family -- then we do nothing but squander optimism.
Therefore we should keep in mind the words of the Frederick Douglass, who should be thought of today like the ghost of emancipation future and the ghost of emancipation past all tangled into a single figure. Speaking before people of impatience over 150 years ago he gave us today's lesson:
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.
-- An address on West India Emancipation
Today's challenge will be to take this precursory conjuring into our hands -- it's a sacred relic and a mojo that we should spread -- and remake it into our new conjuring of struggle to remake this nation in our image. Thus today is our beginning, when we make ours the consequence of a better world occasioned by the President's inauguration.
Today this President opens our door. We must live up to his faith in us by walking through and making a new politics, one that drops the grievances of the past, especially the immediate past, and one that begins the real work that we have left undone for so many decades.
Reminders from the prophetic tradition:
How much can get undone in one day? That's to be seen. In the mean time, there are already 100s of 1000s lined up to help w/ the work.
An' a city that already looks like America is now looking more like America.
It's that big.
A while ago, at least for those who grew up when Coleman Hawkins was alive, The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz surveyed the circumference of jazz. I can remember sitting in my room nexta the rekkid playa trynta to put every note of songs like "Harlem Air Shaft" to memory in case I wore the groove flat and I could not find another copy. The collection's purpose was simple: You went in looking for giants and you found 'em.
And yet, you'd listen and no matter where you listened there was no room for Maceo Parker next to John Coltrane, or even Skip James next to Billie Holiday. For every "Lonely Woman," there were 100s of other ones not on the tracklist.
Here is where the Art Ensemble of Chicago comes in. The professors offered a course of "great black music, ancient to future." Although many saw the reference looking backward as a creator of a tradition, in my blindness, I always saw it as forward looking. I could see all around, from vaudeville and ragtime and field songs to Bootsy Collins and Malachi Thompson and Kool Herc.
In this time after, chaboy Allen Lowe*has taken 36 discs to fall short in 1950, proving that circumference a.) is too big to measure and therefore, b.) is a dangerous science. He's composed a quirky box that only sends the listener back to gaze in the fire looking for more because so much is missing, even before 1950. It's no longer about the giants; it's about all them devils living in the details.
The work of making history is really the work of making a beautiful story. Every attempt to tell the story from the beginning is never more than a story where you start out from the end. With this understanding, I take my own devilin' view of things as if there is a panhiphop tradition. That's cause there's angels in the details, angels.
So one place to begin might be at the end of 2008, where chaboy Trav @ radio WYDU has left a cookie jar of 200 tracks from the last year. There's more going on here than in any top 10. I'm'a listen for some mo angelin' tunes.
In the mean time, why'on't you stare into this fire:
- Art Ensemble of Chicago, "Nice Guys"
- Bert Williams & George Walker, "My Little Zulu Babe"
- Elzhi, "Motown 25 (feat. Royce da 5'9")"
* I am amused by, but not convinced by, much of what Allen Lowe has to offer as jazz history. He is correct to check Marsalis and Burns for their errors, but he does not always correct them from any vantage point.
In 1983, our hero told Nelson George, "No conflicts are resolved."
But Marvin's life isn't divided at all. The real problem is that it includes everything -- without resolution. Cocaine & prayer & pussy & taxes & Berry & Anna & music w/out writing it & lyrics & hired songwriters & doowop & funk & jazz & soul & interplanetary anger & shootdowns off of the streets. You cannot hear Marvin as segments of opposites. You have to hear all of it at once.
Take on these three, as if they were all done by the same person:
Who's that gigolo on the street
With his hands in his pockets and his crocodile feet
Hanging off the curb, looking all disturbed
At the boys from home.
- Don Cherry, "Brown Rice"
NB: Beginning of a new thread, just taking from what' on the top of the week's stack of listening. Only rule is that it has to have been played more than once in the last seven days. It also solves a productivity problem -- less writing/mo listening.
P E A C E
Jaki Byard was topping the stacks in December, getting air among holiday James Brown recordings. There are times when it feels like the brother Jaki is trying to pack all of history into a single song.
Here's his lesson (delivered to Marty Erlich in a long lost interview): ''I played Bud Powell solos, and that was a phase. Then there was Garner, and that was a phase, and then Tatum, and then finally I decided to put everything together and say the hell with it, this is it.''
Dig these. Two footnotes, one from the beginning and one from the end: