Check In w/ the Blue Mirror


What We're Hearing: Pops Alone and Together

The more we hear this piece, the more we hear a before and after story about ensemble playing.

There is one approach to the ensemble at the beginning, one where the melody is owned collectively. The ensemble rolls for foaty seconds w/ the 4 piece rhythm section, making a deep bottom. It's all for one.

Then there's a cornet/banjo break, followed by the clarinet/banjo break, really just set ups for the drama of the big pops solo moment that gets all of the attention. (Johnny Dodds squallers his response in contrast to Pops' first break, which is short, dynamic and versatile, and we don't knock it, but because it comes after, it sounds like he's just trynta shout over Pops' imagination, especially in the first two or three bars of his second run through of the chorus.)

And we don't argue the fact that from about a minute and fifty to about two and thirtyfive, pops the soloist is all there is, maybe all there is in the universe -- Emerson's transparent eyeball. We all already know that that's why we call him Pops: he fathered the 20th century by being all of it and by giving it all of his being. So when Ted Gioia or Terry Teachout* make their appropriate and now canonical claim that this is the moment when he's 'venting modern jazz, they are stating a matter of fact.

But our attention is drawn to the one for all final chorus, the last 25 seconds of the song. The melody is reframed, and it makes a new sense, not because of the solo runs leading into it; they are just drama. Rather because Pops owns the whole thing and the ensemble is hanging in w/ his every not making groove groove, making the song really sing.

We're not certain this is modern vs. old NO any more than it is Pops vs. the band. We think it goes a different way. We think Hot 7 had to make a song out of those solo choruses, a song w/ enough drama to take back the hearts and minds of the audience after the solos. And in this case they did so by exceeding themselves as soloists, as difficult as that may seem in hindsight.

We also think this is part of the essential knowhow that Pops brings to the game when he is on his best. He uses the solo and the ensemble, the one for all and all for one, to great dramatic purpose. We don't need to strum our fingers over the body of his work. We just need to press play on "Struttin' with Some Barbecue." It is a scientist's simple lesson on the interplay between individual and group making the most memorable drama.

Take it. Take it.


* "However 'Potato Head Blues' came to be, it is one of the greatest solos recorded by a jazzman, a landmark of modern music that long ago achieved iconic status, both music and cultural."


Erzulie, Make Us Reach in the Files

The trick in ancient to future is to be in more than one time at a place. Like Erzulie, who's both rada and petwo. It's the old tricky like this, tricky like that manuva. Chea.

A weekend ago, the VV threw us a clue in this direction and asked us to pay attention to Greg Nice. We took it up like a gift left on the roadside, and started digging though the Nice and Smooth crates. Cause this is how we take.

As we lissened, what we found was a profound betweenness to their work. It was more than the dang diggy dang wordplay of the late 70s, and it had more than the odor of the streets that rap took up quick in the first new school. There was a love of the dancehall, a love of the battle, a love of the streets and a love of the afrofuture in egypt jewel of the nile. It's all packed in the titles, lyrics and music of two songs, "Old to the New" and, even moreso, "Same Old Brand New Style (I Can't Wait)." These two mouthfuls would feed a supperful of hungry posts here at the redlight. To paraphrase, We are always impatient for the recurrence of the old in the definitively new. Always for the first time, and for the first time, just like always. Ahh, effervescence.

In fact, just like when you call on the loa, you get more than you ask for. And it was then that we heard Dewey Redman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, the masters of conjurng the old and the new. Can't wait, you dig?

So let's cite the bullets

While we're on this, let's mark again: we have much to say about Smooth's verse in Same Old. Brovah calls a lotta names, but finally gets to this:

I'll beat you like Bruce, when he turned into Cato.
Who be the winner, the snake or the monkey?
Hard to tell, but this beat, this sh*t sure is funky.

We are not sure what's going on here, but this is what we mean when we say, you see? Sh*t made us break out the Harold Courlander (you know, the new school remake of the prewar sociology and anthropology, and an old school folklore author) and ask all about the snake and the monkey, cause it's one of those things that makes you go hmmmm... while you're walking to the library. And we found some good stuff 'bout gold weights and such, but nothing that stuck the snake in a tangle w/ a monkey. So we asked the internets and we got a reference to some razzledazzle, and even if it has nothing to do w/ snake and monkey proper, we're gonna call it.

That's the way Lady Erzulie would call it, too, in the in between of the in between.

Rock on. Shock on. Get on. Get on.
Rock on. To the breakadawn.