Wednesday, July 7, 2010

remembering brother jack mcduff (2)

remembering brother jack mcduff
(1926 -2001)

one of the funkiest, most soulful styles
of all time his blues-soaked solos &
rock solid basslines balanced by repetitive
grooves, melodies, & melodic hooks
revealed an artist in full possession
of his voice as an organist in the formative
soul jazz genre that lifted him up from the
earth & drew unto him no less than
george benson & boss tenor gene jughead
ammons who together on one date built the
architecture of the soul jazz vernacular to
span hard bop & jazz-funk to sundry acid
jazz destinations, & for brother jack to earn
the esteem & respect conveyed by the
honorific “brother” which encoded his
elevated status within the idiom.

©Joseph McNair;2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

remembering jimmy mcgriff (1)

Remembering Jimmy McGriff

he played jazz as dance
music, whether it was music
by basie, bird, ray charles
or james brown. Over swing,
shuffle & funk rhythms, he
laid down a focused blues homily
that perorated through his solos
with gospel-like intensity.
A charismatic, his soul jazz style
was spirited, gifted & sophisticated
his propulsive rhythmic feel capable
of exhuberant declamation &
persuasion. He could make that B3
say ow! Gave it essential nonverbal
elements of communication
that modified meaning & emotion
made that organ scream! establishing
his creds as a fire breathing blues-
based organist, well-versed in
gospel soul with a ha'mercy funky

© Joseph McNair;2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

for black arthur blythe (10)

for black arthur blythe

the abstract awoke in him, caused something to stir something interesting, something organic, something free in young black arthur’s blithe spirit; an event in consciousness -- an interaction in presence between artist & seminal tone, an aural vision of the sacred, a hierophany, received from tapscott in the sanctum of the pan-afrikan peoples arkestra, in his spirit’s womb chamber, that called out his consciousness, made it helically move, spiral up; pushed him out on popular bandstands. made him existentially play, his baroque tone, rich & husky, a passionate wail on high, a sweat-soaked pulsating vibrato trailing in its wake, weaving an exquisite tapestry of melody around occult scale patterns, stretching the blues to the edges of improvisation – too out for popular breakthough & an obvious target for the inevitable pushback of negation – the trial, terror error & experience of rejection, incredulity pushing him back & into the umbra of a dazzling winton’s shadow, into an unlikely wood shed. he laid there & he played there until possessed by the wave/shades of older styles which took his head, pierced the flat, polished surfaces of his genius. & he embraced them, those ghostly remembrances, held them close, closer than haunting; heard the whole of jazz’s historical process in their stylings, in his own homagic practiceplay. heard the progression from bleak self–alienation to self–unification & realization; heard implicit contradictions become explicit & knew suddenly that each stage of that process – the blues, ragtime, dixieland, swing, bebop, progressive, cool, free, hard bop, latin, post-bop, fusion nĂ¼-jazz – is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage. understood that what comes into being is, at the same time, returning to nothing, connected only by ephemeral tendrils of crafted sound, the sound of becoming. & in the darkest part of that shadow, black arthur had his epiphany – to sublate the negation he must preserve in his playing useful portions of the past the riffs, the runs, the licks & chops; the methods of creation & divergent personal styles – while moving beyond their limitations; breathe/blow into & out of his alto a new dialectic – & he stepped out of the shadow, played the abstract concrete; played joyfully free.

© Joseph McNair;2010