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 nü-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