For the final day of 2015 I have selected three pieces
For the final day of 2015 I have selected three pieces. The first, entitled After the Dead, is a dirgey solo trumpet fanfare that was written for John Singleton’s mid-90’s film, Rosewood.
It is an extended blues with a thematic rhythmic relationship to the opening phrases of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. It ends with intervalic jumps reminiscent of the posthorn solo in Mahler’s 3rd symphony. In old Austria, postmen would announce the mail from their horses with little bugles. Different postmen and mail stations would have different calls. This tradition always struck me as similar to the vegetable men and other street peddlers we heard as kids in the neighborhood. Each had their own way of letting you know who they were, and that they were coming.
Fanfares signal the beginnings and ends of things. From war cries on some ram’s horn or hollowed out leg bone to Louis Armstrong’s West End Blues on the modern trumpet, some type of triplet is involved,
some type of open 4th or 5th interval, and some style of warning or cry. That’s just what trumpets are made to do, signal things.
The next piece was written for Congo Square, a piece composed with master drummer Yacub Addy. This version was recorded during Jazz at Lincoln Center’s historic 2010 residency in Cuba. It is entitled the Sanctified Blues and is written in the infectious New Orleans Second Line parade rhythm.
After every dance gig in New Orleans, regardless of idiom, we play a second line. This piece combines the New Orleans clarinet/soprano saxophone obligato and the trombone tailgating with the classic four part tutti voicing of a swing band. It goes through a series of keys and employs contemporized Crescent City-style melodic riffs which sometimes are played on the other side of the beat.
Ali kicks it off. I always love hearing him play the Crescent City groove, because he gets deeper into the feel than anyone I’ve ever heard who is not from New Orleans. His playing in this style speaks to his understanding of the universal nature of Afro-inflected drum grooves, his grounding in traditional American marching-style drumming, and to his knowledge of and belief in the meaning of New Orleans music. This depth of information and feeling allows him freely integrate his own contemporary concepts without losing the festive and communal essences that make the groove what it is.
The end of a new year brings about renewal. For me, Ali and his generation always represents a regeneration of this music. His father, Ali Jackson Sr., was a great bassist and teacher. In the early 90’s, Ali and a group of young teenagers would always come to our concerts in and around Detroit. From deep in the hood, they were always very well dressed, serious but full of youthful exuberance, and would hang to the very bitter end.
In addition to his natural abilities, Ali brings all that his father taught him and the collective knowledge and aspirations of Detroit musicians like drummers Roy Brooks and his uncle Oliver Jackson. He was also smart enough as a youngster to check out great contemporary drummers like Lewis Nash and Greg Hutchinson, and also to learn directly from Tain Watts and Herlin Riley how to play the fundamentals our still unnamed, comprehensive modern style of jazz. As he grew older and combined all of the elements that comprise his personal style, it became something very inclusive, original and special.
Ironically, these two pieces feature trumpet and drums. I really didn’t think about it, but that’s a good way to end the year. Trumpeters are connected with drummers throughout history. We started on battlefields, gave meaning to rituals and ceremonies, elevated courts and special occasions, and ended up on bandstands swinging people into the night. So we are today, still together playing fanfares and cadences and trying to handle our business.
We conclude with Curtain Call from Citi-Movement. The title tells us…that’s it. It features the soulful musicians of the Septet doing their thing. Herlin on his signature sanctified tambourine, Wess calling on the spirit to bless us all, Cone bringing down the Holy Ghost, Todd Williams calling on the ancestors, Eric Reed bringing clarity to ecumenical matters at hand, and Veal tying it all together. This prepares us for tomorrow’s post from the unreleased Abyssinian Mass, Anthem.
Happy New Year.