Wynton Marsalis Discussion Forum

   

Go Tell It On the Mountain

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It is truly a shame that most of today’s jazz musicians do not know the real roots of jazz. The only mainstream artist that seems to understand this is Sean Jones who came out with a Roots CD a while back. It would be great if he chimed in on these discussions since he is in the J@LCO as Karen mentioned.

I was in fact listening to the Kim Burell song “I come to thee” as I was preparing to worship this morning.  I so dig those words “I come to thee broken, only if you would just touch me” because they really do speak to my existence right now. In essence I am a true worshiper once called a woman after God’s on heart. Unfortunately every anointed person must go through a wilderness experience in order to reach their destiny. (BTW, if their some prayin folks out their I forgot how sexy a black jazz artist can be, because there is nothing finer than a brother in church asking a sista’ lunch, but this sista is on lock down until those papers come through. Instead of an Amen, can I get an alimony. Don’t hate the playa hate the game, lol).

 

Normally when I play my trumpet at church I just focus on praising the Lord and just blessing people, but the dialogue on this forum has really forced me to focus on the theory behind a lot of the music.  My dad’s church is an old black baptist southern church, so all the music is by ear.  Just as an aside, some of yall hip Yankees up north should come south of the Mason Dixon some time, then I wouldn’t have spend so much time educating you young bucks about black American history. If you come don’t stay in some swanky hotel like the Ritz Carlton in Tyson’s II (great place where I spent my wedding night) or Watergate near the Kennedy Center or in Buckhead in Atlanta, spend some time with some poor colored folk for goodness sake, lol. And New Orleans doesn’t count that is creole culture which has a completely different flavor than the rest of the south, I am talking about the Dirty South. Why ?

 

Because no offense, but I really don’t think anyone can truly talk intelligently about the roots of jazz unless they spent time rolling around on the Old Chitlin circuit and really hearing old black Gospel music. Me and my family still roll around on it, because daddy is one of those old baptist fire and brimestone preachers like Dr. King and used to be a personal friend of Rev. Jesse Jackson.

 

Most of the music played on the Chitlin circuit has never truly been put through the rigors of academia, so once again oral history is trumped by written history. Soon I may have to call the dude at UVA who is doing an ethnographic study on black music, and help him out with his project, because it is seriously ridiculous how black contributions continue to get lost because of the oral nature of our African heritage. NAS the most intelligent MC on the planet is the only one holding it down in that regard right now, because his father was a jazz musician. Listen to “I Know I Can” you will hear the truth about real history. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxOEwGn_2Z4 .

 

Everytime I listen to this song I am so sickened by the jazz community who alienate and disenfranchise black youth because of their bigotry and snobbery. That is because the jazz world is infiltrated by weak minded individuals, who can’t learn anything outside of a classroom. They need someone at Juliard or some other place to spoon feed them information and instead of seeking the truth for themselves. I am not dogging formal musical training I just think like all formal education it strips people of their ability to think. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Bill Gates is a billionaire and didn’t go to school. Like Bob Marley said “emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.”

 

I AM the black Moses of mental slavery, leading people along the intellectual underground rail road that 400 years of miseducation still leaves people stuck in the prison of their minds. I have said it once and I’ll say again “they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit AND in TRUTH. AND you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” All ya’ll house slaves and Uncle Toms stay where you are, give me the field Negros who want to steal away”. People with a field negro mentality understand: THE MAIN ROOTS OF JAZZ are gospel/negro spirituals which have the some of the same changes as the blues.

 

Bill Evans in that stupid interview that someone put on this forum talked about how the improvisation of jazz music came from classical music. Right because all those gospel/negro spirituals and then blues and jazz were pain stakingly written on staff paper by people who weren’t allowed to read but some how magically knew the European notation system. Almost EVERYTHING in black music is improvisation because most black musicians can’t read music at all or even understand a thread of real theory. 

 

Case and point the music at church this morning played by a 60 year old piano player who couldn’t read music but could kill all the tunes with great chord progressions and improv techniques. Playing with her was so fun because thanks to this forum for the first time I really began to hear the changes and understand them from a theoretical stand point. One particular song that was fun to play was the old negro spiritual-Go Tell It On the Mountain. I figured out that you could just play a blues scale over the crazy chords and inversions she was playing. We talked about it afterwards and she talked about how she has been playing since she was 5 but could only play in one key D flat. This key is what almost every traditional gospel player must play in, because if you get a Kirk Franklin Song book you will find that he plays in that key. D flat is in fact a slave scale and is played on all of the black keys of the piano (Fruedian Slip).  I guess Stevie Wonder was so revolutionary because he was blind and figured out that Ebony and Ivory work together in harmony. And don’t even get me started about the late great Ray Charles who I had the honor of playing with. Again African tradition is ORAL so I don’t think its a mistake that you had these blind black men who could hear and play so well. They didn’t require music they used their ear to guide them not a European System of notation that later high jacked jazz music. Innovators don’t need to write down stuff they just hear it directly from God and just act.  The Kind of Blue Album by Miles was almost completely improved and didn’t have any real written music. Also if you jazz snobs are hip to Isaac Hayes you would know that Shaft wasn’t produced with any music either, because Hayes could barely read music.

 

All this being said, I think it will be my life’s duty, if Wynton wants to be Goliath of music then I will gladly play King David. I wonder how many forum posts will it take for him to come find me and jack me up ? LOL. In all seriousness though, I think studying gospel theory will more readily make it easier for people to understand and strengthen the connection between jazz, gospel, and other African American genres of music. Weak roots cause a tree to die slowly, but once reconnected with its roots it can be placed back near the rivers of Babylon where my people still cry. NWA never, Christafarian definitely ;)

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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Saw Ellis Marsalis Quartet play at St. Louis Cathedral tonight.  Jason played too.  His intro was all funk and jump on the tune “Little Drummer Boy”.  Jessie McBride sat in on piano for two tunes.  They closed with a swinging Go Tell It On The Mountain that had the standing room only crowd singing along. 

It was great to be able to catch that show, especially because the Red Hot Holiday Stomp was this weekend and I am far from NYC.  Apparently not too far, though…  The church is lovely, that’s the one that our President Bush spoke in front of in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  I was wondering about that Prof Jessie McBride though.  He plays at Snug with a group called The Next Generation of Jazz Allstars.  I heard him speak at a conference on New Orleans Jazz at Dillard and he was talking about how he came up with the concept of the Next Generation.  This info got me thinking, hmmm, did he ever post on this forum?

 

So back to “swinging”.  For me, it’s like this, swing refers to how a rhythmic pattern feels and that feeling of swing is based in New Orleans aesthetic sensibilities.  It makes the music feel like jazz.  But what about when the same pattern is played but it feels like “__________” based in African aesthetic sensibilities.  What would that word be?  I am looking to coin a term here.  The feeling of the pattern changes when expressed in the African vernacular.  It’s like Cuban clave and Ga clave.  The feeling and timing shift in this subtle way that is even based in the verbal expression of the people playing the music. 

So, what I am getting at here is depending on where the Mountain is standing tall, the people are gonna tell it a little bit different. 

 

Happy Sunday Y’all!

     
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Sista Karen I really thank you for providing me with so much great dialogue about music, it is truly a great distraction from the War of Cameroonian Aggression. In fact I am procrastinating right now from going to visit my high powered Jewish attorney so we can strategize against the Prince of Zumanda from stealing his royal heirs, the fruit of my womb. If you are not married Karen, let me warn you against marrying an African, they may have the same color and are fine as hell, but good Lord are they crazy. Seriously when a man says “I am going to send you back to your parents”, you know ya’ll have some serious cultural issues, lol. Brotha man, I am a PROUD black woman, not a herd of defecting goats or tv. Where in my user’s manual does it say return to the factory if defective, ROFL.  I don’t know how they do it in Africa, but in America if you broke it you bought it, live with it.

Anywhoo, Karen I don’t know if you have ever heard or studied from other parts of the African Diaspora. Clearly I have traveled through out Africa and the Caribbean. I don’t think you will meet a more proud young Pan Africanist than me, except my boy Bokar Ture who is the son of Kwame Ture aka Stockley Carmichael (Bokar is so fine, btw, but again TOO African).  If you listen to Reggea, Ska, Sokous, Mokassa or Zouk you will find that there is an element of Swing, which sweetheart translates to a whole lot of swinging in the hips. Some people forget that jazz is about dancing. Most of today’s modern jazz swings but you can’t dance to it, which is another reason why it is a dying music in America.

 

Music to me is about language also. The king’s English is great in a scholarly setting but it doesn’t challenge the imagination. Concert hall jazz to me is king’s jazz, but I personally don’t want to hear that all the time. I want something earthy, sexy and soulful. Like I always say “if it aint rough it aint right.” That is why I love pimp language as well and which was once very much the language of jazz artists. So let me break out of my Dr Wahoo persona for a second and be Ms Lady Miles or what the fellas at Morehouse used to call me Lady Mac. Now Dr Wahoo might say “I find estrangement from my husband very challenging to my emotional well being and I lament the lost of the deep physical and emotional connection we once had. ” Very appropriate in a upper middle class Christian setting. However, if I am chillin with my musician friends being Lady Miles aka Lady Mac I am going to say “Yo I am a pimp by blood so that blues by Jill Scott is wearin on a sista. I can’t wait until my emancipation so I can get into some mo betta blues. Cuz ya’ll know who Whodini said who comes out at night, right ? ”

 

Like Calvin Klein says “style is about appropriateness”. Stylistically Europeans really have nothing to offer to jazz. In terms of musicality, African aesthetics is the under lying drive to New Orleans, jazz and other forms of black genres of music. However, Europeans are very good at providing structure and order to things so that they can become institutionalized for the greater good of humanity. In essence by the way this is the difference between Eastern and Western Medicine. Western Medicine provides much better diagnostic and surgical techniques than Eastern Medicine. This is why Western Medicine is much more precise. Likewise, jazz in its rawest form is very imprecise and doesn’t have a high level of sophisticated form, which can be fun to play but makes it very inefficient to learn. What Europeans provided to jazz was an efficient way to learn it, but in no way shape or form really provided anything to its musicality or style.

 

Karen from your post, you really make me want to come down to New Orleans. I quite honestly have lived a VERY sheltered existence and thus have never enjoyed the French Quater. Like a traditional high class southern belle I went from my father’s house, to the “sorority” house to my husband’s house. I was married at 19, so that whole sorority house/college life time was very short. Don’t even get me singing the I-missed-out-on-my 20s-therefore-never-went-to-Madi-Gras-Blue.  However, the day of my emancipation will soon be here and Lady Miles will most certainly be on the prowl.

 

So Karen is it true that what happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans ?  The theme song of this year for me is “You’ll Never Know What Life Will Bring” so who knows what next year’s song will be. In any case I am done procrastinating or maybe I will take a nap, this week is so going to suck.

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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I can dance to jazz.  It’s all about improvisation.

     
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Come on even Be Bop ? What kind of moves do you do to Donna Lee ? LOL. You can maybe wiggle to be bop but not some sexy dance of seduction, lol.

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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Because I dance African styles and went out for years on Saturday night to the Latino club for live percussion, my styles seriously blended.  So it was really organic to find the corresponding rhythms for the African movement inside Latin Jazz and dance those African steps to the Latin beat but with a salsa flavor to the shimmy.  I even got to perform with Rachel Z’s trio up in NYC last year.  Her bassist Mave went to New School and they had an artist from Ghana in and out during her program so she can bring it when it comes to Africa and Jazz.  Bobbie Ray too, their drummer, is multiculturally minded and it’s all in his drum kit.  I came from an African dance/drum camp to do the show with them so my dances that night were mostly African vocabulary with Modern changes in relation to the meaning, mood, intensity, and tempo.  I enjoyed that one very much.  There is one tune, “Saints of New Orleans”, that I danced to which they wrote for Katrina.  That was truly a spiritual experience for me. 

If you are interested, you should by all means check out New Orleans.  There are festivals and cultural events absolutely every weekend.  There is plenty to do and a large variety of music to be heard.  The newest group on the scene would be the Fatien Ensemble.  Their first gig was on Nov 20 at Snug Harbor.  It’s West Africa meets Jazz in New Orleans done extremely well.  They need a cd. 

 

I know Wynton and them will be down here to play the Congo Square at the end of April.  I think I’ll need to take the week off so I can come out and play!  What about you, Sister Wahoo?  (You know, I have to confess my Sicilian roots…)