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Music and Politics
French-born Jerome Kamal is an assistant professor of jazz studies, musicology, and ethnomusicology at Washington St. Louis University. But the saxophonist is not satisfied with academic pursuits, does not want to call a teacher, but prefers to play everywhere, dive into jamming lessons and practice the instrument. .
A fascinating character who included a section on the front page devoted to analyzing the entire political frame of the 60s.
Kamal’s observations are exciting, ideologically you are not directed, and at the same time he succeeds in reviving the important characters of the season and giving them their proper place (all the examples of Frank Kofsky and Amiri Baraka are worth a little consideration today. The first in the genre). .
Kamal quotes them, he criticizes them. I note that the idea that they were “strong” in jazz has retained its appeal over the years.
Jazz studies are becoming more and more serious and philologically correct, and you’re embracing space like never before. There are writers who come up with innovative theses and unconventional readings, such as Paul Gilroy, professor of black studies at Yale University, whose Black Atlantic offers a refreshing breath of historical-political reading. geographical.
In addition to disparaging the opinions of Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, the interview also lists the jazz “politics” of the music in addition to the e-mail correspondence.
Frank Bergoglio: When talking about jazz, the civil rights movement, or the jazz of one “black nationalism,” the name and work of Frank Kofsky often comes up. After researching him for funding, what did you think of his work? Do you think it introduced too much ideology with the issues it dealt with, or is it the opposite, a period that is well represented in both Kofsky’s and Amiri Baraka’s writings?
Jerome Kamal: Kofsky is an interesting character. In fact, ideologies cover their creations with more force to challenge their rationale. An example of such an approach is the interview with Coltrane, which, despite testing him, is impossible to confirm political ideas from Coltrane.
However, some of his talking points are interestingly encountered and gather meaningful aspects: the most effective example is the description of the economic conditions in which black musicians must work. His book, Black Nationalism in Music , is perhaps ultimately more useful if read as a primary source for the ideology that avant-garde musicians informed as part of it.
FB: Amiri Baraka has become more of a sociologist in his analysis and Kofsky has become a “political” researcher of jazz… I think the aim was to explore the Marxist method of analysis in practice, right?
JK: I agree, but I think we need to think about two researchers who are both strongly politically motivated. It’s been a long time since I read The Blue Men, but Baraka seems to me to emphasize African-American culture’s response to slavery and its connection to Africa at the same time. . Baraka’s problem is based on a concept of “class” influenced by lines bordering on Marxism and existentialism. For him, the commercially successful forms of jazz and blues were corrupted by white currents. Reading him suggests that he thinks assimilation is a form of corruption; Bebop was a reassertion of the legacy of black roots in music and a move away from the white supremacy cemented in the Swing era. Many movement groups and artists listened to Baraka’s reasoning, integrating it into African-American art. As for other songs, colorist Ralph Ellison strongly disagreed with Baraka’s thesis and saw the blues as a way to celebrate the achievements of African-American art. In the blues, where Baraka tends to victimize people of color, Ellison instead points to a strong sense of representation and unity.
FB: What do you think of Coltrane’s placement course? Before you quote one of his famous interviews, the saxophonist’s timidity, like everyone else’s, is always expressed in a few words, a modest and ultimately ambiguous response to Coltraniano’s legacy. .
JK: I think that to treat Coltrane’s case, we need to look at his music from two separate perspectives. Primo: what kind of political message (if it was one of them) did Coltrane foresee in his music? From that: You mean he’s got the most diverse listeners in his music, and he’s turned to politics? In other words, I believe there is a difference between what Coltrane envisioned and how he saw his music received and interpreted. Based on this, I see Coltrane as “using” his music to unify and convey a message of universality. I like to draw parallels between his interest in modal music, particularly that of India, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s interest in the nonviolence brought about by Gandhi. In the early days of the black civil rights struggle, ML King often drew parallels between the freedom struggle in the United States and the independence movement in Africa. I can attest that both men saw their work universally. However, John Coltrane’s music was not well received, and some radicals in the civil rights movement were quick to call the saxophonist a musical representative. Coltrane is not comfortable with this idea, as Kofsky’s interview prefers to deepen his musical commentary on the human condition in more general terms. Highlighting Craig Werner, Coltrane, and Malcolm X, they both saw a changed message to themselves and used it to justify more radical goals within the Movement, whether they wanted you to or not, and their work was used and interpreted that way.
FB: Do you think there’s a connection between Americana and the “New” that harms jazz? And what kind?
JK: And there are too many questions to answer quickly. It seemed like an interesting thing to develop, but I never really thought about the connection between the New Left and music.
FB: Would you like to make a short list of political pieces that you believe are rooted in jazz history, and give a brief explanation for each?
JC: You’re my first choice is pretty obvious: We demand! Freedom now Suite (Candid 1961). This record shows many different examples of music that you can use politically. First of all, this is an example of artists of color, you use their art to reclaim power and control over your own art, your own story, your narrative. Roach’s collection tells the story of how Africans of color lived in the United States, breaking free from their experience of slavery in Africa, continuing the Emancipation Proclamation, and culminating in the struggle for rightful peers in America. in Africa. Troubled in this light, Scott Saul and Ingrid Monson are motivated to observe that the order of individual Suite pieces has changed in relation to Roach and Roach’s intended departure. Oscar Brown Jr. was predicted to go with the African section before moving on to the experience of slavery and was freed. Placing slavery at the beginning serves to ground African-American history strongly in the experience of slavery. Going to Africa would instead emphasize the African heritage of African-American culture. The second set, Freedom now Suite, also represents what Gilroy describes as a “black Atlantic”. All African American jazz is fused with Cuban music and African percussion: a great example of the ongoing cultural exchange between African peoples, Caribbean peoples, Europe and, of course, the United States. . Finally, you have to remember that the Suite is a great musical moment, where you can see advanced musical techniques being used. Max Roach uses 5/4, perhaps the answer to Take Five’s success, but with more character and bravado than Brubeck. Driva men’s “fourth” breathing tone is interesting and anticipatory of the times. The cover art, which shows some students sitting at a cafeteria counter, is provocative, and Nat Hentoff’s cover notes are also refreshingly candid and realistic reading. The second example is, of course, less well known. If you’ve written a lot about Sonny Rollins’ Freedom Suite, I’d focus on his 1956 recording of The house The live in for Prestige. It takes a hard enough conventional bop part, but it’s a great example of meaning in music. At the end of the piece, Rollins lifted each song and introduced the theme song as a tail. This spiritual later became an unofficial anthem for people of color. In the liner notes of the Prestige CD-Management, the all-inclusive recording, he explained that he appreciated the social meaning of saxophonist Robinson’s composition and wanted to reinforce the song’s ending with the words “Lift every voice”. and sing. Perhaps he wanted to respond to a recent recording of a song by Frank Sinatra. In any case, it’s interesting to note that this is the only track from that session that didn’t come directly from Prestige. I haven’t done much digging on this disc, but I think both are pretty much ignored today. If we want a complete list of parts, we should at least include Haitian Battle Song, Mingus’ Tale of Faubus, Art Blakey’s Freedom Riders, John Coltrane’s Alabama, and Archie Shepp’s Newport Jazz Festival appearance. Jackie McLean’s Ghana. Then there’s Billie Holiday’s Weird Fruit, but the list would be long…
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