John Coltrane Impressions, March 19, 1965

BOOTLEG: something bootlegged (hidden inside of tall boots), such as moonshine (illegally distilled corn whiskey) or an unauthorized audio or video recording

Throughout the 1970s-80s, duplicated cassettes of this performance were circulated amongst “the cats in the know”; Kenny Kirkland laid one on me and said, “This…is the real McCoy…” Truly, it was a profoundly and intensely heated solo by McCoy Tyner, rarely documented during that period because microphones weren’t always connected to recording equipment during live performances. There’s nothing like “live”; I loathe the process of making records, but it’s a necessary component to my economic survival as an artist. Mingus felt the same way; the real music is best captured “live”. In the studio, while you have the benefit of higher quality sound than you would from a small recording device hidden in someone’s jacket, the environment is too sterile, every single sound is micro-processed, there’s too much room for “another take” of trying to reignite the fire and creativity of the first take, when all the real essence and soul is in that take – mistakes and all. Thelonious Monk knew that. The *industry* cultivated a field by where art should only be presented in its most *perfect* form – and now, the audience demands it. Even “live”! “Commercialism”; not a wholly evil word, but it’s fairly insidious and a rather bland, flavorless concept. It’s kind of like eating fish right off the bone versus having it served deboned – closer to the bone is where the flavor is!

Closer to the source. Stay close.

The “bootleg recording” is the bane of the record industry (until they can get a hold of it), but the holy grail of all thriving artists and genuine appreciators of the music. Would John Coltrane have wanted this recording to be released commercially? We have no way of knowing. Am I glad it finally made its way to the general public? Most definitely! Principles and integrity notwithstanding, when a record company owns the master tapes, its theirs to do with what they wish – much to the chagrin of the artist. (Read before you sign, player.) A couple of years ago, the world was blessed with Unheard Bird: The Unissued Takes of Charlie Parker. They were never intended for commercial release, but *the industry* changed all of that. No disrespect to Bird – I’m oh, so glad they surfaced. I love Charlie Parker – mistakes and all! Hearing Miles Davis’ clams from the outtakes of Round About Midnight or Miles Ahead remind us that these brilliant souls are still human souls. We’re also privy to their processes. It’s crucial to be reminded that the talented, the famous, the powerful – are merely human, therefore, fragile, and in need of care and concern. (Good night, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain.) It’s difficult to remember that John Coltrane was only human. I mean, it’s biological – we know it, but there were not a hundred other John Coltranes, you dig?

1960s. The height of the civil rights movement. This performance is a social and artistic time capsule as messaged by this edition of the John Coltrane Quartet (1961-1966): McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison – each man darker than the other, expressing the kind of unapologetic, explicit blackness that makes the fearful feel threatened, but compels the enlightened to feel joy. McCoy has effectively and joyfully set the tone for praise, celebration, worship, honor, love, and rejoicing. This hypnotic, intoxicating vortex of sound coming from these young Black men, from the tiny stage inside of the Half Note club in lower Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood (now Sprouts Deli) was a striking contrast to the soundtrack of the rest of the nation outside of it and the powers that had been trying to silence the voices and still the joy within.

To no avail, you devils. You can’t keep me down. We are human beings expressing from within; not expressing hate, but responding to it.

The wicked SHALL cease from troubling.

We must continue to force white America to face its demons and its past. Persistently insist on holding up the mirror to white America’s original intentions – which never included anything aside from the hope that being white was and would remain a defining attribute of participating in American life.” (Richard Klayman)

Well, you shouldn’t have brought me here. This is not your country. You stole it! Now, acknowledge, make whatever amends can be proffered, and move…over.


4 thoughts on “Impressions

  1. I was with you throughout until the last couple paragraphs. I’m white, and as far as I know I’m not a devil, have no demons controlling me, and I’ve never hated anyone. Some folks doing bad things 200 years ago has absolutely to do with me. I don’t speak from hate.

    • Mr. Roberts:

      Thank you for your comment. Edwin Hawkins brought our paths together in this forum. You’ve stated you love God and that you hope your writings might be helpful to someone else. I believe you.

      What’s important to detect here is context. There are several lines in my post that harken back to terminology from older generations from a different time; perhaps I need to elaborate on my points, which I’m happy to do.

      In this context, “White America” is not an all-inclusive term. Largely, it’s a term used to define a specific demographic of White Americans endeavoring to maintain control of the country, and to keep life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness within the realm of straight, white males. It’s the “White America” that Pat Buchanan is afraid will end because of social diversity.

      “To no avail, you devils. You can’t keep me down.”

      If you are not trying to keep me down, then, this admonishment is not directed towards you. Here are the devils: the promulgators of slavery, European religious emissaries acting on the behest of their benefactors touting colonialism, racists, sexists, imperialists, populists, fascists, radical religious evangelicals who vote their politics over their consciences. Are you any of them? If not, this post is not directed at you; you took unnecessary offense. The perpetrators of these egregious offenses look like you, but that’s not your fault.

      If this post ruffled your feathers in any way, I am not sorry, as this was not meant to be a feel-good message. But, I’ll bet you got bugged enough to respond to my post because you recognize that we are at a low point in society. I am through living my life so that unenlightened white people can feel more comfortable with my blackness. I want people to get mad, and I want them to act – in good conscience, wisely, and valiantly.

      • Actually, you do – you just don’t know you do, especially, if you live in the United States. And, unless you don’t watch or read any news at all, you’ll recognize many of them in positions of authority in this country and in churches that purport themselves to be Christians…and no, you are not “the kind” I wrote about – that’s my exact point.

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