Somehow, Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” popped into my head, incessantly swirling around my mind all morning, compelling me to address whatever emotions or thoughts need to be expressed. I can’t recall ever hearing Stevie Wonder referred to as a prophet, but if anyone fits the description, he surely does.
One of the beautiful things about art is that every eye can see and every ear can hear something quite different in scope. The points of view are never a matter of right or wrong, but of perspective based on one’s own experiences.
“Dissipation, race relations, consolation, segregation, dispensation, isolation, exploitation, mutilation, mutation, miscreation, confirmation, to the evils of the world.”
“Jazz” is a word for which many find themselves provoked to myriad reactions. It’s been labeled a “four-letter word”, almost derogatory in nature. For some, it’s a way of life worthy of jingoistic worship accompanied by flag-waving and idolization. Still, for others, it’s a most limited form of codification that should be thoroughly abolished, killed, buried, and epitaphed: “Here lies Jazz: 18?? – 1959”. Jelly Roll Morton boldly claimed he invented Jazz, while Nick LaRocca claimed to have done the same, but vehemently arguing, “Our music is strictly white man’s music…My contention is that the Negroes learned to play this rhythm and music from the whites…The Negro did not play any kind of music equal to white men at any time.” In the ways of the world, adults claim to be so much wiser than children. How ironic that children aren’t born with hatred and prejudice, but are taught these behaviors by people who were once children – and evil becomes “the way of the world.”
When I first started listening to Jazz as a child, the term had little meaning for me; it was merely the sound and the faces of Bobby Timmons, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Doug Watkins, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Ramsey Lewis, Eldee Young, Red Holt, Dave Brubeck, Joe Morello, Eugene Wright, and Paul Desmond. I saw the word “Jazz” on these record covers and in liner notes, and did not see it on the other albums I had by James Cleveland, Edwin Hawkins, Marvin Gaye, Raymond Lewenthal, Andre Watts, The Beatles, Tennessee Ernie Ford, or Fred Waring, and I’m certain I made no connection (or distinction, as it were), but inherently knew that the sounds were different. However, for me, different did not imply negative back then. (That unfortunate philosophy would be forced on me much later as a teenager.)
“Been wasting most their time, glorifying days long gone behind. Been wasting most their days in remembrance of ignorance oldest praise.”
Having been born just after the falling action of the Civil Rights Movement my view of the so-called Jazz world was quite romanticized with images of the hustle and bustle of 52nd Street, touring bands, Herman Leonard shots, the iconic graphics of record labels designed by Blue Note, Columbia, and Impulse!, fashion-plated musicians and singers. I wasn’t privy to the experiences of racism, oppression, police brutality, self-destruction, jealousy, competition, egotism, deception, and megalomania within the community, because my only experience was through the records. My imagination was Utopian, but the reality was closer to Dystopian. I’d no clue as to exactly what drove Charlie Parker to such brilliant heights, I could only frustratingly ponder why alto saxophonists of later generations who contained only a tiny fraction of Bird’s abilities could somehow become the new paradigm…alas, THIS was the trap!
“Proclamation of race relations, consolation, integration, verification of revelations, acclamation, world salvation, vibrations, stimulation, confirmation to the peace of the world.”
Sadly, the powers that be run the show. If you want to succeed in the music industry, you have to play their game. On the artistic front, be YOURself, respect YOURself, do YOUR thing. If you’re in it for fame and glory, I feel for you – but, I won’t judge you. But, if you have something to say, keep saying it over and over – somebody will hear you, and you will have an impact, perhaps not in your lifetime and in the way you’d hope, but not in vain.
“Let’s start living our lives, living for the future paradise.”