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June 01, 2004

A Noble Sound

I've always been a fan of Wynton Marsalis. The last album of his that I purchased was 'Blood on the Fields', a large work evoking the American nightmare of slavery. I don't often listen to it. To be honest, I haven't listened to the whole thing at one sitting to absorb its import. But there are several cuts with which I'm quite familiar, my favorites being 'You Don't Hear No Drums' and 'Calling The Indians Out'. What I didn't know was that this 2CD collection won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1997. The Pulitzer Prize for Music? I didn't know there was such a thing, and yet there it is.

I don't have quite enough Wynton in my rotation, so I'm ripping a few more CDs this morning. I chuckle to note that J Mood still has its 9.99 price tag, purchased in the days before it was possible or worthwhile to share digital music, 1986. I am fond of J Mood, not only because its title cut was the first of Wynton's to make airplay on KJLH, LA's R&B station, but because in that album he answered his critics who said he was a bit too sterile.

Yet it wasn't until Levee Low Moan that Wynton got dirty. I was during this period. somewhere around 1992 that he began to play the old rusty trumpet and mute it with a plunger's bowl. He started getting into the deep New Orleans roots of jazz and brought forth a sound I had never heard articulated in that way. By this time, Wynton had truly learned to swing, and he revelled in doing so.

I met him backstage at BAM after his closing performance of Griot New York with the Garth Fagan Dancers. It was a wonderous show. I very much miss that element that only New York seems to possess. They still perform Griot New York, 13 years later.

My favorite Wynton Marsalis album is 'The Majesty of the Blues' most notably for 'The Death of Jazz' and the sermon Premature Autopsies. I've said that this album was the music I wanted played at my funeral. I can remember my father chiding me about thinking too much about a glorious funeral, but the power of that album was irresistable to me.

I think it speaks a great deal about what I think about when I am considering the ways and means of the Old School when I read the words to Premature Autopsies. Furthermore, when I criticize hiphop (less out of love these days) it is often because it fails to inspire a sufficiently deep sentiment such as this:

But there is another truth and that truth passes through time in the very same way an irresistible force passes through an immovable object. Thats what I said: this truth is so irresistible that it passes through immoveable objects. It is the truth of a desire for a refined and impassioned portrait of the presence and the power and the possibilities of the human spirit. Can you imagine that? I said: a desire for the refined and impassioned depiction in music of the presence and the power and the possibilities of the human spirit. That is the desire that lights the candle in the darkness. That is the desire that confounds dragons who think themselves so grand. We have heard the striking of the match and have felt ourselves made whole in the glow of the candle for a long time.

It is possible that we who listened heard something timeless from those who are the descendents of the many who were literally up for sale, those whose presence on the auction blocks and in the slave quarters formed the cross upon which the Constitution of this nation was crucified. Yet, even after that crucifixion, there were those who rose in the third century of American slavery with a vision of freedom; there were those who lit the mighty wick that extended from the candle and carried it; there were those who spoke through music of the meaning of light; those who were not content to accept the darkness in the heart that comes of surrender to dragons who think themselves grand; those who said- LISTEN CLOSELY NOW-who said, "If you give me a fair chance I will help you better understand the meaning of democracy" Yes, that is precisely what they said: "If you give me a fair chance I will help you better understand the meaning of democracy" These are they who were truly the makers of a noble sound.

There's not much else to say.

Posted by mbowen at June 1, 2004 08:28 AM

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That's Crouch or my name is mud.

I think that there is a Cuban talking about a "noble sound" on that self-same record. Snatches of his speech were borrowed for a house track called A Noble Sound. I think that house and some detroit techno actually comes the closest to getting at that refined spirit that Crouch speaks of. Only because it is dance oriented it is funkier...and even that word doesn't do it justice.

Posted by: lks at June 1, 2004 08:37 PM

That wasn't an "old rusty trumpet." That was a fairly new and very expensive hand-made Monette. But it wasn't laquered or silver-plated, like most brass instruments, so it looked kind of funky. Probably rubbed off on his hands a bit during a long sweaty playing session, a little tinge of copper green.

Posted by: Bill Benzon at June 2, 2004 04:26 PM

They should have given a Pulitzer to Marvin Peterson, aka Hannibal Lukumbe, for "African Portraits," which he recorded with his quartet, the Chicago Symphony, the Morgan State University Choir, and everybody else. Trouble is, the man has dreads, wheres a dashiki, and goes by Hannibal. I figure that's why they passed him over.

He's a fercious trumpet player and a formidable composer.

Posted by: Bill Benzon at June 2, 2004 04:37 PM

Rusty Trumpet

Posted by: Anonymous at February 1, 2005 07:04 PM