Meandering In 









Of and About Art 


Some artwork is of something; a depiction of someone, someplace, and the like. Somne artwork is less depiction of something than it is about something such as a feeling of happiness or sadness and such. Some artwork is both.



A room is a work of art onto itself. Rooms represent their contents and the relationship of those contents to one another. Our presence is not essential. We need not be present to interpret or validate the meanings of a room's content.  








Crossing the Bridge


Rhythymic consciousness is the energy that makes ideas move, take form, and have meaning. Rhythms are non-verbal vocabulary, invisible threads, connectors that, like words, give shape ideas. Slow or fast or somewhere in between, rhythm is the beat.

“There’s no beat anymore,” Thelonious Monk said. He was making the point that Jazz musicians have no right to abandon the beat, the thread, and therefore make music that is structurally illogical or incoherent and destructive because they believe they are exercising creative freedom. Indeed, the primary purpose of music rooted in the "Black" experience is to “tell a story that anyone can understand.”


that express stories that are sometimes to tell because it connects America to Africa. It is often used to confront the conundrum of black and white. The Jazz beat is an essential mystical structure, a bridge between the nightmare of slavery in America and the dream of freedom in America that all Americans must eventually cross.





Principles of Life-saving

A Mulla Nasrudin Teaching Story from The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Naasrudin by Idries Shah



Nasrudin was not sure which of two women he would marry. One day they both cornered him and asked which one he loved the most.

‘Put the question in a practical context, and I will try to answer it,’ he said.

‘If we both fell into the river, which one would you save/’ asked the smaller and prettier one.

The Mulla turned to the other, a large but moneyed wench: ‘Can you swim, my dear?’






  From Lady Sings the Blues, Billie Holiday's autobiography



“I needed some money and I knew Mom was sure to have some. So I walked in the restaurant like a stockholder and asked.

Mom turned me down flat. She wouldn’t give me a cent. She was mad with me and I was mad with her. We exchanged a few words. Then I said, “God bless the child that’s got his own,” and walked out.

I stayed sore for three weeks. I thought about it and  thought about it. One day a whole damn song fell into place in my head. Then I rushed down to the Village that night and met Arthur Herzog. He sat down at a piano and picked it out, phrase by phrase, as I sang to him.

I couldn’t wait to get it down and get it recorded. I told him about the fight with Mom and how I wanted to get even. We changed the lyrics in a couple of spots, but not much.

This one will gas the Duchess, I thought. And it did."






The line: "Them that's got shall get, them that don't shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news" probably refers to Bible verses, Matthew 25:29 and/or Luke 8:18. Recorded on May 9, 1941 with the Eddie Heywood Orchestra, God Bless the Child is on the list of Songs of the Century.


Deep River in Her Voice...Kamau Daaood with Trevor Ware




A Way of Being


Nina Simone explained that “Jazz is not just music, it’s a way of life; it’s a way of being, a way of thinking. I think the Negro in America is Jazz. Everything he does – the slang he uses, the way he walks, the way he talks, his jargon, the new inventive phrases we make up to describe things - all that to me is Jazz as much as the music we play.”




Max Roach described Jazz as a “very democratic musical form;” one that “comes out of a communal experience.” It is that and more. According to Albert Murray, Jazz is “the ancestral down-home voice at its highest level of refinement.” 




Spirit Moves 


The Jazz state of mind proceeds from reality consciousness into creative consciousness; a change that is prompted and accompanied by a movement of the spirit, a change in one’s way of seeing, hearing things and feelings about them. 

Movement of spirit is natural. The I Ching, the ancient Book of Changes says: “Nature is always in motion.”

The Chinese philosophical concept of continuous motion is symbolized in the Tai Chi symnol of a circle divided into equal light and dark areas with some light in the dark area and some dark in the light. These light and dark areas represent yin and yang or the perfect balance of opposites that is necessary for movement. Tai Chi students are taught to meditate and practice these movements in daily exercises.

The idea of movement is emphasized in another ancient Chinese book, the Tai The Ching:

“The greatest fullness seems empty and yet its use is endless.”

Cheng Man-ch’ing, a modern Tai Chi master said that with diligent practice, students can develop the ability “to yield to others, thus quashing obstinacy, egotism, and selfishness.” It's a creative process and evidence spirit can move change one's disposition about things. 





Shades of Blue


At its root and at its best, Jazz is the refined expression of the Blues experience in America; the attempt to survive slavery, to make sense of it in the aftermath and to, at times, pretend that slavery is mainly myth.

“You see,” James Reese Europe explained in 1912 following an early Jazz concert, “we colored people have our own music that is part of us. It's the product of our souls; it's been created by the sufferings and miseries of our race. Some of the melodies we played were made up by slaves of the old days, and others were handed down from the days before we left Africa…We have developed a kind of symphony music that, no matter what else you think, is different and distinctive, and that lends itself to the playing of the peculiar compositions of our race." 



The "peculiar compositions" of African American musicians hit a high note on November 26, 1945, the day Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Curly Russell, and Max Roach recorded KOKO. It was "as different and distinctive" as any music ever heard. It was a mind blowing three minutes of music that turned an upside-down war-torn world inside out and gave it another view of itself. KOKO was stop and think music because music truly does imitate "the passions or states of the soul" just as Aristotle claimed long ago. KOKO was an unmistakable "product of the soul." 

KOKO was Blues. It was not an expression of African people enslaved in America. KOKO was a very modern expression of a world trying to recover from madness. 

The Avant-garde Jazz movement that began in the mid-1940's with KOKO didn't destroy the music’s cultural root as some Jazz Purists feared. KOKO made Jazz stronger. It expanded the vocabulary. It showed that there are many shades of blue.




Out There Right Here and Now


The term “avant-garde” means advance guard. It also refers to things believed to be ahead of their time or something "out there." Of so-called Avant-garde Jazz musicians, one commentator says:

“They broke down traditional techniques and incorporated previously unheard scales, harmonic progressions, and compositional structures. They also brought improvisation to new levels of intensity and complexity, taking greater liberties with respect to the duration, content, and structure of solos, and delving into an unprecedented amount of group improvisation.”

It's fair then to say that a considerable portion of the 1960's music made by Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and others is avant-garde. They enriched the music's vocabulary through innovations in form, melody, harmony, texture, rhythm, etc. It was the vocabulary needed to express the Blues experience of the times; a musical vocabulary that confirmed Maestro, Duke Ellington's claim that Jazz is indeed "something more that the American idiom."




With an open mind, "out there" is right here and now.








RACHMANINOFF: Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18.
Sergei Rachmaninoff, piano. Philadelphia Orchestra. Leopold Stokowski, conductor.
Victor 78rpm Album DM 58. Recorded April 10-13, 1929.


Russian born composer, pianist and conductor, Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, was born April 20, 1873. The following excerpts are from biographical material posted at Wikipedia:

“Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music. Early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and other Russian composers gave way to a thoroughly personal idiom that included a pronounced lyricism, expressive breadth, structural ingenuity, and a tonal palette of rich, distinctive orchestral colors. The piano is featured prominently in Rachmaninoff's compositional output. He made a point of using his own skills as a performer to explore fully the expressive possibilities of the instrument…The sudden death of Tchaikovsky in 1893 was a great blow to young Rachmaninoff… His First Symphony (Op. 13, 1896) was premièred on 28 March 1897…but was brutally panned by critic and nationalist composer Cesar Cui who likened it to a depiction of the ten plagues of Egypt, suggesting it would be admired by the "inmates" of a music conservatory in hell…In the same year (1900), Rachmaninoff began a course of autosuggestive theraphy with psychologist Nikolai Dahl, who was himself an excellent though amateur musician. Rachmaninoff began to recover his confidence and eventually he was able to overcome his writer’s block, In 1901 he completed his Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op, 18 and dedicated it to Dr. Dahl. The piece was enthusiastically received at its premiere at which Rachmaninoff was soloist and has since become one of the most popular and frequently played concertos in the repertoire…Near the end of 1918, he received three offers of lucrative American contracts. Although he declined all three, he decided the United States might offer a solution to his financial concerns…In 1921, the Rachmaninoffs bought a house in the United States…Rachmaninoff fell ill during a concert tour in late 1942 and was subsequently diagnosed with advanced melanoma. His family was informed, but he was not. On 1 February 1943 he and his wife became American citizens…His last recital, given on 17 February 1943…He became so ill after this recital that he had to return to his home in Los Angeles…Rachmaninoff died of melanoma on 28 March 1943, in Beverly Hills, California, just four days before his 70th birthday.



 Attempted Self Escape



 Dancing With Spirit


Musicologist, Francis Bebey, observed that the music traditions of West Africa are “among the most difficult music traditions for Westerners to comprehend.” Indeed this music often does express something of "the transience of this life...a challenge to human destiny" and the possibility of “another kind of living." Music can, through its rhythms, sharpen a perception of time moving through the mind. This perception can be mystifying because it bypasses the ordinary process of rationalization.





Rhythmic consciousness is the awareness of time moving through the mind. The sense of rhythmic confidence that springs from this awareness can break the restraints of self inhibition. Free of self inhibition, the first step in a dance with spirit is taken. Free of self inhibition, one moves on to dance with spirit in the mysterious space that exists between the tangible and the intangible; the visible and the invisible; the known and the unknown, the finite and the infinite. Dancing with spirit is a form of freedom as natural and necessary as breathing.

A passage from James Baldwin’s GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN describes one such dance:

"On Sunday mornings the women all seemed patient, all the men seemed mighty. While John watched, the Power struck someone, a man or woman; they cried out, a long, wordless crying, and, arms outstretched like wings, they began the Shout. Someone moved a chair a little to give them room, the rhythm paused, the singing stopped, only the pounding feet and the clapping hands were heard; then another cry, another dancer; then the tambourines began again, and the voices rose again, and the music swept on again, like fire, or flood, or judgment.  Then the church seemed to swell with the Power it held, and, like a planet rocking in space, the temple rocked with the Power of God.  John watched, watched the faces, and the weightless bodies, and listened to the timeless cries." 







Unnecessary Comprehension


A dance begins when one's spirit is awakened, not just by the rhythms present in music, but awakened also by falling rain, the rising sun, birds singing, changes of season, and by any and all of nature's movements in time. When awakened by the movement of time, one may come to realize that the body is not a lone entity adrift in space, but is rather an entity with a mysterious collaborator that moves with great spiritual confidence: a soul within that loves to dance. Comprehension is not necessary.


All That Jass

Jazz was not born in in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1917 with the recording of  LIVERY STABLE BLUES by The Original Dixieland Jass Band. And neither was Jazz invented by the band's leader, Nick LaRocca, as he and others claim. 

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band website tells visitors that prior to the “hit” recording of LIVERY STABLE BLUES, “the music of the time was known as Ragtime and many other style names but not jazz…It is interesting and amusing to note that today some earlier musicians are referred to as jazz musicians even though the name or style didn't exist. This would be similar to calling the pop/rock star Elvis a "rap artist" because he spoke in many of his recorded songs. The style did not exist and therefore could not be applied and would not make sense.”

The caption from the YouTube video:

"For you who ever wonder, what would be the first released jazz song, here it is. This song was released Feb 26th 1917, and became the first ever jazz record in the world. Lots of controversy surrounded this band back in that day. They claimed themselves as "The Creator of Jazz", and that, of course, was criticized by afro-american musicians,especially from New Orleans, where this kind of music (jazz) was originally came from. And for the record, rumors said that ODJB could record their album simply because they're white. Anyway, ODJB was the first jazz band that successfully made a studio recording."


The ODJB website also says that between 1916 and 1918 the word “Jass” in the band’s name was changed to “Jazz” and the word "Jazz" stuck and “has been used ever since that first jass/jazz recording to describe an ever changing and evolving musical style.” According to the website, posters advertising the band in New York were defaced, striking out the first letter of the word “Jass.” “This wouldn’t do with society and the Victor Talking Machine Company (for certain with permission from the ODJB) changed the name to Jazz.”



The MERRIAM WEBSTER DICTIONARY defines “Jazz” as American music characterized by improvisation, syncopated rhythms, and contrapuntal ensemble playing.” That's not bad, but the definition also describes Jazz as "empty talk” and ‘stuff.” That's bad. WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY describes Jazz with such phrases as "to copulate with” and as something “usually considered vulgar” or “to go seeking pleasure." 

LaRocca's claim that he invented Jazz is similar to the claim that a brand new land mass filled with people emerged in a miracle of Christopher Columbus' mind the day he stubbled upon the so-called "New World."






The word “Jazz” is misleading, mainly because, its definition has been linked with the definition of entertainment.  The word "Entertainment" is defined as “a public performance designed to divert or amuse." Who doesn’t look forward to being entertained sometimes?  However, it's worth knowing that one dictionary describes this kind of pleasure with the phrase: "Negro orchestras are in demand at white entertainment.” Hmmmm.

In THE MUSIC OF BLACK AMERICANS Eileen Southern observes that the demand for such pass times go way back: "In the North,” she says, “black musicians provided much of the dance music for the colonists of all classes. All over the South, slaves played for the dancing of their masters at balls, assemblies, and special ‘Entertainments’ in the plantation ballrooms and palaces of colonial governors." 




Natural Phenomenon

Ludwig van Beethoven, the 19th century German composer of MOONLIGHT SONATA, moved that “music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy...the electric soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.” Duke Ellington, the 20th century African American composer of MOOD INDIGO, through his observation that “music is everything,” seconded Beethoven’s motion.


“Nature is music,” Ellington said. Music is “cicadas in the tropical night…the sea is music…the wind is music…the rain drumming on the roof and the storm raging in the sky are music. Music is the oldest entity. The scope of music is immense and infinite." The insights of Beethoven and Ellington remind music makers and listeners alike that music is not just the skill to organize sound in time in order to express ideas and emotions, but that music is something much greater. It is the release of powerful spiritual energy into the surroundings, a natural phenomenon.





Strange Fruit



 On August 7, 1930, two African American men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were lynched in Marion Indiana. Thousands of copies of a photograph of a large crowd surrounding their dead bodies hanging from a tree were later sold.


According to one internet article: “They (Shipp and Smith) had been arrested the night before, charged with robbing and murdering a white factory worker, Claude Deeter, and raping his white girlfriend, Mary Ball. A large crowd broke into the jail with sledgehammers, beat the two men, and hanged them…Police officers in the crowd cooperated in the lynching. A third person, 16-year-old James Cameron, narrowly escaped lynching thanks to an unidentified participant who announced that he had nothing to do with the rape or murder…James Cameron has stated in interviews that Shipp and Smith had, in fact, shot and killed Claude Deeter, a white man. He has said that he fled when he realized what was going on…Mary Ball later testified that she had not been raped, contrary to the accusations against the three men.”

In 1937, Abel Meeropol, a New York schoolteacher and member of the Communist Party, was "haunted” after seeing a copy of the photograph and was inspired to write the poem, STRANGE FRUIT.

According to another Internet article, Billie Holiday first sang STRANGE FRUIT in 1939 at Cafe Society in Greenwich Village, New York. “She said that singing it made her fearful of retaliation but, because its imagery reminded her of her father, she continued to sing the piece making it a regular part of her live performances…Holiday would close with it; the waiters would stop all service in advance; the room would be in darkness except for a spotlight on Holiday's face; and there would be no encore. During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer.”

As the recording of STRANGE FRUIT rose on the charts, Time Magazine described it as  "a prime piece of musical propaganda" for the NAACP.

According to Tuskegee Institute statistics, between 1882 and 1968 there were 4,743 lynching in America. 1,297 were white. 3,446 were black. Strange fruit indeed.  





Thank you for watching and listening. Please e-mail your comments to Peace! 


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