RogueArt, 247 pages with a CD, 2011
Review by Steve
Not since John
Zorn's Arcana project and Art Taylor's Notes and Tones, a comparison
many will make, and which Parker says in his brief intro, is the book that inspired
him to do this project, has there been a book of interviews so vital, so down
to earth and so personal. What we have here are 34 interviews conducted by Parker
over approximately the last decade, 30 of which are with so called free jazz/improvisers,
two with new music composers, one with Patricia Nicholson Parker, his wife,
a dancer and an organizer of such events as the ongoing Vision Festival and
photographer Jacques Bisceglia who also contributed a beautiful black and white
and color centerfold (27 photos) of most of the artists being interviewed and
with whom I had the privilege of collaborating with on another Rogueart
project Reaching Into the Unknown (2009). Though primarily known as an
independent cd label out of Paris, France, Rogueart has thus far published three
books, the two just mentioned and another, Logos and Language, a collaboration
by pianist Matthew Shipp and me.
As Parker points
out, these talks represent "oral histories" by artists who have dealt
in / with the creative process and all its joys, hardships, knowledge and discoveries.
He states that one necessity for this collection is to bring these artists more
out of the realms of myth and more into the realms of reality. Their range runs
the gamut of the known to the lesser known to the almost obscure and hopefully
one thing this book will do is familiarize people with their lives and make
them want to go out and hear their ART.
We are also fortunate
enough to have interviews with musicians who only just recently left us like
Billy Bang and Fred Anderson and those like Frank Lowe who departed a few years
back and whom Parker got to interview at his hospital bed while he was dying.
Lowe quoting Don Cherry says, "You got to be in tune no matter whether
it's going outside, inside, crossways or down." He then goes on to say
when you are "doing a solo you're the only one
but at the same time
there's power in numbers
a group situation helps to sustain you"
and that if "you felt it, you played what you felt. You don't ask about
the feelings you just play [them.]" Lowe again
"We are always
when you see that you have to change up fast." This
is so true for all arts.
The book encompasses many of the first wave of the avant-garde players like
Dave Burrell, Sonny Murray, Alan Silva and Milford Graves, who states that it's
about what we smell, taste and hear
the sound spectrum
spectrum. Not to recall the same note
to adjust to the vibration, and
that a musician's job is to be the receptor of the vibrations of the planet.
What we continually learn from these masters and sometimes quite poignantly
is their intense struggles, their complete devotion to their art and why they
do what they do. Cooper-Moore puts it this way: "Music gives people great
that's why I do it." What we constantly see is how these artists
grew up, thrived, learned about and got into their crafts, their fundamental
ideas about the music and how they came to play it and/or arrived at their process
or, as with the case of Patricia N. Parker and Bisceglia, how they came to play
an active role in the "scene."
Billy Bang, a Vietnam
veteran, talks about growing up in Harlem and how his time in Vietnam affected
both him and his music (later in life Billy made two CDs based on his experiences
there and used musicians who had also served there.) "Vietnam has been
such a big influence on me
that's why I dedicated myself to music."
Parker at one point says after hearing the horrific stuff Bang went through,
"Those people who sent anybody there should be locked up," to which
Billy readily agrees. When Bang talks about why and how he plays the violin,
he states that besides the human voice, the violin is an early instrument and
that rather than try to become a unique voice on it, he decided to dedicate
and commit himself to investigate this area and the instrument's range and tradition.
is prefaced with a beautiful take by Parker on the musician he will speak to
always asking the question why do you do this. One reply by Chinese composer
Ge Gan-ru is simply, "I don't know... but this I do know: I cannot live
without the music."
are of varying lengths, as short as eight pages and as long as twenty, and as
editor Ed Hazell points out, "
were edited for clarity
goal was to maintain the character of the musicians' voices."
CD contains 45 short tracks containing snippets of the interviewees interspersed
with short solo bass pieces by Parker.
This is both a
learning and survival manual, or as Parker puts it: "Everyone has a story
that is part of the continuum
a small piece of the puzzle that is creativity."
So, if you want to educate yourself a bit more, pick up this book, listen to
these 34 songs from cover to cover, then turn the pages and listen some more
to the "sound, movement and color" that comes deep out of the well
of creativity. Each time you'll hear (read) something fresh, different and new.
Sound is a very personal thing and there is a wealth of knowledge to be absorbed,
digested and learned from all these unique individuals, their unrestrained voices
and the candid music of their language, emotions and thought.