Flow, Fissure, Mesh

Home » Posts tagged 'Hamid Drake'

Tag Archives: Hamid Drake

Wisdom of William Parker, Musician

WP1

In the late afternoon of Thursday, September 5, at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre at the University of Guelph, composer and bassist William Parker delivered a keynote talk for the Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium (this year’s theme: “Sound Knowledges: A World Artist Summit”) called “Sound as Medicinal Herb: Creative Music 61 Years in Transition.” (The “61 years” refers to his age, he told us.) He was introduced by drummer and musical compatriot Hamid Drake, who spoke about “an energy of compassion and understanding that exudes from Mr Parker” and who acknowledged the important role that William Parker has played in fostering “my own artistic potential and awakening.” For about 40 minutes, interspersed with video clips of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra and Don Cherry, William Parker offered what was essentially an extended set of aphorisms, reflecting on his philosophy of music and on the social impact of artistic practice. If it works, I’m going to reproduce my transcriptions of key sentences from William Parker’s largely improvised remarks; this, for me, is an example of one form of improvisational pedagogy, a gathering of reflections and provocations. Any errors or infelicities are my own.

WP2

Sound acts as a medicinal herb.

The core of music cannot be taught, the self-sound of a musician’s playing.

Why does the musician exist? Save, elevate, inspire and heal.

Muse plus physician equals musician.

As soon as you are born you become part of music.

Music is not something you learn. Music is something you are.

We need to redefine musical terms.

No one owns music. Nobody. Nobody owns music.

Music is the possibility of a miracle occurring.

It is a medicinal herb that heals.

You are responsible for your own self. You play the changes you want to play on a tune.

Sun Ra: “I didn’t know anything about music. It came from someplace else.”

What is the difference between knowing and feeling? You can know all of the answers, and you still can’t get anything right.

You don’t have to understand it, you have to feel it.

You need to be flowing with the spirit.

Jimmy Lyons was a shaman. Shamans heal and move us through sound. The have the juju.

Part of it comes from the blues. You can hear it. All of the musicians from Chicago, where’d they come from? Not Chicago. From the South.

They play extensions of Afro-American Improvised Creative Music.

If you play for three hours with Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons, that’s some magic. And I played eleven years with those cats.

How can you play music and not know anything about it? You don’t need to know anything about it. What’s important is whether your music works.

We have to have a revolution in the world. The music has to step it up a notch. We have to play revolutionary music so that we can enter into the tone-world.

You take a tone, you vibrate it enough, and then you’re in the tone-world.

Each room in the tone-world is a secret of life.

It’s not about making money, but to make music and to heal people through sound.

Don Cherry knew something about music. But at the same time he knew when not to let it get in the way.

Everybody can be an accidental shaman, a shaman for the day.

You don’t want to be a shaman for a day. You want to be a shaman every day.

The listener is also a musician.

The sound of what you say and what you do is so very important.

You are your instrument.

You have to find the Don Cherry in you and the Sun Ra in you.

Wear your colours.

We can all be brighter and bigger than what we are.

What’s the difference between a musician and a shaman? You wouldn’t hire a shaman to play at your wedding.

Music in America is more about entertainment than inner attainment.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk had a composition he called “Volunteered Slavery.” Now what we’re dealing with is a system of volunteered slavery. You just have to go along with the system and enslave yourself.

The best musicians never get recorded because they’re left out of history.

The Guelph festival is very very important because it brings the people who want to hear, to be fed, to rejuvenate, to be inspired.

“It’s as serious as your life.” [Or, “It’s as serious as a laugh.”]

What’s the future of jazz? In one sense jazz is dead, it has no future. Don’t cry. But: music has a future. All your major players are dead: Jimmy Heath, Johnny Griffin. For me, I don’t hear anybody playing any jazz. Jazz has moved on. We just find something else. But hope goes on.

“In order to survive, we must keep hope alive.”

There is a universal tonality.

Boom. Let’s go. Let’s play. Boom.

Juju is in every country. It’s universal.

It doesn’t make any difference what you call it but it will go on.

WP3

Double Short Take on Two Guelph Gigs: Indigo Trio and KAZE

Robert Kerr introducing Indigo Trio, with Hamid Drake and Harrison Bankhead

There were a number of standout performances at this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival, but for me two gigs in particular really made something happen, small concerts by Indigo Trio and by KAZE. I’d like provisionally to map my own reactions, even at this slight remove in time, to those moments, because they have stayed with me, and will for a while. (These sets both took place last week – one on Thursday night, and one Saturday morning.) Both performances modeled and enacted improvisational listening practices, modes of attention not only to aesthetics – the practiced formal tactics of shaping sound into music – but also to the sociality of audition, to how human beings empathize with one another, sense each other’s embodied co-presences, at the level of texture, resonance and pulse. The kinds of immersive listening into which an audience is invited by both of these ensembles are not, for me, a way of losing yourself, of becoming absorbed into and overwhelmed by their music, but present instead opportunities and openings for intersubjective moments, as our ears focus and refocus on the interplay and divergences of line and shape that occur as each performance unfolds, live and spontaneously both before us and with us.
Indigo Trio, from the back of the room: Nicole Mitchell, Hamid Drake, Harrison Bankhead
Indigo Trio –Nicole Mitchell, flutes, Harrison Bankhead, bass, and Hamid Drake, drums – offered two extended extemporaneous suites Thursday night, September 5, in the re-purposed hall of St. George’s Anglican Church in Guelph. I have been avidly listening to them since their first album appeared, on Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf label, in 2007, a recording I think of their first performance as a trio in Montreal in 2005. As then, their music remains rich, warm, flexible, free, accessible and dynamic: a paradigm for collaborative co-creation. I don’t know which composition is which, but each suite gave the impression of morphing or evolving forms, particularly around the loping, deep grooves Harrison Bankhead set up on his big upright. I thought, as did a few others there that night, that we could hear traces of the firm, warm sound of Wilbur Ware or of Malachi Favors Maghostut in his playing, echoes of departed mentors and colleagues, but also of a Chicago sound-palette that imbued his playing with a powerful historical dimension. Harrison Bankhead’s predilection for danceable lines, for groove, coupled with Hamid Drake’s strong sense of rhythmic pockets – what I’d describe as his sanguine, organic feel – drew the audience into the trio’s playing, and kept them rapt: toe-tapping, hip-swaying and happy. Nicole Mitchell played a shattering solo on piccolo, but rather than disrupt the flow, it only intensified the room’s commitment to what was happening. Each improvised “suite” concluded with Nicole Mitchell singing, in a bell-like soprano, what seemed like Afro-futuristic lyrics – two song forms, the first of which I think was a hymn of praise to Gaia, while the second, concluding piece affirmed the entwining of strength of purpose and of the embrace of difference that shape Indigo Trio’s music:
When you find the truth you will realize
You’re a stranger in a strange land
But you’re not alone
You’ve got to stand strong
What I hear, here, is a call to community in difference, community of difference: strength among strangers, audience.
KAZE: Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura, Christian Pruvost, Peter Orins
KAZE is a collaborative quartet that has been in existence since at least 2011, pairing the longstanding duo of Satoko Fujii on piano and Natsuki Tamura on trumpet with two members of the French MUZZIX (sounds like “musiques”) collective, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and percussionist Peter Orins. Nominally (on the programme) Satoko Fujii’s band, the group operates more as a collective, showcasing compositions and concepts from each of its four members. I had never heard them play, either live or on CD, before Saturday morning at the River Run Centre in Guelph, although they have already recorded two albums as an ensemble: Rafale (2011) and Tornado (2013), both released by Circum-Disc in collaboration with Fujii-Tamura’s label, Libra Records. I have to say that I was blown away by their collective virtuosity and by their kinetic interaction, from the first notes they played. The two-trumpet line, in some ways, hearkens back to Louis Armstrong and Joe Oliver, and there are echoes of the playfulness and smart-aleckry of early music, although there is little in their work, in my view, of the subversive. They play with sounds, the trumpeters ebulliently incorporating “little instruments” and percussive sound-makers into their arsenals of sound-sources, but the idea is never to undermine or interrupt: disruptions are creative, centrifugal, happily unruly, both provocative and strangely supportive. All four appear to celebrate and to uphold each other’s contributions to the collective: no cutting, no ego. At the same time, both trumpeters self-evidently have technique – extended technique – to spare. Tamura and Pruvost are masters of their instruments, and then some. And, well, if you like your trumpet by turns limpid and wicked, seductive and fierce, this is the music for you.  Satoko Fujii’s virtuoso piano formed an integral part of the ensemble, negotiating between polydirectional rhythms and entwined melodic lines, sometimes subtending the performance harmonically, sometimes offering percussive counterpoint. Her playing is dynamic, ever-present, but also open and responsive; she is never at a loss for something to add in, but also never crowds at her cohorts: a paragon of give and take, of response listening. Peter Orins’s drumming was, for me, a revelation: he has a way of propelling a performance forward, while striking each tympanum with an attack that somehow individuates and momentarily savours, pulse by pulse, the elastic beat-patterns he conjured. His style of improvising at the drumkit reminded me at times, if this makes listening sense, of Ronald Shannon Jackson’s definitive touch.
         The group played two or three extended suites – akin in structure, though not in idiom, to the Indigo Trio’s set – combining, I discovered afterward, most of the compositions featured on their recent disc. (I think they recombined “Wao,” “Tornado,” “Imokidesu” and “Triangle,” although I’m relying on memory here.) Each of their forays began with quiet hiss and suck from the horns, breath feeling its way into tone, gradually ramping toward more organized thematic statements or unisons, then negotiating a series of polyglot interchanges and exchanges toward the next composition way-point. The group operated as a living assemblage, an organism pursuing not so much coherence or closure as open-edged symbiosis, a generative, sustaining autopoeisis. Each piece did, of course, reach a tenuous end, but it felt that, even after the concert was done, KAZE’s generative soundscapes still kept roiling and resonating in our minds’ ears.
         For me, hearing both of these groups had an epochal aspect, an impact not unlike, say, hearing the Parker-Guy-Lytton trio, or Wayne Shorter’s recent quartet, or Charles Lloyd’s “New Quartet,” or one of David S. Ware’s quartets; they seemed to represent something of the power and possibility of distinctive new directions in creative improvised music. A greatness.