Archive for August, 2011

A Giver of Life and Love

Posted in Uncategorized on August 31, 2011 by Josslyn Luckett

Jazz Hallelujah Moment for August 31, 2011.  Just read this delicious quote by Kwaku Daddy (the Ghanaian master percussionist and current City College of San Francisco music professor’s hands were photographed here by Patrick Stewart) that begins one of the chapters of Randy Weston’s autobiography African Rhythms Feast on this:

Music is an expression of the heart which resonates commonality within all people.  It is a process which enhances consciousness and unifies and uplifts both the artist and its listeners.  To communicate in this universal language the artist must be a giver, a speaker of truth.  He must trust his inner self and devote himself to his work in an ongoing struggle to share its knowledge and his art.  The artist is a channel through which energy and light flows.  His music is a reflection of himself–his spirituality, his life experience, his never-ending growth as an artist–and is supported by the rhythmic flow of energy which is a gift of nature.  For this expression to keep time with the flow of life there can be no room for greed or competition which will only cripple the artist’s ability to communicate, to touch his listeners.

In order to set people free with his music, he must know inner freedom.  He must strive to sustain contact with the absolute and he must always be a giver through his art–a giver of life and love.

***SPECIAL NOTE, in the spirit of giving life and love, my writing partner Claire Olivia Moed has asked her community to spread the word about her friend Juan who is in need of a new kidney.  Please visit her blogpost now:

Zim is Gone…Zim is Vadzimu

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2011 by Josslyn Luckett

With the heaviest heart and ashamed to not have become aware of this until now, I wail in sorrow to learn that Zim is gone.  It just doesn’t seem possible.  Was gearing up to post a quick hallelujah moment on one of my favorite tunes from his 2003 CD Vadzimu (“Talfelberg/Carnival Samba”) and was googling to check the personnel and saw Zim Ngqawana: obituary…what!?  51 years old, he died of a stroke May 10, 2011.  January of 2010 I bussed from Boston to NYC when I heard he’d be playing at Winterfest 2010.  I had not seen him since I first fell out in Paris 2001 during multiple sets of his quartet with the sublime Andile Yenana on piano (I remember so clearly that Andile had his beret cocked just so, back bent just so, I thought I was looking at the South African son of Horace Tapscott…I was so glad Zim knew who Horace was and tried to translate my compliment to the pianist) at that amazing festival they have at Parc de la Villette each summer.  I’ll return to that show in a minute…but back to Winterfest 2010, I showed up at the will call line and sunk when I saw a sign announcing Zim would not be playing and they had a donation basket out for him because the music institute he created on his farm outside of Johannesburg had been vandalized.  I learned today in a deeply moving tribute by Percy Zvomuya that the devasted saxophonist channeled his rage into a concert and exhibition series called “Vandalizim”…damn, talk about trouble and hallelujah.  Please check out Zvomuya’s exquisite meditation, “Jazz Mystic’s Quest for Self Cut Short.”

Bottom line is I never saw Zim again.  The sound of those summer 2001 shows haunted me for years and I’m quite sure Zim’s playing, arranging, howling and stomping motivated me more than anything else to go to South Africa finally in 2006…not even so much to try to find him (which sadly I did not) but to see with my own eyes the soul force/power of South African liberation/independence I heard with my own ears that night in Paris.  That freedom sound holds glory and heartbreak, staggering surprises and bone deep familiar subtlety, soft as my grandma’s eyes.  “Vadzimu” is the Shona word for departed ancestors, but I didn’t know when I hit play on Vadzimu the other day Zim was now that.  How?  It hurts.  I can’t see a first season of the Duke Ellington Center for the Study of Sacred Jazz without Zim’s live cry…whenever that season does arrive, insha’allah, I will have to do something to honor Zim because Zim just bridged everything I’m interested in bridging in this music and he would do it so full up with the hallelujahs of the ancestors.  I almost always have to hold on to my heart, my chest when I hear him play…it isn’t that I lose my breath, it’s that there’s all this extra breath…hmm….and I want to catch it, greet it, savor and protect it.

Now hear Zim from an interview with Sabine Cessou in September 2001:  “It’s not a question of Africa or America. The American masters belong to my people. Duke Ellington is my father. John Coltrane is my father. I have to connect with all the people in the Diaspora who do the same thing as me, who practice the same form of expression, based on the same social conditions. I don’t want to discriminate, or limit myself to South Africa. The world is not South Africa….There is no jazz community here. It’s frustrating. That’s why I had such a good time in Paris at the last La Villette jazz festival. I met American musicians, critics, people who were sensitive and aware of what is going on in the world, activists. I also went to visit the dead; I went to see Frederic Chopin and Edith Piaf’s graves. “

After back to back nights at Villette–course I bought every CD I could– for the rest of that 2001 trip I’d start each morning with some funky muesli and yogurt, pressed coffee and “Mamazala” from his Ingoma disk.  He slides that sax in so sweetly it’s almost like he’s saying, “baby I know it’s early but you got to wake up and face the day…there’s work to do, now let us help…”  Keep haunting us Zim, stay near with your urgent whisper, your holy holler, and all that extra breath…

(For a delicious youtube hallelujah moment, check out this short clip of Zim and Andile and joyful crew of Cuban singers…some version of this riff shows up in the tune, “Mozambique” on Vadzimu…here they say this particular project never got released???  Anyone know the scoop?)

Jazz Hallelujah Moments

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2011 by Josslyn Luckett

You have heard of “senior moments.”  Over the last few years I’ve been playing with the idea of “mulatto moments”–these are moments of racial surreality, confusion, combustion, and soda coming out your nose hilarity (like when someone says that somebody “passed” and they meant “died” but I say something  dead-wrong like, “damn, did anyone find out?”).  What I’ve been thinking about a lot lately though are “jazz hallelujah moments”…and thought maybe that’s a way to keep the blog a bit more active and pithy, just throw out a series of hallelujah moments when they come.  For me a jazz hallelujah moment is a celebration of new information about this music I love.  New information can mean anything from a new sound, a new combination of sounds, a new reference that makes me dig up some new information…and I know just because these things are new to me, they might not be new to you, but they are so hip and exciting for me I gotta shout hallelujah right here and now.  Now, Newport Jazz fest Sat, Aug 6, had so many JHMs…I swear, I still have a hallelujah hangover from Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio alone (I got this joyful snapshot of him right after the set).  You can hear this set on NPR and you will know with all his talk of the diaspora (from Morocco to Cuba) and spirituality in jazz that the music and the conversation was beyond up my alley.  I have to admit here though that I really didn’t know that much about Weston’s history, particularly his powerful, decades long collaboration with Melba Liston.  I know even less about Liston and I’m taking that on as a new project to learn and hear more about her tremendous contributions to this art form. Now officially, Jazz Hallelujah Moment #1 is that I am just ecstatic to learn about the fact that in the 70’s Liston moved to Jamaica and created the African-American Division of the Jamaica School of Music (what!?!!!) just go ahead and be that global and trailblazing!  I found that out from Sally Placksin’s American Women in Jazz:  1900 to the Present, Their Words, Lives and Music.  I’m reading more to find out more, let me know if you know more too.  Hopefully these brief celebrations can act as triggers for us all to learn more to honor these musicians who mean so much!