Archive for January, 2012

“Jazz Speaks for Life…” MLK at the Berlin Jazz Fest 1964

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2012 by Josslyn Luckett

The fact of this silent march in Memphis, April 8, 1968 photographed above, never really hit me until this morning…I’ve seen so much footage of the funeral, especially devastating photos of Coretta, but here the day before she is marching with Bayard and Harry and Rabbi Heschel and the kids.  Talk about unstoppable.  You can see an archived ABC newsreel here that includes some of Coretta’s speech this day in Memphis, 4 days after losing her husband, one day before his funeral in Atlanta. 

On a different triumphant note, not too long ago I came across this pretty jaw dropping speech from King on jazz, given as the opening remarks for the 1964 Berlin Jazz Fest.  I love the way King clearly nods to Souls of Black Folks here, actually giving due respect to musicians for grappling with how it feels to be a problem long before Dr. Du Bois…check it out:

God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.

This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.

In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Opening Address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival)

Waaw, we can!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4, 2012 by Josslyn Luckett

In Wolof, “waaw” means “yes” in case that wasn’t obvious…Youssou N’Dour has made his presidential bid official and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  Time alone, time will tell.  I took this shot at his afternoon soundcheck for the World Sacred Music Festival in Fez in June, a couple weeks before I’d be in Dakar during the June 23 protests (I was at a naming ceremony that day and not on the streets, though many of the elders present had at least one earbud popped in their ears at all times listening to the news and reporting back).  For the past month I’ve been debating my Wolof instructor about the viability of N’Dour’s candidacy…he pretty much thinks I’m a fool…now he’s from Dakar and I’m from Los Angeles, so he could be right…but let’s hope bu soobee yalla (insha’allah) one way or another something positive can come of this for the women and men of Senegal.  Here’s the link to the NYTimes announcement:

Mavis, Pops and Zim’s: “Inner-attainment” Who will inspire in 2012?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 1, 2012 by Josslyn Luckett

Mavis told us last night, “I need you to take me there” cause she said she’s been taking us there for over 4 decades.  Can you believe I got to spend New Years Eve with Mavis Staples in Symphony Hall?   Talk about glory, talk about hallelujah (and talk about how gorgeous and inspiring Ms. Staples still is…this photo is not from last night but such a beautiful recent shot by Daniel Sheehan I had to include it).  This morning I was thinking I hadn’t seen any of the “great-musicians-we-lost-in-2011” lists and was thinking I hope they remembered Zim Ngqawana.  His breathgiving disc, Zimphonic Suites was the first I popped in this morning.  Reviewing the liner notes–which begin with a note on the music school he’d started before he passed–I was struck by how Zim’s vision for his Zimology Institute echoes the kind of work Mavis and the Staples family gave last night and for a half century of similar days and nights:

“Artists are not only artisans, they are primarily creative thinkers.  Emperors of old always had musicians in their courts not only for entertainment, for ours is not about entertainment, it’s about inner-attainment–Ingoma Ya Kwantu.  Musicians were at these courts to inspire the rulers and patrons, to heal, guide and communicate with the other worlds.  The seen and the unseen.  The known and the unknown.  The possible and the impossible…”

“Made up my mind,” Pops Staples wrote back in the early 60s he was going to march each and every day on freedom’s highway cause he couldn’t understand why freedom was not for everyman.  His daughter sang those words again last night, still marching so vibrantly at 72…still I heard her call.  Who are the musicians, especially in jazz these days, these coming days and years who are doing the work of inner attainment, making up their minds to take us there?  I can think of some younger players who seem to from time to time have more political, socially engaged tunes in their sets.  I will blissfully be heading down to NYC next weekend for Brice Rosenbloom’s 2012 jazz Winterfest (get there Friday and Saturday if you can!) to see some of these players…but I’d like to open this up…please write, comment, hip me to the artists who are answering Zim and The Staples Kin’s call to inspire, to heal, to guide…?  In 2012, do we still insist?