by Kim on Sun 19 Aug 2007 11:31 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link I wish to add something about jazz and Max Roach. It's more of a story actually, without the once-upon-a-time.
I was very involved in the jazz scene in New York City in the late 70s and 80s, long before I knew anything about Mother and Sri Aurobindo. It was an especially vibrant time. There were many new jazz musicians making the scene then, and both newcomers and some older more established musicians were evolving the genre in original and unexpected ways. Julius Hemphill, John Zorn, Tim Berne, Bill Frisell, and Ornette Coleman to name a few - all contributed to changing the way we listen to and appreciate jazz. Their music took us places we'd never been. By hearing them perform, we were somehow drawn closer to the source that fed them.
Although I never would have described it this way then, I've always perceived music as being a bridge between the Divine and the Human, the Human and the Divine, and for me it was especially present in these innovative performances. Extraordinary musicians invited us into their worlds each time they played, and by entering in, or perhaps just by proxy, we changed. For a few moments out of time, we became like them - creative, original, inventive, and we touched those spaces within ourselves because of the openings their music inspired in us.
And their music was a wakeup call. Hearing Julius Hemphill's "Dogon A.D." for the first time and later "Blue Boye" changed me. Same with Zorn, Tim Berne, and Ornette. These were the mould breakers. Their music was not about the music and it took me a long while to realize that. It was about social change, about human oppression - their own and that of others, about injustice, about rebellion, about making waves and about freedom. Their music was also about the joy of intimate communication with other human beings, about many players reconfiguring as one, about the group consciousness, about love and respect for the masters on whose shoulders they stood. It was a conspiracy among souls who "knew" against those who didn't. These musicians played their hearts out not because they wanted to but because they had to. They were the chroniclers of their time and their music was the medium, read as easily as a book for those with the eyes to see. Their art was conscious and intentional, it was the music of evolution, and it reinvented their world.
But the music that could alter an age, with few exceptions, fell on deaf ears. For it was also a time when few jazz musicians of any stature got audiences in New York. Sadly, it was a city that shunned some of its greatest artists during a time when their creativity was exploding. Most of the musicians had to travel to Europe and Japan where there were more appreciative audiences. I can remember going to many jazz clubs where only 10 people would show up to hear great musicians play, and even at the Vanguard or SOB's or the original Knitting Factory, few people ever stayed for the second set. It was disheartening.
Interwoven into this rich musical scene was a successful artist who straddled many worlds - Mr. Max Roach. By the 80s I'd already heard him perform a number of times, with Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton & the amazing percussion ensemble, M'Boom. His virtuousity was blinding, but beneath it had already begun to emerge the deeper expression of social change. He used his music to embody the struggles of an age.