Jazz can be considered to be derived from many different themes and concepts, but at the base is the sound of The Miles Davis Quintet
We have many things for which to be thankful this holiday season.
In 1957, audiences were at their most adulatory, worshipping the sounds of Billie Holiday, Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane. It was on November 29 of that year that “Thanksgiving Jazz” was performed, a benefit concert including a selection of jazz most recognizable names.
In 2005, listeners were compelled to display a level of praise befitting the monumental gift bestowed upon them, just like their 1957 predecessors. It was in September of that year that Blue Note Records released a newly discovered recording from that same evening, nearly 48 years prior—a performance of the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime find. To hear the punctuated strokes of Monk, in such clarity, is special, indeed. And we were all given yet another opportunity to do so. Never to be outdone, Coltrane, too, finds a place, not only comfortably, but outspoken at times. They seem to play off of each other quite well. The absence of awkward interjections and forced moments of showmanship are appreciated, but an understood aspect of both artists’ genius. Hearing Monk and Coltrane, along with drummer Shadow Wilson and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, in such a form is just another reason I give thanks.
[audio:http://royayersproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/07-Sweet-and-Lovely.mp3|titles=Sweet and Lovely]
But, during this Thanksgiving season, I am appreciative of something new—birthed from the same lineage. Lupe Fiasco released another mixtape, aptly titled Friend of the People. Fiasco seemed back to his old form, intricately weaving powerful prose across a tapestry of eclectic sounds. I was, however, taken by one particular track, more so than any of the others. It was “Life, Death & Love from San Francisco.”
[audio:http://royayersproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/08-Life-Death-Love-From-San-Francisco1.mp3|titles=Life, Death & Love From San Francisco]
Channeling the soul of Coltrane, Fiasco chose to work his linguistic aptitude across “Acknowledgment,” the first suite of the 1964 classic, A Love Supreme. His flow manages to fit perfectly with the bold performance of Coltrane. It’s a record that seems to be conceptually simplistic, but in delivery is completely overwhelming. This was a meeting of the minds set over fifty years ago.
I am thankful for many things—friends, family, good health. Today, I am thankful for great music.
“She said “Absurd last words from a dude off a Zoosk site”
And then left him
Like the Roots left Geffen
And the state Howlin’ Wolf left Chess in…”
The road leading from Gil Scott-Heron to W.E.B. Du Bois is paved with the theories of timeless thinkers and set to a soundtrack consisting of hip-hop, jazz, and funk. In changing the world of today into the society of tomorrow, we must remember to appreciate both.
On a day in which we formally welcome autumn, we too celebrate the birth of John Coltrane. The symbolism of it all can be heard rather than seen. That is why, today, I listen to Ballads.