Monday, February 16, 2009

Quotable: Arthur Silber on the passing of John McGlinn

The world may barely note John McGlinn's passing, and it may place far too little value on the extraordinary work he did and what he accomplished against tremendous odds.

We should not be so unmindful, or so uncaring. We should do our utmost to follow McGlinn's own advice, and to be among those people who are "willing to dream" of a better world, just as he did. And in his life and work, McGlinn made that better world real.

That should be, that must be, our aspiration and our dedication, too.
That of course was the ending of the essay - make sure to check out the rest. Regulars here know I've got some pretty eclectic musical and artistic tastes. On the music front, I will groove on anything from hip-hop and industrial music to the occasional country-folk singer-songwriter. My real passion is jazz, and I've noticed far too often some very fine composers and improvisers toil in obscurity and pass away practically unnoticed. Just like you'll never experience mention of John McGlinn's life and work on Entertainment Tonight (or similarly idiotic entertainment "news" shows), good luck learning about such wonderful creators and human beings such as Dewey Redman or Alice Coltrane. Maybe they merit a couple paragraphs in the LAT or something. That's it.

I could probably spend some time on the pianist Randy Weston who has recorded for something close to six decades recording in settings ranging from solo piano to big band, and has been instrumental in both recording and preserving the rich musical and cultural heritage of the Gnawa in Morocco as well as incorporating Gnawa influences into the modern jazz tradition. The liner notes to his recordings are usually as much an educational experience as they are entertaining. And yes, the music and words communicate a desire to make the world a better place. He's been luckier than most jazzers in that he's managed to make a living in a hostile economic and cultural climate, and although he has been label-hopping a bit for the the last couple decades, there's usually someone who will open the doors to a recording studio and make some new music available to the public. There are some younger cats who have also been prolific and who have been innovators in the sub-genre known as free jazz, bringing a style thought (incorrectly) by many to be a relic of the 1960s and early 1970s into the 21st century: pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker, saxophonist David S. Ware, among others deserve far more attention and appreciation for their compositional and musical prowess than they normally receive. Ware's interpretation of Sonny Rollins' classic Freedom Suite is a sublimely potent statement for our own post-9/11 cultural paranoia, in which the meaning of freedom has been severely corrupted. Ware is potentially at the peak of his career artistically, and one can expect a challenging and rewarding listening experience. The point is that there is a great deal of artistic endeavors available that go almost entirely ignored in what passes for our "civilization." We're talking performances that feed the brain while they entertain, if you get my drift.

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