Sunday, 22 April 2018

96th birthday of Charles Mingus

(Born 22 April 1922, Nogales, Arizona, USoutstanding bassist, composer and bandleader whose music encapsulates all the critical junctures of jazz history and his Jazz Workshop a landmark conservatoire of an age)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

IN SEPTEMBER 1996, I published an essay on the work of Charles Mingus in the African Peoples Review (Vol. V, No. 3, September-December 1996, p. 22) entitled “Wednesday night prayer meeting” under the signature of Nnamdi Nzegwu. The essay is reissued here (below), in the original, in commemoration of the iconic bassist/composer’s 96th birthday: 

*****IT is no mean achievement that Charles Mingus’s music encapsulates all the critical junctures of jazz. His work with the pioneering geniuses of Charlie ParkerDuke EllingtonLouis ArmstrongLionel Hampton and Art Tatum in New York of the early 1950s gives Mingus the compositional and arranging insights that would soon be the bassist’s forte.

Few jazz scholars would now disagree that the success of that much discussed May 1953 concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall featuring the Parker Quintet (Parker, alto; Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Bud Powell, piano; Mingus, bass; Max Roach, drums) is not just a Parkerian triumph but equally that of the iconoclastic bassist from Los Angeles.

BEGINNING with Mingus, the bass ceases to be merely an “accompanying” time-keeping, harmonic instrument in jazz. It still has to contend with “time-keeping”, but it has entered into the interplay as a polyphonic participant. The work of subsequent bassists particularly Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Jimmy Garrison, Scott La Faro, Gary Peacock, Eddie Khan, Charles Haden and Dave Holland attest to this Mingusian redesignation

In 1954, Mingus launched his Jazz Workshop experimentation which was to emphasise more of “group” or “collective” improvisation in jazz, away from what was then increasingly becoming the tedious and formularised “theme-solo-theme” structures of the bebop revolution that had been launched in the 1940s by the Parker-Gillespie-Thelonious Monk troika. As a critic once observed, it was not that Mingus was “avoiding Bebop, he straddled it”. He still had to absorb the great jazz heritage to move the music forward to wrestle with the new possibilities.

Creativity and rehearsals and creativity

It is therefore the case of Mingus trying to return jazz to the “group feeling” of those years of its early development in the closing decades of the 1800s. The soloist still has a great deal of space in Mingus’s thinking but their musical concepts has to develop in anticipation and in response to the polyphony of collective interaction; there are now multisided and multiple centres of creativity soon after that infectious bass intro! The act of creativity is no longer dependent on some space and time limitation. The workshops could not distinguish between rehearsals, for instance, and real performances! Creativity during rehearsals becomes rehearsals of creativity occurring at bandstands with or without an audience (for the latter, listen to the ethereal 1962 album Mingus Presents Mingus, featuring multiinstrumentalist Eric Dolphy). The music is always in a state of flux: evolving, developing, maturing, breaking up, only to form the nucleus of another centre of activity, itself interacting with other centres of the medley.

WITH THE CLASSIC Pithecanthropus Erectus album (1956), Mingus gives notice to this sense of continuous creativity – after all, this composition is his portrait of the formulaic development of a cataclysmic human form and the (predictable?) resultant chaos that this produces in the world by the end of the 20th century. Using distinct but unusual forms of squeals, grunts, duets and harmony, the composition exacts a coherent understanding of this tragic travelogue that a 1996 earth inhabitant would perhaps be familiar with (exhaustion/appropriation/destruction of the world’s limited resources, rupture of the ozone layer) than their counterpart 40 years before. The impassioned crystalline-striking lyricism of altoist Jackie McLean, the Rollinsesque rebuttals of tenorist J R Monterose and the plodding, haunting echoes of pianist Mal Waldron strokes keep the narrative of the age on course and there is relief, at the final movement, when the pulverising destroyer falls, is destroyed.

In Blues and Roots album that follows suit, Mingus pays homage to the sacred music of his roots. The rhythmic tension at play by soloists McLean, Booker Ervin (tenor), John Handy (alto) and Jimmy Knepper (trombone) over such compositions as “Tensions”, “Moanin’”, “Cryin’ Blues” and “E’s Flat Ah’s Flat Too” always calls for new insights, ever more challenging interpretations on replays. “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” is predictably such a joy and by the time this composition is confronted yet again by a new Mingus personnel line up live in Antibes, Juan-Les-Pins (France) in 1960, detailing Mingus (bass and piano), Ted Curson (trumpet), Dolphy (alto), Ervin (tenor) and Dannie Richmond (drums), it has become the launching pad for intuitive flights and virtuosity.

Commentary

Mingus’s vivid commentaries on contemporary American life and worldwide developments are prolific. These samples range from ballads (“Sue’s Changes”, “1 X-Love”, “Bemoanable Lady”, “Celia”) to the very humorous (“Eat that Chicken”, “Hog Callin Blues”, “Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am”, “Old’ Blues for Walt’s Torin”, “My Jelly Roll Soul”), sentimental/sensuous (“Portrait of Jackie”, “Love Chant”, “Orange was the Color of her Dress, then Blue Silk”, “Peggy’s Blue Skylight”) to outright, politically serious (“Pithecanthropus Erectus”, “Ecclusiastics”, “Passions of a Man”, “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”,“Letter to Duke”, “MDM – Monk, Duke, Mingus”, “Oh Lord Don’t Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb On Me”, “Meditations on Integration”, “All the Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother”, “Fables of Faubus”, “Haitian Fight Song”, “Weird Nightmare”, “So Long Eric”) and dirge – “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, Mingus’s salute to tenorist Lester Young, and of course Epitaph, his 127-minute long composition which was performed posthumously by a 30-piece orchestra at the New York’s Lincoln Center in 1989.

NEARLY A DECADE before critics would use the term “free jazz” to describe the music of revolutionaries such as Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, etc., etc., the Mingus workshops were already redefining and laying the foundation of new points of departure for jazz. Names of workshops’ alumni read like the priority core zone of the restless and most adventurous innovators of the jazz directory of the era: drummers Willie Jones and Dannie Richmond; trumpeters Clarence Shaw, Richard Williams, Ted Curson and Johnny Coles; altoists Jackie McLean, Charlie Mariano, John Handy, Eric Dolphy (also flute and bass clarinet virtuoso), Charles McPherson; tenorists Teo Marcero, J R Monterose, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin and Clifford Jordan; trombonist Jimmy Knepper; pianists Mal Waldron, Jaki Byard, Horace Parlan, Roland Hanna.
(Charles Mingus at Antibes, “Wednesday night prayer meeting” [personnel: Mingus, bass, piano; Ted Curson, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; Booker Ervin, tenor saxophone; Dannie Richmond, drums; recorded: live, Jazz à Juan festival, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes, France, 13 July 1960]) 
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83rd birthday of Paul Chambers

(Born 22 May 1935, Pittsburgh, US)
VIRTUOSIC bassist, composer, member of Miles Davis First Great Quintet/Sextet (1955-1963) and subject of salutary, standard compositions by varying artistic colleagues: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, “Mr P.C.”; tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, “Paul’s Pal”; pianist Tommy Flanagan, “Big Paul”; pianist Red Garland, “Mr P. C. Blues”; drummer Max Roach, “Five for Paul”
(John Coltrane Quartet featuring Paul Chambers“Walkin’” and “The theme” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone, Wynton Kelly, piano; Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; recorded: live, German television, Düsseldorf, Germany, 28 March 1960]) 
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Saturday, 21 April 2018

What Muhammadu Buhari, head of regime of genocidist Nigeria, thinks of the youth in his “country”


Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

IN AN ADDRESS to a business forum in London on Wednesday 18 April 2018, organised as part of the ongoing Commonwealth heads of state/government conference in the British capital, genocidist Nigeria’s head of regime Muhammadu Buhari says the following about young people in his “country”:
Nigerian youths just want to sit down and do nothing, banking on the notion that Nigeria is an oil rich nation… More than 60 per cent of the country is under 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they sit and do nothing, and get housing, health care, education for free.
(Multiinstrumentalist Eric Dolphy here plays “God bless the child” [composed by Billie Holiday & Arthur Herzog, Jr] [personnel: Dolphy, bass clarinet; recorded: live, University of Illinoi, Champaign, Illinoi, 10 March 1963]) 
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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Biafran freedom movement’s march and rally at Pall Mall, London, England, near the conference centre of the ongoing Commonwealth heads of state/government summit, Buckingham Palace, Thursday 19 April 2018 (early pictures relayed)




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Condemnation of British expulsion of African peoples-from-the-Caribbean

(Amber Rudd ... British home secretary whose department/ministry is responsible for the African peoples’ deportation)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

MANY African commentators in the diaspora and at home have joined other critics elsewhere in the world to condemn the current British government’s outrageous expulsion of some of its citizens of African descent to the Caribbean. The criticisms are rightly commendable.

Yet silence…
IT IS  however most noticeable that a number of these commentators have been conspicuously silent when African peoples in African-run states are deported similarly or subjected to even worse treatment by their hosts as the following examples highlight:

1. In Lagos, west Nigeria, the regional regime has over the years deported scores of Igbo people to Biafra. In 2015, the king or oba of Lagos issued a royal edict to murder Igbo people if they did not vote for the king’s own preferred candidate for a senior political regional office.

2. In South Africa, thousands of African émigrés from southern, east and west Africa have been expelled in recent years by the state. Hundreds of these immigrants have been murdered in the country during the period and their homes and businesses destroyed by organised groups often linked to state officials.

3. Since the March 2015 imposition of Muhammadu Buhari, the genocidist islamist jihadist, as head of regime in Nigeria by ex-US President Obama and ex-British Prime Minister Cameron, the Buhari regime’s military and its adjunct Fulani militia, one of the world’s five deadliest terrorist organisations, have murdered 3000 Igbo people across Biafra in what has been one of the bloodiest track of phase IV of the ongoing Igbo genocide. These murders have continued unabated.

Moral rectitude
AFRICAN peoples’ lives matter. This must surely be the case wheresoever African peoples live: Biafra, Sénégal, Tanzania, Botswana, United States of America, South Africa, Barbados, Kenya, India, Côte d’Ivoire, Guyana, Canada, Britain, Surinam, St Lucia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Brazil, France, Ghana, Finland, Uganda…

Few now doubt that African commentators and others in that prominent professional grouping stand to forfeit any moral rectitude if they restrict their quest to uphold African lives’ interests usually in geographical spaces marked outside Africa but exercise a predictable stone-walled silence when these same interests are assaulted, quite often more viciously, inside Africa.
(John Coltrane & Don Cherry, “Focus on sanity” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Cherry, pocket trumpet; Percy Heath, bass; Ed Blackwell, drums; recorded: Atlantic Studios, New York, US, 28 June/8 July 1960])
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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

April is genocide awareness and prevention month: A snapshot of the Anglo-Fulani alliance that prosecutes the Igbo genocide


Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

BRITAIN and FULANI, this genocidist transcontinental dual-headed power configuration that has executed the Igbo genocide with such abiding ruthlessness and monstrosity these past 52 years, have ensured that Igbo people’s history of the past century challenges, quite dramatically, a range of key assumptions in “post-colonial” discourses that centre on race and geography.

In 1945, about 50 years after the beginning of the British conquest and occupation of Igboland, the Fulani in occupied north Nigeria, whose home is the Futa Djallon highlands of northwest Africa, 1500 miles away, embarked on the invasion of Igbo territorial spaces emplaced in the overarching architecture of the British occupation (in Jos, northcentral Nigeria) with the latter’s tactical if not strategic connivance. In effect, this attack, in which the Fulani unleashed a pogrom on the Igbo as the mode of invasion, formally inaugurated the dual-headed genocidist cabal that would oversee the perpetration of yet another season of pogrom on the Igbo in 1953 (Kano, north Nigeria), and then launched the horrendously full-blown, extended and expansive Igbo genocide, beginning on 29 May 1966. During phases I-III of the genocide in the 44 subsequent months, the duo genocidists murdered 3.1 million Igbo or 25 per cent of the Igbo population. Tens of thousands additional Igbo have been murdered in phase IV of the genocide, 13 January 1970-present day.

IT IS precisely because of the very genocidist terror that undergirds the Anglo-Fulani alliance in the wake of the 1945 Fulani invasion of Igbo homes and other interests in Jos that the Igbo resistance to this catastrophe does not categorise any of these invaders as either “primary” or “secondary”, despite the sequence of the timeframe of the invasions and despite the nature of the contributing resources that each of the co-operative executioners of this crime against humanity deploys. For the Igbo, the grave existential challenges from both the British and Fulani in these past 73 years have occurred almost invariably in more fluid or composite frames.
(John Coltrane Quintet, “Stardust [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Wilbur Harden, fluegelhorn; Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobbsdrums;  recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, US, 11 July 1958]) 
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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

97th birthday of Chike Obi

(Born 17 April 1921, Onicha, Biafra)
FIRST mathematics doctorate in Biafra/southwestcentral Africa, rigorous academic and public intellectual, aptly described by Biafran theoretical physicist Alexander Obiefoka Animalu as the “foremost African mathematical genius of the 20th century”
(John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio, “Traneing in [personnel: Garland, piano; Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Taylordrums;  recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, US, 23 August 1957]) 
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