Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Nnamdi Kanu must be released unconditionally

(Nnamdi Kanu: ... leader of Indigenous People of Biafra and freedom broadcaster, Radio Biafra ... must be released unconditionally)
NEWS REPORTS from Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday 25 April 2017, and filed by Ikechukwu Nnochiri, state that Nnamdi Kanu has been  “granted bail” by a gulag court facility sitting in Abuja, genocidist Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu and several other Biafrans of the resolute freedom movement have been detained illegally by the Muhammadu Buhari genocidist regime since October 2015 and must all be released unconditionally at once. They must all walk away free – free to Biafra.
(Sonny Rollins Trio, “The freedom suite” [personnel: Rollins, tenor saxophone; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Max Roach, drums; recorded: Riverside Records, New York, US, 7 March 1958])
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100th birthday of Ella Fitzgerald

(Born 25 April 1917, Newport News, Virginia, US)
Celebrated vocalist with a phenomenal vocal range and an illustrious recording career spanning six decades
(Ella Fitzgerald and the Tee Carson Trio, “Summertime” [personnel: Fitzgerald, vocals; Carson, piano; Ketter Betts, bass; Joe Harris, drums; recorded: live, Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, Germany, 11 February 1968])
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Monday, 24 April 2017

France: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron advance to second and final round of presidential poll. There isn’t a more opportune time for African peoples to embark on an Africa “francophonie”-exit

 (Marine Le Pen, front national)
(Emmanuel Macron, en marche!)
Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe 

(Charles de Gaulle, [Brazzaville, 1944]: “Self-government [restoration-of-African-independence] must be rejected – even in the more distant future)

(François Mitterand [Paris, 1998]: “Without Africa, France will have no history in the 21st century”)

(Jacques Chirac: [Paris, 2008] “[W]ithout Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power”)

(Jacques Godfrain, head of French foreign ministry: [Paris, 1998] “A little country, with a small amount of strength, we can move a planet because [of our] … relations with 15 or 20 African countries)

For the first time since the 1958 founding of the French 5th republic by Charles de Gaulle, two supposedly outside politicians not from the alternate “right” (spectrum of Gaullist republicans) and “left” (socialists) parties of the country’s political establishment have won the stipulated first round of the French presidential election. Marine Le Pen of the front national and Emmanuel Macron of the en marche! (not totally an “outsider”, having been economy minister in the outgoing, unpopular Hollande government, quitting in August 2016 to form his so-called centrist movement) will now go on to contest for the decisive second round in a fortnight.

Tenor

Despite the tenor of the epigraphs (above) that illustrate, definitively, the role of Africa in France and French life, Africa hardly features as a substantive subject in French elections, not least yesterday’s. Apart from the course and consequences of non-EU immigration in the country and tangentially islamist terrorism which is viewed more as one in a range of manifestations of the aftermath of its history with the Middle East/islamist world, French politicians, irrespective of ideological/political leanings do not find France’s relationship with Africa any contentious. Whatever may be differences in the “vision” of the future of France between Le Pen and Marcon, for instance, in the wake of the tumultuous “anti”-establishment aftermath of yesterday’s poll, both accept the salient formulations encapsulated in each of the epigraphs on Africa and France, beginning with the founder of their 5th republic, a right-wing politician, and including that of the respected socialist Mitterrand. 

Equally, the duo Nicholas Sarkozy (“right”) and François Hollande (“left”) illustrate this trend. Even though Sarkozy belongs to the so-called establishment right, his thinking on Africa (see, for instance, in the link below, his infamous Dakar, Sénégal, address to students, academics, state officials, and specially invited members of the public at the Cheikh Anta Diop University, 2007) is more gratuitously racist and dehumanising than anything Le Pen or indeed Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, founder of front national, both members of the “non-establishment right”, have said or written on this very subject.

WHAT IS PRECISELY at stake here, for the French state, is that incorporated in the provisions of the 1958 5th republic conceptualisation, following the humiliating defeat and collapse of its “French Indo-China” in 1954, its agelong French-occupied African states and peoples, a total of 22 countries, become effectively la terres richessewealthlands, to serve France and the French in perpetuity.

Plaque

This is why the French have such a supercilious antagonism to any conceivable notion of African restoration-of-independence and sovereignty (“Francophonie Africa works!”,
http://re-thinkingafrica.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/herbert-ekwe-ekwe-since-the1960s-there.html). This is the background to Gary Busch’s excellent study in which these countries which France still controls, occupies, calls “francophonie”,  “deposit the equivalent of 85% of their annual reserves in [dedicated Paris] accounts as a matter of post-[conquest] agreements and have never been given an accounting on how much the French are holding on their behalf, in what these funds been invested, and what profit or loss there have been” (see link above).

This is why the French military has invaded this African enclave 53 times since 1960 (see link above). Such invasions provide the French the opportunity to directly manipulate local political trends in line with their strategic objectives, install new client regimes, if need be, and expand the parameters of expropriation of critical resources even further as unabashedly vocalised by many a sitting president in Paris wishes. For the French president and policy to “francophonie” Africa, from de Gaulle in 1958 to Hollande in 2017, all members of the French establishment, the operationaling plaque for action in the Elysée palace has been: invade, intimidate, manipulate, install, antagonise, ingratiate, indemnify, expropriate, invade, intimidate...

THIS PLAQUE awaits either Le Pen or Macron, “non-members of the French establishment, to implement as usual as it has been in the past 59 years, irrespective of which of them wins the 7 May second election presidential poll. Except, of course, African peoples in the 22 states bring this staggering expropriation and indescribable servitude to a screeching halt.

“Francophonie”-exit: freedom

The first move of the Africa “francophonie”-exit from this debilitating conundrum couldn’t be more predictable: do not transfer your hard-earned revenues, the “85 per cent”, not one euro, to that dedicated Paris bank account. This transfer must stop at once, now. One mustn’t ever be a party to their own subjugation. The African publics in Bujumbura, Yamoussoukro, Dakar, Bamako, Ouagadougou, Ndjamena, Buea, Douala, Brazzaville, Kinshasa, St Louis, Bangui, Lome, Younde, Cotonou, Abidjan, Touba... should at once embark on consultations with their varying state officials to work out the parameters of implementing this great freedom movement and other interlocking features in each and every space of this occupied hemisphere. “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” must surely be for all…
(Andrew Hill Sextet, “Refuge” [personnel: Hill, piano; Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto saxophone; Joe Henderson, tenor saxophone; Richard Davis, bass; Tony Williams, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 21 March 1964])
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80th birthday of Joe Henderson

(Born 24 April 1937, Lima, Ohio, US)
Prodigiously influential tenor saxophonist, one of the leading lights of the instrument in the jazz repertoire underscored so classically with his The State of the Tenor: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vols. I & II (1985)
(Joe Henderson Trio, “Beatrice” [personnel: Henderson, tenor saxophone; Ron Crter, bass; Al Foster, drums; recorded: live, Village Vanguard, New York, US, 14-16 November 1985])
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89th birthday of Johnny Griffin

(Born 24 April 1928, Chicago, US)
Very distinguished tenor saxophonist, composer, bandleader
(Thelonious Monk Quartet, “In walked Bud” [personnel: Monk, piano; Griffin, tenor saxophone; Ahmed Abdul-Malik, bass; Roy Haynes, drums; recorded: live, Five Spot Café, New York, US, 7 August 1958])
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Saturday, 22 April 2017

95th 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)
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 95th 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 Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lionel 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 Sextet – with Eric Dolphy, Cornell University 1964, “Meditations” [personnel: Mingus, bass; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Dolphy, flute, bass clarinet; Clifford Jordan, tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard, piano; Dannie Richmond, drums; recorded: live, Cornell University, 18 March 1964]) 
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82nd 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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