Originally I was going to try to squeeze in a few more reviews for the last Ni Kantu post of 2011, but it looks like those will be running next week as the first post of 2012. At any rate, I won’t spend too much time reflecting on the past because the year’s end is, in my mind, an opportunity to leap forward. Nevertheless, and despite the political and cultural hardships we endure – not to mention financial challenges, wars, environmental insanity and sickness – this is an exciting time to be alive. Musically there is so much going on that it is impossible to keep up with it all, and that’s really quite a good thing.
When I first began to explore the world of jazz and creative music as a college student, I mostly looked at it from a historical perspective and made myself aware of the artist-soldiers who had come before my time. Some are still with us creating, many are not. As I turned to the music of my own time – that made by my peers and those somewhat older than me – it made me happy to realize that a lot of this work was new work, not retreading previously exhausted principles. While I haven’t heard or studied all the great jazz musicians from history, I still feel that what I hear now is possible only in the present, and is uniquely reflective of all the great things we, as human beings, now have available to us. I’m saying this not only in terms of technical and aesthetic resources, but spiritual (read: ineffable) ones too. Sure, we have lost many veteran masters in 2011 and it’s a trend that will no doubt be on the increase, but as we think back on the great works of those musician-composers, we must think of the fact that without these players in our physical midst, a) their work and spirit will remain with us and b) we can honor them by making the most of ourselves.
I’m really lucky to be in the position of being able to write and think about music, even as the time I have available for this work has shrunk a fair amount. Those who make music, or those who are scholars and who can pass on appreciation of the work, are also very lucky people and we’re lucky ouselves to have them in our midst. I balk at the idea that there aren’t enough musicians and artists who “bring it” left on the planet – for in my opinion, the weight of an excellent, original artist is worth ten thousand bullshitters and I’m glad there are so many fine musicians on the scene, many of whom we can see potential even if they haven’t yet come into their own. It’s a great time to look forward and to believe in oneself, perhaps keeping in mind the words of trumpeter and improvising composer Bill Dixon: “everything I did was all I could do.”
Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2012!
Clifford Allen / Ni Kantu
The Thirteenth Assembly Minus One: Taylor Ho Bynum, cornet; Mary Halvorson, guitar; Tomas Fujiwara, drums. Filmed 2010, Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC.