Saturday, December 27, 2008

Al Young Remembers Eartha Kitt

“We 13-year-olds at Hutchins Intermediate in Detroit didn’t really know what to make of Eartha Kitt, billed as a chanteuse, when she broke on the scene in the early 1950s with hit records like ‘Ç’est Si Bon,’ ‘I Want to Be Evil,’ or ‘Santa Baby.’ But we could imitate and sing right along with her, French and all, clueless nonetheless. We read all the gossip about how she was dating actor-director Orson Welles and running around Europe with him. We didn’t know what that meant, either. We knew Eartha must’ve been hip or cool since she was making headlines and hits. She could sing in French and Turkish, and she’d danced with Katherine Dunham. Clearly she was someone you followed. Years later I would come to love the story she tells in one of her memoirs about the London opening of New Faces of 1952, the Broadway review in which she steals the show with ‘Monotonous,’ songwriters Ronnie Graham and Arthur Siegel’s sensuous tribute to world-weariness. One of the lines goes: ‘T.S. Eliot writes books for me, / Sherman Billingsley cooks for me.’ In one of her memoirs Kitt discloses that Mr. Eliot himself (author of The Wasteland and The Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) turned up backstage after the show to present her with flowers. Still, for eleven years Eartha Kitt was blacklisted, as it were, for patriotic remarks she made to Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson at a White House dinner to which she’d been invited as an honored guest. I loved Ms. Kitt for her moral courage to speak the truth about the American war in Vietnam. ‘The thing that hurts, that became anger,’ she later told Essence magazine, ‘was when I realized that if you tell the truth — in a country that says you’re entitled to tell the truth — you get your face slapped and you get put out of work.’ Like most American originals — Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Buster Keaton, Mae West, Billie Holiday, Oprah, Madonna — Eartha Kitt was self-invented. She came to attention in the heart of the McCarthy era, and died Christmas day on the crest of another wave of official repression. For decades Eartha Kitt brightened our dark, brutal, and increasingly loveless world with spirited movement, dance and song.”
– Al Young

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do-Wop Dreams By Reginald Lockett

Do-Wop Dreams

Wesley and the Smith brothers

straightened and processed their hair

into waves and huge pompadours,

styled in the latest shark skin suits

and Stacey Adams or Florsheims

to get that Jackie Wilson,

or hip Temptations look they swore

would drive the ladies wild.

They skated sideways,

like James Brown across stage,

outside on the schoolyard

or in the hall between classes,

winking at high school beauties

who smiled in admiration,

or stuck their noses in the air

in disgust of this ghetto flare.

They sang down on bended knees

near the basketball courts,

too clean to suit up for gym.

Didn’t want one hair out of place

on them processes and marcels

to cramp their styles and ruin

their reps when they stepped

to the neighborhood cuties.

Wesley and the Smith brothers

never saw their names in neon lights.

Their doo-wop dreams faded

into the real world of work clothes,

lunch pails, and time clocks.

Monday, December 8, 2008

David Meltzer : Checklist of publications

DAVID MELTZER: Checklist of publications


The Clown [Semina, 1960].
The Process [Oyez, l965].
The Dark Continent [Oyez, 1967].
Round the Poem Box [Black Sparrow Press, l969].
Yesod [Trigram, l969].
Luna [Black Sparrow Press, 1970].
Tens, Selected Poems, edited by Kenneth Rexroth [McGraw-Hill, l973].
Hero/Lil [Black Sparrow Press, 1973].
The Art, The Veil [Membrane Press, 1981].
The Name: Selected Poetry, 1973-1983 [Black Sparrow Press, 1984].
Arrows: Selected Poetry, 1957-1992 [Black Sparrow Press, 1994].
No Eyes: Lester Young [Black Sparrow, 2000].
Beat Thing [La Alameda Press, 2004].
David’s Copy: Selected Poems; edited by Michael Rothenberg [Penguin, 2005].
Angelize [Word Temple, 2008].


The Agency Trilogy [Brandon House, l968; reprinted by Richard Kasak, 1994].
Orf [Brandon House, l969; reprinted by Masquerade Books, l995].
The Martyr [Brandon House, 1969].
Under [Rhinoceros Books, 1997].


We All Have Something To Say To Each Other: Kenneth Patchen [Auerhan Press, 1962].
Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook [Oyez, 1977].


The San Francisco Poets [Ballantine Books, 1971].
The Secret Garden: An Anthology in the Kabbalah [Continuum Press, 1976; reprinted, Station Hill Press, 1998].
Birth: Anthology of Ancients Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories [North Point Press, 1981].
Death: Anthology of Texts, Songs, Charms, Prayers, and Tales [North Point Press, 1984].
Reading Jazz [Mercury House, 1996].
Writing Jazz [Mercury House, 1999].
San Francisco Beat: Talking With the Poets [City Lights, 2001].


Serpent Power (Vanguard Records, l968; reissued on CD in 1996).
Poet Song (Vanguard Records, l969).
Green Morning (Capitol Records, 1970, unreleased; issued on vinyl from a Swiss company in 1999; CD, 2001).
Serpent Power/Poet Song (Italy, 2000).
David Meltzer: 1958; Jazz and Poetry (Sierra Records, 2005).
Serpent Power at KPFA (Locust Music, 2007).

Recipient of 2006 PEN Oakland/Jospehine Miles award for BEAT THING.


Raised up in Brooklyn during the War years; performed on radio & early TV on the Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour. Was exiled to L.A. at 16 & at 17 enrolled in an ongoing academy w/ artists Wallace Berman, George Herms, Robert Alexander, Cameron; migrated to San Francisco in l957 for higher education w/ peers & maestros like Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Joanne Kyger, Diane DiPrima, Michael McClure, Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Jack Hirschman, a cast of thousands all living extraordinary ordinary lives. Lists suck in their exclusionary momemtary temerity of blank.

BEAT THING [La Alameda Press, 2004] won the Josephine Miles PEN Award, 2005. Was editor and interviewer for SAN FRANCISCO BEAT: TALKING WITH THE POETS [City Lights, 2001]. Teach in the graduate Poetics program at New College of California, as well as in their outstanding undergraduate Humanities program. With Steve Dickison, co-edit SHUFFLE BOIL, a magazine devoted to music in all its appearances & disappearences. DAVID'S COPY, selected poems, published in 2005 by Viking/Penguin. DAVID MELTZER: Poetry W/ Jazz, 1958 recently (finally) issued by Sierra Records.


Also taught in the MA program in Creative Writing at S.F. State; conducted weekly workshops for four years at Vacaville State Prison; spent a year teaching at Urban Scool in San Francisco; recipient of an NEA grant for writing (mid ‘70s, am lousy w/ dates) --

Edited TREE, an irregular journal devoted to the Kabbalah as reflected in both modern & classical texts; was publisher & editor for Tree Books which published, among other titles, ELYA by Jabes (his first book to be published in U.S.), Malka Heifetz Tussman’s poetry translated by Marcia Falk, Rose Drachler, Jerome Rothenberg, Jack Hirschman, Andrei Codrescu, Nathaniel Tarn, &tc.

Have given readings in small & large venues, festivals, too numerous to recount or remember exact details; my works have been anthologized -- I suppose the most signifant appearence was in the Don Allen anthology, THE NEW AMERICAN POETRY; I felt most affirmed when a poem of mine was published in the weekly Yiddish FORWARD --

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Afghanistan, Another Untold Story By Michael Parenti

Afghanistan, Another Untold Story
Michael Parenti

Barack Obama is on record as advocating a military escalation in Afghanistan. Before sinking any deeper into that quagmire, we might do well to learn something about recent Afghan history and the role played by the United States.

Less than a month after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, US leaders began an all-out aerial assault upon Afghanistan, the country purportedly harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization. More than twenty years earlier, in 1980, the United States intervened to stop a Soviet “invasion” of that country. Even some leading progressive writers, who normally take a more critical view of US policy abroad, treated the US intervention against the Soviet-supported government as “a good thing.” The actual story is not such a good thing.

Some Real History

Since feudal times the landholding system in Afghanistan had remained unchanged, with more than 75 percent of the land owned by big landlords who comprised only 3 percent of the rural population. In the mid-1960s, democratic revolutionary elements coalesced to form the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In 1973, the king was deposed, but the government that replaced him proved to be autocratic, corrupt, and unpopular. It in turn was forced out in 1978 after a massive demonstration in front of the presidential palace, and after the army intervened on the side of the demonstrators.

The military officers who took charge invited the PDP to form a new government under the leadership of Noor Mohammed Taraki, a poet and novelist. This is how a Marxist-led coalition of national democratic forces came into office. “It was a totally indigenous happening. Not even the CIA blamed the USSR for it,” writes John Ryan, a retired professor at the University of Winnipeg, who was conducting an agricultural research project in Afghanistan at about that time.

The Taraki government proceeded to legalize labor unions, and set up a minimum wage, a progressive income tax, a literacy campaign, and programs that gave ordinary people greater access to health care, housing, and public sanitation. Fledgling peasant cooperatives were started and price reductions on some key foods were imposed.

The government also continued a campaign begun by the king to emancipate women from their age-old tribal bondage. It provided public education for girls and for the children of various tribes.
A report in the San Francisco Chronicle (17 November 2001) noted that under the Taraki regime Kabul had been “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs—-in the 1980s, there were seven female members of parliament. Women drove cars, traveled and went on dates. Fifty percent of university students were women.”

The Taraki government moved to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppy. Until then Afghanistan had been producing more than 70 percent of the opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. The government also abolished all debts owed by farmers, and began developing a major land reform program. Ryan believes that it was a “genuinely popular government and people looked forward to the future with great hope.”

But serious opposition arose from several quarters. The feudal landlords opposed the land reform program that infringed on their holdings. And tribesmen and fundamentalist mullahs vehemently opposed the government’s dedication to gender equality and the education of women and children.

Because of its egalitarian and collectivist economic policies the Taraki government also incurred the opposition of the US national security state. Almost immediately after the PDP coalition came to power, the CIA, assisted by Saudi and Pakistani military, launched a large scale intervention into Afghanistan on the side of the ousted feudal lords, reactionary tribal chieftains, mullahs, and opium traffickers.

A top official within the Taraki government was Hafizulla Amin, believed by many to have been recruited by the CIA during the several years he spent in the United States as a student. In September 1979, Amin seized state power in an armed coup. He executed Taraki, halted the reforms, and murdered, jailed, or exiled thousands of Taraki supporters as he moved toward establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state. But within two months, he was overthrown by PDP remnants including elements within the military.

It should be noted that all this happened before the Soviet military intervention. National security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski publicly admitted--months before Soviet troops entered the country--that the Carter administration was providing huge sums to Muslim extremists to subvert the reformist government. Part of that effort involved brutal attacks by the CIA-backed mujahideen against schools and teachers in rural areas.

In late 1979, the seriously besieged PDP government asked Moscow to send a contingent of troops to help ward off the mujahideen (Islamic guerrilla fighters) and foreign mercenaries, all recruited, financed, and well-armed by the CIA. The Soviets already had been sending aid for projects in mining, education, agriculture, and public health. Deploying troops represented a commitment of a more serious and politically dangerous sort. It took repeated requests from Kabul before Moscow agreed to intervene militarily.

Jihad and Taliban, CIA Style

The Soviet intervention was a golden opportunity for the CIA to transform the tribal resistance into a holy war, an Islamic jihad to expel the godless communists from Afghanistan. Over the years the United States and Saudi Arabia expended about $40 billion on the war in Afghanistan. The CIA and its allies recruited, supplied, and trained almost 100,000 radical mujahideen from forty Muslim countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and Afghanistan itself. Among those who answered the call was Saudi-born millionaire right-winger Osama bin Laden and his cohorts.

After a long and unsuccessful war, the Soviets evacuated the country in February 1989. It is generally thought that the PDP Marxist government collapsed immediately after the Soviet departure. Actually, it retained enough popular support to fight on for another three years, outlasting the Soviet Union itself by a year.

Upon taking over Afghanistan, the mujahideen fell to fighting among themselves. They ravaged the cities, terrorized civilian populations, looted, staged mass executions, closed schools, raped thousands of women and girls, and reduced half of Kabul to rubble. In 2001 Amnesty International reported that the mujahideen used sexual assault as “a method of intimidating vanquished populations and rewarding soldiers.’”

Ruling the country gangster-style and looking for lucrative sources of income, the tribes ordered farmers to plant opium poppy. The Pakistani ISI, a close junior partner to the CIA, set up hundreds of heroin laboratories across Afghanistan. Within two years of the CIA’s arrival, the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderland became the biggest producer of heroin in the world.

Largely created and funded by the CIA, the mujahideen mercenaries now took on a life of their own. Hundreds of them returned home to Algeria, Chechnya, Kosovo, and Kashmir to carry on terrorist attacks in Allah’s name against the purveyors of secular “corruption.”

In Afghanistan itself, by 1995 an extremist strain of Sunni Islam called the Taliban---heavily funded and advised by the ISI and the CIA and with the support of Islamic political parties in Pakistan---fought its way to power, taking over most of the country, luring many tribal chiefs into its fold with threats and bribes.

The Taliban promised to end the factional fighting and banditry that was the mujahideen trademark. Suspected murderers and spies were executed monthly in the sports stadium, and those accused of thievery had the offending hand sliced off. The Taliban condemned forms of “immorality” that included premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality. They also outlawed all music, theater, libraries, literature, secular education, and much scientific research.

The Taliban unleashed a religious reign of terror, imposing an even stricter interpretation of Muslim law than used by most of the Kabul clergy. All men were required to wear untrimmed beards and women had to wear the burqa which covered them from head to toe, including their faces. Persons who were slow to comply were dealt swift and severe punishment by the Ministry of Virtue. A woman who fled an abusive home or charged spousal abuse would herself be severely whipped by the theocratic authorities. Women were outlawed from social life, deprived of most forms of medical care, barred from all levels of education, and any opportunity to work outside the home. Women who were deemed “immoral” were stoned to death or buried alive.

None of this was of much concern to leaders in Washington who got along famously with the Taliban. As recently as 1999, the US government was paying the entire annual salary of every single Taliban government official. Not until October 2001, when President George W. Bush had to rally public opinion behind his bombing campaign in Afghanistan did he denounce the Taliban’s oppression of women. His wife, Laura Bush, emerged overnight as a full-blown feminist to deliver a public address detailing some of the abuses committed against Afghan women.

If anything positive can be said about the Taliban, it is that they did put a stop to much of the looting, raping, and random killings that the mujahideen had practiced on a regular basis. In 2000 Taliban authorities also eradicated the cultivation of opium poppy throughout the areas under their control, an effort judged by the United Nations International Drug Control Program to have been nearly totally successful. With the Taliban overthrown and a Western-selected mujahideen government reinstalled in Kabul by December 2001, opium poppy production in Afghanistan increased dramatically.

The years of war that have followed have taken tens of thousands of Afghani lives. Along with those killed by Cruise missiles, Stealth bombers, Tomahawks, daisy cutters, and land mines are those who continue to die of hunger, cold, lack of shelter, and lack of water.

The Holy Crusade for Oil and Gas
While claiming to be fighting terrorism, US leaders have found other compelling but less advertised reasons for plunging deeper into Afghanistan. The Central Asian region is rich in oil and gas reserves. A decade before 9/11, Time magazine (18 March 1991) reported that US policy elites were contemplating a military presence in Central Asia. The discovery of vast oil and gas reserves in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan provided the lure, while the dissolution of the USSR removed the one major barrier against pursuing an aggressive interventionist policy in that part of the world.

US oil companies acquired the rights to some 75 percent of these new reserves. A major problem was how to transport the oil and gas from the landlocked region. US officials opposed using the Russian pipeline or the most direct route across Iran to the Persian Gulf. Instead, they and the corporate oil contractors explored a number of alternative pipeline routes, across Azerbaijan and Turkey to the Mediterranean or across China to the Pacific.

The route favored by Unocal, a US based oil company, crossed Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The intensive negotiations that Unocal entered into with the Taliban regime remained unresolved by 1998, as an Argentine company placed a competing bid for the pipeline. Bush’s war against the Taliban rekindled UNOCAL’s hopes for getting a major piece of the action.

Interestingly enough, neither the Clinton nor Bush administrations ever placed Afghanistan on the official State Department list of states charged with sponsoring terrorism, despite the acknowledged presence of Osama bin Laden as a guest of the Taliban government. Such a “rogue state” designation would have made it impossible for a US oil or construction company to enter an agreement with Kabul for a pipeline to the Central Asian oil and gas fields.

In sum, well in advance of the 9/11 attacks the US government had made preparations to move against the Taliban and create a compliant regime in Kabul and a direct US military presence in Central Asia. The 9/11 attacks provided the perfect impetus, stampeding US public opinion and reluctant allies into supporting military intervention.

One might agree with John Ryan who argued that if Washington had left the Marxist Taraki government alone back in 1979, “there would have been no army of mujahideen, no Soviet intervention, no war that destroyed Afghanistan, no Osama bin Laden, and no September 11 tragedy.” But it would be asking too much for Washington to leave unmolested a progressive leftist government that was organizing the social capital around collective public needs rather than private accumulation.

US intervention in Afghanistan has proven not much different from US intervention in Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, and elsewhere. It had the same intent of preventing egalitarian social change, and the same effect of overthrowing an economically reformist government. In all these instances, the intervention brought retrograde elements into ascendance, left the economy in ruins, and pitilessly laid waste to many innocent lives.

The war against Afghanistan, a battered impoverished country, continues to be portrayed in US official circles as a gallant crusade against terrorism. If it ever was that, it also has been a means to other things: destroying a leftist revolutionary social order, gaining profitable control of one of the last vast untapped reserves of the earth’s dwindling fossil fuel supply, and planting US bases and US military power into still another region of the world.

In the face of all this Obama’s call for “change” rings hollow.

Michael Parenti’s recent books are Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader and the forthcoming God and His Demons. For further information, visit

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Are Already In The Future! By Amiri Baraka 11.29.08

We Are Already In The Future!

At election’s denouement, to the Right the outraged, self loathing of the loser & the losers, including one dude standing mutely in Michigan, a Republican delegate, in a Klan suit, describing Obama as an “Islamic communist”. To the Left, the self important drears who had urged us to throw our votes away, as they objectively, in the name of their “principles”, gave votes to John McCain.

Even dizzier, we supposedly hear from the left right corkscrew terrorist , Al Qaeda insults that Obama is a “house slave” But as I sd in an instant rejoinder, “Anyone who thinks suicide is revolutionary ain’t all that bright to begin with. And as for that slave calling, best they refrain from drawing our attention to the fact that some of the Arab ruling class always thought of Black people as slaves”. But we are willing to be momentarily cool, remembering Mao’s dictum, “fight your enemies one by one”.

But back to reality. We have just won an election. We, meaning the masses in the US, indeed the people of the world. (I was in Italy, France, Spain, Norway during the period leading up to and through the election. In Italy just before the election at my readings I urged the Italians to call the states, since I knew they had a bunch of relatives over here, and tell them to vote. In city after city the crowds all seemed to cheer for Obama’s victory.) And whoever seeks to downplay that victory is fool or enemy.

We shd understand the white supremacy junkies on the right. Their last pop was Old Dutch cleanser and seltzer water, so they have had almost to cold turkey off that WS they been shootin up, though still dizzy from its fumes. But the Left or soi disant wd be Left or some who style themselves, what? , progressive, moderate, wheeze wheeze. Some of these, certainly the vote wasters, sound almost as pitiful. As one pitiful pundit warns us, “Obama’s election is to save capitalism…not bring equality to the society.” What a silly person.

First of all the very election of Obama has done more to bring some aspect of equality to the society than reams of pseudo leftist posturing. Which, all returns in, is meant merely to show the writer is smarter than you are. But what, dreary pundits, wd a McCain victory have done? And suppose your wasted vote had contributed to such? To always be on the outside nitpicking away with not one sign of useful political practice or construction, this is too often what the Left has become. I say it again, people who have never and cannot elect a dog catcher but who are full of immense ideas about politics. Bah, Humbug!

No single election, my friends, will ever bring us Socialism, if that’s what you really seek. The struggle is protracted, hasn’t that been said? We have yet even to convince the “revolutionaries” they are in the United States. But Obama is not even in office yet these pundits of pitifulness already have the hole card on what his governance cannot or will not do. This is especially irritating from those commentators who counseled us not to vote for him in the first place. One wonders if they think their counsel, which meant nothing, is more valuable than having an actual person of color with the widest mandate in history actually elected president?

But to run off howling about it’s not this and it’s not that, when we do not yet have a viable analysis of what it really is! Not to understand how that victory was achieved is to willfully miss a rare opportunity of learning how to master the capitalist electoral system. One of the reasons we do not yet understand how to harness the electoral process to a revolutionary and socialist agenda is that too many of the very people who should be leading such a process denounce and/or avoid it. To do what? Make statements and demonstrate. To withdraw from the most acceptable way of gaining power in the society defies understanding by any rational means. Except for the hold that infantile leftism and anarchism have on too many wishing to present themselves as revolutionary.

Barack Obama raised hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it as a result of using the internet culture, for fundraising and organizing. Let the foolish Right agonize over their attempt at denigrating “Community Organizer”. Now they have at least felt a C.O. foot planted up their B &A Hinds.

Obama raised 150 million dollars in October alone! He beat both Hilary Clinton & John McCain fund raising. At one point he wanted to buy one hour of time on CNN to lay out a complete campaign message, but CNN vetoed it. And here we thought that money was the ultimate boss. What the Right cannot forget nor the milksop Left is that Obama was/is smarter than both of them! And more in tune with the popular mind, not only of the 98% of the Afro American population but, obviously of the great majority of Americans. This, in itself, is a fantastic new precedent that must be acted upon immediately, before the corporate right media and all our “independent” smarty pants commentators cloud over the main issues.

The “bottom line” of Obama’s campaign was his initiation at the grass roots level in his appeal. The 04 Democratic convention is widely seen as the opening of his campaign and I can accept that, but even to be there to do that. A first term senator of color from Illinois. How did he get to be a Senator in the lst place? I watched the biopic on CNN and what I got from it is a skill developed as a, what?, community organizer. To organize significant groups around their own interests and with that connecting them in motion around some larger issue. Obama carried his Chicago, his Illinois constituency with him and as he made more powerful meaningful connections, like an extension cord, his total reach and power expanded.

For the Left, they should never speak another word about “politics” unless they can understand and explain to their own constituents, how this Black man, Ok, this person of color, Ok, this half white dude, became President of the United States. Because it is just such grounding in basic everyday electorally oriented politics that the Left denounces and eschews. To all our detriments. In the main, the Left holds rallies and makes statements. Community Organization is almost as foreign to them as the Right. (But then the Right does its “community organization” through their media.)

Usually, when the Left talks about “the people” or “the masses” they come out of some comic book academic manual confusing the US, the most highly developed 21st century monopoly capitalist society, with 19th century Russia or early 20th century China. Both largely peasant societies with small but developing working classes. The US is neither.

The US is both debtor and predator state, at the same time. With a highly developed yet debt burdened working class who are told every day that they are the middle class. There is a middle class, a petty bourgeoisie, a very very affluent sector, who are the lieutenants and paid liars, the middle management who are also deeply in debt. There is also a petty petty bourgeois, the teachers, government workers, civil servants, office workers, &c. Racism still internally divides these classes horizontally, with the Afro American people still at the bottom, yet those same Afro American people, nearly 50 million, have a gross national product of 600 Billion dollars a year , the 16th largest in the world.

There have already been Four Revolutions in the United States. The first in the 18th century, for “independence” (quotes because in some ways it never completely happened. Check out British holdings in the US). The 2nd in the 19th century, the Civil War, which ended chattel slavery (& w/the 13th, 14th 15th amendments) and competitive capitalism, ushered in monopoly capitalism and began to free the white worker from the land.

The 3rd revolution was the 50’s to 70’s Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements which ended petty apartheid & segregation (Civil Rights Bill, Voting Rights Bill, Brown vs. Bd of Ed). Though a case could be made that this was an extended motion that was initiated by the post Civil War move out of the south by millions of Black people transforming the Afro American people from a largely peasant rural people to a working class. An urban proletariat.

The Obama election is the 4th Revolution! What is needed now is for the would be Left, the revolutionaries, , the progressive sector of the body politic, the Communists to correctly analyze and project widely just what kind of revolution this is. But more than that, lay out exactly what is to be done at this point, the entry to a new stage of US social development, like we used to say, What is the key link, to make the next forward motion.


We shd know that the stage of society to which we are moving toward would be some kind of Peoples Democracy. Fundamentally, this is the social base of Obama’s victory, the so called Post racial coalition. We understand that there is yet no such reality existing concretely in the institutions and relations of US society , except that is the oncoming force that won the 4th Revolution and it is this force that must harnessed as a living material entity in transforming US society.

This would place us near the most advanced stage of bourgeois democracy. We can see Monopoly capitalism crashing down around their and our heads! We have agreed to give the rulers a trillion dollars so they can continue to be rich and the rulers. But for the would be Leftists to tell us that Obama’s Only or that his “primary function is to save capitalism by building a united front to rescue capitalism NOT to bring about a more egalitarian, antiracist anti sexist pro environment society”. Why would anyone who was actually struggling for Democracy say that? It sounds like the sour grapes of the people who wanted us to waste our votes , but even though they tailed 98% of the Afro American and half of the rest of the American people, still want to give us advice and instructions. Actually, it is they who need advice and instructions.

To make such a one sided infantile Leftist or Trot like analysis of the election would only turn that overwhelming majority whom you tail anyway, even more sharply and outspokenly against you. There is neither balance nor real analysis in that statement. Just an attempt to be again, more revolutionary than the people. But the task of the revolutionary is to lead the people by taking what they already know and giving it back to them with the focus of the present the past and the future.

Plus to see Obama’s victory as simply a victory for monopoly capitalism is so thoroughly anarchist that it rejects the most important essence of the entire Obama drama, i.e. it was the highest stroke of the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements yet. We bled to integrate lunch counters, buses, public toilets, water fountains, was that struggle just to create a united front to save monopoly capitalism? Do you think Obama’s victory less than those? It was a concrete victory for Democracy. Don’t you understand that you cd say the victory of the North in the civil war was just to preserve capitalism? Yes, at a higher level. But don’t you think the concomitant advance of the Afro American people worth noting?

So to say Obama’s only function is to save monopoly capitalism, we say,”I’m glad you can dig it, but that's not all... “To claim merely an anarchist or infantile position and not deepen the analysis so we can understand that monopoly capitalism cannot survive unless it adopts some aspects of social democracy. Obama’s election is the first aspect of that social democracy. In the same way that FDR’s “New Deal” could not survive, even as a method of maintaining monopoly capitalism unless it adopted important features of socialism, social democracy, i.e., social security and Unemployment insurance, the WPA public Works project to put people back to work. Even the artists. I said before that what Obama must bring us is “A New New Deal”! That is why it is so important that he hit the ground running, in much the same way that Roosevelt did in his first 100 Days. (See ….) I was glad to hear that he was reading accounts of the emergency bills Roosevelt passed before the reactionary congress could block him. Obama faces the same exigency. We need a “fast break” strategy with a few”alley oop” dunks perhaps. Before the opposition can resolidify itself.

We have a great unity among the people now with Obama’s victory and we and the people must move forward with that catalyst. We must unite principally against still existing racism and white supremacy. We must also unite against the domination of monopoly capitalism over the people’s needs. The theft of a trillion dollars has infuriated the people, certainly we can unite them, build a united front around the need to destroy surviving racism and white supremacy and for creating greater regulations on monopoly capitalism. If we give the investment banks a trillion dollars we should own those investment banks. If we give another two hundred fifty billion to the auto industry, we should own that auto industry.

We cannot wipe away monopoly capitalism with one election but our minimum program must include regulation of it, Public ownership reversing the trend of outsourcing, and sending factories out of the country, usually out of working class and minority neighborhoods. Certainly we can build a united front around these things.

We should be listing those things we can do, those things that Obama’s election has enabled us to do rather than spending time telling people that what they and he did was nothing!

In attacking monopoly capitalism we shd support small capitalism and minority capitalism and fight that those businesses and institutions in working class and minority communities get the dollars that we are giving the investment banks and auto industry.

The development of small capitalism in those communities and state ownership of these financial institutions would be steps forward in terms of the development of a Peoples Democracy. Is this socialism, No, but we must first regulate and weaken monopoly capitalism, in tune with the peoples newly awakened appetite for expanded democracy and their hard times which we know and can make them better understand is caused by the domination of monopoly capitalism and imperialism, including the Iraq war.

It is up to us, the Left, to build on the powerful democratic coalition Obama’s campaign and election have already built. We must strive to make such a democratic coalition more than just an temporary election campaign call and fight to turn such ideas and momentary commitment into a powerful new base on which to focus Obama’s first term, but also to build this into a permanent aspect of US society. The anti war forces are another key aspect of this coalition and a means to call for a refocusing of the 10billion dollars a month now spent on the Iraq war.

We shd try to build a broad united front out of the consensus coming out of the 63% of the electorate that voted for Obama! One wonders how people in the Black Left who were at the North Carolina meeting and some others, can really call for an smaller united front than the hundred or so people who were there. What we need is a unity based on real struggle over actual objectives and motives, i.e. being “open and above board” without “conspiracy and intrigue”.

There are forces who dropped out of the Black Radical Congress because they were angry about alleged CPUSA “domination”, domination of what, and to what end? Just as a somewhat earlier canard that they cdn’t be in any group where there were white people. We wonder is this some fear of not being able to struggle for the correct line in these forces presence?

Too often it seems that some of the Black Left are really nationalists straining for a new identity by claiming to be Left but never Marxist Leninists. Some are Black Nationalists who claim “Left” by being influenced by Trotskyist or Anarchist stands.

At any rate we need an even broader United Front guided by genuine revolutionaries, communists not Trot influenced Black Leftists.


There are questions about Obama’s appointments even before he is inaugurated. Just as there were questions about him refusing public funding. On the second issue, it shd be obvious by now that Obama saw the public funding, as it is now constructed, to be a ruse to cripple his fund raising, while the Republicans would run ragtime and out raise him, just as Hillary would have done.

On the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, we should try to understand that this was a very smart choice. The constant calumny against Obama that he is a Muslim. The Right kept screaming his middle name, Hussain, in hopes that would stop the Obamacoaster that enveloped the country. The constant questions about his support for Israel or from the other side about his relationship to the “Zionist entity” were a constant negation Obama faced. Even now, after the election, the fool, al Qaeda’s Zawahari, hurls insults about Obama. Just as some ignorant American anarchists threaten to disrupt the inauguration because of “Obama’s Zionism & Militarism”.

Rahm Emanuel’s selection is due to confound those who are not thoughtful about just what challenges Obama faces. The ever lurking actual Zionists will always make trouble until they can have what they really want, not peace, but the entire Middle East as a fiefdom ruled by Israel.

The Emanuel appointment stops Zionist mischief at the door. Karl Rove’s television appearance blasting Emanuel as “combative, ill tempered and foul mouthed” and that he was Obama’s worst appointment , were very encouraging to me. Let the rumor mongers and mischief makers and other nattering nabobs try to cause havoc at the gates. I trust Emanuel to handle that as chief of staff, both the constant undermining questions of the Zionists as well as the others who want to make Obama a Zionist. To be a friend of the Israeli people is no crime, to foster a Zionist dictatorship over the Middle East would be a crime. We cannot see Obama doing the latter.

The first necessity of the Obama precedent is to put out a call for a nationwide Democratic Coalition, to heighten even further the attack on white supremacy and racism. Even to fight to get these made illegal, unlawful. This would be the essence of the Post racial coalition, which has already shown its potential power with the election of the President. The Kennedy years could have set something of a precedent, but his assassination along with the assassinations of Malcolm X, Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy, peaked with the election of Nixon and then the takeover at the end of the 70’s by the Reagan steamroller which has been with us in essence until today.

Those assassinations were a Right wing coup, an oil smelling coup that at its denouement was the invasion of the Middle East and the outright takeover of the oil fields, plus the move of the financial markets to Dubai, as alternate to London and Wall St. Monsters covered with and bathing in oil . The crash of the financial markets in the US and to some extent worldwide can mark the end of this domination if we will move on the new precedent of Obama’s election.

Not only must this new Democratic Coalition take on White supremacy and Racism but to oppose and struggle to end the domination of monopoly capitalism over the people of the US, end the war in Iraq and in essence its domination of the world. State ownership, nationalization, new funding for non monopoly and small business. This democratic coalition must be built into a permanent electoral presence as well to combat the still powerful and ruthless forces of white supremacy and the domination of society by monopoly capitalism.

The Public Works' New New Deal would see Katrina damaged New Orleans as a top priority and seek to reconstruct the entire gulf ravaged area from Louisiana to Texas. The sagging infrastructure of bridges and tunnels and urban structures must be repaired. This is one solution to chronic unemployment. Certainly these inner cities are in need of public dollars for employment and reconstruction. Just as in the depression 30’s Roosevelt’s new deal even supported the arts, we must see that our new Democratic Coalition demands the same kind of support after years of the Republicans attacks on public support of the Arts.

We want to build a new Democratic Coalition as an engine for the bringing of a People’s Democracy. Any narrowing of the “Post racial coalition” that elected Obama is a mistake. We must fight to make it real. Those who think that tailing “Labor” mostly the labor bureaucrats or pushing economism as a substitute for political organizing and fielding candidates for every position we are able to are merely continuing the marginalization and irrelevance of the Left. The call for an anti racist anti monopoly Democratic Coalition is correct and necessary and the only move that will give the genuine revolutionaries leadership of the progressive political struggle in the US.

Amiri Baraka


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Billie's Detour (Dedicated to a genius)

Here is a recent play-list from a broadcast at KDVS in Davis, Ca. I was very graciously joined at the end of the show by the great pianist Matthew Shipp and poet Steve Dalachinsky. The version of Day Dream at the start of the show was the original recording. I followed it with a very interesting arrangement of the Strayhorn composition by pianist Dick Katz for Helen Merrill from the Milestone album, The Feeling Is Mutual. This very fine record has just recently been reissued by Mosaic as a CD with the other album Ms. Merrill recorded with the Katz group for Milestone. The highlight of the show, for me, was the 1951 recording by Billie Holiday of Detour Ahead. From her only session for Alladdin, accompanied by the Tiny Grimes Sextet, the lyric and delivery thereof, have Lady Day at her existential best! Also on this show was the always astounding Mingus Sextet of 1964. This particular group featured Eric Dolphy on alto sax, Johnny Coles at the trumpet, Clifford Jordan on tenor sax, Jaki Byard on piano and Dannie Richmond, of course, on drums. I played the relatively scarce double album Concertgebouw Amsterdam April 10th 1964. I chose Ow (Dedicated to a genius), which is an homage to Charlie Parker. Though I played some Bird before this cut, and even the original Anthropology from Dizzy Gillespie and Don Byas, I realized a musical ambiance more conducive to Ow (Dedicated to a genius) could have been created. I think in the future I will do a show only on Bird and his music concluding with this Mingus masterpiece. As Mingus said at the time, "We're trying to make him live a little bit, here."

Day Dream - Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra
Day Dream - Helen Merrill & Dick Katz
Deep In A Dream - Helen Merrill (duet with Jim Hall)
Something To Remember You By - Thad Jones (duet with Kenny Burrell)
Billie Holiday - Detour Ahead
Billie Holiday - Be Fair To Me Baby
Billie Holiday - Blue Turning Grey Over You
Johnny Griffin Quartet - I Remember You
Louis Smith - Au Privave
Annie Ross - This Time's The Dreams On Me
Annie Ross - Let There Be Love
Chet Baker & Art Pepper - Resonant Emotions
The Metronome All-Stars - Victory Ball
Dizzy Gillespie Sextet - Anthropology
Charles Mingus Sextet - Ow (Dedicated to a genius)
Matthew Shipp Trio - Light
Matthew Shipp & Steve Dalachinsky Interview Part 1
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - The Clothed Woman
Matthew Shipp & Steve Dalachinsky Interview Part 2
Matthew Shipp Trio - When The Curtain Falls On The Jazz Theatre

Monday, October 20, 2008

Morning Joy

Morning Joy

Piano buttons, stitched on morning lights.
Jazz wakes the day,
As I awaken with jazz, love lit the night.
Eyes appear and disappear,
To lead me once more to a green moon.
Streets paved with opal sadness,
Lead me counterclockwise, to pockets of joy,
And jazz.

by Bob Kaufman

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dreaming of the Masters

This is the playlist from this mornings broadcast on KDVS. You can listen to it where it is archived under New Day Jazz - Justin Desmangles at

The over all tone and trajectory of the show was really, as you can see, motivated by the spirit of the great Charles Mingus.

The love affair with America's First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald continues!

Special thanks to comedian, writer, actor and friend Paul Mooney

Charles Mingus - East Coasting
Charles Mingus -Hearts Beat And Shades Of Physical Embraces
Charles Mingus -(Soul Fusion) Freewoman
Lenny Bruce - Three Commercials
Ella Fitzgerald - Blues In The Night
Ella Fitzgerald & Ellis Larkins - I've Got A Crush On You
Randy Weston - African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant
Bud Powell - Collard Greens & Black-eyed Peas
Herbie Nichols - Argumentative Variation
Johnny Griffin - Cherokee
Betty Carter - My Shining Hour
Betty Carter - Something Wonderful
Helen Merrill (duet with Jim Hall) - Deep In A Dream
Billie Holiday - Am I Blue?
Teddy Wilson featuring Billie Holiday - I Cover The Waterfront
Billie Holiday - Billie's Blues
Margaret Walker - Old Molly Means
Bennie Green featuring Babs Gonzalez - Soul Stirrin'
Barney Bigard - Brown Suede
Interview with Paul Mooney by Justin Desmangles (live)
Duke Ellington Trio - Jumpin' Room Only
Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn - Tonk
Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn - Drawingroom Blues
Gil Evans Orchestra - Where Flamingos Fly
Lenny Bruce - How To Relax Your Colored Friends At Parties
Charles Mingus - Stop! Look! and Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney
Charles Mingus - Fifty-First Street Blues
Margaret Walker - Kissie Lee
Art Pepper - Why Are We Afraid?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Lenny Bruce, We Miss You Terribly

Dear Lenny,

We sure could use you these days. You turned out to be right about just about everything. I am not sure that's a good thing. I do know I wish more people had listened, and that those who did had listened a lot closer. You wouldn't believe what's going on these days. Or maybe you would, seeing as you all but predicted it. Remember that joke you made in Berkeley? The one about the church being like a franchise? A Howard Johnson's I think you said. The real reason why we were in Vietnam. Well now its Iraq. Robbing the cradle of civilization. I am sure you'd have a riff on that. You were one of the few geniuses of our age. You showed us ourselves in a stark yet forgiving light. That word "genius" though, not funny is it? That was another thing you demonstrated, that word is not an accolade. It is, as it was with Bird, with Mingus, another of society's labels for "danger-danger." The sacrifice you made! My lord, you gave everything for freedom, and the dignity of truth unadorned. It's your birthday today and I just really wanted to say thanks somehow. Thanks to Sally Marr, too. Hey man, I know this is small, too small a thanks for all you have done. I will work on something more and get back at you. But for now, happy birthday Lenny!

Justin Desmangles

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Roy Eldridge, Little Jazz


A hard look and a fake I.D. won't get you
into the Metropole, but at 15 you can stand under
the marquee's heat lamps outside to listen.

That epithetical "little" must've
implied something synedochial
together with a downright

brevity. Eldridge was his own quintessence:
as Billy Tenant expressed it, "the guy who
could squeeze anything out of a trumpet."

His playing contains no stunts or slurs.
Each bitten phrase meted out with compact dignity.
Where the trumpet blares, its pointed elevation -

zigguratic high notes, chomps
goading (in Kenny Clarke, for one) a concomitant
reach in rhythm (the ride cymbal rose

in prominence) -
with an aspiration like the Chrysler Building
clinches the night air.

by Bill Berkson
from the book Fugue State

Friday, October 3, 2008

WCW takes a shot at Old Possum

"I'm glad you like his verse; but I'm warning you, the only reason it doesn't smell is that it's synthetic. Maybe I'm wrong, but I distrust that bastard more than any writer I know in the world today. He can write, granted, but it's like walking into a church to me."

- William Carlos Williams writing to James Laughlin regarding T.S. Eliot.

Williams, of course, turned out to be right about Eliot. A euro-centric cultist of the first order, Eliot was not only a royalist but a racist and fascist sympathizer.

The pessimism of The Wasteland was met with condemnation by some and admiration by others. It inspired resistance as well. Among the most successful examples of this would be the joy expressed in Hart Crane's masterpiece, The Bridge.

The above quote was taken from The Way It Wasn't, an "auto-bug-offery" by the late James Laughlin, founder and publisher of New Directions.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bob's Bird

Chasing The Bird

The sun sets unevenly and the people
go to bed.

The night has a thousand eyes.
The clouds are low, overhead.

Every night it is a little bit
more difficult, a little

harder. My mind
to me a mangle is.

- Robert Creeley

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Music Where Our Mouth Is

This is a playlist from a early morning broadcast on KDVS in Davis. I went on the air at about 5 minutes after 3 and was off by 6. All though there were no mistakes I felt that towards the end, due to some extra bookkeeping at the request of BMI, my timing was a little off. I would have liked to have played the 1946 duets by Ellington, Strayhorn (on the same piano!) and something from Sterling Brown. The purpose of playing the poetry along with the jazz is not a mere hip contrivance. In fact, as those who have followed this blog know, it is meant to illuminate the deeper and perhaps more subtle meanings of the music itself. I look at the show in its entirety as a single composition and just as a color or a shape in painting "brings out" a color or a shape in proximity so does a clarinet, a drum, a turn of the phrase. The most successful of these sequences in this particular broadcast, I believe, were as follows;

Ella Fitzgerald & Ellis Larkins playing My One & Only, followed by Duke Ellington's Orchestra playing Snibor

Margaret Walker (pictured above) reading For My People, followed by Johnny Hodges playing Day Dream

Snibor & Day Dream are, of course, compositions by Billy Staryhorn, which, I think, speaks to the depth of his genius and intuitive response to African-American culture in general and Jazz in particular.

I would have also liked to have spent more time on the small groups lead by Ellington sidemen. Perhaps in a future broadcast that's all I will play!

Ella Fitzgerald & Ellis Larkins - Someone To Watch Over Me
Ella Fitzgerald & Ellis Larkins - My One & Only
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - Snibor
Langston Hughes - I Have Known Rivers
Langston Hughes - I, Too
Bud Powell - Blue Pearl
Bud Powell - Reets & I
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra featuring Lil Greenwood - Walkin' & Singing The Blues
Abbey Lincoln - Long As Your Living
Lee Morgan - All At Once You Love Her
Louis Smith - Tunesmith (excerpt)
Louis Smith - Au Privave
Herbie Nichols - Argumentative Variation
Herbie Nichols - Riff Primatiff
Countee Cullen - Heritage
Barney Bigard & His Orchestra - Brown Suede
Barney Bigard & His Orchestra - Noir Bleu
Barney Bigard & His Orchestra - "C" Blues
Barney Bigard & His Orchestra - June
Anita O'Day - I Didn't Know What Time It Was
Anita O'Day - The Very Thought Of You
Anita O'Day - Anita's Blues '76
Kenny Burrell Septet - I Never Knew
Ella Fitzgerald - I'm Just A Lucky So & So
Margaret Walker - For My People
Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra - Day Dream
Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra - Good Queen Bess
Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra - That's The Blues Old Man
Johnny Hodges & His Orchestra - Junior Hop
Claude McKay - If We Must Die (Introduction)
Claude McKay - If We Must Die
Miles Davis Sextet - Milestones (Miles)
Bill Evans Trio - Milestones (Miles)
Miles Davis Quintet - Milestones (Miles)
Gwendolyn Brooks - Kitchenette
Abbey Lincoln - Afro-Blue
Abbey Lincoln - Lonely House
Abbey Lincoln - Let Up
Bill Evans Trio - Solar

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Carter G. Woodson, September 9, 1915

Perhaps no field of study is more crucial to the understanding of jazz than that of the African-American, or Black Studies. Carter G. Woodson, often considered to be the father of Black History, founded on this day in 1915 the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. It behooves us to be responsible for our own education. As Malcom X said, "If you don't know, learn. If you do know, teach." The name of the organization Woodson founded has changed. It is now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. But its mission stays the same. The crisis in access to education continues, see Cecil Brown's Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department?. The fight that began with Woodson, and continued with people such as Nathan Hare, who founded the first Black Studies Department, to tell our own story, continues to this day. Therefore, it is imperative that we not only honor Woodson and his example but also honor ourselves. Ours is a story of dignity and triumph, best told by us.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On The Air This Sunday Morning Thinking About Sonny Rollins

Here is a recent playlist from a broadcast on KDVS. The occasion was, among other things, the birthday of Sonny Rollins. For those of you interested in Rollins, the man and his music, the most insightful short reading to date can be found in Ishmael Reed's new collection of essays, Mixing It Up (DeCapo).

Thad Jones - Something To Remember You By
Waring Cuney (read by James Earl Jones) - No Images
Lou Donaldson - The Things We Did Last Summer
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - Alison's Uncle
Beverly Kenney - If I Were A Bell
Beverly Kenney - Do It Again
Beverly Kenney - A Woman's Intuition
Beverly Kenney - You're My Boy
Sonny Rollins - Without A Song
Sonny Rollins - Come, Gone
Jayne Cortez - Solo
Betty Carter - Do Something
Betty Carter - Everytime We Say Goodbye
Betty Carter - My Shining Hour
Kenny Dorham - Jazz-Classic
Ernie Henry - Free Flight
Jack Kerouac - Lucien Midnight: The Sounds Of The Universe In My Window Part 2
Ralph Burns - Lover Come Back To Me
Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners
Sterling Brown (read by James Earl Jones & Moses Gunn) - Ol' Lem
Bennie Green - Soul Stirrin'
Charles Mingus - Fables Of Faubus
Kenneth Patchen - Do The Dead Know What Time It Is?
Annie Ross - This Time The Dream's On Me
Chet Baker - Mythe
Chet Baker - Not So Slow
Sarah Vaughn & Billy Eckstine - I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
Billy Eckstine - All Of My Life
Sonny Rollins - Reflections
Beverly Kenney - Why Try To Change Me Now?
Beverly Kenney - A Summer Romance
Woody Herman & His Orchestra - Summer Sequence (Parts 1,2 & 3)
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - On A Turquoise Cloud
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra - New York City Blues
Sonny Rollins - Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise

As ever, these selections were played from vinyl only.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Poetry of Sun Ra

Freedom From Freedom

Freedom from freedom
From the liberty
Of the land
Where destruction's light
Is the land.

Freedom from the decree of freedom
From the liberty
Of the land of destruction
Is the decree
That can truly save
Those whose freedom
Is a burden and a shame
What price freedom that despairs?
What price freedom that destroys?

by Sun Ra

published in The Immeasurable Equation, The Collected Poetry & Prose of Sun Ra

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A taste of Candy from Lee Morgan

The great pianist Sonny Clark, heir to Bud Powell, once said that he enjoyed accompanying improvisations as much as performing them himself. Nowhere is this pleasure so evident than on the Lee Morgan date Candy. In fact, Candy is distinguished in a number of respects, not the least of which is the fact that it is Morgan's only album on which he appears as the sole horn at the session. The selection of material is also unusually satisfying, inclusive and original. For fans of Morgan it is likely the ballads, Since I Fell For You and All The Way, that really stand out. The simple grandeur of Morgan's treatment of Since I Fell For You lifts the tune to a romantic plateau few jazzmen have scaled. So thoughtful and honest in its blues, it'll bring you, if not to tears, than to the memory of the last time you cried them. Clark's introduction is absolutely heartbreaking and it sets the tone. All The Way is no less romantic in its perfection. Made famous by Frank Sinatra sometime prior to this recording, Morgan builds this tale of heartfelt commitment into a rhapsody. So profound are the emotions imparted that one cannot escape a sense of urgent beauty in its call to embrace your lover, all the way. The title track, Candy, contains some of Clark's best work in this period and demonstrates that this album really is as much his as it is Morgans. In fact, Clark's storytelling ability has never been so fully on display. Just within the space of this album alone, Clark seems to impart a vast array of human experience and, of course, a heaping amount of the blues. For Clark always puts a little blues, not unlike the aforementioned Powell, on just about everything he plays. The A side concludes with what was at the time a recent composition by the great, and too little recognized composer-saxman, Jimmy Heath, brother of drummer, Albert, and bassist, Percy. The tune, C.T.A. had been recorded a few years earlier by Miles Davis and, according to Davis, the title takes its name from the initials of a young Chinese-American woman Heath was dating at the time. It's a real rouser and clocks in as the most uptempo piece at the session. Ardent fans of Morgan's famed pyrotechnics will not be let down with this one, it is pregnant with the spiritual mysteries of classic bebop. Also included in this set are Irving Berlin's Who Do You Love, I Hope and the evergreen Personality. Both display what are to my ears some of the very finest examples to be heard anywhere of modern jazz trumpet improvisation. Morgan is more than on top of his game, he is on top of the world, climbing higher and taking us with him! The power and control with which he approaches the theme laid out by Berlin is nothing short of astounding. As in the best of the jazz tradition, Morgan takes a relatively obscure work and breathes a new and exciting life into it, resurrecting the creative forces that gave it birth while simultaneously charting a new course. Personality has been for many the stand out track. The wit and humor of a sly, even cryptic, lyricism makes itself known here through contributions from each member of the band (Art Taylor, drums & Doug Watkins, bass.) Taken at a medium tempo there is plenty of room to stretch out, and that room is exploited to the fullest in some of Morgan's most unique phrasing on records. While long valued as a collectors item, because of it's originally small release and limited distribution, Candy is now reissued on both CD and vinyl, audiophile and standard.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cecil Taylor on Boulez, Stockhausen, Pousseur, Ligeti and electronic music

"One of the things that turned me off European music is that I'd get the scores by Boulez, Stockhausen, Pousseur, and Ligeti and I would look at them and say, 'My, this is interesting.' And I'd listen to the music and it didn't sound particularly good. I don't listen to artists who only want to create something that is interesting. To feel is perhaps the most terrifying thing in this society. This is one of the reasons I'm not too interested in electronic music: it divorces itself from human energy, it substitutes another kind of force as the determinate agent for its continuance."

Quoted from an interview by Gary Giddins,Village Voice, 1975

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jazz that books . .

Recently a friend who works at the Stanford University bookstore asked me to recommend some titles that would be of use to a general audience. There is an annual festival there on campus and the folks at the store wanted to set aside space to honor the occasion. Here are the titles I suggested.

Notes & Tones, Musician to Musician Interviews by Arthur Taylor (Yes, that Arthur Taylor)

Four Jazz Lives by A.B. Spellman (Previously published as Four Lives in the Bebop Business as well as Black Music, Four Lives)

The Sound Of Surprise, 46 Pieces On Jazz by Whitney Balliett (Collects many the late Balliett's shorter writings for the New Yorker from 1954-1959)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Johnny Coles' Sunken Treasure

Some of the most extraordinary moments on the classic Gil Evans lp Out of the Cool are provided by the late trumpeter Johnny Coles. While still largely unknown to the broader jazz public Coles is among the finest trumpeters of his day. His feature on Evans' Out of the Cool is the moody and deeply evocative Sunken Treasure. A dark and brooding atmosphere is enhanced by the addition of both bass marimba and bass trombone to the orchestral setting. A languid tempo sets the tone for Coles improvisations on Evans theme. The over all impressions are of a deeply hued and subtle character not unlike those of Sun Ra. Coles introspective statements are reminiscent of another frequent trumpet collaborator of Evans, Miles Davis.

While having gained little of the notice that was truly his do Coles went on to record with the greatest composer-arrangers in jazz including Charles Mingus. His presence on the Town Hall recordings of the original Meditations are among not only the highlights of his career but that of Mingus as well. Coles would travel with the Mingus orchestra that toured Europe.

Prior to his association with Mingus Coles recorded what is perhaps his most fully realized album under his own leadership. The lp recorded for Blue Note is Little Johnny C and features among others the great tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. We are treated to a number of original compositions by Coles as well as those of Duke Pearson. Much of the warmth and ebullient personality of Coles emerges on this most graceful of jazz recordings. While still scarce on vinyl the album can be readily found among audiophile reissues.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ayler Speaks

"When music changes, people change too. The revolution in jazz took place a long time ago. But, just this year, something happened. Everywhere people are asking, 'What's happening, what's happening?'

"Today it seems that the world is trying to destroy itself. And nevertheless many people succeed in judging the world with an objective view. They see unkindness, hypocrisy, injustice and hard labor that enables a human being to earn very little. If only we really wanted to think of these things, to go into our inner-spiritual-consciences with them, we would understand that we have to fight an endless battle (with ourselves), before winning over all the obstacles, before having acquired the true desire to change.

"The music we play today will help people to know themselves better and to find inner peace more easily. Inspiration is necessary to all of us. It can come from a word, a paragraph in a book, a painting, from a poem, a song, from numerous things, in short. But actually, nothing happens if you're not ready.

"The music we play is a prayer, a message coming from God. We all share the same emotion, but this emotion manifests itself differently according to the personality of each of us.

"Unfortunately for us, decor can provoke vulgar emotions in us, such as envy, covetousness, and contempt.

"A good many people are not touched by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will lead all of us through the world someday. Look at the history of jazz: Bolden, Armstrong, Bird, Monk, Coltrane, Taylor, Ornette, etc. all had their own way of seeing things, all had new ideas, the hope of a new aesthetic which wouldn't know destruction, which neither power nor the established structure would be able to kill.

"The soul of each of us-the ideas of God are everywhere and His Spirit is always present-must achieve harmony and supreme goodness through His grace.

"The sublime ideas of God are everywhere (I should sooner say that a certain idea of perfection makes a way for itself). The Holy Ghost has been favorable to me. Music is one of the gifts god has given to us. It should be used for good works. We should always thank the Lord: then, we will understand how rich His blessings are in spiritual value and in truth. We must let the sacred spirit of God enter our bodies and keep it there preciously.

"That's why a creator (or perfect man) is a being in spiritual communion, whose ideas are in total harmony with God. For me, the only way I can thank God for His ever present creation,is to offer Him a new music imprinted with beauty that no one, before, had heard.

"This is the only thought that will make me a free man, beyond the limits of the material.

"Freedom isn't the privilege of a single generation; it's a conquest which must each time be undertaken over again. Freedom is victory.

"Those who have found Truth are able to communicate Love, to help those who suffer, people of the Earth as I call them. That the will of God be done, not that of men and women. The will of God is always loving and truthful; it includes harmony and generosity; it permits freedom and is always constructive.

"When we let the will of God produce itself in us, we will work with Him, and will be blessed in all our actions. He will also help us to think justly and kindly.

"When all the people understand what links them spiritually to one another, Peace will reign on Earth.

"All men will be of good will.

"Spiritual Unity will reign then."

Albert Ayler, The International Times, Number 10, March 13-26, 1967

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bird's Ecstasy Part Two

And so it was then, the man and the message that rewired America and thus the world. The joy and the ferocious wonder of it all that surrounds. I could hear this now. Ah, Bird was an ecstatic! This really being the key revelation that opened up the musics many worlds. And quickly I began to understand that his improvisation was a much a response to the architecture of a given composition as it was, and perhaps more especially, the total environment. The man and his times, our times, times changing, those changes, too. And with this "serious fun," this humor that laughs to keep from lies, hews cries and sighs, always the buoyant and propulsive swing. And of course among the many musical personae projected from the bell of his horn came the masks retained of African ancestors. Indeed, the complex poly-rhythms which served as vehicles of his imaginative export were inherited directly through Africans in the New World. So Bird's joy was also one of memory and as it must be with us, "a memory that will not sleep." Once I began to hear this, just as suddenly, it was everywhere. Thousands of other musics, not all jazz, became enlivened with these insights. What it is, what it ain't, what it ought to be. Looking forward looking back, Now Is The Time.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bird's Ecstasy Part One

For many years I listened to Bird without, I believe, really hearing him. Like a lot of us I began with the recordings on Dial. The Eastwood film had recently been released and there were a slew of reissues. Warner had put out a modest double record set including the full session that produced Yardbird Suite. Included was a booklet that reproduced a number of paintings for Bird. Among these were works by Romare Bearden, Larry Rivers and Raymond Saunders. I was intrigued and deeply moved by the inspiration the music had offered these artists. Still, it wasn't until a few years later that I had the glorious encounter that was, for me, hearing Bird for the first time. I remember it well. I had been living in Seattle for a only a few months when I happened upon a record store that stocked a wall of jazz vinyl. There under his leader card was the Savoy long player, Charlie Parker Memorial record. You know the one, with the introduction from Al Collins? I would gaze at the record each time I came in. There he was, The Bird, in Glen plaid and a bow tie, blowing above a teal blue background. In flight. Finally after a few more months of saving, I had enough to buy this scarce collectors item. Nothing could have prepared me for what I heard that day. A strange mercurial light seemed to emanate from his horn, illuminating the world around me in strange and beguiling ways. Koko!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Ted Joans, en route!

THE FULL PRICE TO PAY ( to get away )

turn the faucet of creation on
twist it too far to the left
makes miles of liquid monies
mesmerize the well known image
collect handshakes/congratulates/and bank connections
then flee from them to Mother Matta Grosso or Sister Sahara
let them of the past speak of your past
leave matters in the minds of myth makers
wave farewell/goodbyes/adieus forever
wink one wise gesture at your tribe and them alone
then hurriedly flee to Mother Matta Grosso or Sister Sahara
never to be touched/tormented/or toyed with again

by Ted Joans
from the book Afrodisia, 1970