Monday, August 21, 2017

Montavilla 2017

I was honored to be a part of the Montavilla Jazz Festival yesterday—the Quadraphonnes, as always, made my music sound so much better than it is. 

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I’m thrilled that I at least got to hear Ezra Weiss’s sextet. Everyone knows the brilliant writing, arranging, and playing of this group. But what really got me this time was the inspired programming; beginning with Charles Mingus’s “Fables of Faubus,” and closing with John Coltrane’s “Alabama.” The latter performance brought the audience to tears, and I won’t soon forget it.

The cliched dig against jazz is that it has become “museum music.” There’s some truth to that, although museumification is not particular to jazz—it’s what happens to any art that loses its narrative. The thing is, given the volatility of human history, narratives have a way of coming around again. An electoral college absurdity here, a Russian hack there, and suddenly “Faubus” and “Alabama” sound utterly contemporary, even in their particulars.

Lord knows Donald Trump didn’t invent hate in America. Still—although I wasn’t naive about his chances this time last year, I’m not sure I thought he was capable of bringing back the D. W. Griffith-era, torch-burning kind. As a musician, I’m endlessly proud that music can beat back such ugliness whenever it recurs. As a human being, I hate that it still has to.