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V4N9: November 1998

 Austin Downtown
Arts Magazine

November 1998
Volume 4 Number 9


Table of Contents

Austin Homeless Musicians Guild by Allyson Lipkin. 1

We are the artists, where is our stuff? So we started to try and find basic art and music supplies and volunteers
-- Charles McMurry

Children of Abraham: Faces of the Middle East by Grace McEvoy. 3

A look at a list of the things Alan Pogue has chosen to photograph over the years could leave the impression that he is a man who goes looking for the worst humanity has to offer.

International Drum and Percussion Festival by Michael Glazner. 5

Exposing people to unique and diverse forms of music and harmony through music is the mission of Cosmic Intuition.

It's All About the People: Why a Down-home B-B-Q Joint Is a Player in the Nonprofit Arts Scene by Kelli Ford  8

This article is not a restaurant review. It is to recognize and give appreciation to some of the people in this city who do more than their share to make sure the rest of us can stop in at an art exhibit on Sunday, catch some world-class musicians creating sounds, or any of many other activities we tend to take for granted.

Joshua Redman's Favorite Things. 10

Joshua Redman has cultivated himself as a reluctant young lion, capable but somewhat hesitant to roar.

Marsha A. Gomez by Anoa Monsho. 11

Facts are infused with and at the same time transcended by that force of nature we loved as Marsha.

The Spiritual Side of Jazz by Paul Klemperer. 14

Popular music is geared toward entertainment, often as dance music, whereas art music is assumed to address deeper or more refined areas of the soul. For decades, however, jazz confounded this difference.

Verities by Brian Yannish. 15

It wasn't very large or threatening, maybe 15 inches across and not more than 7 or 8 pounds. But its power was unassuming.

 

 


Austin Homeless Musicians Guild by Allyson Lipkin

The Austin Homeless Musicians Guild is a fairly new program started by Charles McMurry, a recreational therapist at the homeless shelter, Safe Haven. There, he counsels homeless folks for a living and helps run the shelter.

"The daily grind of it -- keeping homeless people off crack..." he explains entering the shelter on Oak Springs in beautiful East Austin.It's a tough job. It takes someone with a lot of love and conscience to give and keep giving. The Musicians Guild is a very personal endeavor he started with the intent of providing a fun and expressive environment for homeless artists.

"This came from a very grass roots thing," McMurry explains. "We are the artists, where is our stuff? Musical equipment certainly is more expensive than art supplies. So we started to try and find basic art and music supplies and volunteers that do aromatherapy, massage, music. It is based out of this shelter because that is where I work during the day. [The guild] is for homeless people I know that aren't here at this shelter. We opened in February and, with the supervisor of this shelter, we bought a couple of guitars, bongos -- you know, the basic stuff. That works for people here at the shelters, but the other places who have homeless folks or people who just live on the streets or in the woods...don't have access. So our two little guitars and our bongos can only go so far. So we are trying to get access to a more central location and volunteers to connect with these folks."

The deal is, people in general are fearful of the homeless or mentally disabled. Yes, there are some violent cases. But the majority of people are just people, and in talking with them one realizes there is nothing to be afraid of. Mr. Preuss, a member of Safe Haven and the Musicians Guild, provided me with detailed plans for an idea he has for a culture and activity center across the street from Safe Haven. His ideas are cohesive. He played a couple of tunes while he talked about his life.

Where does the equipment come from? "Right now it's through volunteers or personal friends who want to connect," says Charles. "J.B. Henry, a volunteer, a multi-musician harpist saxophonist. Somebody like that who has a lot of equipment, that does it all. Someone who will come, sit at a spot at a park. After doing that routinely that could be a collective spot for folks. With the homeless community, a lot of it is word of mouth. It's a trusted thing -- we are not trying to get them into a state hospital. They are homeless. One-third of people are homeless by choice, one-third are people that aren't making enough money to have a place, and one-third are people who are mentally ill or are disconnected without the proper supports."

With mentally ill people who are also drug users,there are alternatives, however few. The state hospital will take them if they are of harm to themselves or others. Then there are psychiatric emergency services at a place called the Inn, which is for folks that aren't in need of being in the state hospital. It's not really a locked unit. They can do stuff during the day and it's kind of structured. A chance to see a nurse and get on medication. The down side of that -- and that's how the Musicians Guild gets involved -- is that they have one class a week for music and basic choir. There are no forms of musical or artistic expression outside of this little life skill-building thing. There is a kind of philosophical issue: Do we teach this person how to cook? Ask this person what they want to do in life, and what kinds of forms of expression can they do to get well? Are we going to cram them full of these skill-building things, lock them up, or provide them with a more informal way to get well?

McMurry explains that what Austin needs is a place for homeless people to be during the day and night to gain some skills, have a chance to be in a safe environment, get on medication, and work on life skills from a more expressive place.

"You can learn skills, how to be around one another, how to take care of yourself, how to clean, cook, and still do that in a less threatening environment than a locked unit or a medical model approach. We are trying to find some place and some equipment for the people that need that type of approach. And other musicians that are willing to volunteer. We are trying to get the word out to local musicians or people who have an old guitar in their closet or someone who wants to hang out with other musicians that are disconnected with society. Anyone who is looking for an excuse to hang out with other people can join. There is no membership fee, no sign-up."

Interested homeless people could find out about the program through either the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) or by word of mouth and contacting Charles McMurry. He explains, "There is more to the guild than what's contained here at Safe Haven. It is also for people who don't want services at a shelter like this, who may come walking up wanting to play -- once things get structured. This really isn't even a program. It's a movement. Although I'm not homeless, I'm trying to get it started. It's them; it's theirs. I'm a contact person. It's definitely a people's thing."

National Homeless Awareness Week is Nov. 13-27, and Austin will be hosting some events. On the 13th and 15th there is Arts From The Streets, an art show at ARCH. On Monday the 16th at 5:30pm, Channel 10 will present a homeless TV show, Dialogues About Homelessness. Wednesday the 18th the film Bouldin Greenbelt will play at Dobie Theatre at 8pm. Also, a service for homeless people who have passed away this year will be held at the gazebo by the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at sunrise on the 22nd. The same day, homeless musicians will be playing at Ruta Maya from 1 to 3pm. The donations will go to the musicians who play. At La Zona Rosa that day, a benefit from 3 to 7pm by local musicians Lee Ann Atherton and Paula Nelson will take place with a $4 cover.

Check out these events. If you have spare musical equipment to donate or are interested in the Austin Homeless Musicians Guild, contact Charles McMurry at (512) 926-5698.

 


Children of Abraham: Faces of the Middle East by Grace McEvoy

A look at a list of the things Alan Pogue has chosen to photograph over the years could leave the impression that he is a man who goes looking for the worst humanity has to offer. However, don't let subject matter such as farm workers, post war El Salvador, prison conditions, colonias along the south Texas boarder, and most recently, conditions in Iraq as a result of United Nations sanctions against the country, allow you to misunderstand why Pogue photographs them. It is not a desire to reveal the evil underbelly of humanity but a belief in the essential goodness of human kind and a view that even the hardest heart can grow to regret heinous acts. It is in the act of rationalizing things such as hate, domination and abuse that humanity reveals its basic goodness according to Pogue, otherwise there would be no need to explain the behavior and thus "people can not be essentially evil." "The hardest part is not to count anyone out...everyone who hates surly has a good reason. You can't give up on anybody. Everyone is reachable because of their essential goodness."

Children of Abraham: Faces of the Middle East is currently on view at Pogue's Texas Center for Documentary Photography at 2104 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The photographs are the result of a trip Pogue made in July to Iraq and the West Bank as part of the Voices in the Wilderness delegation. One image that stands out is a portrait of a woman that Pogue calls "The Sad Woman of Basrah." It is a straightforward and beautiful image of a woman covered in Arab garb who is simply looking into the camera yet is so clearly deeply in despair. Another stunning portrait is of a man in Hebron who has just received a home demolition order from the Israeli military. To make such beautiful images in the midst of chaos and despair mark Pogue as an intuitive and seasoned photographer. Several photographs were taken at a housing complex for displaced persons. The photographs are a clear and shocking record of a complex which was never completely constructed, housing 8,500 people with no plumbing. The images in the exhibition come together to tell a more complete story than we get through our television and print media. There is a photograph of the inside of a bombed building, of a street scene with balconies that look like New Orleans, of a sick and dying little girl without access to medicine , of protesting mothers and of well armed Israeli soldiers hanging out in the street.

U.N. sanctions in Iraq have created a critical need for medicine in that country and in protest of the sanctions, the Voices in the Wilderness delegation tried to address that need. Pogue's roll to visually document the situation where over 4,500 children a month die due to conditions and lack of supplies, is one that his 30 years as a documentary photographer of conscience, integrity and visual sense make him well suited.

It is a role he takes very seriously as an advocate and practitioner of a tradition of documentary photography that is seldom seen, despite the abundance of images we consume today. Many of these images Pogue likes to call "commercial Journalism." They are made with the goal to shock, stun or startle the viewer and have an immediate impact as a commodity but they lack lasting value. "In the future, no one will care about advertising photographs." To Pogue the documentary photographer must "be willing to photograph what might be mundane" and do nothing to disturb the subject. Those mundane photographs are the ones that researchers, historians and the curious will seek out to see what life was really like. "It is deceptively simple. You want to photograph what is happening. The trick is to know what is important right now. It's not about changing things to make them more interesting. A documentary photograph would be one that changes things not at all."

Not simply interested in documenting disaster, Pogue seeks situations based upon his interest in groups of people who are targeted for abuse. "I am interested in disasters of the human sort which are engineered by governments. They fall specifically on targeted groups. It seems to me that farm workers are one of those targeted groups...they are intentionally harmed by people who profit from them. This is not a hurricane."

Aside from being a work and gallery space, the Texas Center for Documentary Photography is a way in which Pogue can pass along the art and craft of his work as a teacher of sorts. He would like to attract younger photographers who are just starting out and who are interested in learning about documentary photography in exchange for some work. Two such students helped with the production of the current exhibit. Pogue would like to carry on and pass along a tradition of documentary photography that involves telling the truth in the same vein as the late Russell Lee a former Austinite and famed photographer of the Farm Security Administration.

A great challenge to carrying on this tradition is that it has no commercial appeal and photographers must find funding sources. Through the American Friends Service Committee, many people got together on the funding to send Pogue to Iraq. He recently received funding from the Kellogg Foundation to continue his work photographing the colonias along the south Texas Boarder where laborers work long hours in factories and live in shanty towns without basics such as plumbing. Recently he was asked by CURE (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants) to photograph prison conditions in 20 states and will work on that project over the next year and a half or two.

Alan Pogue's photographs of Iraq and the West Bank can be seen at the Texas Center for Documentary Photography and he will be showing them in several places in Houston including the University of Houston and the First Congregation Church.

 


International Drum and Percussion Festival by Michael Glazner

"Austin has its own Berlin Wall: Interstate 35!" said Rashah, artistic director of Cosmic Intuition.

On the Western side of Interstate 35 is 6th Street and most of Austin's music clubs. The other side is the East Side, full of a whole mess of music the average fan of 6th Street rarely hears. How would one go about hearing and feeling on a different vibe of music, a different frequency?

Either this person could be some energetic, free-thinking individual who would go out looking for new and varied forms of musical expression, or they could just indulge in the Austin International Music Extravaganza.

Enter Cosmic Intuition and Rashah. Rashah walked down the streets of Austin and saw and heard (or didn't see or hear), what music Austin was missing.

"I noticed that there were a lot of people who lived here from different parts of the world whom you never saw on 6th Street, heard on the radio or saw in major print publications," said Rashah. "[Recognizing] the void, I went on a crusade to find these artist musicians, to get them exposure and compensation."

According to its brochure, "Cosmic Intuition Productions has been committed to producing events that bring people from many backgrounds and ethnic groups together. We hope that this will help create a more harmonious society ultimately for the purpose of world peace."

Cosmic Intuition works toward peace through music with its own musical creations, dealing out a mixture of celestial, compositional, improvisational, and Sun-Ra influenced music (from 1985 to 1990, Rashah played with Sun-Ra and the Arkestra). Also, the group is behind the Austin International Music Extravaganza.

Exposing people to unique and diverse forms of music and harmony through music is the mission of Cosmic Intuition. Although he continues to arrange and perform his own shows with Cosmic Intuition, Rashah helps to facilitate other music shows and series throughout the year here in Austin.

For the people, for you, the Austin International Music Extravaganza exists. If you can't find new forms of music for yourself, Cosmic Intuition will do it for you. The only catch -- and it's real simple -- is that you have to go to the shows. If you love the shows and what Cosmic Intuition is doing, help the Dance Umbrella of Austin continue to bring those shows to town.

The next series is the International Drum and Percussion Festival from Nov. 9th - 14th. Offering free children's workshops and nighttime shows, the event should give Austinites a chance to see some of the musical flavor they may have been missing.

Maybe we can look at the Drum and Percussion Festival as a means to metaphorically tear down that wall (Interstate 35) that has more psychological than physical impact in some cases.

On Monday, Nov. 9, from 3:30 - 5:30pm at the South Austin Recreation Center, Brazilian percussionist Continho, Indian dunbek and frame drum player Oliver Rajamani, Tropical Productions' Tahiti and the South Pacific Rhythms, and Chacuatol's Latin rhythms will lead a workshop. At the Pan American Recreation Center, on Tuesday at the same time, Hart Stern, Oliver Rajamani, Flames of Fire (which are Nyabingi Drummers), and more will lead another workshop. Wednesday's workshop will be at the Children's Museum, from 6:30 to 8pm and will feature bongo drums by Rey Arteaga and Djembe by Alafia Gaidi. Thursday, from 3:30 - 5:30pm, at the Rosewood Recreation Center, D.R.U.M. (a West African drum ensemble), Salongo Productions from New Orleans, and Continho will instruct the children. Friday's workshop will take place at the Givens Recreation Center with the instructing artists to be announced.

Performances for the festival will take place at the Skylight Gallery Lounge (307 East 5th Street), on Thursday and Friday. The finale for the week will be on Saturday at the East First Garden theater (4822-B East Cesar Chavez). Thursday's show starts at 9pm, featuring Song of Life with Bilal Sunni-Ali, Mohammad Firoozi of the Gypsies, and Iranian violinist Mo Jamal. Friday's show begins at 9:30pm, featuring Cosmic Intuition and special guests.

Saturday's performances are the climax of the festival with 25 different drum and percussion performances playing together and with the crowd. You can find the show at East First Garden theater (4822-B East Cesar Chavez, on the left hand side of Cesar Chavez, half a mile east from Pleasant Valley). Admission will be $10, a great price to see over 25 acts. From noon 'till 9pm, you can catch the likes of Shihid EsSpirit, Salongo Productions, D.R.U.M., Tropical Productions, Hart Stern, Oliver Rajamani, Chacuatol, Contiho, Rey Arteaga, Leon Anderson and Company, Brad Gilley, Ali Awuesi, Phillip Marshall, Dwayne Jackson, Flames of Fire, the Ozain Experience, Mohammad Firoozi, Titos Menchaca and more. In case of inclement weather, the event will be held at the Givens Recreation Center, 3811 East 12th Street.

What in Rashah's life led to all this organization of music in Austin? Simply stated, everything in Rashah's life has been preparation for this moment. For 18 years he worked in a record store, listening to the music of the world.

"That's what gave me an affinity to go into listening to music while at work," said Rashah. "I listened to music from China, Mexico, the motherland [Africa]. That's what gave me the background." He went to school for business and got experience in telemarketing and accounting, plus worked for a radio in Atlanta. He and Sun-Ra met at that radio station in 1984. Later that year, when Sun-Ra and his Arkestra came through town for a New Year's Eve gig, they needed a drummer. Rashah asked if he could play for them.

"Is your space intuition up?" asked Sun-Ra. "Yes!" said Rashah.

Sun-Ra's people got him dressed, put him in a big robe with a hat and a third eye.

"I went on stage and was the most musically lost I'd been and wondering why I had said yes."

After the show, Sun-Ra asked Rashah if he could travel. Soon he was part of the Arkestra. During his time with the Arkestra, Sun-Ra gained an affinity for Rashah's sincerity, and told him he deserved some blessings.

"[I have received] blessings in the form of the band, the series," said Rashah. "As a result of sincerity, the series [Austin International Music Extravaganza] and the band have come about."

And now Rashah is here in Austin, putting on shows like the International Drum and Percussion Festival. Unfortunately money is more often a problem than not. Although Cosmic Intuition gets money from the city for cultural development, they still rely on private donations, which seem to be harder and harder to get.

If the idea of Cosmic Intuition pleases, if you think the work they are doing is necessary for Austin, you can help. Contact the Dance Umbrella of Austin, PO Box 15764, Austin TX, 78761 or, call Rashah at 604-4405 for more information about being a sponsor or patron.

 


It's All About the People: Why a Down-home B-B-Q Joint Is a Player in the Nonprofit Arts Scene by Kelli Ford

Most of you have probably visited Ruby's B-B-Q at 29th and Guadalupe for their all natural free-range Texas beef B-B-Q, or perhaps for my personal favorite veggie tacos and homefries. (Yes, this is Austin, and the herbivores are taken good care of even at a down-home B-B-Q joint.) And chances are that when you stopped in for a bite, you saw owners Patricia and Luke Zimmerman hard at work doing whatever it takes (everything from bussing tables to overseeing kitchen duties) to satisfy the hungry stomachs. And, as you've sat and munched, you've probably noticed the countless crinkled and time-yellowed posters of musicians who have frequented Antone's during the 10 years it was next door. All of this is right up front for all of us to enjoy any time we're hungry for Austin atmosphere and the Zimmerman's home cookin'.

But this article is not a restaurant review. It is hopefully the first in a series of interviews to recognize and give appreciation to some of the people in this city who do more than their share to make sure the rest of us can stop in at an art exhibit on Sunday, catch some world-class musicians creating sounds, or any of many other activities we tend to take for granted. You see, the nonprofit world is a shaky one, and there's a fine, hazy line between no profit and flat busted. There are the obvious "top of the food chain" nonprofits such as the United Way or the Austin Symphony who get vast amounts of their support from major corporations, banks, and big-time private donors -- organizations and people with money to spare. Then there are the smaller nonprofits such as little old us (DiverseArts), Cosmic Intuition, Planet Theatre, and many others who live from grant to grant and event to hopefully well-attended event trying to squeeze through another year. Organizations such as these continue to exist solely because individuals -- regular people like you and me -- and small businesses in the community support them. These individuals and small businesses prove that you don't have to be Dell or a trillionaire to support organizations you care about. And, even if it's not money you're giving, there is always something you can do such as donate time and a warm body to perpetuate the things that make our lives more livable.

This is where Patricia and Luke of Ruby's come in. B-B-Q and slammin' homefries are not the only benefit Austinites reap from the Zimmermans. Though Ruby's keeps them very busy -- at least one of them is there almost every day -- they still manage to contribute much more than their share to Austin's arts scene. Patricia and Luke advertise here in our magazine every month without question and regularly run ads in NOKOA. (And, as I've found out in the past couple of months, every single ad is important in keeping publications such as ours on the streets.) For several years now, they have also helped out DiverseArts with the Austin Jazz and Arts Festival, and they often donate their B-B-Q to be enjoyed by film students at the University of Texas working on a set. Patricia's and Luke's reach into the arts community goes even beyond Austin, as they have also been in touch with projects like the Blue Star Art Complex and Pace Place in San Antonio. They have also been sponsors of Jay Trachtenburg's program, Jazz Etc., on KUT since they opened 10 years ago.

"We have been in business as Ruby's B-B-Q now for 10 years, but we listened to Jay's show for years before that," Luke said, sitting in the little office behind the dish room. "He had his show running -- I forget what it is called, Overnight Jazz I think -- Friday nights from midnight until six in the morning. We were late night people back then -- we no longer are," he says with a laugh. "And we listened to the show every Friday night, and we were really fond of the show and the content. So when we had the opportunity by having opened up the restaurant to be a sponsor of the show, we took it and were happy to do that."

When asked why he and Patricia support the projects they work with, Luke says it's all about the people and personal relationships that develop over time.

"Jay Trachtenburg and I have known each other for a long time; and when we would listen to his show, we would on occasion call up and would compliment selections of his playing and request some. So we had a relationship with Jay before the B-B-Q opened up. I'm not sure exactly how Akwasi [Evans of NOKOA] and us became friends, but it wasn't too long after we opened up. I know I saw Akwasi's paper at Wheatsville Coop and picked it up, and enjoyed reading it. So I called Akwasi up and asked if he would consider distributing at the restaurant, and he's been distributing here ever since. Akwasi started the newspaper shortly before Ruby's started, so we were sort of venturing into the unknown together.

"In Harold's [McMillan of DiverseArts] case, I think we met because he was looking for someone who would be willing to be a sponsor with the beer sales for what was then the Clarksville-West End Jazz Festival. And, I think that he probably contacted us because we had put our license up for the Chronicle for various events. He had probably heard about us that way. I'm not sure, but you just evolve relationships with people you meet....When Clifford [Antone] was behind us here at Antone's, we did very definitely have a relationship with them, and we still do though we don't get to hear the musicians that play there very often since they moved to 4th and Colorado....When they were behind us, it was very simple for us to sneak over and catch a set, but that has been several years. Also, the musicians that Clifford was sponsoring 20 years ago are slowly fading into history. So what you are getting is a new crop of musicians, of course. Which is well and fine -- we just don't get to hear them. The originals, they are not so much with us any longer."

Patricia made it in just as we were about to wrap up the interview and told me about some of the other things they do.

"For ourselves, we do a lot of donations and volunteer things for people working on films. We get a lot of calls weekly, and we do contribute quite a bit to things like that...to film projects and participate and do different things with the Austin Film Society -- probably more so than some of the other areas. Of course Austin is really focused on that....We don't have a lot of free time, but that's something we can do -- supporting film and the Dobie Theater. We have known Scott Dinger (of the Dobie Theater) for a long time -- and he's been a good customer."

As far as advice for other Austin entrepreneurs on how to get involved in the arts scene, Patricia smiles, "I think first you have to have an interest in it prior to starting your own business and then..."

Luke finishes, "...It'll find you."

"Right," Patricia continues,"There are so many ways. If you say, 'Hey, I want to do something for you.' I mean there are so many things that different people need. Whether it's food, a place to hold a meeting, equipment, artwork, advertising....If someone wanted to get involved, I can't imagine that they couldn't find several opportunities."

Yeah. Thanks, Ruby's.

Joshua Redman's Favorite Things


by Christopher Hess

Since graduating Harvard in 1991, Joshua Redman has cultivated himself as a reluctant young lion, capable but somewhat hesitant to roar for fear that he may be leaving something out. He has worked on his 'band sound' relentlessly, building up over six albums in as many years as close to a signature sound as he could establish at this point in his career. (Redman is 29). The results are shaping a new synthesis of the insularity of modern straight-ahead jazz and the newer pop-hip-hop and dance-inspired jazz offshoots, moving at a snails pace in concept but a lightning bolt's in product.

Not so amazing, considering that Redman's job history includes co-workers like backline icons Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, and Elvin Jones among many, many others, is that it's all good, and it all fits together. But Redman senses that he's in it for the long haul, and he doesn't want to do anything brash to blemish his record in the future. Case in point: Freedom in the Groove, his 1996 release, started out as an electric project. That was soon changed.

"I was starting to feel that there was a lack of focus in the sound of the band," says Redman, "Especially considering the wide stylistic range we were covering. And I thought that consistency of instrumentation encouraged a consistency of sound, and that's important to me. I've got my whole life, hopefully, to experiment with a lot of different things, but I think it's important -- even with the eclecticism which I embrace -- to develop certain sounds at certain times. I think the best groups in jazz or any sort of music have been able to put forward something of identity. So for now, yes, I want to continue exploring and expanding an acoustic environment. I haven't given up on electric instruments, just the timing wasn't right."

His latest release on the Warner Bros. imprint, Timeless Tales (For Changing Times), puts off the timing of that jump to electricity for a while yet -- which is a very good thing. The record is a stunning assembly of covers, chronicling Redman's development not as a jazz musician, but as a lover of music. "If it's good, I like it," he says simply. And that ain't too far from the truth. From Gershwin to Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell to Cole Porter, Lennon to Prince, the sounds that seeped into the musical cavity in the musicians brain have remained and informed his musical sensibilities, even into life as a jazz player.

What he does to Mitchell's "I Had a King" is downright haunting. "Eleanor Rigby" contains as much Ray Charles as the Beatles. His version of Bob Dylan's seminal "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is amazing in its ability to follow the vocal melody, adhering loosely to the chord changes, turning a song that relies entirely on its verbal message for effect into an equally stirring instrumental. Like Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," the impact is due largely to the fact that this is a song so ingrained into the consciousness of most listeners that we can identify the feeling with the melody. But also like Coltrane, this song becomes Redman's own, in that when he's done with it he has created something new with the grace and sincerity to last for a long time.

Redman's recent visit to Austin (La Zona Rosa, Oct. 25) provided a good look at the direction his music is taking. His band -- a different one than on the recording -- was outstanding, the styles meshing seamlessly with their leader and with each other. Aaron Goldberg on piano and Rubin Rogers on bass share Redman's tendency to phrase solos as would someone laying down an extended improvisation in a heavy-duty funk outfit, though it never comes across as 'funk.' They are riffs -- big beautiful sweeping and soaring riffs on acoustic instruments that succeed in tying their jazz to the soul and rhythm-and-blues and funk music that they all no doubt share as part of their collective consciousness.

"We've come up listening to a lot of the same music and had many of the same experiences, and it's been very important for me to develop the sound of my own band by playing with musicians of my generation," Redman says.

The configuration at last months La Zona Rosa show, held together by the rock-solid drumming of Gregory Hutchinson, is one that Redman hopes to keep together for a while. Regardless, he's not in danger of disappearing from the eyes or minds of upcoming jazz fans. He pumps out records faster than K-Tel, he's got the Warner machine behind him, he's touring large venues and selling records by the truckload -- and most of all he makes great jazz music. Redman is in it for the long haul.

 


Marsha A. Gomez by Anoa Monsho

Words can reveal only fragments and facets of Marsha A. Gomez, so multi-layered, so thick with life was she. The facts of her life -- that she was 46 years old when she died; that she was born in New Orleans; that she used to pick cotton and loved the cottony feel of African hair; that she won numerous  awards for her sculptures and her work as a human rights and environmental activist; that she fought to help her gentle loving son Mekaya as schizophrenia fragmented his mind but not his heart, never his heart, she who loved him above all. Those facts are infused with and at the same time transcended by that force of nature we loved as Marsha.

Like the time we were in a disco and she was wearing her high-heeled Converse All-Stars and we were looking at our friend Sharon on the dance floor, "Mira, Anoa. Look at her cheekbones glowing in the yellow light...See? Las indias, las africanas, even -- pero she would kill me if she heard me say it -- las blancas. Todos. All of her ancestors are there, in her facebones." And she stood there, near the edge of the dance floor, dreaming the lives of our friend Sharon, till there came a tune she could feel. Then, she danced alone, graceful in her ridiculous shoes. Ay, Marsha!

...or in the sweat lodge, we all sister friends and what she said in that steamy misty earth womb is shrouded in sacred silence and ineffable beauty, but sister friends stepped out naked as newborns and just as clean and clear. That night, a crescent moon cradled gleaming languorous Venus, and we danced in the chill and soaked in the hot tub at Alma and felt ourselves unabashedly beautiful and Marsha smiled an impish, wise smile at we, her sister friends.

...how she looked into the eyes of those of us she loved, acknowledging our highest spirit, winking at the mischievous parts, urging our evolution yet gentle with our failings. Familiar with her own faults, but never laboring over them. Looking into us, and pulling out the light, in the name of the Great Spirit and the one she called Mother, the Earth.

...that she reveled in her gray streak and said it was the grandmothers reminding her to walk in wisdom, that she stroked her mustache with a wry smile and said it was the grandfathers advising she not take herself too seriously, that she was a wee bit vain -- with her beautiful self -- when she could find a spare moment and a mirror.

...the most expressive hands. Strong, they could do nearly everything -- create visceral beauty and fix the foundation at Las Manitas. Or was it her eyes, discerning future and probing past, extracting and translating eternal truths, unflinching. Or was it her laugh, loud and raucous and gut-bucket. Or was it...

...oh yeah, and she could (and strategically did, with much glee) cuss like a longshoreman.

...always she affirmed the artist in us -- in every one of us she loved, making us feel as if we too could create art that healed and expressed Spirit. That my dance, your words, her painting, his parenting, their music, our innermost urges to bring forth life in any form, has the potency to heal and transform La Madre.

...the bleak look in her eyes, after another lover hit the wall, and just before she feverishly began molding a slab of red or black or brown Earth into a work of surging power, of poignant emotion, of exquisite and primal beauty. "...out of heartbreak, I make art."

...the way she always said "I love you." at the end of a conversation or visit, realizing what a gift life is and how important it is to really cherish loved ones. As busy as she was, I never felt taken for granted, and I am only one of many...

...where she traveled all over the world and made sister friends with indigenous women of many cultures, gathering us all to her sacred ground at Alma de Mujer to send her ashes into the wind. We are sisters now, as we have always been, but now we know each others' faces.

...she is now an ancestor, now truly, "Ma Gomez."

Oye Metakuye Oyasin! by Anoa Monsho

Words can reveal only fragments and facets of Marsha A. Gomez, so multi-layered, so thick with life was she. The facts of her life -- that she was 46 years old when she died; that she was born in New Orleans; that she used to pick cotton and loved the cottony feel of African hair; that she won numerous  awards for her sculptures and her work as a human rights and environmental activist; that she fought to help her gentle loving son Mekaya as schizophrenia fragmented his mind but not his heart, never his heart, she who loved him above all. Those facts are infused with and at the same time transcended by that force of nature we loved as Marsha.

Like the time we were in a disco and she was wearing her high-heeled Converse All-Stars and we were looking at our friend Sharon on the dance floor, "Mira, Anoa. Look at her cheekbones glowing in the yellow light...See? Las indias, las africanas, even -- pero she would kill me if she heard me say it -- las blancas. Todos. All of her ancestors are there, in her facebones." And she stood there, near the edge of the dance floor, dreaming the lives of our friend Sharon, till there came a tune she could feel. Then, she danced alone, graceful in her ridiculous shoes. Ay, Marsha!

...or in the sweat lodge, we all sister friends and what she said in that steamy misty earth womb is shrouded in sacred silence and ineffable beauty, but sister friends stepped out naked as newborns and just as clean and clear. That night, a crescent moon cradled gleaming languorous Venus, and we danced in the chill and soaked in the hot tub at Alma and felt ourselves unabashedly beautiful and Marsha smiled an impish, wise smile at we, her sister friends.

...how she looked into the eyes of those of us she loved, acknowledging our highest spirit, winking at the mischievous parts, urging our evolution yet gentle with our failings. Familiar with her own faults, but never laboring over them. Looking into us, and pulling out the light, in the name of the Great Spirit and the one she called Mother, the Earth.

...that she reveled in her gray streak and said it was the grandmothers reminding her to walk in wisdom, that she stroked her mustache with a wry smile and said it was the grandfathers advising she not take herself too seriously, that she was a wee bit vain -- with her beautiful self -- when she could find a spare moment and a mirror.

...the most expressive hands. Strong, they could do nearly everything -- create visceral beauty and fix the foundation at Las Manitas. Or was it her eyes, discerning future and probing past, extracting and translating eternal truths, unflinching. Or was it her laugh, loud and raucous and gut-bucket. Or was it...

...oh yeah, and she could (and strategically did, with much glee) cuss like a longshoreman.

...always she affirmed the artist in us -- in every one of us she loved, making us feel as if we too could create art that healed and expressed Spirit. That my dance, your words, her painting, his parenting, their music, our innermost urges to bring forth life in any form, has the potency to heal and transform La Madre.

...the bleak look in her eyes, after another lover hit the wall, and just before she feverishly began molding a slab of red or black or brown Earth into a work of surging power, of poignant emotion, of exquisite and primal beauty. "...out of heartbreak, I make art."

...the way she always said "I love you." at the end of a conversation or visit, realizing what a gift life is and how important it is to really cherish loved ones. As busy as she was, I never felt taken for granted, and I am only one of many...

...where she traveled all over the world and made sister friends with indigenous women of many cultures, gathering us all to her sacred ground at Alma de Mujer to send her ashes into the wind. We are sisters now, as we have always been, but now we know each others' faces.

...she is now an ancestor, now truly, "Ma Gomez."

Oye Metakuye Oyasin!

 


The Spiritual Side of Jazz by Paul Klemperer

In its infancy, the music which came to be known as jazz was associated with the earthier, libidinous side of life. In today's parlance, the phrase would be "sex, drugs and rock n' roll." As the music gained wider popularity among listeners of a higher income bracket, it gradually received the sanction of the self-appointed guardians of social morality.

On a parallel track, jazz slowly was accepted as an art form as well as a popular music. Generally speaking, popular music is geared toward entertainment, often as dance music, whereas art music is assumed to address deeper or more refined areas of the soul. In academic circles this was commonly referred to as the difference between "high" and "low" art. For decades, however, jazz confounded this difference, revealing for those listeners whose ears and hearts were open enough to comprehend it that the music transcended such socially defined musical categories.

For this reason jazz has often been described as the most democratic of musics. It is open to all, it can incorporate all manner of musical traditions from around the world, it sets its own limits and then breaks them, moving beyond mundane pigeonholes. Just the other day I tuned the radio to the local classical station, KMFA, only to be pleasantly surprised by Duke Ellington's orchestral work "Harlem," a long-overdue experience.

The transcendent character of jazz is also revealed in the dichotomy between sacred and secular music. It is no longer uncommon to hear jazz used as the vehicle for a sacred text or theme in formal worship. The gospel music tradition has shared a symbiotic relationship with jazz for about a century now, and composers of religious music increasingly tap the jazz reservoir for inspiration.

But there is a more immediate and profound spirituality in jazz that speaks to us even without the mediation of overtly religious themes. Jazz, by nature, is a spiritual music. It expresses the innate joy of the soul, as well as the complexities of the mind, the multiple levels of what it means to be human. In retrospect it is easier for us now to understand how the yearning for freedom and the celebration of life which explodes out of this music was considered shocking and sinful by earlier generations. But it is not the nature of jazz that has changed; rather jazz, as a kind of spiritual mirror, has helped us to better understand and accept ourselves.

With this in mind, it is pleasing to see a growing trend in Austin, the sponsoring of jazz events by local houses of worship. The Unitarian Universalist and Presbyterian churches here have supported various jazz-related shows. The Unitarians have a long and distinguished history of supporting progressive aspects of our culture; it's always a good idea to keep an eye out for their calendar of events.

Another bright spot on the cultural landscape is the Jazz at St. James concert series, now entering its fourth year. The original idea for the series came from Bill Miller, priest at St. James Episcopal Church. For one weekend each year St. James hosts an eclectic set of "jazz showcases, education, and spirituality," culminating in a jazz mass. The community response has been very positive. Last year's series sold out and over 1,000 people attended, with audience members ranging from the young to the old and coming from as far away as La Grange and Marble Falls, according to church administrator Kenny Tennyson.

This year the weekend starts with a Billie Holiday tribute, featuring Pamela Hart, Beth Ullman and Karen Chavis, backed by the Jeff Helmer Quartet, beginning at 8pm. on Friday, November 6. Saturday morning at 10am there will be a free jazz master class with world renowned saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, open to jazz student-musicians of all ages. Saturday evening at 8pm Mr. Newman will appear in concert with local piano hero James Polk. Also appearing are Leaning House recording artist Fredrick Sanders, and vocalist Pamela Hart.

The weekend concludes with a jazz mass on Sunday, November 8. "Everyone Prays in His Own Language" is the theme, and the music is based on excerpts from several masses written by Duke Ellington. Three masses will be held, at 8am, 10am, and 7pm, and will feature David Newman, as well as Fredrick Sanders, Boyd Vance, Hope Morgan and Margaret Wright. Concert tickets are available at St. James Episcopal Church (3701 East Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard), and at the door each evening. For more information, call (512) 926-6339, or visit the St. James web site.

 


Verities by Brian Yannish

Misadventures in TV smashing

I was going to make a difference. It was that simple, or so it seemed. I looked over at it. It wasn't very large or threatening, maybe 15 inches across and not more than 7 or 8 pounds. But its power was unassuming, and the problem was the fact that it existed in the first place. It didn't even display color -- a $10 price stipulation I wavered on at the thrift store. Besides, I figured Black and White was kind of retro and cushioned the blow of completely abandoning my campaign of asceticism. TV without color really isn't the same, or as good, or as interesting, I convinced myself. I had challenged myself to live without television two months prior, but then the experiment had been put on hold pending further research.

But this time I'd make the difference: I was going to smash my television. I had come across an announcement in the weekly paper about a local alternative bookstore holding a specially sanctioned event for TV destruction in conjunction with National TV Turnoff Week, an unrecognized holiday promoted by The Media Foundation, an oft-biting Vancouver based advertising watchdog. It was safety in numbers, I figured, a spectacle-induced camaraderie in watching screens splinter and lose their ability to transmit. This was something I'd be able to tell people with satisfaction and toss casually into "So what have you been up to?" inquiries. Now I had the perfect date, a time set to reclaim my mental independence. It sounded a little revolutionary, but even if I longed for an occasional bad sitcom to soak in, I'd feel way too defeated to actually purchase another of the devices. I told myself I'd do it.

I looked up at the clock, again. It wasn't turning in my favor (back, as I had hoped). I was feeling unsettled and anxious, sitting in the smooth plastic immovable chairs of the Municipal Court Building waiting to post bail. I had to be somewhere. My occupation at the time as a bailbondsman often made me play the waiting game, pitting my patience against the favor of the particular officer on duty who could wave me through or hold me up depending on nothing in particular. But neither luck nor the good will of the bonding officer who needed to sign for the release of our client was on my side, so I sat. The generic face of the universal school/state agency clock I remembered staring at painfully during high school just did what it always did -- move -- although this time I wanted it to slow down. I already ruled out the shower. I'd just go directly to my place, pick up the offending object, shatter it, and feel good about myself. Damn. I cursed to myself about why I took a job with a lack of determinable hours. Just as I was ready to give up, they called my name. I faked my requisite congeniality and rushed through the appropriate documents while secretly defiling the entire system with bitter thoughts and less than warm wishes for its operators.

I ran to my car, sped home, yanked the cord out of the wall and loaded the TV into the front seat. I was 15 minutes late already. I hoped the announced time was just a suggested meeting hour as I pulled into a parking lot across from the store and got out. There was definitely something going on. People were milling about behind the store. I scooped up my set and began to cross the street, but something wasn't quite right -- the stench of burning plastic was unmistakable. I stood and asked someone crossing if it was too late for one more. No camaraderie there. The hopes I had of casually strolling in with another prisoner for the sacrifice and winning acclaim of onlookers and supporters vanished.

The onlookers were crossing my way as I heard the sirens of approaching fire engines. Someone told me "You'd better get out of here with that," as if I was holding an un-tossed brick or Molotov cocktail. Apparently a healthily zealous smashing had involved burning too. A small sense of panic arose as I stood in the middle of the street, TV in hand. I felt like I had just stolen it and had better split before facing the cops. The media police sent by the international TV conspiracy were closing in, and I'd look pretty silly without my TV plugged in. I'd be sentenced by association to this tiny revolution. But I wasn't guilty of anything, except feeling foolish. It was then that I felt the most embarrassed about owning a television. A real revolutionary would have thrown it, but I quietly crossed back over the street in disgust.

I threw the TV in my trunk and drove off. I had missed my chance and I felt sickened. What the hell was I gonna do now? Go home and watch TV? My knee-jerk reaction to do just that after my grand scheme had fallen through frightened me. Sure, I fantasized about hurling the TV off my balcony some night, but I just didn't have the guts. I also didn't have a broom, and inevitably I'd probably have to sweep it up. My conviction just wasn't the same entirely on my own. I did celebrate National TV Turnoff Week though. The TV stayed in my trunk for ten days.

Six months later, I still have the small Black and White TV, but I've come to accept its presence. We still fight every now and then but we're not the bitter enemies we used to be. I'll admit it's nice to have around. These days even my fervor for swift Television Capital Punishment is all but faded. I guess I figure that if my will power were strong enough I wouldn't have to smash anything. So as the early nights settle in, the research continues. But deep down, I still believe it must feel really good to smash one.

Maybe next year I'll show up on time.

 

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