Originally, after a couple of months of lockdown, we thought to have a more light-hearted edition, inspired by Sesame Street: this issue was brought to you by the letter M—saxophonist Hank Mobley (On the Cover), multi-instrumentalist Joe Morris (Interview), pianist Marcin Wasilewski (Artist Feature), drummer Ra Kalam Bob Moses (Encore), bassist Jymie Merritt (Lest We Forget) and More Is More (Label Spotlight).
But, with the pandemic raging and the economy in free fall, a third crisis has come to this country. While the first could have been mitigated and the second inevitable and necessary, the third is akin to that old jazz cliché: new wine in old bottles. The killing of George Floyd is, tragically, unremarkable in this country, given a history of racism and use of force by those in power throughout U.S. history, much less the past few years. What has been remarkable is that the pace of response—even when faced with the dangers of COVID-19—has been astonishing and heartening, but only if something lasting and positive comes out of his and many others' senseless deaths. One could theorize that the intensity of the movement is a direct comment on those at the top of the power chain who have done little to fix the systemic problems and have, in many cases, exacerbated it for their own short-term political gain.
Simply put, you cannot pick up this gazette, professing an interest in jazz, without having
a concurrent interest in Civil Rights. While we may try to remove the individual personality from his or her artistic output in the case of some problematic figures, to say that jazz and the history of African-American struggle can be separated somehow is to say that Olivier Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps could have been written anywhere, at any time.
However you choose to register your protest, it is your duty to do so. Jazz may be entertaining but it is not entertainment. Those that suffered to bring it to us and inspired the generations that followed need to know that the world of the future can be better than the one they knew.
The casual jazz fan doesn't usually ask Siri to play Hank Mobley, who would have turned 90 this month, but hears him whenever jazz radio plays an early Jazz Messengers track or Horace Silver's early hits like "The Preacher". The tenor saxophonist on them is Mobley. He's also the tenor you hear on a lot of trumpeter Lee Morgan's recordings, as well as those of guitarist Grant Green and trumpeter Donald Byrd, notably the latter's A New Perspective. From 1955-70, Mobley recorded prolifically as both a sideman and leader, helming 24 albums for Blue Note alone during that decade, as well as over 50 as a sideman on various labels.
Joe Morris is a composer/improviser who plays guitar, double bass, mandolin, banjo, banjouke, electric bass and drums. He is also a recording artist, educator, producer, concert curator and author. DownBeat magazine called him "the preeminent free music guitarist of his generation".
Artist Feature: MARCIN WASILEWSKI
By George Grella; photo Gildas Boclé / Courtesy of ECM Records
"I'm just amazed by what they did, how jazz spread all over the world. You can hear how deep they were into this music to survive, to fight, through such hard lives for so many years. And still there is racist behavior." Pianist Marcin Wasilewski was speaking on the phone from his home in Warsaw, Poland, in the middle of June, two weeks into the steady, worldwide demonstrations against racism.
Encore: RA KALAM BOB MOSES
By Jim Motavalli
The man formerly known as the jazz drummer Bob Moses, active since the '60s and on albums by everyone from Gary Burton to Henry Kaiser, is now Ra Kalam. The new name was bestowed upon him by Bhapuji Tisziji Muñoz, a spiritual guide to many musicians and also a killer guitarist.
Lest We Forget: JYMIE MERRITT
By Marilyn Lester
Philadelphia-based bassist Jymie Merritt, who passed on Apr. 10th of liver cancer a few weeks shy of his 94th birthday, has long been recognized as an important innovator in the jazz world.
Record Label Spotlight: MORE IS MORE
By John Sharpe
It's not an exaggeration to say that trumpeter Peter Evans is one of those rare musicians identifiable after
a single note. He's one of a select cohort who has taken his instrument to levels undreamed of by previous generations, especially in the realm of solo playing. His debut under his own leadership was a striking unaccompanied outing titled More Is More on Evan Parker's psi imprint in 2006 and he's also used that as the banner for his own label.