Nina Simone, of course:
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good
I feel so good
I feel so good
Vieux Farka Touré and the music of Mali: “spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening”
From Chicago magazine:
By Kevin McKeough
Since the late, legendary Ali Farka Touré first brought the music of Mali to widespread attention in the mid-1980s, the western African nation’s musicians have beguiled listeners worldwide with their trance-inducing guitar patterns and Arabic flavored keening. Tragically, Mali has received more attention lately for the violent conflict in the country’s northern region, which encompasses part of the vast Sahara Desert. After Islamist extremists recently seized control of a large part of the area, including the storied city of Timbuktu, and committed numerous human rights violations, in January France sent soldiers into its former colony to drive out the militants. While the French military has retaken most of the area, the situation remains unstable both in northern Mali and in the south, where the country’s military has deposed two successive governments and reportedly is engaging in harsh repression.
Vieux Farka Touré, Ali Farka Touré’s son and a world music star in his own right, was performing Friday, Feb. 22, at the Old Town School of Folk Music. C Notes contacted Touré, who lives in the Malian capital, Bamako, to gain his perspective of the travails afflicting his country and how he and other Malian musicians are responding.
What are your thoughts about the Islamists’ invasion of northern Mali and France’s efforts to drive them out of the country? My thoughts are the same as everyone in Mali. The invasion of the Islamists was hell on earth. It was a nightmare unlike anything we have ever experienced. We are very grateful to President Hollande and the French for their intervention. For the moment at least they have saved our country.
How have these disruptions affected you personally? I am safe and my family is safe. But there is great uncertainty in Mali today. Nobody knows what we can expect in the next years, months or even days. So it is very bad for the spirit to be living in this kind of situation.
What’s your reaction to the Islamist invaders banning music in the areas they controlled? I was furious. It broke my heart like it did for everyone else. It was as though life itself was taken from us.
You were part of an all-star group of Malian musicians who recently recorded the song “Mali-ko” in response to the conflict. Please talk about the project and why you participated in it. Musicians in Mali play a very important role in society. We are like journalists, telling people what is happening. We are also responsible for speaking out when there are problems, and we are responsible for lifting the spirit of the nation. So that is why we made “Mali-ko.” Fatoumata [Diawara] organized everyone and we all spent some time hanging out in the studio and doing our little parts. It was a very nice project. I’m happy with the result and I’m happy that it got a lot of attention in the United States and in Europe.
Aside from the song, what role do you think musicians can play in responding to the situation in Mali? We can do what we are already doing—we are going everywhere we can around the world and spreading the news of what has happened to us and what is still happening. Equally, we must continue to entertain our people and keep them proud to be from Mali. For Malians, music is the greatest source of pride so we must work very hard to keep that pride alive. Right now it is not easy for people to be proud and have faith.
What do you think needs to be done in Mali? First and most importantly, we need to continue to drive out all the militants from our country. There is no future for Mali with terrorists living amongst us. Period. Also we must move quickly to engage in free and open elections to restore the faith and the legitimacy of our country in the eyes of the world and its people. These two things are the most critical at this time.
Your music resembles your father’s but has its own distinct quality. Can you talk about what you’re trying to do in the music, how and why you combine traditional and contemporary styles? With my music I try not to think very much about what I am doing. I just let myself be open to inspiration and it will take me where I need to go. So I am not thinking “for my next album I must do a song with reggae, or I must do an acoustic album because this will be good for my career” or anything like that. I think all artists are like lightning rods for inspiration and you must be open to it or it will not strike you. If you try to do something artistic it will not be as good as if you just let inspiration decide what you are doing. So my style is just based on what influences me and what inspires me.
For a country with a small population, Mali has produced a large number of internationally recognized musicians. Why do you think the country has so many excellent musicians? This is the mystery that everyone wants to understand. I do not know for sure why there are so many big international stars from Mali. But I know this: We take our music very, very seriously. It is at the core of our culture and it is the definition of Mali as a people. There is no Mali without Malian music. So I think this inspires many young people to try to become musicians. Maybe everywhere in the world has this kind of talent but there is not as strong a push for everyone to develop their talents in music. But honestly, I don’t know. We are lucky for this great richness of talent. That is for sure.
Kevin McKeough is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine
See also ‘The Hendrix of the Sahara’
Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson is preparing for a short farewell tour in March. This really will be ‘farewell’: he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and, having turned down chemo, has less than a year to live. He’s just given this interview to Radio 4′s ‘Front Row’ and if you didn’t hear it when it went out yesterday I must INSIST that you listen, NOW.
It reminds me of Dennis Potter’s incredible 1994 interview conducted by Melvyn Bragg, but might just be even more powerful and moving, with its humour, philosophy and complete lack of self-pity:
“When the doctor told me, I walked out of there and felt an elation…I looked at the trees and sky and thought, ‘wow!’…
“…I’m a feather for each wind that blows. Why didn’t I work that out before? It’s just the moment that matters. Imminent death…makes you feel alive. Every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, makes you think ‘I’m alive’…
“…I’m a miserable person but that has all lifted…I’ve had a fantastic life. Anybody that asked for anything more would just be being greedy.”
He also talks a whole lot of sense about music and recording.
Below; Wilko on guitar, with vocalist Lee Brilleaux:
Smoo-ooth blues for Christmas, baby:
From Charles Brown.
Stanley Mackay Greig, 12 Aug 1930 – 18 Nov 2012
Stan Greig had been ill with Parkinson’s for many years, so his passing was not altogether unexpected. But it still comes as a tremendous loss to the traditional and mainstream jazz scene in Britain and internationally.
Stan started out on piano and drums in Edinburgh in the early 1950′s, playing with clarinettist Sandy Brown and trumpeter Al Fairweather, both of whom became long-term musical associates and personal friends of his. They admired (and modelled their playing upon) the music of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Johnny Dodds from the 1920′s, and although all three would soon broaden their musical horizons, none of them ever completely lost those early influences.
When Stan moved down to London he began working with Ken Colyer’s New Orleans-style band and then Humphrey Lyttelton’s rather more forward-looking outfit, in both cases as a drummer. It’s Stan who’s brushing away behind Johnny Parker’s piano on Humph’s 1956 boogie woogie hit Bad Penny Blues. One can only speculate about how Stan felt about his role on that record, given that his true forte, even then, was as a pianist (and a boogie specialist at that). When Stan was called up in the Suez crisis, Humph replaced him with the more modern drummer Eddie Taylor. On his return, Humph (by his own account) went through agonies in terms of loyalties, using both drummers in turn for a while before Stan solved the problem for him and left the band, joining Acker Bilk. He can be seen, shuffling from the piano to the drums and back again, with Acker’s band in this clip (below) from the 1962 film It’s Trad, Dad!:
Some years later (in the 1980′s) Stan re-joined Humph’s band, this time on piano and it was during this period that I had the tremendous pleasure and privilege of playing with him on a couple of memorable (for me, at least) occasions. The trombonist in that band, Pete Strange, told me that he thought Humph felt he “owed” Stan because of what had happened in the fifties.
Stan was a great player in quite a wide range of styles, but really excelled at boogie woogie, a style that can sound hackneyed and repetative. But not when Stan played:
Good obit from Peter Vacher in the Graun, here
Jack Teagarden was, I think, the third jazz musician I learned to identify just by his sound on a record. As I recall, the first was Sidney Bechet, and then Bix Beiderbecke.
He died in 1964: the year that I first discovered jazz music.
I’ve always had a soft spot for “Mr Tea” (aka “Big T” and ”Jackson”) and have posted here about him before. He was generally acknowledged by fellow-musicians and fans as the greatest jazz trombonist of his time (maybe, any time), but poor judgement, a chaotic personal life and the demon drink, all conspired to ensure he never achieved much in the way of commercial success, and he spent the latter years of his life paying off debts and alimony by working himself (literally) to death playing mundane nightly gigs and living in cheap hotel rooms.
He was also, incidentally, almost certainly the first white man to sing a convincing blues - on a record, anyway.
The late Richard M (“Dick”) Sudhalter described Mr Tea’s last years in his book Lost Chords:
“I found him warm but distant, ” said clarinetist Kenny Davern, who joined the [Teagarden] group in 1954. “There, but not there. Emotionally closed off. Sometimes it seemed that his idea of spending an afternoon was to come into a place where we’d be playing and tune the piano. Or make brass mouthpieces on a lathe he had in his garage. I got the idea sometimes that all that tinkering was a way of putting something between himself and the world, so he wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
In his playing, too, a schism had opened. Richard Hadlock gets right to the point, noting that Teagarden “always performed best when supported sympathetically by his musical equals.” The trombonist himself expressed similar thoughts to Down Beat‘s John Tynan in 1957: “Guess you could call me an inspiration man. Unless I’ve got good guys around me, I’m no good.”
Teagarden’s records with his own groups of the ’50′s are never less than good but seldom rise to real heights of inspiration. Yet on two LPs with Bobby Hackett, in 1955 and 1957, he shines with all the old brilliance; there is even a “St James Infirmary” which comes within hailing distance of the great Town Hall version of 1947.
But shadows were closing in. Connie Jones, who played cornet in the last edition of Teagarden’s travelling sextet, remembered meeting his new boss one Sunday afternoon at a club in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, outside Philadelphia. “He was sitting at the back of the room, at a table all by himself, drinking a cup of coffee,” said Jones. “No mistaking him. But I remember thinking that in that moment he looked to me like the loneliest man I’d ever seen.”
The late trumpeter Don Goldie, who spent four years in Teagarden’s band and had known him since childhood, “always got a feeling that a lot of happiness was locked away inside Jack, really padlocked, and never came out … Just this feeling of sadness. It was always there.”
Jack Teagarden died, alone, in his room at the Prince Conti Hotel in New Orleans on January 15, 1964. He was only fifty eight. “I sometimes think people like Jack were just go-betweens,” Bobby Hackett told a friend. “The Good Lord said, ‘Now you go and show ‘em what it is,’ and he did. I think everyone familiar with Jack Teagarden knows that he was something that happens just once. It won’t happen again. Not that way.”
There’s quite a lot of film of Jackson available, including an appearance in Birth Of The Blues (1941) with Bing Crosby and Mary Martin, but little that shows him in a congenial jam-session atmosphere. So I am eternally grateful to my chum Michael Steinman of Jazz Lives, for discovering this wonderful gem from a Budweiser-sponsored US TV show in 1956. Here, Jackson sits in (from the third number onwards) with some old friends: Matty Matlock on clarinet, Abe Lincoln on trombone, Eddie Miller on tenor, Clyde Hurley, trumpet; Stanley Wrightsman, piano; George Van Eps, guitar; Phil Stephens, string bass, and Nick Fatool at the drums. For a short while, at least, Mr Tea found some happiness:
Rosie started it with ‘Stormy Weather.’ Here are some other precipitate and inclement songs:
…any other suggestions? Apart from the obvious.
Though her life had its share of troubles to the end — her husband and sons were locked in a long-running battle over control of her estate, which was resolved in her husband’s favor only weeks before her death — Ms. James said she wanted her music to transcend unhappiness rather than reflect it.
“A lot of people think the blues is depressing,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992, “but that’s not the blues I’m singing. When I’m singing blues, I’m singing life. People that can’t stand to listen to the blues, they’ve got to be phonies” – from the New York Times obituary
Well, the lyrics mention Santa Claus and Christmas. Any excuse to play some early Basie:
The Count’s 1937 band, still fresh out of Kansas City, with ‘Mr Five by Five’ Jimmy Rushing taking the vocal. A Christmas song of sorts.
Great doo-wop…and s-o-o-o sad:
The Orioles, December 1948