Jazz and Justice
Gratitude to Simon Purcell
"I aspire to making music in the "now", committed to emotional and personal statement, an authenticity of expression rather than self-conscious or contrived novelty. I don't consider myself a composer at all, simply a jazz musician who, like many others, writes and provides “containers” and starting points for improvisation."
-- Simon Purcell
Jazz and Justice
Simon Purcell - A jazz musician who creates containers for improvisation
INTERVIEW/PREVIEW: Simon Purcell. CD Launch of Red Circle. (16th November, EFG London Jazz Festival)
SP: On a deeper level, I am interested in C.G. Jung and the idea that music accesses and conveys archetypal qualities. This material feels quite dark and mysterious, hence the reference to Job, “Dark Night” and “Pandora”, but with moments of light and beauty (I hope) in “Ithaca” and “Spirit Level”. But my intention is to access what Mike Zwerin called "the Cry", a deep emotional intensity – that surely goes for any serious musician
The Letting Go
SP: I am continuing to learn a lot from the process. Recording was intense. I am so unused to it that at first I felt paralysed, but after a day I gave in to the process and by the third day was actually enjoying it. I experienced the profound realisation that attention is more valuable than effort. This is very Zen, easy to say and hard to do, but I learnt about how to focus and in that process, let go of pressure (some of the time). As a band-leader, as I said above, I wanted to get out of the way and let these guys sound good, which is not dissimilar as its all about control. One has to learn to let go of one's tunes and let folk play, for them to contribute, suggest revisions and so on. You are doing something right if they forget that they are playing your music.
SP: With obvious notable exceptions (Ellington, Wayne, Zawinul, Kenny Wheeler, Hermeto, Monk and Mingus) it is arguable that most musicians are simply devising contexts that assist their improvising. One could say that "C Jam Blues" is the ultimate jazz composition since it is the least prescriptive and limiting to improvisors, or that Miles was the most important jazz composer since he wrote very little but caused so much incredible music to happen. I am exaggerating but it is a point worth considering, especially at a time when so much jazz appears to be preoccupied with complexity over personality or emotional intensity, or struggling to make popular music useful to improvisors.
The Culture of Possibility
In The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists, and the Future, Arlene Goldbard suggests that we live in two cultural worlds: Datastan and The Republic of Stories.
In Datastan the world is seen as an aggregate of information to be conceptually analyzed. Everything consists of numbers, bits of information, and objective facts devoid of meaning until it is assigned by data collectors.
In The Republic of Stories the world is understood very differently. It consists of individual people interacting with one another and the surrounding world, each of whom has a story worth hearing. Whereas Datastan emphasizes objectivity, the Republic of Stories takes heed of subjectivity: that is, the subjective aims and feelings of individual human beings, as lived from a first-person point of view. Goldbard shows that it is the special role of the artist to tell and help us hear the stories. The artists is citizen par excellence of the Republic of Stories.
Process (Whiteheadian) writers like Patricia Adams Farmer add that the Republic of Stories is actually closer to the way the world really is. Here is how she puts it in her essay A Whole Universe of Stories
GROWING UP THROUGH THE CRACKS of the broken worldview we call modernity are verdant shoots we call stories—human stories built of words and images and feelings and connected threads of subjective experience. We see them everywhere, not only in film and literature, but in the daily lives of regular people telling their own stories about where they come from and what makes them happy or sad, about people they love and animals that make them laugh or weep. About what makes life meaningful.
One role of the artist in the contemporary world is to help us hear the stories with our ears, our eyes, our hearts. Musicians play the stories through sound. Somehow, it seems they have heard a Call. It takes a special musician to hear this Call, not only as a call to play the stories himself or herself, but to help others play them as well. This is a Call to be an educator as well as musician. That is the Call that Simon Purcell has heard. It is two sides of one Call.
More about Simon Purcell
Simon Purcell is probably best known as Head of Jazz at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and member of the Pop and Jazz Steering Group for the Association of European Conservatoires...more
-- from Simon Purcell webpage