Mulgrew Miller: A Composite Portrait from His Own Words
Ted Panken has a great way of getting musicians to to think and respond and reveal themselves over the course of a long interview. This piece on Mulgrew Miller is taken from several sources over several years and gives a perfect portrait of this incredibly tasteful and inventive pianist, who is a self-effacing and supportive musician who had played with so many of the greats from Betty Carter and Woody Shaw to Art Blakey, Tony Williams and Ron Carter. He was a man of immense talent and undue modesty.
A great weekend read.
I really like the trio with Derrick Hodge and Karriem Riggins. It’s really interesting to notice how these subtle variation of time feel and influences from different generations of swing and black-American music and church come together and sound so Jazz.
This guy tho…
More post-nicki-minaj thoughts:
Is the anaconda vid empowering for women?
Yes, she is in control of her sexuality, and she will wear, do and be whoever and whenever.
On the other hand - it’s a song (if not just a beat) about having big buns with a vid that’s really all about sex (with no men, but clearly with male-dominated sex in mind) and product placement.
Is that really a good thing? Am I missing something?
Rastrophiliopustrocity is a barrage of creative random thoughts, images, and ideas that spontaneously overwhelms the right brain, which then becomes immediately exercised when paired with discernment through the left brain under spacious awareness from an empty point.
It’s summer and again we have a war in Israel and an online battle about what is Jazz.
We’ve had the NewYorker satire piece about Sonny Rollins, generating hundreds - if not thousands - of angry comments on facebook and twitter. Nicholas Payton stepped in, clarifying and pointing out some very troublesome issues of racism in it. And I’ve just read an article in the Washington Post explaining, again, why Jazz is dead in order to defend an onion-style portrayal - It was funny because it’s true. How mature.
I’ll be honest - I found some of the New Yorker funny. I’m part of a very cynical culture, in which everything is viewed in the meta, and can understand and relate to many articles like that. HOWEVER - and this is important - I am trying to dedicate my life to this music. I do take it very seriously, both because I love it and because it’s my livelihood. I do appreciate that people have paid heavily in order to play this music. And I definitely appreciate the black struggle imbued in this music and what a big role it had in establishing black pride and culture. And most important - I am playing this music. To me, it’s more alive than ever.
It was the Washington Post article that made me angry.
Usually, it takes me a while to understand why something aggravates me.
Not this time.
It made me angry because it was trying to explain, to rationalize, to defend - to say, once more, that Jazz is dead. But the writer was missing the point. Even though he graduated from an arts college, with a degree related to Jazz music I would assume, he does not understand this music. He missed everything that’s important about it. Everything that makes it great.
But the one thing I have to say to this writer is that If after a college degree I would think Jazz is “loosely defined by little more than improvisation, sunglasses and berets”, I would sue the college for gross negligence and get my money back.
The thing is, to me Jazz is about humanity, It’s about being human. It offers you the responsibility to be someone. Sonny Rollins does not sound like Coleman Hawkins. Clearly there’s an influence and Rollins comes from that musical lineage - But he took the challenge and formed a personal style. Jazz gave black musicians a way to express themselves. Of understanding, and explaining, who they are in a period where they did not have another avenue to do so. And still to this day, this is what this music asks of us musicians.
Forget about evolution or innovation - we don’t need to force that on the music and ourselves. Use this music to be a human being. To have personality and let that personality shine. Have a personal style. Be a great stylist of this music. That’s the real challenge in playing Jazz. It’s much harder coming up with one personal sentence. With a sound that really IS you. With a personal WAY of saying things, a personal phrasing.
But that’s exactly why Jazz is great. Because it demands that from the musician in real time. It’s not about having a concept. It’s not about working on 30 songs in the studio and choosing the best 12. It’s not about sitting at home, figuring out the exact sound of the 4th layer of the snare.
It’s about being all those things in real time.
That’s the real beauty.
The real Journey.
The real music.
The real art.
That’s Jazz music.
A couple of days ago I went on an adventure. Just thinking about it I’m giggling like a little kid…
I had a really crappy day, that started really early for work, moved on to more work, morphed into errands and running around, including the MTA subway on a sunday. So by the evening, my brain was fried, it was impossible to think of anything, and still had to meet my significant-other in the evening to work out some of the issues we’ve been having. Not good.
I was next to union square, so I figured i should go to a movie. The new X men was playing in about twenty minutes, so I grabbed something to eat nearby, left a way-too-big tip to recharge some karma and get my mood better, and headed back to the cinema. The movie was sold out. Bummer. I quickly decided to climb uptown, towards home, and stop at 86th st and check out the cinema there. It was also sold out. My spirits low, I started walking back to the train and remembered that the 1 train is only running till 96th st, about 6 stops too short. Bummer. The next option was to go to Central Park and take a C train, only C and A trains were going express to 125 and there was no B train cause F*ck you MTA. I almost started crying.
I sat on a bench outside Central Park. The weight of fumbling my relationship, of having worked that day to the point of being numb, of plans not working out was beginning to be too much. It’s always these small things that create what I like to call subject-crossing-depression - the domino of being depressed from one thing that leads you to be depressed about something completely different, till everything is depressing. Yes, 1st world problem, but it’s a real problem non the less, so calm down.
A bus was coming. I had no idea where it goes through but the last stop was 155, 5 blocks from home. Couldn’t be that bad, right?. I got on and fell asleep. Waking up at the last stop. To the right, A highway and the river, in the distance nothing but huge housing projects. To my left, housing projects. Again I was depressed - I’m always amazed how these things are planned as if to be devoid of hope of ever getting out of that system. Even on the horizon the only thing you see is more projects like your own. Even to dream of something else is a miracle.
I started walking up, thinking I’ll get to 160 soon enough. But the road actually goes around, and ends at the highway, closer to 165th. I tried to walk down, but the famed Washington Heights hill was higher. From my side, which is already behind a fence if you’re on the project side, there was a rocky hill that has no crossing. If you’re in that complex, even nature is against you. I kept on walking, I knew now that I could go down to 155, and cross all the way west, and then climb back up to 160th, defeated. But on the way there, I noticed a staircase.
The staircase was across the highway and behind a fence, but it seemed like the fence was already broken, so I could get in. I wasn’t sure exactly where it would lead me, but I ran across the highway, sneaked through the hole in the fence and was at the bottom of the staircase. It sounds so stupid, but the adrenaline was already starting to flow, I was getting really excited. This was something new, a place I did not know existed, a secret staircase. I started climbing up. When I got to the top of it, I realized the obvious. There is a fence on the other end too. This one had a sign on it - DO NOT ENTER. I snuck into somewhere I am not allowed? That might still be in construction? dangerous perhaps? I probably haven’t done anything like this since middle school. I was so proud of myself. It was beautiful too. With beautiful trees, and quiet. Like a hidden gem of nature in this urban jungle we call nyc.
But now what? The fence was too high to climb. Seemed like the only out was through the other side and the hole in that fence. Satisfied with finding this secret stairway, I started walking down, when I realized that if I jump off the staircase, and not fall from the side of this hill, I could go into some bushes, hold the fence from the outside, and get across to the street, through these bushes. It sounded like a crazy idea. Dangerous even. I am definitely not in shape, and was never good at climbing trees and such. But I was already in adventure mode. I already made it here, where I shouldn’t have been. I can do this.
I climbed back up some of the stairs, leaned against the rail, and slid to the other side. I was surprised how easily my body seemed to do it. I have definitely not did anything like this in about 10 years. I started walking on the hill. The angle was not comfortable at all. I misstepped. But could grab a tree. Readjust my balance. Walk some more. Towards the bushes. The angle of the hill was not agreeing with me. It did not like me doing this. But it was also so inviting. Accepting my mischief. I could jump and grab the fence now. One more step. My balance is bad now. I jumped.
Grabbing the fence from the outside, the only thing left was hold tight and walk through some bushes. I have gotten to the other side of the staircase. I was now in Edgecombe Avenue. A short walk from my apartment. I’ve made it. I’ve created a shortcut. It felt so good!
Writing this now, I realize how stupid the whole thing is. Basically I just got a bit lost on a bus I didn’t know a cut through some construction site I shouldn’t have been in. But the rush of doing something wrong was so strong. The sensation of discovering some secret. Perhaps a thing in the city that no one knows about, even though that’s impossible. The strength I got from creating a path for myself. Being wrong felt very, very right.
And for a few minutes, I got to feel like a 17 year old punk. A few years late, but damn it feels good.
When your friends show up to your dress rehearsal like this you know they got your back. #faith #love #friendship