Joined All About Jazz in 1995
Various staff members.
AAJ: How has The Cosmosamatics evolved on record?
MM: We're tight. In fact, we just got out of the studio day doing a record for Not Two out of Poland. Half the record is Charlie Parker cuts. It is really incredible to record with Sonny on that because he is really a disciple of Bird, one of the last, true disciples. It was an honor for me to be in that situation and see The Cosmosamatics evolve to that point now where we're documenting Charlie Parker classics in our own image. The group has evolved because we are really tight harmonically and spiritually. We can hear each other and the original compositions are developed with a group sound. That was the concept, to make it a group recalling The Art Ensemble, the Modern Jazz Quartet, or the World Saxophone Quartet, make a group like that. It has been a wonderful experience.
AAJ: Has free jazz' maturation been frustrated by noise?
SS: I think so. It has been a saboteur to the music. For a person who has talent, but doesn't know scales, but yet he is a great free playing artist without knowing any laws, which we all must live by in the universe, the music is without law or formidable substance that represents music, to me, it is bourgeois.
MM: It is interesting because I was hearing a lineage between Johnny Dodds, the clarinetist, and Albert Ayler. Sonny is trying to hear that foundation of tradition in some of the younger players and he is not hearing that. But I do think there is some great avant-garde music being produced like William Parker and the late, great Steve Lacy. So there is vital stuff happening. The Cosmosamatics is one of the few groups that is bringing that tradition and honors melody and harmony and tries to bring a message with free jazz. Free jazz is 50 years old now.
AAJ: Then modern free jazz is a contradiction - without reason and conservative.
MM: It seems like now, everybody is in their own community that they want to be in. The problem we noticed is there is not a lot of camaraderie among the musicians like there used to be. It makes it more difficult to make the music a statement of the times. The new music of the '60s was a reflection of the times. But if you have a love for the music and a goal to present beautiful art, you can try to bring that forth to a reality.
SS: It is not for everybody. The population is not that wise. You have to consider that. That is true. You can't reach everybody. A few of them will dig where you're coming from, but not all of them. In the times we are living in, it is critical that we keep our integrity because there is exploitation of black artists. Brothers are desperate, trying to pay rent, trying to survive and live a decent life, but the system is so out of order. The record companies that popped up in the '60s, ESP was a new breed that recorded the new music and great artists of that time, but they exploited us, but we had no choice. We had to comply so the music would be out there and exist.
AAJ: While free jazz is manipulated by a traditional ignorance, does artistic exploitation remain with technical advances allowing for creative independence?
SS: Absolu monde. Absolu monde. Yes, it is very prevalent today. It never has stopped. Certain little record companies, the big ones, and the small ones, they all do that. Music is the biggest money making industry in the world. But they are quibbling over a few grand from artists that really need everything they got coming to them. The artist has to suffer every step of the way. It is a challenge and everyday, you have to be strong and keep your integrity toward your art form.
MM: Almost anybody now can make a record. Whereas back in the day, when a Blue Note came out, it was something. Now, anybody can make a record and it dilutes the art. Also, the music is isolated. Everybody gets in their own world and it is hard to connect with each other. That is why now we have so many tribute bands like the Herbie Nichols tribute band.
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