To many armchair consumers, music is something you store on the shelf and bring to life by pressing play on a black box. (Newer fangled types might use an iPod or hard drive instead, but the net result is basically the same.) And it is indeed possible to come to an appreciation of music from around the world without ever once leaving home, except perhaps to visit the mailbox.
But while the market might determine prices and availability, music is a product of culture, plain and simple. Jazz, with its American roots and international popularity, is as good an example as any of musical culture, something you can't pin down because it's always in motion.
This month we present several articles which get into the real-life factors behind the music. First, Raul d'Gama Rose looks at The Cry of Freedom in music and words, starting in Bombay, of all places, and then moving closer to musical roots in Black America. Shifting to Los Angeles, Chris M. Slawecki touches down at the seven-hour Wattstax concert more than thirty years later with the aid of a DVD documentary and discovers that the music is just part of the story.
Starting with ideas articulated by Angela Y. Davis in her book Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, John Ballon pauses to examine the sexual empowerment and racial protest of working-class blues and jazz women. On the other side of the globe, even listeners familiar with the late soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy's lifelong trek may not appreciate his important connection to Japan, but Gilles Laheurte shared some time with Lacy there near the end, and he offers some very personal reflections on the subject.
Finally, we offer our usual potpourri of jazz experiences this month. Among the events: big band man Jack Bowers went to Los Angeles to check out Stratospheric , a Maynard Ferguson tribute; Mark Sabbatini made it to Iceland for Reykjavik's jazz festival and reported back in six daily installments ; and we have stories on festivals in Monterey , Chicago , Telluride , and Tanglewood .
In her regular Shrinktunes column, Dr. Judith Schlesinger sat down with pianist Taylor Eigsti , now only 20, to understand the child prodigy's outlook on coming of age. We also interviewed singer Rebecca Martin , percussionist Pucho Brown , bassist Christian McBride , and bassist Anders Jormin , among others.
Photo: Freddy Robinson at Wattstax.