The Jazzcat

Christian McBride and "The Movement Revisited" @ The Walt Disney Concert Hall

by on Jun.09, 2008, under News

The movement, the struggle, life as it was and in some ways still is.  Our heroes and heroines who simply would not stand still and let injustice prevail another day are tonight represented in memory, with compositions and spoken references that take us back to a time, to a purpose, to that one line in the United States Constitution that says, “All Men are Created Equal”

Embryonic love, unity and peace should be everyone’s goal. Unfortunately, the kind, inquisitive, loving child in all of us is sabotaged by repetitive unfavorable environmental stimuli, political social economic struggles over resources, and a fear of colors and languages and the extreme desire for shinning products that are not in our possession.

There is one form of communication that is universal and predicated on intangibility; notes. And when you arrange them in a certain fashion they take on a rainbow of color and speak in languages that we can all understand. Permeating their messages though the toughest of amours and attacking the cerebellum stimulating thoughts and causing perplexion as nature and nurture battle it out hopefully to the death of stupidity and to the triumph of humanity.

Yes music is powerful hence so is its message. Tonight we remember these souls who stood up and let it be known that something is not right, something is unjust, and something must be done. Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali.

The Crowd is very light tonight here at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, perhaps all of the subscribers missed the email or the page was stuck on their brochure or just maybe, they weren’t ready to receive the reminder, the affirmation, the knowledge. Whatever the case may be, the combination of jazz, gospel and spoken word is uplifting and at times chilling as those elements grab us, leaves us speechless, let us not forget those before us whose one thought turned into a selfless action to benefit us all.

My main man Christian McBride, bass player extraordinaire, composer, band leader and this years Artistic Director for the jazz series at for the Los Angeles Philharmonic was commissioned as I recall quite some time ago to write a suite of music for a Gospel choir which at that time he had never done. As he graciously declined, they graciously insisted and the outcome of the dance was “The Movement Revisited”. He has probably had this music in his dresser drawer for many years and when he pitched it for this year’s program schedule for the Los Angeles Philharmonic it was overwhelmingly received.

The St. James Sacred Nation Gospel choir lead by JD Steel, an orchestra, Christian’s quartet of Geoffery Keezer, Ron Blake, Terreon Gully and historic phrases from the past narrated by dramatic voices from today was the tapestry of sound bestowed upon thee. There is quite a bit going on simultaneously so it must have taken quite a bit of orchestration to make it all come up roses!

The choir sounds angelic as the simple words with poignant and powerful possibilities rang though the air. The wave of the orchestra roars as the intensity of the statements build, we feel and hear not just the mind of one but, the mind of a people asking for justice, asking why, and instilling the passion and courage of the idea that we will no longer stand by and be victim to such an inhumane philosophy. Freedom, justice, injustice and the fight against such were hugely represented by the action and words of these four individuals.

James Avery, Loretta Devine, Carl Lumbly and Wendell Pierce represented the voices of Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks, Malcom X and Dr. Martin Luther King. After Loretta spoke the words of Rosa Parks, JD Steel led a soulful choir whose audible imagery depicted the scenes of those times not so long ago, which bring to the forefront of our minds pictures and feelings that for all humanity are quite unbelievable. The blend of Gospel and Jazz music along with spoken word creates quite a mental sensation. Not a play, not a musical, not a movie yet the elements of each apply. The spinning surrealism of the moment has you in the present one second, and deep inside the artificial world of you memories the next. The truth of yesterday has been put so far to the back in our minds that the element of music and recollection throws of off of our axis and the vertigo has us imagining and applying yesterdays applications to present situations.

Malcolm X was only twenty-seven when he stepped up and spoke for the people. It is interesting that in the days after Mecca, the message was for all, not just for one yet many beneficiaries of the word were non-believers. Swaying a people one-way and spinning them in a different direction the next creates a flux where confusion overpowers any statement of truths. The music helps you access your feelings, weather they be correct, wrong or indifferent; the three main perplexities that keep this world from uniting.

Over a bed of McBride bass and Blake flute, the narrators read excerpts from their respective counterparts as the music accentuates the sentiments of the statements. The words seem larger than life and the musical extensions have a language implication that support non-verbally. Voices are the earths original instruments and the way they are highlighted in each composition emphasizes a voice of change, beautiful self pride, a rise in the stream of consciousness, a stripping of anonymity and a call for peaceful transitions or of course by any means.

We are a people of love right? This music is a celebration of not just four individuals and their heroic efforts to change the times but also how the dreams of the plight have in many ways come true. Black and White people can love each other to the point where they only see each other and not colors, Black people are strong, proud and have enough belief in their corner to run countries, anyone can all ride, travel and live as far as their means will take them so peace and unity for many do exist. Do we still have a long way to go? I guess an overwhelming “hell yes” would be the answer to that but how many generations will it take? Is universal love a theory that will never turn into the solution? Probably, but the music will always be there as one of the greatest of conduits drawing hearts, minds and energy towards love.

Revisiting the movement is a marker in time to remember where we have been, how far we have come and the rest of the distance it will take to get there! It all starts with you. Yes we can!

LeRoy Downs

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