Our scene, our city, our country, and the world are having a conversation about race. It’s our intention to listen and participate where it’s appropriate, but to also use this platform as a way to magnify the voices of others.
So instead of writing too much, I’m going to encourage you to seek out black voices, and black artists who are talking about what’s going on. There are so many folks talking about what to do, that it seems superfluous to add my thoughts.
If you’d like to see our tribute from a few weeks ago that doesn’t involve very many of my words, you should check out our last post (No Justice, No Peace).
And If you have something you’d like to say, and we can use this platform to help you say it, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
Below, you’ll find a tribute to the late, great Jimmy Cobb, Phil’s perspective on his life in music, and the origin story of best Sun-Ra flavored band in Columbus as told by band founder and Bassist Steve Perakis. But first:
Let America Be America Again
// Langston Hughes
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Jimmy Cobb // A Tribute
by Seth Alexander
“Splat-da-dum, Crash!”- and a sizzling ride cymbal propels the whole band into another world known to Miles Davis and jazz fans alike as Kind of Blue. This album featured Jimmy Cobb behind the drum set- who had begun to take up the drummer’s chair in place of Philly Joe Jones in Davis’ quintet (sextet for this album). The album, although seemingly just another Miles Davis recording session at the time, sparked a fire in jazz and is still today the number one selling jazz album in the world. Cobb was the only surviving member from the personnel on Kind of Blue, until Sunday, May 24th, 2020 when he passed away of lung cancer at age 91.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Cobb moved to New York when he was 21 following a job to play drums in Earl Bostic’s Jazz Orchestra. A year or so later, he moved on to playing with vocalist Dinah Washington and then joined the quintet of Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Julian “Cannonball” Adderley then led him into Miles Davis’ band, around the time that Philly Joe Jones had stopped showing up. Cobb recorded with Davis on “Porgy & Bess,” “Kind of Blue,” “Sketches of Spain,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Live at Carnegie Hall,” and “Live at the Blackhawk.” He left Davis’ band in 1962 to work with Wes Montgomery and make solo albums with other members of the “Kind of Blue” band- Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, and Wynton Kelly.
Over the years, Jimmy Cobb collaborated with some of the best in jazz, such as Billie Holiday, Lee Morgan, Leo Parker, Benny Golson, Pearl Bailey, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Kenny Dorham, Paul Gonsalves, Art Pepper, Bobby Timmons, Donald Byrd, Pepper Adams, J.J. Johnson, Joe Henderson, Sarah Vaughan, Sonny Stitt, Nat Adderley, Hank Jones, Ron Carter, George Coleman, David “Fathead” Newman, Nancy Wilson, Dave Holland, Warren Bernhardt, Mike Stern, Michael Brecker, Marion Meadows, Roy Hargrove, Jon Faddis, Christian McBride, Javon Jackson, Cedar Walton, Hank Jones, Ronnie Mathews, Peter Washington, Ellis Marsalis, Brad Meldau and so many more.
As Peter Erskine once said, “Nobody has ever played better quarter notes than Jimmy Cobb,” and after the recognition of his work with Miles Davis, Cobb remained one of the busiest collaborators in jazz. He released his final albums last year (“Cobb’s Pocket” and “This I Dig of You” 2019), and clearly never wanted to stop getting behind the drum set. Cobb left his drums, his voice, his heart, and soul in the music of jazz. The legendary Jimmy Cobb was loved and listened to by many- and he will be missed.
As Phil Sees It // Phil Maneri
Jazz is an original American art form; an African American art form. It is part of the fabric of African American culture. It is part of the fabric of American culture. The vast majority of innovators and indeed legends in Jazz music have African ancestors. Miles. Trane. Monk. Bird. Ellington…need I go on? They created this in spite of the treatment they received as Black people living in America.
In 1619 White Europeans began forcibly removing Black African people from their homes to take to America to be sold as slaves. They were considered property and it was within the Rules to subject them to being chained and beaten and whatever else was deemed necessary to control their behavior. It took more than 200 years to get American society to the point where they publicly announced that the White European man’s behavior was immoral. So we changed the Rules.
But their Black African American descendants were still beaten and tortured and treated as second class citizens by white European American society. These social understandings were revealed in Jim Crow Laws, Segregation and Voter Disenfranchisement. The Rules were different but the chains remained.
It took another 100 years to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made White society publicly admit that they were still treating Citizens of African descent differently. We made yet another set of Rules. During the time of Ellington, Bird, Miles, Coltrane, and Monk,those players were treated with disdain and disrespect and cruelty in spite of their legendary gifts and contributions to the world. Now, more than 50 years later American society still treats the Black ancestors of these African American people as lesser, with different rights than White ancestors of European Americans.
White Privilege is obvious. Just days ago unarmed Black citizens in my home town were maced, beaten, sprayed with tear gas, and rounded up to be sent to jail for protesting the murder of one of their brothers. Two weeks before that in the same exact place, White citizens in full military battle gear blocked the entrance to the statehouse protesting being asked to stay at home to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. They were home in time for dinner.
Incidentally, the White protest worked. The state immediately opened up to commerce, regardless of the advice of those charged with studying the best practices in these situations.
So far the Black protest changed nothing. In fact it clearly demonstrated how we live under the thumb of a Militarized Police force, whose abuses and violence go wildly unchecked.
If White ancestors of Europeans continue to stand on the necks of Black ancestors of Africans we cannot be surprised when they fight back. This is a very old problem. Our rules have changed but our behavior has not. We need new rules again. This time we need new behavior too.
A few months before he was assassinated in 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King said this.
“I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
It’s now the Spring of 2020. 50 more years have passed. Nothing has changed.
In 1963 John Coltrane wrote and recorded “Alabama” in response to the Klu Klux Klan’s cowardly and brutal bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church that killed 4 innocent African American children. His work was inspired by the tenor and cadence of Dr. King’s speech at their funeral. Go listen to that again and ask yourself how far away from that is the murder of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor.
Short answer- it’s not. Jazz bleeds with the history of Black oppression.
White people like me raised in this country over the last 400 years have Racism implanted in our heads. It takes great effort to see it and stop it. It takes constant vigilance. Removing a 400 year habit takes time. It starts by recognition. The protests proclaim it’s time to pay attention. Change the rules. Then act accordingly.
PS. This is not a flavor of the month moment. It’s a long time coming and we are late to the party. This is a commitment to the marathon. Social change needs to happen now, but it took centuries to get here; it’s going to take awhile to push away from it. Justice requires sustained effort over time, especially when nobody is watching.
Honk, Wail, & Moan // Steve Perakis
Alex asked me to write something about Honk, Wail & Moan, I’d like to give a little back story of how we began and how I had the incredible, life-changing fortune to meet and start making music with one of my partners in crime, Brian A Casey.
As an undergrad at OSU in the mid 80’s I worked in the music library for a little while, discovered amazing 20th century scores from a few composers I’d heard of, many more I’d never heard of. I really wanted to start a chamber music ensemble to play favorite pieces by Stravinsky, Webern, Messiaen, whoever we liked and those written ourselves. That ensemble never got off the ground but I eventually met a couple younger jazz players that needed a bass player for their jazz composition recital at the School Of Music. Brian A Casey and Gary Grundei had written some pieces for string quartet and jazz ensemble. I played their rehearsal, really connected with their writing and asked them to form a group with me. We asked a few other players we thought might be into doing something off the beaten path. We played our first gig at Bernie’s Bagels in November 1991, where we played most every Monday night for about 2 years.
Brian Casey, featured in Columbus Monthly magazine.
A couple days after that first gig we found out one of our friends who attended slept in a doorway after the show. When Brian found out, he wrote “Drunk Enough To Sleep On High Street,” later recorded for our first CD. We had our first legendary gig.
Shortly after, another friend, Bill Hustad handed me a tape he said I’d like-Charles Mingus’ Black Saint & The Sinner Lady b/w Sun Ra’s Sun Song. I was utterly blown away, so moved.
I went to Brian convinced this was what we should be moving towards. That music really started to shape the sound of HWM. We played our first annual Sun Ra Celebration in 1993, shortly after Maestro Ra passed into the cosmos. I still owe Bill a debt of gratitude.
I soon found out my friend Breeze Smith’s wife used to dance with Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Brian & I worked in the OSU Dance Department as accompanists, where Cheryl Banks-Smith was an instructor. We were both star struck, giddy like kids! Eventually we got the courage to ask her if she’d honor us & perform at our annual Sun Ra Celebration. She not only joined us, she organized some of her students to perform as well, she designed costumes & joined us on stage singing & chanting Sun Ra’s poetry at our first performance at legendary Columbus venue Stache & Little Brothers. Some of our family & friends made cakes & finger foods, Brian & I found Sun Ra’s recipe for Moon Stew & fixed up a big kettle, the food was laid out on the covered-up pool table, the band was super creative, the dancers moved the energy all through the place, it was beautiful!
There have been tons of fun, interesting and many great performances: newly composed scores for old silent films, performance art festivals, fashion shows, playing a 2 week tour of Southern Thailand, we’ve opened for some great acts at Columbus Jazz Fest, including The Mingus Big Band.
Our last time performing at Stache’s was a great one too. Brian was writing & arranging some pieces for a full 19 piece big band so we booked a date & begged or pulled in favors from enough players to fill the band. We borrowed some of our favorite classic big band jazz from a great band in town, The New Remnants, Brian’s tunes were gorgeous, the band sounded great, huge! there was a tiny crowd, it was winter & the heat wasn’t working right but it was beautiful. A few years later the club lost their lease, a strip of shops and a parking lot built in its place. Brian used to say “they tore the place down after the one & only Honk, Wail & Moan big band gig @ Stache’s! Legendary!”
The band @ Dick’s Den (photo by Tim Perdue!)
Over the years, sadly, many dear friends, beautiful musicians in our family we looked forward to making music with passed away so young. But being a part of this band, meeting and making music with the almost 300 players, singers, dancers & painters that are currently in or have played with HWM in almost 30 years has always been an inspiration & one of the greatest parts of my life. I love and am proud of so many people & groups I’ve been fortunate to make music with and HWM is always a huge part of my universe.