Liner notes by Makanda Ken McIntyre
Hindsight means that we are all continuations of what came before. Hindsight means that I am always conscious of the connections between my life, my musical efforts, and the giants which forged the pathways of creative Black Music. Because I have always assumed that implicitly listeners would recognize that indebtedness, because I need to establish an identity about my compositions, heretofore I have concentrated on playing McIntyre originals. Now with the burgeoning new groups moving rapidly into the electronicizing of all music, I feel the call to "look back" and pay homage to those genii who have touched my life in some very personal ways.
Thus, I have included in this album Naima by the late John Coltrane who was gracious enough to invite me to sit in with him, which I did. Naima is a melody that exemplifies the gentleness and the strength in the beauty of Trane's talent. Similarly, Sonny Rollins, my astrological brother, has also given me encouragement and inspiration, by having me join him on his sets, thus I have included Sonnymoon For Two. Body And Soul, made famous by the late Coleman Hawkins, and written by Johnny Green, I chose because many years ago, he recorded a little tune of mine Pedalin' when I was totally unknown. Leaning backwards to help someone new on the scene. That was the way Coleman Hawkins was. This is my first date in Europe, and I have recorded on bass clarinet as the late Eric Dolphy did on his last date. The first time I met Eric was just a few weeks before he recorded with me on my first album, and I never knew the bass clarinet could be played with such force. For all the things that he might have done for all the tunes he might have played, I dedicate this album.
In my music is not only the indebtedness to the giants, but to the African Caribbean heritage. Consequently, I am trying to take the well-tempered technological instruments of the Europeans and incorporate polyrhythmic improvisations. The attempt is to affect in the actual playing of the horn that African-Caribbean rhythm rather than be totally dependent upon the drummer and/or rhythm section for all pulsating feeling.
We are all conscious that modern African-American music incorporates, early jazz, the blues, the shouts, the gospel, the spirituals, et.al. However, all too often the fact is denied, or at least obscured that the African presence is there, has been there, will always be there. Rhythm is the essence of the universal philosophy in Africa. And rhythm is the essence of all African-American music. In rhythm there is a necessary tension that is oftentimes considered dissonant by those who wish to apply a harmonic analysis to a rhythm concept. The analysis should be capable of understanding that the fundamental reality of life is rhythm not harmony. Out of a rhythm base comes equilibrium comes stability, that kind of stability that rests with change, and change is growth - the antithesis of static, monotonous sameness. As we followers of Bird say, "It's all about the change(s)".
The musicians on this date have worked together as a rhythm section on numerous occasions. Kenny Drew is an expatriate and a well-known pianist, (earlier in January while I was in Copenhagen I witnessed a celebration given by friends and relatives at the Club Montmartre for the ten years Kenny has spent in Copenhagen). Bo Stief, bass; and Axel Riel, bells and drums; are Danish and both appeared in The Newport Festival 1967, in an award winning all Danish group.
Bootsie was composed in 1959 for the alto saxophone. It is in the key of F minor and consists of thirty-two bars. Bootsie was, at that time, a comic strip character created by Ollie Harrington, who was drawing cartoons for the New York Amsterdam News.
Lush Life composed by the late Billy Strayhorn is a masterpiece in D flat. The introduction is unaccompanied bassoon, and Kenny, Bo, and Axel accompany for the verse.
Mercedes in D minor, is my sister's middle name, and was composed in 1958 for the flute. Up until three days before the date the time signature was four, four time i.e. four beats in each bar. However, while I was in Copenhagen the idea struck me to change the time to six eight, i.e., six beats in each bar. We rehearsed the tune twice on Saturday afternoon, played on the gig that night, and recorded it on Sunday night. The six just rolls along carrying everyone along with it.
Body And Soul composed by Johnny Green is in D flat, and performed on the bass clarinet. The arrangement is in the Bossa Nova style. There is a dialogue between the double bass and the bass clarinet.
Airebil is Liberia spelled backwards, and is in the key of B flat. It was composed in 1958, and is a thirty-two bar tune; the first and second eight bars with an Afro-Cuban beat, and the bridge in straight up swing, then returning to the Afro-Cuban beat to finish the chorus. Normally I play this on bass clarinet, but a close friend of Nils Winther (the producer), and an ardent fan of mine asked me to play it on alto.
Naima the beautiful composition by the late John Coltrane is played on the oboe. The structure consists of four bars which are repeated, the bridge is eight bars and then returns to the first four bars for a twenty bar chorus. The last phrase, of course, is played four times and then ascends the A flat major scale for the final ending.
'Round Midnight, the formidable classic by Thelonious Monk is played on the alto saxophone, in the key of E flat. Kenny Drew's piano interlude bridging the introduction and the melody is almost "too" beautiful.
Sonnymoon For Two the mesmerizing blues by Sonny Rollins is played on the alto saxophone, in the key of B flat. This is the "up tempo" track of the album, and there is a dialogue between the drums and the alto just prior to closing out the tune.
Where this experience will lead is unknown at this point in time and space. However, I have enjoyed doing this record album and I am hopeful that you experience some of the joy in the album as you might wiggle your toes, hum, shout, undulate your body, snap your fingers, clap your hands, move your hips, shake your head, listen and think.