Liner notes by Makanda Ken McIntyre
There have been volumes written about "jazz" and the word/term has become synonymous with the music created in America. I have problems with accepting the word "jazz" as the title of the music since the creators of the music did not title the music, but rather it was the writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald who coined the phrase, which has become the box for music created by the African slave in America. Moreover, the term "jazz" was part of the African American's vernacular, however, the meaning had nothing to do with music, but it did relate to sex. In fact the definition of the word during the first and second decades of the twentieth century was to copulate.
The term is rather nebulous regarding the heritage. Moreover, it raises questions. For example, What is "jazz"? Are there "jazz" people? Where do they come from? Where did it originate? Who were the creators? What caused it to happen? Is it racial or is it national? Unquestionably, the questions can be answered by someone who has the ability to manipulate the language. But when one is seeking logical answers, the questions become unanswerable.
By using the term "jazz", there are implications - and one is that the music came into being around 1916 with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and for a vast majority of European (and perhaps African) Americans, that is probably true since the literary writers of books and newspaper columnists began writing the word "jazz" at that time. The music, however, existed long before the writers decided to write about it. In fact, the music has a history for as long as man has been on the continent of Africa. The rhythm was transplanted in America via the Africans who were deposited on these shores during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as slaves. Consequently, the chants, shouts, cries and hollers - all forms of communication - preceded spiritual, blues, ragtime which preceded jazz, swing, gospel, which preceded boogie-woogie, rhythm'n'blues, bebop, which preceded soul, funky, rock'n'roll, which preceded new thing, avant-garde jazz, black music and contemporary music in the African American tradition. Moreover, the titles given to the different eras/styles act as a divider rather than a link, which is what should be implied, since there are links that tie together all of the eras/styles, and they are: (1) feeling, (2) rhythm, (3) energy, and (4) creativity.
There is a curious parallel here with the music created by African slaves and the discovery of America, and that is Columbus has been credited with discovering the New World which was inhabited by millions of people. The question is, did not the great landmass which has become known as America exist before his discovery? If so, were the indigenous people allowed to participate in articulating the name of what is now known as accepted as the United States of America? History has revealed what happened to the indigenous inhabitants of the New World. Nonetheless, there exists a music that was created by a people who were black and who experienced the worst kind of slavery known to man, since they were considered a chattel, sub-human, and three-fifths of a man. Once again, however, the "discoverers" are making a claim to something that has existed for centuries by placing the term "jazz" on the music created by African slaves in America.
The indigenous music of America is not "jazz", but rather it is music in the African and American tradition since the elements that make up the music come from the African slave and the European. The African Slave brought rhythm, timbre and melody; and integrated them with the European instruments and the twelve tones that make up Western European music. Hence, we have African American music.
Not that the African slave in America did not have instruments, but rather, they were taken away - unlike slavery in the Caribbean, where the slaves were allowed to keep their instruments. Consequently, the connection with Africa is more direct, since a vast majority of musical instruments utilized in the Caribbean are built similar to West African instruments. The African slave in America, however, was prohibited from utilizing the drum, since it was a means of communication, and communication between the African slaves was not in the best interest of the slave owners.
As a direct result of the slave experience, the African fashioned what has become the multiple percussion drum set, and brought forth the rhythm accent on the second and fourth beats in the measure. These two aspects are truly unique. The drums in America were part of the marching band and one player played a part of what has become the standard multiple percussion set, which includes two cymbals which are operated by the foot, one snare drum plus one tenor drum/floor tom, which are struck with a stick in each hand, and a bass drum which is operated by the other foot. In short, what four European Americans were doing in the marching band was taken by theslaves and converted into a one man operation!
It is, therefore, understandable why the term "jazz" has been given to the music created by African slaves in America, particularly when one considers the fact that the slave was considered sub-human, and for a sub-human, an abstraction such as "jazz" is good enough. We have lived with an abstraction handed to the African slave in America until recently, and the one to which I am referring is the term "Negroe". For over three centuries that term was accepted by a vast majority of African Americans, and it was just ten years ago that any change began taking place. The point is the African Americans decided that the term "Negroe" was no longer acceptable and demanded that the term black became acceptable. To look back and think for a moment and have a map in front of you and ask where Negroe land is, now in hindsight seems totally absurd. We have, however, survived that era and should begin to deal with the reality of music in the African American tradition.
Ethnocentricity by a vast majority of European Americans has a great deal to do with the reluctance of accepting the reality of the African American music tradition in America - since it is outside the European American experience to become included in anything that is not European. The laws, the educational system, and the ethics were set up by European Americans and for European Americans. And the experience of thinking in participating in African American music is mind-boggling. This is understandable, however, since it was possible for European Americans to reach college age in certain parts of America and not see an African American. Presently, however, it is virtually impossible for the European American to not at least see the African American, since there are television stories and films that include African Americans. There is, however, an attempt on behalf of some of the younger generation to be a little more realistic regarding the origins of the music.
To illustrate further the ethnocentricity of the European Americans the education system, for example, was not set up for African Americans. In fact, it was set up for European American males, and at a later date, European American females were allowed to attend school. However, they were restricted to certain courses, and to what level they could attain. The African was enslaved when this was taking place, and therefore not considered. After many generations, however, the African American was allowed to attend schools; nevertheless the struggle is still with us today.
The African American speaks the language of the European American, and performs music in the European Classical tradition without any hesitation. Why then does the European American refuse to accept the natural name for the music created in America by the African American?
The music contained in this album is Contemporary African American music, and if the listener takes care of listening he/she will experience the past, present, and some of the future of music in the African American tradition.
Undulation composed for a quintet I had in Boston in 1959 consists of thirty-nine bars to the chorus. The form is sixteen bars of four four, eight measures of rock in the bridge, returning to the first eight measures, and then a time change to three four for four bars, then one bar of four four, finally a two measure break, which is in four four. Does it undulate?
Cousin Elma composed in 1964 for my oldest known living relative is in the African Caribbean mode, and played on the bass clarinet. The form is the standard thirty-two bar song form also known as A,A,B,A.
Charlotte composed in 1965 for my wife is the only ballad in the album. The form is eleven measures, which are repeated, nine bars for the release, repeat the first ten measures plus coda, which contains five bars.
Amy composed in 1964 for my aunt is a twelve bar blues. The rhythm, however, is in the African Caribbean mode. Calypso, which is Trinidadian, has become the accepted term regarding the rhythm coming from the West Indies, however, the Jamaicans call it Menta, and in Ghana it is known as High Life.
Sea Train a dedication to the late John Coltrane was composed in 1972. There are twelve bars to the chorus for the alto saxophone and the piano. The bass sounds a repetitive two bar figure throughout the entire track, and the drum is played twice as fast as the rest of the group. The melody is built upon five pitches one whole step apart starting on B flat. The harmonic structure consists of three chords built in fourths. One of the members of the group commented that the bass line added a "cloak and dagger affect".
Home composed in 1968 is a reflection of my perception of Africa prior to my visit to Ghana in 1971. The form is twelve bars, like the blues; however, the last two bars are extended for two additional bars. The key is E minor, and the rhythm is broken into a 3+3+2, which adds another dimension to the improvisation.
Kheil composed in 1972 for my second son, was originally written as a non-structured, or free composition. I then decided to rework it into four four time, and finally after playing it in six I decided this is where it's at.
Jamaican Sunset composed in 1965 is my image of relaxing on one of the many beautiful beaches on the island of Jamaica West Indies and watching the sunset. The form is the standard thirty-two bar song form, and the harmonic structure is comprised of two chords C and B flat major sevenths.
Corner Time formerly known as Turbospacey, was composed in 1961 after attending a nite club, which was located in Brooklyn, New York. The form is seven bars slow tempo, four bars double time, nine measures slow tempo with a knock coming. Andrei on multiple percussion, finally returning to the first seven measures. An attentive listener, however, will observe that the seven bars in the second chorus is extended in that particular chorus.
Peas'n'Rice composed in 1969 in the African Caribbean mode is in remembrance of my childhood days when on Sunday it was the custom to have rice and peas. The form for the melody is eight bars plus a vamp of four bars, which are repeated, the bridge is eight measures, and the first eight plus the vamp are repeated to complete the chorus. For the improvisation, however, the vamp of four measures is omitted, and the chorus becomes the standard thirty two to the chorus.