Gilad Atzmon: “If you want to play music, make me cry”
by Mark Gilbert, Jazz Journal 8-2-2013
The Israeli-born, UK-resident reedman, composer and writer talks to MARK GILBERT in advance of five solid months on the road to coincide with the release of Songs Of The Metropolis.
Gilad Atzmon is sceptical about the British arts system, about the addition of form-filling to the musician’s skill-set, and it bears on his musical philosophy in general. Atzmon holds that jazz at its best is a instinctive activity, one that is in perpetual danger of having its vital power drained by subsidising bodies propelled by an “Enlightenment” view of music.
“I believe that the existence of an artist should be inherently dependent on the ability to communicate with an audience – I don’t say big audience. The art form that I am involved with is basically the total opposition to the Enlightenment.
The Enlightenment is there to praise the thinking human subject. But when it comes to art, the best of it is actually produced when you are totally unconscious.” … “When politicians get involved, we make everything conscious. We are basically killing the existential, libidinal spontaneity of this art form.”
“I became a free human being”
Discovering Charlie Parker in Jerusalem as a teenager was a revelation, and an escape: “You know why we play jazz? Because we want to run away from our Jewish mothers. I was a Jew in Israel. Had to go to the army to die in this idiotic thing. And suddenly I listen to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker and I became a free human being.”
He had no formal musical training and to this day doubts the value of jazz education, citing the ennervating effect of analysis on feeling.
“All those jazz schools are there to transform spirit into knowledge. And for me jazz is the complete opposite. What makes jazz horrid and unlistenable is the conscious attempt to make it sound clever. If you want to play music, make me cry. Listen to Coltrane’s ballads, listen to Bird with strings, listen to Alabama, not to these new jazzers who try to play in rhythm signatures you know they don’t feel or understand.”
All or nothing at all
I wish I knew
John Coltrane: An American Saint
John Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926, and grew up in High Point, NC, attending William Penn High School. He enlisted in the Navy in 1945, and played in the Navy jazz band once he was stationed in Hawaii. Coltrane returned to civilian life in 1946 and began jazz theory studies with Philadelphia guitarist and composer Dennis Sandole. Coltrane continued under Sandole’s tutelage until the early 1950s. Originally an altoist, during this time Coltrane also began playing tenor saxophone with the Eddie Vinson Band.
Coltrane was born and raised in a Christian home, and was influenced by religion and spirituality from childhood. As a youth, John practiced music in the southern African-American church. In A Night in Tunisia: Imaginings of Africa in Jazz, Norman Weinstein notes the parallel between Coltrane’s music and his experience in the southern church.
In 1955, Coltrane married Juanita Naima Grubbs, a Muslim convert, for whom he later wrote the piece “Naima”, and came into contact with Islam. Coltrane explored Hinduism, the Kabbalah, Jiddu Krishnamurti, African history, and the philosophical teachings of Plato and Aristotle. Coltrane also became interested in Zen Buddhism.
In 1957, Coltrane had a religious experience which may have been what finally led him to overcome his addictions to alcohol and heroin.
In the liner notes of A Love Supreme (released in 1965) Coltrane states “[d]uring the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.” In his 1965 album Meditations, Coltrane wrote about uplifting people, “…To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life.”
Coltrane studied the Qur’an, the Bible, Kabbalah,
and astrology with equal sincerity
After A Love Supreme, most of Coltrane’s song and album titles had spiritual implications: Ascension, Om, Selflessness, Meditations, “Amen,” “Ascent,” “Attaining,” “Dear Lord,” “Prayer and Meditation Suite,” and the opening movement of Meditations, “The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost,” the most obvious Christian reference in any of Coltrane’s work.
Coltrane’s collection of books included The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the Bhagavad Gita, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi… Yogananda believed that both Eastern and Western spiritual paths were efficacious, and wrote of the similarities between Krishna and Christ.
This openness to different traditions resonated with Coltrane, who studied the Qur’an, the Bible, Kabbalah, and astrology with equal sincerity.
Coltrane’s study of Indian music led him to believe that certain sounds and scales could “produce specific emotional meanings.”
According to Coltrane, the goal of a musician was to understand these forces, control them, and elicit a response from the audience.
Coltrane said: “I would like to bring to people something like happiness. I would like to discover a method so that if I want it to rain, it will start right away to rain. If one of my friends is ill, I’d like to play a certain song and he will be cured; when he’d be broke, I’d bring out a different song and immediately he’d receive all the money he needed.”
Coltrane: “I wanna be a saint…”
After Coltrane’s death, congregants at the Yardbird Temple, in San Francisco, began worshipping Coltrane as God incarnate. The Temple was named for Charlie Parker, whom they equated to John the Baptist.
The St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, San Francisco, which is fondly known as the “Coltrane church”, is the only African Orthodox Church which incorporates Coltrane’s music and his lyrics as prayers in its liturgy. In order to become affiliated with the AOC, Coltrane was “demoted” from being God to a saint.
Samuel G. Freedman writes in his New York Times article “Sunday Religion Inspired By Saturday Nights”, December 1, 2007: “… the Coltrane church is not a gimmick or a forced alloy of nightclub music and ethereal faith. Its message of deliverance through divine sound is actually quite consistent with Coltrane’s own experience and message.”
In the same article, he comments on John Coltrane’s place in the canon of American music. “In both implicit and explicit ways, Coltrane also functioned as a religious figure. Addicted to heroin in the 1950s, he quit cold turkey, and later explained that he had heard the voice of God during his anguishing withdrawal. In 1964, he recorded A Love Supreme, an album of original praise music in a free-jazz mode… In 1966, an interviewer in Japan asked Coltrane what he hoped to be in five years, and Coltrane replied, “A saint.”
John Coltrane is depicted as one of the ninety saints in the monumental Dancing Saints icon of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. …
Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey included Coltrane on their list of historical black saints.
My Funny Valentine, Miles Davis quintet
The astrological view: born 23 September 1926 at 17:00 (= 5:00 PM )
Pisces Rising – Ascendant
Like their symbol, the fishes, Pisces Rising likes to go with the flow. They appear at first glance to be gentle, peace-loving artistic types, but the way they keep their hearts and minds open keeps them changeable and unpredictable.
The typical Pisces Ascendant can seem to be a different person today than they were yesterday. Usually shy and quiet, tomorrow they may be passionate and exuberant. This allows them to blend in with many types of people. Pisces Rising is very impressionable, like the sand in the water. They are dreamy and soft-hearted. They are irresistibly charming and intriguing.
Pisces Ascendant sees the world through glasses tinted by their opinion, so they have a difficult time being objective.. They are very emotional and compassionate… so much so that they can become their own victims due to their massive vulnerability.
Pisces Rising is imaginative and creative. They are generous, sensitive and sentimental. It is difficult for them to shield themselves from either one. They may do well in a career helping others, or a creative endeavor. Pisces Rising may have many pets because they like having others to care for.Advertisements