LOOKING FOR THE ROOTS
For decades Detroiters have been buoyed up by the stream of artists who have kept our spirit and blood moving. Maybe it is because there has been a constant source of opportunity for our young musicians in our churches. It is an inspiration that continues all their lives. Our earnest kid artists’ early exposure to stories of enduring adversity and instruction yo keep moving on shows up in the music we hear today. We can listen to the rich story telling and the loyalty to the beat when we sit down for an evening of jazz.
For all of my life I have been puzzled by the brave passivity of those under siege. People who can’t seem to be heard remain quiet and calm. Until they speak. This makes their message so powerful when it comes out . They challenge violence with gentleness and tragedy with forgiving. Often it is the result of the cumulative experiences and messages that are deeply embedded in the heart of generations of church goers. We hear it in the music.
In a recent New Yorker article by David Remnick about the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel Methodist Church in Charleston, James Campbell, a ninety year old Charleston citizen told David:
“That memory is almost genetic, the DNA of the community, and I don’t think it manifests itself in rage. it manifests itself in the resolute patience of a long-suffering people. And their determination is expressed through the permanency of the church. That may wear thin with some of the younger people, but it will be a while before you see it change.”
ROOTS: THE CHURCHES
The permanency of churches is dependent on the next generation, as is the future of jazz. The root for Detroit’s most important music has always been jazz and the soil that jazz has sprung from has certainly been enriched by the our churches. Part of the message from our churches has been to persevere and to teach the next guys. This continues to happen.
When Detroit jazz fans leaf through my photos in the book Detroit Jazz I hear a constant “Oh, they go to/play at my church”. This tipped me off that the church is still an important catalyst in keeping the music on track for some time..
This week Sean Dobbins brings his Sean Dobbins Organ Quartet into the Dirty Dog for, thankfully, four nights of music. This group will convince you that the local music hasn’t wavered in giving us hard driving, free swinging music that we know is true to their roots.
In Sean’s Organ Quartet, Chris Codish will be featured on the Hammond B3 organ. He brings his Hammond with him, which isn’t an easy task. It does make a difference. Chris will always be true to the music, which makes him a busy guy, but he still has had time on each Sunday for over 18 years to be the organist/keyboardist at the God Land Unity Church in Detroit. Chris has serious roots in the music and the arts.
Here are some quotes from Chris:
“I have nothing against technique and dexterity, I’m always working on gaining more myself and I acknowledge and appreciate the time and dedication it takes to play fast tempos, passages, etc. But PLEASE don’t sacrifice emotion, feeling, expression and interaction in the pursuit of being “the baddest cat.” It’s an empty goal. Make music that moves people and gives them something they “need” even if they don’t know it..”
” I was able to play two really fine Steinway pianos at both Cliff Bell’s and at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. I can hear the difference. Time and time again it seems that the people who I really enjoy listening to are also very genuine, diversely educated, warm and engaging and this often comes through in their music and even beyond that in their personal presence. You could say I enjoy those who have cultivated their human side and allow it to permeate their music.”
“The best improvisers, performers and entertainers are those who actually take the music somewhere and thereby bring the band and the audience with them.”
“That’s what I believe we need to be striving for as musicians and performers. Engaging the music, your band members, the audience, and the space you’re in at the moment. Can you hear the difference? Have you listened?”
Come on out to the Dirty Dog this week and you will hear the difference. It’s in the roots.