Thursday, August 30, 2007

'Tina' Brooks - (a fitting tribute)

This is quite a random post, based on something I read yesterday and felt was quite relevant to the blog and to this kind of music…

I like hardcore, and I like jazz, and I’m sure there isn’t anything at all unusual about that. I dig real jazz, Miles Davis etc., although I don’t have that many albums, and also I dig punk bands that play jazz, or at least jazz instruments, if you know what I mean. Right now, Abilene’s second album with Fred Erskine blowing free-jazz on the trumpet, is on heavy rotation in my headphones. And do I even need to mention the Swing Kids?

Yesterday, I completed my Sweep the Leg Johnny collection when came in the post, so this seems like the perfect time to write this. At the moment, I’m reading a book called Cookin’ by the jazz writer Kenny Mathieson, about the hard bop and soul jazz styles of the 1950s and 1960s. Each chapter deals with a major artist or, later in the book, several less well-known artists. This chapter was discussing a saxophonist called ‘Tina’ Brooks, who despite considerable skill and ability remained obscure, due partly to the pernicious and all-too-common influence of heroin addiction on jazz artists of the time, and partly because his best recorded sessions were unfortunately never released by the label. Mathieson quoted this extract from the sleeve notes to a posthumous reissue, which when I read it I felt really resonated with the obscurity, beauty and sincerity of the kind of hardcore myself and other bloggers have been trying to do justice to:

"It is this quality, which has never been satisfactorily analysed or fully understood, and can never be faked, that we hear, and on some deeply human level respond to, when we listen to John Coltrane, or Sonny Rollins, or Tina Brooks. Virtuosity and who invented this or that and who has hipper then whom have nothing to do with it, generosity who devoted their lives to the creation of beauty.

No, not the beauty of the silver screen or the best seller list. The kind of beauty those men created has inspired people who were bent on their own self-destruction to opt for living after all. It has reminded the hurt and world-weary that crashing flames, or incinerating them from the inside out, makes a better beginning than an ending. When you stop and think for a moment about how much these men have given, and how little they received in return, all that talk about stars and also-rans, and neglected figures who ‘fell painfully short of the first rank of jazz,’ as one critic put it, the magazine polls, the image-making, and all the rest of the ephemera just sort of crackle round the edges, dry up and blow away on the next breeze.

What remains is the music, and whether it was made by John Coltrane or by Tina Brooks, or by some guy who changed a dozen people’s lives and never recorded at all, as long as it has the depth and insight that men who probe their own souls sometimes find there and offer up to us as a miracle, or simply as a gift, it is music to be treasured. There is a lot of music in this world, but of this music, there will never be enough."

As Mathieson himself remarks, it is ‘a fitting tribute not only to Tina Brooks, but to creative musicians everywhere’. There is a lot I would like to say here, about art, beauty, music, truth - but most of all, about simplicity, just about what music is and what it says, not what other people want it to be, or what people want to say it is. So, while maybe I might get back to philosophising (and eulogising and, well, posting music!) some other time, that’s all there is for this post, for now.


David said...

I know exactly what your talking about man. There's so many bands out there who have inspired so many people or just made them go "wow" and then they just dissapear in obscurity or split without ever sharing their gifts wih more people. It does make you feel really special if your apart of something like that and to me especially it makes me want to continue on with my music so as to keep these artists alive in a way so that they'll never be forgotten and at some point down the line maybe some other kid will find them again and say "This is amazing" and it will make them do something great =]

Great Post by the way!

gabbagabbahey said...

thanks, david. Took me a while to get back to you 'cos I've been distracted by a great pre-term holliers in Wales (Snowdonia to be precise)

I'm always envious of people who were able to see some of the great, late bands in their actual existence, and yet we must remember that there are great obscure bands around right now. It's important to keep an eye (ear) on the present as well as the past! (see blend's post on souvaris actually, interesting slinty current UK band)

Hope you enjoy your music course, by the way - you're probably starting about now, I guess? I'm going back to my second year of college on Monday, myself...