Monday, December 22, 2008

The Inimitable John Carter

In the unsung hero department, John Carter looms large. He was a virtuoso clarinetist with a unparalleled ability to interpret complex historical events, transforming them into personal statements of complete artistic integrity. He never stopped evolving; in 1982 (at the age of 52), he released Dauhwe, the first in a five-suite series exploring African American historical experiences and narratives (Dauhwe, Castles of Ghana, Dance of the Love Ghosts, Fields, and Shadows on a Wall). I strongly believe that this large-cycle suite, Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music, is one of the great musical achievements of the twentieth century, as well as a consummate example of the suite's versatility and power as a form. He died in 1991, two years after Shadows came out.

"On a Country Road" is from the fourth suite, Fields: Seven Vignettes Depicting Life During the Fields Period in Early America.
John Carter - On a Country Road (1988)

"Fast Fannie's Cakewalk" is from an earlier suite, A Suite of Early American Folk Pieces, for solo clarinet.
John Carter - Fast Fannie's Cakewalk (1979)

Krill - Cluj

"Cluj," a piece that I've reworked a number of times, from Krill. Album released in 2000, me, with John Dierker, reeds; F. Vattel Cherry, bass; and Will Redman, drums.
Krill - Cluj (2000)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

RIP Odetta

Another great loss of an inspirational artist. Not that I want this blog to be a necrology. She was hoping to sing at Obama's inauguration.

In this interview at The New York Times
, she gives some fantastic responses to some ridiculous questions, and delivers a few stirring performances. There is some striking historical footage as well.

Here's an excerpt that I particularly liked. In one section, the interviewer (not sure who it is) is speaking of Dylan's interest in her music.

INTERVIEWER: Bob Dylan put you in his early songs. And he took something deep from your work. What was it?
ODETTA: Well, he said my work influenced him, and he sold his electric guitar and got an acoustic guitar. That influence was just like a key that opened up something that was of his own stuff. So, I can't even take credit for that; I can't take credit for how he heard something.
I: I think he listened to The Anthology of American Folk Music too, 'cause he stole -- liberated --
O: --No, no. No, no, no ... we call it folk music, we call it ... what do we call it, we don't call it stealing--
I: --Appropriation?
O: Well, we could, but we don't. It is "passing on the folk tradition." [Laughs] It ain't what you say, it's the way you say it, right?
I: So in other words, the amateur imitates but the professional steals.
O: I don't--you know, we professionals have stolen an awful lot from amateurs, ha ha! Those guys working, singing those songs, they weren't professional, but us professional people got at them, didn't we, and learned from them.

(photo from May 1960, from the Life magazine archive)