May 14, 2021

The power of jazz and the spoken word | Culture

The power of jazz and the spoken word | Culture


The one with the mustache is David Murray, a tenor saxophonist of 63 years, a reference of jazz since the seventies. The other, Saul Williams, is 46 and is an eloquent poet and musician who achieved some notoriety at the end of the century thanks to Slam, movie written and starring him on a street rhymer. Both met in 2014, "because of" the funeral of Amiri Baraka, a poet and incandescent figure of half a century of African-American culture in the US. Murray was Baraka's friend from the heroic times, when the saxophonist landed in New York from the West Coast as a promise of the independent jazz scene that would end up being the musician of the eighties for The Village Voice. For Williams, Baraka was always an "extraordinary influence."

From that farewell came the disc Blues for Memo, recorded in Istanbul, as well as the tour that took or this Sunday to the equator of the Jazz Festival of Madrid. In the afternoon, before a memorable concert, they sat in the lobby of their hotel for a talk in which everyone played their part: Murray, the sly improviser, and Y Williams, the angry intellectual who expresses himself with clear diction. , serious and rhythmic of their recitations.

"The most interesting part of the project is to see how Saul is changing the texts every night like a comedian who adapts his routines to the reaction of the audience", explains Murray. "The musicians improvise, so the least I can do is explore with them," says Williams. The result is a successful mix of contemporary jazz and spoken word, within which the political commentary on racism and the new faces of fascism fit the same as the exercise of the critique of the customs of the present and the technological society. In that fight, Williams, who in his career has preferred aggressive rock as an accompaniment, is a veteran soldier. His exciting and viral text Not In Our Name ("Not in our name"), written in the worst years of the Bush era, was a hymn against US policies after 9/11. "The proper names and wars have changed, but the message remains unfortunately the same," says the poet.

David Murray (left) and Saul Williams, at their concert in Madrid.
David Murray (left) and Saul Williams, at their concert in Madrid. JAZZMADRID

Musically, the "common thread" that unites both is, they say, gospel. Williams' father was a Baptist pastor, and in the Church he grew up "listening to people preach about music and learning from their rhythms and cadences." The brother of the saxophonist plays the piano in three different communities and his mother worked with a bishop in northern California. Murray still sometimes goes to church with "sociological purposes". To Williams, he states emphatically, "never" will see it in one.

Kanye West

When the talk inevitably leads to Trump, the poet explains that he still does not understand how "53% of white American women voted for a white supremacist man." And the unconditional support for the president of rapper Kanye West? Murray: "We gave up Kanye when he got hooked up with that girl, the black community is not with him." Williams: "The culture of fame is a place where mental problems are not diagnosable Fame affects the ego When it reaches you, you need something that puts your feet on the ground But when that guy comes home, What is found? reality show of the Kardashians. A world not very different from Trump's. "

At night, the conversation continued on stage with a surprising show in which in the middle of the torrent of words, Williams proposed "investing in the invisible as well as in the visible."

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