Squaring the Circle

Of late there seems to have been a running theme, albeit unintentional; slavery. It started with genealogy in the sugar plantations, and cropped up again on Saharan travels. Music completes the journey.

A week or two back, of a Friday evening, there was much jazz on BBC Four.  A large chunk of it has been etched onto a dvd, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly.  There’s divas and tragedy, and names long gone, and there’s always something new.

In one night we had feverish finger-snapping, vintage Ella, and the grim tragedy of Billie and Sarah.  And there was piano, for that’s what does it for me.

But I’m not content with a taste of Ahmad Jamal, or Oscar Petersen perspiring on his ivories.  And if I wax on about Basie or The Duke I start to morph into my old man, which is too frightening a prospect.  There was Diana Krall though, peeling her grape and taking me all the way back to a hushed hall in Wigan Pier and a long drive home.

And there was Dave Brubeck, in superb form, giving us Take Five which will always put me in mind of a dear friend who took five on her departure last summer.  That’s another theme for another day – tunes to go out with.  Thomas the Tank Engine, the original theme, being the biggest tear-jerker of all.

But above all shone a new one on me, and that’s the beauty of music, discovering something new even when it’s decades old.

So of late my quiet hour of reading outside the Sunday morning football class, has come with some soothing jazz, and some louder bits.  Abdullah Ibrahim is the man, with bass and drum making up the trio.  I’ve been listening to a recording of a South African concert in 1997, a pianist who came through the apartheid years.

But the artist once known as Dollar Brand has more than just piano strings to his proverbial bow.  He plays flute, sax and cello too; sings and masters karate, though perhaps not at the same time.

And from Cape Town Revisited, recorded in that town in 1997, it’s Cape Town to Congo Square that really hits the mark.  I was intrigued too by the young dreadlocked bass player who was with him on Jools in 2000; it certainly wasn’t Marcus Maclaurine, his usual man on the strings, but if anyone knows do please drop me a line.

Congo Square, it’s that slavery thing again.  A familiar name too, for I’ve been there, in New Orleans, listening to jazz.  Back in the 1700s Congo Square was the slave market, no not that type of market, it was the place where the slaves were allowed to sell the trinkets they could make to try and earn another bawbee or two, or a cowrie shell perhaps.

So we’ve come full circle, and it’s the sounds of South Africa’s black population that ring out, after all that’s gone before.  Play it again.


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