Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review of "Miles: The Autobiography"

The deeper I dive into Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe, the more I love the legendary trumpeter.

“Music is about style” – Miles Davis

I have seen some of his past concerts on DVD and the first thing that always caught my attention when watching was that he never spoke to the crowd. I had once asked a musical friend of mine if he were deaf or mute not realizing what he was really doing which was playing the system. He was using his identity that he gained through America’s musical genre known as jazz music, against the Jim Crow system that expected him to work in White only establishments only to serve but would not allow him to walk in the front door with everyone else or sit side-by-side his white only fans. He felt that club owners started to believe that they owned musicians just because they shared their talents at their establishments. So he served alright, and that’s it. He didn’t welcome the crowd. He didn’t tell the crowd the names of the songs. He turned his back to them. He basically played, got payed and left. The crowd thought he was rude, but what’s ruder than being allowed to play at a place that has a sign that says no blacks. You have to love the power of his intellect that he shows through an action like that.

Miles Davis said, “knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery.” If that is true then he played the system with his free expressions out of his horn that he performed before the face of his oppressors, when he jassed them by pretending he was the stigma that they already portrayed him to be.

Another thing I appreciated was his talking about the experiences he had studying at Julliard. Davis took readers back to an experience at school where a white professor told the class that the reason black people played the blues was because they were poor and had to pick cotton and because they were so sad at that situation, they played the blues and that is where the blues came from. Dizzy immediately rose his hand and said, my father is rich and a dentist and we don’t pick cotton and I play the blues. The teacher was left, green in the face. Shortly after that, Davis quit Julliard because he felt the teachers did not know anything and he was mad and embarrassed at their prejudice, though he received much technical knowledge of music from this school, he got real musical tutelage from Dizzy and Bird. Other influences he had were Clark Terry and Thelonious Monk. He also loved Billie Holiday because he felt she was so talented and very good at improvising and making the music her own.

I am enjoying reading about the life he lived and his crossing paths with the jazz greats that most of us are only privileged to know through the legacies they have left behind.  But I am finding it even more cool the way he thought. He really was a very intelligent person and the more I read, the more I respect him as a black man in America, a musician and a person who was very self-conscious about who he was and what he was dealing with in the prejudiced society which he lived.

I will warn readers who are light-hearted. This book contains much profanity. He doesn’t hold back. I can say that every third sentence features a curse word. But it makes the book more meaningful and that is what I appreciate about this book. Davis is real and comes from a sincere place. Miles: The Autobiography is an awesome read.

Disclaimer: I am not a seller, manufacturer or distributor of this book nor will I receive compensation for mentioning the title, author or for discussing 
anything in regards to this book. I am simply a book lover and jazz lover sharing information for other readers interested in reading about a jazz great. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Sounds of the Earth Flow Through His Instrument

The Sounds of the Earth Flow 
Through His Instrument
by Stephanie Jeannot (c) 2016

The sounds of the earth flow through his instrument with freedom and democracy live there. And if I knew nothing about identity before, I realized in the few minutes that I was walking around Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA and viewing all the contentions about language, how important it is. I guess that is something we already know right! We have language. We use it and so it goes. Free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

And when you think about how much power lies in the tongue, it makes sense. You can persuade people. You say something and you change the mind. You channel thoughts to the listener or receiver of your word and suddenly that vehicle transported moves them.

They either love your expressions or they hate it.  If you think about Jazz and how it was first a tool that helped to gain black folks an identity, then you know what I am talking about. If it is good, it whets the appetite of the listener wanting to partake in it. Hence, the world being influenced and jazz becoming such a worldwide phenomenon since the day it was discovered in Jim Crow New Orleans by cornetist, Charles “King Buddy” Bolden.  If they love it, it is immortalized and forever remains a part of the known history.

If they hated it, the same applies but the expressions released become obscured by the fog and instead seen as a threat to society. As was jazz, seen as primitive nonsense because of it being free from Western restraints, given its free-naturedness, African polyrhythms and use of accidentals. 

Another example are misnomers used against people for being alien to the ways of thinking that summarize a culture. Even in today’s society when a hospital can publish in their brochures, "all except for Haitians" or a presidential candidate can say something like, "I'd like to thank the women for coming out of their kitchens to campaign for me." Wounding words that are part of free speech show the power of language. Yet, at most, things like this against a person’s identity are often forgotten. We rather argue and bicker within about someone being too light-skinned to play a role of their musical hero as opposed  to our young men who would stand on line over night for a pair of expensive sneakers or Iphones but wouldn't stand in line to vote in a presidential election. I guess when they say "sleep never felt so good," from without, Trump might be seeing this as truth, with every inch he grows closer to that title of President. 

When looking at the way things are and the societal values at full value, sometimes you need to question. What did he say? Why are they complaining about? How is it possible that he can say whatever prejudice about any culture and is winning campaigns and endorsements? Why isn’t this white person who was proven as the killer to that black man not in prison but that black man's case that was dismissed and never proven is still opened over a decade later and is still being investigated? When will these inequalities ever change? How long? What happened to Sandra Bland? Language as politics! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Breaking Hold (A Poem)

Breaking Hold
By Stephanie Jeannot © 2016

Climbing to get there was a trip.
All the time in space I had to skip.
Ratting at windows in the heat of the day.
Running through breezes in my crawling play.
Cradled in the arms of experience to start.
A spring the groundhog saw; early March.
And here we are in the fifties walking out unlayered.
You'd think my retirement from forever would be a persuader.
To live skipping through parks breaking hold of my mom’s hand.
To write up this schedule of a life that I plan.
Whipped enough by the rulers of the nuns at day school.
Still with a float around my waist in a mystery pool.
International woman's day they say it is right now.
Winging it to the whereabouts of beyond my cooing sounds.
So young you look they say; aging well I guess. It is.
And on the present markings of time on which I bid,
for a chance to have it; life! And live it in a stream.
Ragtime calls and I run to catch the cones of dreams and ice cream.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Seasons of Our Love Story

The Seasons of Our Love Story
by Stephanie Jeannot (c) 2016

Collage by Melodiaz Creations

The sound of his trumpet dawned into my day like the sparkle of the morning sun of spring, in full armor. He had the humble gait of a quality man and a sterling character; a knight under a morion. His sternum was as firm as the bark of an oak tree. His pomp affected my galaxy. His style of humor was amazing. Emotions blossomed through our conversation and that was the moment when I realized I needed to be a part of his earth.

He was blessed with mental endowments that tickled my every orifice. Beautiful were his luminous theories about life. He embraced each new idea with stoic calm and had this undeniable uniqueness that was so charming, anyone who graced his presence could easily be esteemed dearly by it. He bolstered influence and so much on me that I started yearning for the glow of his authority in my life.

I was so tempted to navigate his sea as were my rapacious opponents focusing their interest in his direction. Yet despite the parts of me that needed correcting coupled with all the broads trying to Noble block, he still decided to wrap his chivalry around me and I became the lady of his thoughts. I attracted the intimacy of our climates and as one, we began striding forward like a carnival of flames; Hot; on the path of progress together.

Artwork by Ricardo Jean

And the story continued rapidly. We propelled forward with little resistance to the wades of shallow water and so desirous of his song and dance, I plunge right in to the bosom of his ocean. I was deeply moved and inspired when he added my lyric to his diurnal rhythm. In the essence of our adventure, he never failed to continue on in his noble ways and honored me as his Queen. We dueted together like Bill and Claire Huxtable. He was always treating me to cookery of the finest foods of his preparing and putting his foot in it. Flowers regularly ringed my door fashioned in the sexiest vase. 

Walks through the park became our thing and we remained a constant. He refreshed my weary body of water that had been flowing melodiously all these years unceasingly. His words like herbage to my hungry heart. We were like peas in a pod. We rolled like birds of a feather. And so became the penetralia of our summer romance. I thanked God for his viscera acknowledging his earthly matter as a gift because even in our declivities, he remained regal. It was such a beautiful thing.That is until the night of our fall, when everything changed. 

Photo captured by Stephanie Jeannot

It seemed so out of place when I was met with his explosive temper that fell deep on my ears like the thump of a bass string. Was I breathing in a nightmare or was this reality in full effect? He was behaving so strangely.  Things started getting cold and our union was crippled by anger. All the intelligent energy I was once magnetized by suddenly released its grasp. Our ongoing love story became a paragraph of doubt and questions. The sweet light of us, was being taken over by darkness. Call it a twist of fortune or flagrant dishonor. He started inculcating ideas my way about whom I was and who I wasn’t. Blaming! Accusing! Cursing! Making bold as brass statements I never expected from him. He acted almost like a bully sneering at a canaille with a gee whiz attitude. Tears beyond my control dampened the atmosphere. Our bond was suddenly in jeopardy and our relations ended in crass ignorance; a life altering wrinkle in time that I will never forget.

I walked out of the mess with a bruised heart after I found out that he was not the man that he purported himself to be. The moon, with its faint light, escorted me out of the duet and solo I left him with the pieces of my heart scattering the terraqueous globe. He is the threshold of my past; a past that left my museum of a mind embedded with a gallery of pictures. He was the spice that made my life savory and without him, I became bland. But that was only a portion of my quarto that dusked into the end of that chapter of my life like the shadow of the winter night moon. As they say, seasons change! And so begins a new chapter. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

What is Jass? (A Poem)

“A succinct definition of jazz cannot be given as jazz is a musical language. 
A language cannot be defined and what it communicates 
will depend on what the listener knows of its form” 
(Harry Pfeiff).

What is Jass?
by Stephanie Jeannot (c) 2016

What Is jazz? 
What is jass?
Who are the jazz kats? 
Who are the jasses?
What card am I in the game? 
The jack of all spades?
Or the jazz of all clubs? 
Is it music that you can love?
How potent is its force?
 Definitely a topic worth true discourse?
Is language a law? 
Must music be 4:4?
What is its politic? 
Why must it have been chivalric?
To have been considered serious, 
as opposed to primitive nonsense?
Jazz is definitely a tool of thought. 
A language with a pulse.
An identity established through song. 
People of color’s emotive ding dong.
But what is jazz? 
A music? A weapon?
Historians, please come out 
and share with us, this lesson.
A rhetorical question I guess 
with no meaning to express.

What it is? 
So how can you tell me what it isn’t? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Driving Up Memory Lane with Siri

Driving Up Memory Lane
By Stephanie Jeannot (c) 2016

I got into my car and was ready to head up north on an adventure of my lifetime. I love to drive and to get in the car to drive far away from Kensington any day, is a day that I know will be great. 

I remember days of old when my parents would gather us into our Vista and take us on a journey elsewhere. I think I learned how to get to everywhere by car based on my being a backseat driver.

We always had a great time scoping out things on the road and visiting places that were foreign to us for the first time. I always liked when my father would put on the radio and we would just break out into song while strapped to our seats of the vehicle going about 75 miles on the freeway. My face was always tapered to the glass of the windows excited about the view. Then boom, we’d arrive to Niagara Falls or boom, we’d be cruising into the Hershey Park entrance. Life was always great on the road and it is no different for me today.

I put on my GPS and Siri began to give me directions. The problem is that I hardly ever listen to her. She tells me go left, I go right. She tells me get off at the next exit, I stay on the road and keep driving; even to the point of getting lost. 

I still do not understand why I don’t take heed to what she is saying because her map is supposed to give me the shortest route from point A to point B. Yet, being the back seat driver that I am, sometimes I feel that my directions are more direct, even though they are not always right. To put the GPS on and to ignore it hardly makes any sense. But . . .

Three exits past the one that Siri told me to get off at, left me in a different state. It didn’t look like Kansas anymore. Nothing but road, and trees surrounding us.  Nothing but doubt and confusion taking over me. And no ruby red slippers to click me back to my exit. Perhaps it would have been better if I had made the U-turn that Siri had told me to make 5 miles ago. And all of that lead me to here.

Sometimes you should listen when someone talks to you. Yes, I am referring to Siri as a someone. Sure she is in a box but she is my personal assistant and I respect her. We have gone through a lot together these past few years and I so admire her for keeping me lazy to think without doing my own research on how to get somewhere before actually going there. I guess all modern technology has effects like this.

I remember knowing everybody’s phone number by heart. I could recite any number for anyone asking me and dial without having to look in a book for the digits. Now, if it is not saved in our phones, the numbers are out of sight and will probably never be called. I remember digging into a lexicon to find the definition to a word, but now, Merriam Webster is accessible on any phone. I’m actually glad because I’m going to need the Webster function a little later to do language translations from French to English for me.  

We often get the I told you so from our family and friends when not listening to something they tell us and absorbing it as fact. But thank God Siri can’t do that. I mean, if she could, she wouldn’t be wrong. I should have listened. I should be at my destination already and I shouldn’t be miles and miles away from where I am supposed to be right now. But I am. I am even more thankful that Siri has reconfigured and is leading me down the right path. I think this time I will not alter my destination and follow her instructions.

Now, I’m back on the road and going 150 miles an hour. Thank God there are hardly no cars in sight. Every other driver is looking at me as if I just stole the wind from their surf. I hope to get to my cousin’s wedding on time. I want to see her walk down the aisle. Her and her husband-to-be have such a beautiful love story and I am so happy that they will spend the rest of their lives together. From the way that she described the wedding, I know it is going to be beautiful. The only thing is that the ceremony will be conducted in French and I do not understand the language that well. Hence the translator function. Siri always seems to come in handy somehow. 

Suddenly my automotive acrobatics have been simmered down to a slow progressing movement down this darn highway. What a messed up situation to now be sitting in all this traffic that was not there when I originally started. All of a sudden, I am moving bumper to bumper on a different road with a set of different directions because I got lost. Even if I don’t make it for the ceremony, I’ll be right there with an open plate for cocktail hour.  I guess I’ll have to gather from memories of others to hear about the ceremony. These cars are barely moving and my cousin is about to take her vows at the ceremony. I should be there to see her off.  

I had been planning this day forever. I thought I’d drive down in style and pull up like a Queen entering the village with the Gestapo guarding my surroundings. I thought I’d have time to parlay with family, go grab some Checkers wings, chime in on Facebook and watch Scandal on demand before heading to the church. But it seems as if I will have to drive straight there. 

I thought I’d take selfies with the bride-to-be before she did the grand march down the aisle. But instead, I’m photobombing with barely moving cars on a highway that looks like a big parking lot on the road. Smh! That’s my selfie story of which I am hoping Siri did not autocorrect; though it will be easy to divorce this draft and rewrite my future editions because that's what writers do and I am one. Thank God! 

Disclaimer: I am not an employee of nor will I receive compensation from Iphone, Checkers, Hersehey Park, Niagara Falls, Merriam Webster, ABC, Scandal or any of the businesses mentioned in this short story.