Corey Mwamba


Entries for 19th Sep 2011

Anyone that listens closely to my lines will hear the strong influence of Eric Dolphy.

I understood and loved Dolphy before I understood Monk. The energy, vibrancy and wit of his improvisations were other-worldly to me; even though at the time I was a listener rather than an instrumentalist I knew that his sound struck a chord with me.

So it's pleasing that in some ways his parents remind me of mine; very patient, and supportive. This touching interview shows Dolphy's self-belief and courage: he never became embittered, even when others were putting him down.

Last week was epic... which perhaps explains why I'm feeling very run down and virus-infested now.

It all started on Tuesday at the Bradgate Mental Health Unit in Leicester with the biblio-therapy project for Everybody's Reading [want an explanation? Ah, well I gave one on the mailing list—do it, you know you want to!] and then moved into Wednesday with Arun's Afro-coustics and Indo-vations project at the Decibel showcase in Manchester. It was a long rehearsal; but a great gig, and new drummer Eddie Hick laid it down.

I then had to prepare Lydia's show: and the CD burner would not play ball. Luckily we had some great technicians in Fiona, Oz, and Bill. My brother-in-music Dave Kane was down for that, and we performed an effective extract of the full show... and I got some very good news... that I will talk about soon...

But anyway. The next day I spent my time waiting for four o'clock: that was when I was going to get into Matt and Phred's to rehearse bassist Gavin Barras' new quintet tunes. As some of you may know I can't actually read music, but I made the effort this time. Tenor sax giant Ed Jones was on the gig—He was sounding immense! The music was also blessed by Dave Walsh on drums and Steve Plews on piano. Gavin had written the music inspired by the Blue Note "avant garde" sound, with powerful statements and great harmonies. Although I think the primary influence was Andrew Hill, some of the tunes reminded me of Tony Williams' Spring [worth checking that album out, if you can get it]. Everyone in the band "got it" and we blew up a veritable storm by the second half. Steve Berry came down to listen, and the audience loved it. Must do that again!

While all of that was happening, I began [and have now finished] my response to what some of us are calling the Group. It's a long story that has been helpfully summarised by Peter Hum.

There are lots of issues surrounding the question of the profile and status of black jazz musicians in this country; it isn't a new question by any means and in fact is something I have been talking about in many ways since 2003, from Nature's Glory, Fancy's Child, through my blog on MyOpera, and the two albums Popular Delusions and Songs for the New Folk. This is in no way a new problem.

But the ways in which we are talking about the problem possibly have remained as stagnant as the problem itself. The fact remains that the profile and status of any jazz musician in this country is not perhaps as we would like. For a small island—and let's face it, it is a small island—the lack of understanding of the national scene is shocking. The conversations are still centred inevitably around London. There's also a sense of polarisation in this discussion, and some very war-like stances that are actually creating more divisions. It's saddening.

It's an emotional issue. It should be: it's important. But the thing about emotional issues in relationships is that they require sensitive talking as well as plain speaking: an awareness of the whole picture. I think everybody is struggling through this now. Some voices are [perhaps unduly] louder than others. We are being treated as a homogeneous mass. There has always been too much shouting and over-simplification, through all the decades that this has gone on.

So I am trying, in my own way, to balance this. My view is that we have a complex situation: and it is a situation that will require some generosity of spirit, some love and care. I love my family in music. There are long yet reasonable conversations that need to be had: and, as When Daniel Barenboim said in his Reith Lecture "peace requires dialogue, a dialogue which consists of sensitive talking and often painful listening".

So I have created a space, here, where I am hoping this dialogue can occur. When there's some content, I'll announce it. It is not the solution: it's just an approach. I hope it helps.