Album:Harmony of Difference Artist: Kamasi Washington Release Date: September 29, 2017 Thoughts:
I don’t listen much to jazz, especially contemporary jazz, but a streaming music account means there’s no excuse to not try new things. The new EP by the hot saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington brings together 6 pieces in about 30 minutes of running time. There’s a lot of retro feeling to this music, with nods to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” 60’s Brazilian bossanova, and 70s funk fusion. The EP culminates with the 15-minute piece “Truth” which brings back and mixes together themes from the other five pieces. Washington’s music has a sound that would be suited to scoring films although it’s also a bit too “smooth jazz” for my taste. Rating: **1/2
Author: T. Geronimo Johnson Title: Welcome To Braggsville Narrator: MacLeod Andrews Publication Info: HarperCollins Publishers and Blackstone Audio (2015) Summary/Review:
This novel is a social satire rooted in current events related to racism and culture wars. The protagonist of the story is D’aron, a young white man from a rural Georgia community who escapes to study at University of California, Berkeley. Overwhelmed by the culture shock of “Berzerkeley,” D’aron eventually finds solace in the company of three other misfits: Louis, a Malaysian student and comic; Charlie, a large black man from Chicago who looks like a football player but is actually preppy; and Candice, a white woman from Iowa who claims to be part Native American. When D’aron lets slip in class that his hometown stages an annual Civil War reenactment, the four come up with a plan a “performative intervention” by staging the lynching of a slave and filming interviews with the townspeople responding to the intervention. I shan’t spoil the novel, but things go horribly wrong. Johnson is an equal-opportunity parodist, satirizing both the “backwards” white people of rural Georgia and their defense of their heritage, but also mocking the ways that academia wallows in theory that is disconnected from the reality of lived lives. What keeps the book from being merely a big scolding is that its four main characters are well-developed, believable, and interesting people. The latter part of the book after “the incident” is less interesting than the beginning as it gets bogged down in navel-gazing over what happened. Still it’s an interesting story and commentary on contemporary society.