Released January 17, 2020.
An artist needs to have complete control over their work. So releasing a posthumous work by one of the most substantial artists in the history of jazz makes me a bit uncomfortable. It’s not just Tchicai who has left us. Garrison is gone. And Steve, who I literally just shook hands with a moment ago at an Arts for Arts Garden Concert event this fall has left us too. Three tremendous artists. Three absolutely, completely, and entirely original voices. All three gone way too soon. Thankfully their work lives on. Their work remains for those who knew and know it, for new listeners to find out about, for all of us to love and learn from. Thinking about the importance of these great artists, about the strength of their unique creative voices and about the overwhelming need for the world to have more things of beauty that can uplift the spirit and fill one’s heart with joy, thinking on that level maybe it’s acceptable to offer a posthumous release by Tchicai, Garrison, and Steve.
I don’t think there was a brighter spirit in New York City or in the world for that matter than Steve. There were countess times that I was moved by his words and the way he delivered his words through his performance. And so many times my spirit was lifted by just being in his presence. There are a few people I’ve been around who knew Miles Davis, and they say, as so many biographers have penned, that when Miles entered a room you felt it, things changed, the room became electric with some kind of mysterious fantastic energy. That’s the way I felt about Steve. When Steve was around, the club, the bar, the basement, the poetry den, wherever, the space was just plain better. Much better. It felt better to be in his presence. He emanated joy, and a supreme love and respect for creative music. It was striking. As was his infectious smile, and his more than generous encouragement. And of course his brilliant words. What a spectacular treat for us to have performed with one of the greatest poets of our time.
Garrison was another so very kind spirit. And his guitar playing was a brilliant blaze of beautiful sound. So much depth and so much fire! Listen to that remarkable solo in the third track. A remarkably well crafted, and emotional solo. Brilliant playing by a brilliant artist.
Tchicai! He was a giant, and not just because of his 6’6’’ height. A giant in our creative community. A remarkable voice so unique, so personal and always so profoundly uncompromised. There were many sides to his voice. Of course there was the Coltrane connection. No doubt an essential aspect to understanding where he was coming from. When I spoke on WKCR during his memorial broadcast I recalled a previous visit to the studio when Tchicai spoke about Coltrane. He and I were about to play a show in New York and we were on air playing music, promoting the show and speaking about jazz. I sat back and listened while Tchicai spoke of the New York Art Quartet, The New York Contemporary Five, his work with Dyani, the scene in the ’60’s, and of course his work on Ascension. The DJ was understandably fascinated with accounts of the session, all that went down on it, and Tchicai’s recollection of Coltrane himself. As anyone would expect his reflections on Coltrane were full of the highest regard to say the very least. There came a moment then that I will never forget, a deep and powerful moment. The DJ asked Tchicai if he could point to anyone on the scene currently who was performing with the same gravity and depth that Coltrane had. Tchicai paused for a moment of thought, and then offered a succinct, concise, terse but emphatic, “NO.” And that was that. No other comment needed. Well Tchicai was that for me. There was no other player with such profound depth. Working with him was more informative and richer in creative scope than four years of college. And this was not because we spoke of scales, and modes, and how to blow over changes or with no changes or anything else. This was more like the Tao to be honest, like some profound understanding that is without name, without the ability to be named. It was some kind of unknowable unnameable force or energy or something. There came a time when I was working with him that IMPROVISATION just made sense, it just instantaneously revealed itself to me in his presence. I’d have to be a much better writer to make sense of it with words, but again like the Tao, the truest nature of its being really can’t be described with words or bound by a linguistic reality. It just is.
He was a genius no doubt, but one with an angelic, mystical dimension. A gift to all of us from some higher (better) power, here for a way too small amount of time.
Enjoy this collection of sounds, and enjoy the knowledge that these artists did something important, and profound with their time on this planet. They offered a body of work we can all enjoy and learn from, and that will undoubtably fill the heart with deep and meaningful joy.