ROY CAMPBELL TRIO / “Amadou Diallo”
There are all kinds of blues. At least 500 shades, according to my man, Gil. As for this one, it’s an angry blues. And it’s a storytelling blues. There aren’t any words, true enough. Maybe words can’t tell this tale.
It begins with the sound of running. Jumping. Falling. More running. Soon enough, the sirens start. The running. The sirens, growing louder. The running. The sirens. The running. The sirens.
Eventually, both the sirens and the running fade. Out of the quiet comes a low, moaning sound: the cool, blue heat of a jazzman’s horn. They call him Hornman and he’s got a lot to say, you can tell, but he’s calm about it, at first. He’s just going to have his say—his cool, calm, quiet say—and be done with it. But once he gets to talking, seems like he can’t stop, hardly. He’s gone and got his self good and worked up now. Yelling. Accusing. Pointing fingers. Demanding answers.
Before long, Bassman has to jump in to hold Hornman back. “He’s alright,” Bassman says, “Hornman’s cool. See? He’s taking his seat now. Didn’t mean nothin’ by it.” Bassman turns to take his seat too. But then he kind of hesitates. Stops. Turns back around. Says: “But now that you mention it. That is, the thing about the wallet. I was kind of wondering too….”
At which point, Drummerman jumps to his feet. Starts giving ‘em hell right from the start. “Once he gets to talking,” one old lady says out loud to nobody in particular, “Won’t be nothin’ left to say. He’s all kinds of crazy, everybody knows that.” Drummerman is sweating now. Mopping his forehead and yelling at the same time. Talkin’ ‘bout how he’s mad as hell and ain’t gon’ take it no more. Jumping and hollering and dancing and screaming. Riling folks up. The loud ones in the front, cheering him on, clapping and stomping. Even the quiet ones starting to look a little excitable. Trouble brewing, maybe.
Now, all three of ‘em are it—even Bassman. Hornman’s back on his feet, yelling. Drummerman screaming. Bassman ‘amening’ the both of ‘em. Who do they think they are? Three out of control Negroes, if you ask me.
Then the shots ring out. What’s that? Shots? Somebody said shots? Yeah, shots. Gunshots. 41 of them, to be exact.
—Mtume ya Salaam
Master Weldon Irvine and songwriter extraordinaire Terry Callier. One hip-hop, the other folk/jazz. Weldon weaves a quilt of voices, including Amadou’s mother, all over an irresistible beat. It’s the kind of piece that has commercial appeal written all over it except that it’s lyrics are a bit more than the average radio station wants to broadcast six or seven times a day in constant drivetime rotation. Except that if we did have stations doing this, undoubtedly we would be in a different space than we are now where taffy and booty represent serious music for young adults. Weldon’s track is aggressive in a lyrical way. But make no mistake, it is a warrior stance, and yet there is also a get-down, feel-good element to it. Indeed the diversity of voices heard on the track make clear, we are in the midst of a communal celebration of struggle.
Terry Callier is equally effective even though he is the polar opposite in his approach. His statement is more funeral than martial, more reflective than exhortative, more questioning himself in the light of what went down rather than condemning the system for the shooting of an innocent. He is the quiet one in the crowd, the one with tears in his eyes, his teeth clenched, his hand balled into a fist but also shoved deep into his jacket pocket. He is angry but he is not shouting in protest. His is a smoldering rage.
I don’t choose one over the other. They are both equally important reflections of a major wrong that should never be forgotten.
And one more comment: Roy Campbell is an adventurous trumpeter who should be both admired and encouraged. He is in the tradition of Don Cherry, who grabbed the baton from Dizzy Gillespie. Cherry was overshadowed by Miles, as was just about every other post-bop trumpeter including Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd. Cherry was a nimble and witty trumpeter who eschewed the macho stance in favor of a sensitive and sophisticated sound, especially in incorporating world influences. Campbell has a lot of that up in his horn and it makes for interesting listening because he is saying something different from what has come to be expected of the trumpet in this era dominated by Miles and his godchild, Wynton Marsalis.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
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