DUKE ELLINGTON & MAHALIA JACKSON / “Come Sunday”
“Come Sunday” (from Black, Brown And Beige, Columbia - 1958) was an easy choice for me. Since Kalamu posted it back in December of ’05, I’ve listened to it countless times. Every time I listen to it, I’m amazed all over again by the brilliance of Mahalia’s vocals; I’m listening to it right now and I’m still amazed. I know this will strike some of you as bizarre, especially coming from someone who listens to as much black music as I do, but I’d never consciously heard a Mahalia Jackson song before Kalamu posted “Come Sunday.” I’ve probably heard her music playing in the background on the radio, maybe on WWOZ back at home (in New Orleans) at some point, but I’d never intentionally tuned in. What a shock it was—a beautiful shock—when I finally did.
In this paragraph taken from Kalamu’s original write-up, he does a great job of describing the wonder of this performance:
Mahalia Jackson is often (and rightfully) hailed as the world’s greatest gospel singer. That designation usually leads one to imagine whooping and hollering, but this number, majestic in its serene yet passionate spirituality, is the exact opposite, and hence underscores just how great Mahalia was. Indeed, she was far more than just the greatest "gospel" singer, she was arguably one of the greatest vocalist of her time regardless of musical genre.
I agree with all of that 100%.
As a bonus, we’re including Les Nubians’ cover of “Come Sunday” (from Red Hot + Indigo, Red Hot - 2001). Now, look. These Afro-French sisters are beautiful both vocally and physically, but they aren’t Mahalia Jackson. Just know that going in. There’s no comparison, we already know that. So please don’t write in talking about how their vocals couldn’t hold a candle to Mahalia’s. Everyone knows that already. Mahalia’s version, as Kalamu describes it, is majestic, serene, passionate and spiritual. Les Nubians version is much more understated and cool. Their version is just as successful as Mahalia’s—it’s just that they’re aiming a lot lower. I like to think of Les Nubians’ “Come Sunday” as a mellow tribute to Mahalia’s triumphant and definitive performance. It certainly isn’t an attempt to improve on perfection. Take it for what it is and maybe you’ll dig it as much as I do.
—Mtume ya Salaam
FUGEES / "Some Seek Stardom"
Go here and read what "we" (I mean read both Mtume and I) originally wrote. I have nothing to add in terms of talking about the track. However, I do want to point out, although I pontificate at length and have some serious questions, it was Mtume’s original idea to focus on Lauryn the master rapper. After our Lauryn week, I became an enthusiastic proponent of Lauryn as a rapper even as I was more and more sure that there was not going to be a major second act of Lauryn Hill.
The absence of a second act is I think one of the major limitations on the development of rap. One can be young and clever, but I'm waiting for the rapper who convincingly lays down the real deal on life after youth, on what it means to be forty and a parent struggling to raise young people, on how we cope with dreams that have been murdered by the numbing mundanity and demands of day to day living. I'm waiting. Reading back over the exchange and the comments from that Lauryn post is an education in itself.
Before Mtume dropped "Some Seek Stardom" I had not listened to that track. Lauryn spits mad beautiful verse. Period. Though it is easy to dismiss post-Miseducation Lauryn as tragically flawed albeit talented eye-candy, this young lady was a truly accomplished rapper and Mtume brilliantly goaded me to look beyond where she is to accept the brilliance of where she was.
In a nutshell, that is the strength of Breath of Life: the info on BoL is greater than whatever either one of us has on our own. By writing about music with a partner, the result is enhanced, much like the music is always at its best on a communal tip. Or to put it another way, the music is a conversation not only between the musicians and the audience, but indeed among the musicians themselves.
I shudder to think how lame, ill-informed and ultimately boring Breath of Life would be if only one of us were doing it because ignorance subtracts and intelligence multiplies. No matter how hip either of us is on our own, our ignorance would subtract from what we did if we did it solo, whereas by working together our respective intelligences are given reign to multiply the goodness we put forth and our ignorance is held in check because we each be pulling the other’s coat and covering the other’s back.
We both know a lot of music but we don’t know the same music. Plus we come from different generations, have different rhythmic feels, different musical tendencies and biases.
In looking back over the past year, I was impressed, and I don’t mean that in any conceited way. I mean the amount of music we covered was staggering, but guess what, dear readers: we’re just getting started! We’ve got hundreds of hours of music left to share. (For example, I have a minimum of two more posts of new music from New Zealand, not to mention all the blues I’m going to drop).
All this first year has done is show us how much more we can do now that we know what we’re doing.
One final shout out: Bryan Graham of bigtada.com who designed our website. Man, you did a hell of a job. It’s beautiful, it’s functional, it’s easy to use and it don’t break. What more could anyone ask for from a website?
—Kalamu ya Salaam
P.S. I tried to hold back, but I can't resist. Here are two bonus cuts of a classic track, Horace Silver's "Song For My Father." One is from the Horace Silver album on Blue Note of the same name and the other is well known in jazz circles, Leon Thomas' version taken from his Spirits Known & Unknown on Flying Dutchman. Happy Father's Day.
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 18th, 2006 at 12:32 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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