ADRIANA EVANS / “In The Sun”
Five thoughts about the sun:
1. Today is Saturday, December 29th. It’s 7:42 AM. Outside, the sky is a cloudless, carefree shade of blue. By ten o’clock when I finish writing and eating, it’ll be about 65 degrees and I’m going to go play in the San Diego sun.
2. Every weekday until I was eight years old, I and just about every other kid I knew wore a yellow shirt that showed a rising sun and the words: “The sun is always rising; we cannot hold back the day!”
3. According to About.com, the sun is the bringer of the dawn, beaming lights of healing, self-worth and optimism. According to Houseofnames.com, the sun is an emblem of glory and brilliance and a symbol of authority, happiness and spirituality. The rising sun is a symbol of hope and a single ray of the sun is symbolic of heaven.
4. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn. Metaphorically that’s all well and good, but I don’t think it’s actually true. One thing that is true (at least here in San Diego): it’s coldest just before dawn. When I work the graveyard shift, 4 to 5 AM is always the worst hour. The temperature drops to the low of the night; everyone pulls their hats, jackets and gloves tighter and stops talking. I think it’s to save energy until the sun comes.
5. The sun is 93 million miles away from Earth. It’s diameter is 864,000 miles. It’s temperature is 11,200 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface and an unfathomable 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its nuclear core. More amazing than any of that, the sun is so massive, it contains approximately 99% of the matter of our entire solar system.
1. Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon & Slick Rick – “The Sun” – From Bootleg 12” single (Promo Only, 2004)
There isn’t much hip-hop out there that I’d describe as joyous; this track by Wu stalwarts Rae and Ghost along with guest Slick Rick is one of the few. It’s a lot of fun to listen to the three rappers talk – sans irony or pretense – about how much they love the sun. Too bad more of us haven’t gotten to hear this. To my knowledge it’s never shown up on an official release.
2. Adriana Evans – “In The Sun” – From Adriana Evans (RCA, 1997)
Adriana’s debut album is a lost classic of neo-soul. She wrote most of the songs, she has a fantastic voice and ten years later when the music of lesser artists is beginning to sound dated, Adriana’s tracks sound as good as they ever did. I’ve never been able to figure out why this album wasn’t bigger. Maybe it was that it dropped the same year as Erykah’s Baduizm. Too bad.
3. Aya – “Looking For The Sun” – From Strange Flower (Naked Music, 2004)
Something about the way this groove slowly builds – first the kick drum, then the congas, then the bassline, and finally the keyboards – actually makes me feel like I’m listening to a sunrise. There aren’t any real lyrics (other than the chorus: “Looking for the sun / Looking for the sunshine”), but Aya is whispering throughout. Anyone know what’s she’s saying?
4. The Roots feat. Cassandra Wilson & Amel Larrieux – "One Shine" - From Illadelph Halflife (Geffen, 1996)
Another (mostly) wordless, gorgeous paean to the power of the sun. Cassandra does the deep notes, Amel does the high ones and The Roots hold court as per usual. I’m still amazed that The Roots are the first and only band to figure out how to consistently play quality hip-hop on traditional instruments.
5. Xantone Blacq – “Search For The Sun” (Yam Who Rework) – From 12” Single (Chicooligan, 2004)
This cat’s name is pretentious and I’m not crazy about his vaguely Stevie Wonder-sounding voice, but I love his lyrics and I dig the way Yam Who quickened and stretched the groove. Check it:
We are raindrops in disguise
Being reborn at each sunrise
Gaining strength as we proceed
Nearer to the warmth we need
* * *
Happy 2008, everybody. Let’s keep on moving towards the light.
—Mtume ya Salaam
No End To The Sun
For me, sun tracks ought to be scorchers. If in the popular vein, they ought to be aflame with dancing hotness or, on the other hand, be poignant, truly tender, deeply felt experiences, e.g. how a tear feels rolling down one’s cheek.
I’m not deeply feeling most of these selections, Mtume. They are about fifty-five, or maybe sixty degrees; that’s not hot enough for me. I like seventies and eighties.
I guess what it is, is that these songs settle for the easy, or at least what seems to me to be easy. They are conventional. Far too conventional. Pleasant but not engaging. Here I’m referring mainly to the Adriana and Aya, the Roots too. Adriana is easily the most interesting of the aforementioned trio. I'm pretty sure there's a good reason why Aya is whispering inaudibly. I like the humor of Ghostface and dig Yam Who’s arrangement. But none of this is music I would go back to thirty years later and not only enjoy but actually hear something new in it.
So, I’m reaching back to the jazz I adored. (Yes, “adored” in the past tense because I don’t listen as much to it today as I did in the sixties, the seventies, and even the eighties—alas, not only have social conditions changed, I too have changed. I too am more conventional than I was then. BTW, that’s a confession but not a regret; as Nina told us, everything must change, “everything” includes me too—I and every other individual self must change.)
Mtume, I realize that if I were being fair I would compare your selections to some of the popular stuff Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Norman Connors or even the Stylistics, The Chi-lites or Earth, Wind and Fire were doing, but would that really be fair? (BTW, see the Covers section for my selection of popular
Also, I understand, Mtume, that you were talking about being on earth and physically feeling the warmth of the sun, whereas I’m focusing on outward bound vision, i.e. moving away from earthly confines. So, it’s no surprise that the music I’m pointing to as sun music is on an entirely different plane.
These sounds will not make you comfortable. They grab you by your shoulders and shake you, push you to the wall, wrestle you to the floor and if you are to get the better of them, you will have to tussle with them, and with yourself. You will have to force yourself to listen to hard sounds you might not normally consider music, certainly, you would never consider such sounds to be beautiful music. But there is a terrible beauty in breaking past the comfort of conformity.
Some years back, jazz artists were pushing the boundaries. Extending music. Extending themselves as they improvised at the edges, the limits of their abilities, beyond whatever they may have previously done, previously thought they could do. The sounds would literally make you stop and afterwards move in a different direction.
Tenor saxophonist Frank Wright, a fervent new music preacher hooked up with Eddie Jefferson, a founder of vocalese and bebop singer of note who was also able to go all out in an avant garde mode. “No End To The Sun”
(from Wright's out-of-print album, Kevin, My Dear Son
) is real boundary-bending stuff, as bracing as a stiff shot of whiskey straight, no chaser.
Alice Coltrane doing “The Sun”
(from the re-issue of Alice Coltrane's A Monastic Trio
album) is like open heart surgery. The song starts with John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders chanting a prayer. And then Alice takes over. The bass and drums come in gradually. Pharoah is shaking stuff and towards the end offering wisps of flute sounds. I wonder if this is what it sounds like in the immensity of outer space.
(from Stellar Regions
) is some late period Trane. Rashid Ali on drums, Jimmy Garrison on bass. Alice at the piano. And Trane ripping into some cosmic music.
In order to appreciate this music you have to change, have to enlarge the range of sounds you can embrace as beautiful music. And this music is beautiful precisely to the extent that confronting it and hearing it and responding to it causes you to confront, to hear, to respond to and finally enlarge yourself.
Going beyond the boundaries is hard. Most of us don’t want to work. We want to relax. We don’t want to expend the energy to go beyond, we want to luxuriate in what is already comfortable to us. It is not so much that we just want pleasure; there is real pleasure in stretching, in going beyond. What we really want is comfort. And thus we usually avoid any music that makes us uncomfortable.
But guess what? This music was never meant to make us comfortable, especially when we consider just how anti-human the contemporary status quo is. We ought to be uncomfortable with conformity.
what we know limits
us, wisdom loves everything
not yet understood
—Kalamu ya Salaam
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