Circuits of Return

I swore to myself years ago that I would never write about music. At the time, I had started a project on some Brazilian music, Gilberto Gil I think, and after about a month of it I realized that I couldn’t stand to listen to Gilberto Gil anymore and this made me quite sad. Around that time, I had also been writing a blog, Jazz du Terroir (now defunct but still available to view here), built on a great concept: pair jazz albums to bottles of wine, a kind of blue sommelier if you just caught that reference. Unfortunately the more I got into it the less I listened to jazz for jazz’s sake and the less I drank wine for wine’s sake. On the back of my mind was always the blog, how am I going to write about this, how am I going to write about that. Is this Daou ’09 worthy of Coltrane or is it something of a lesser order, a Jimmy Heath or a Cedar Walton, great but not GREAT? I had submitted to the sovereignty of sign, when all I had to do, really, was pop open a bottle, put on Interstellar Space and live free. The whole concept had to be relegated to a state of coma lest I both the jazz and wine go braindead. One thing or another had to be induced into coma, that is, and I chose to let the good stuff live, free of whatever I or anyone else chose to signify or symbolize about it.

Lately the music-writing bug has been coming back. (Return of the repressed!) Mainly this has to do with my growing obsession for Luis Alberto Spinetta, which I have yet to explain to myself. (Return of the repressed! Or as Clarice might have written in Hora da estrela… BANG!) The uncanny thing about Spinetta for me is that his sound, particularly from the 1970s, goes straight back to the progressive rock and hard rock I grew up on, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Yes, a dose of Bowie, maybe a hint of Rush. Yet I have absolutely no nostalgic connection to Spinetta whatsoever. (BANG!) And it doesn’t sound at all the same as the music I grew up on. (BANG! BANG! BANG!) It’s progrock, but progressed into a whole other idiom.

I have the sneaking suspicion that rock nacional is a perfectly natural circuit of return, musically speaking. The introduction of rock into Brazil, for instance, was somewhat forced. I like Roberto Carlos and the Jovem Guarda and all, but let’s face up to its derivativeness. Early Roberto Carlos is derivative of US music, his critics were right; and they were wrong, too, because Roberto Carlos is derivative, wonderfully, soulfully derivative. The Tropicália was also forced in terms of its incorporation of rock; the beauty of Tropicália is that the rock clashes so sharply with national or local rhythms. I daresay that it’s not until Chico Science arrives that Brazilian rock seems at home with itself. Not so with rock nacional. It’s almost as if blues and tango come from the exact same source, such that the introduction of US rock to Argentina in the 1960s was more of a re-introduction than an importation. The bandoleón on Spinetta’s mid-70s albums with Invisible is perfectly at home there. Major Tom was floating in space, but Capitán Beto was floating above Buenos Aires. Tell my wife I love River Plate… she knows!

Which brings me to the real reason I’m writing this post, which isn’t Spinetta or Capitán Beto, but Zbigniew. There is such a natural elegance to Namyslowski’s Kujawiak Goes Funky, that is at once surprising and perfectly simple to explain. The album takes jazz fusion and fuses it back with the roots of jazz (one of its roots, at least) in klezmer and central European folk forms. You could do the same with tango and milonga. As if we had almost forgotten that dialogue (sometimes argument, sometimes war strategy) that began once people started flooding into cities (New York City, Buenos Aires), whether on trans-Atlantic boats or on their bare feet.

All these words to say (BANG!)… why don’t we just STFU and listen…

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