EDITION: Cuadernos de Jazz Magazine #79    DATE: November 2003


When we approach a sound object, we have a wide reaction of all our cognitive capabilities; we act upon it still
recuperating of innumerable attempts of identification, comparison, assimilation, perception, intuition - we start
naming this act a knowing process, defined by the detection of a minimum threshold that places us between the
concepts we have about music and noise. So many times we stop in that immense frontier situated between these
two small sensitive points, which has been modified, altered, dislocated and evaluated through time and space in
our experience.

Musicians are the real creators of the instruments, a situation that prevails in various areas of the world. Each
musical instrumental and its practice of elaborating or gathering sounds acts as a decisive means to the
development of creative ideas. These elements have had, and continue to have, an essential role of change, to a
point where nowadays all experiments gathered through an intense and structured history in the exploration and
extension of all of its technical possibilities, has begun to also encompass places outside the traditional way of
application, largely overtaking all the initial aims. The context formed by these situations has determined many
of the changes that have happened and that later have come to reflect themselves in the approaches put into
practice in the music and in some of the elements that comprise it. In this way several phases of technical
evolution in the building of the instruments that were, to a degree, a pursuit to perfect in the attempt to
encompass sounds of nature and of the processes of drawing sonorities from are recognized. With this in mind,
one can say that musical expression was enlarged with the usage of methods that presuppose another kind of
technology and paraphernalia not associated at all with musical instruments.

The changes were verified following comprehension positioning procedures, when simultaneously expressing an
ability for recognition that obliges each of its participants - musicians and audience - to display, in the light of the
innumerable personal demands that accompany the acts of listening to music, knowledge of the most varied
types, revealing difficulties of analysis in relation to what is listened to and to all its aesthetic implications;
processes that contain important information about its attitudes and the procedures by the musicians in the
creative act. In essence one intends to discover a way to, by means of practice, be satisfied by the discovery,
searching the balance point between our individual and collective interests before the music. This satisfaction of
a personal ilk presupposes a new overrunning, another kind of desire to experiment, advance to a new evidence
that, in a subjective way, starts to appear inside us. We try to answer its most immediate appeals - firstly, to the
pleasure necessities that always happen in a different way than the one initially thought of; secondly, to the
carrying out of the aesthetic function of the work of art. Some people do not look to go further, do not research
beyond their own limits, abdicating from the task of coming out of the cocoon established by the aforementioned
idea of satisfaction, a situation that forms an attitude of insuperable receptive passivity. Others do precisely the
opposite, and it is in the latter case that all the ingredients of comprehension orientated towards discovery are
contained - the looking for of a redemptive simplification of the sonorities, as if these were our individual
invention. In this way we also become creators, even though on the outside of the artistic object, carrying out
from this multidisciplinary assimilation various comparative encounters between our knowledge, the musical
work and each of the essential moments concerning the idea of aesthetic purpose.

We are always starting over, in an unconscious way, this anxious search for new sources of sound and finding
various musical formulas that ostensibly detune the loose action of its labelling. The new feeling of discovery
close true festive moments of pleasure, surprise and all simplifying forms of definitions occur to us as failed acts
of an inconsequent validation. Music can never be hostile to anyone and should transform into an individual or
collective stimulation mechanism, opposing itself to each and any subordinations, rejecting hierarchical and
grading systems settled beforehand. As this empire of the rules that doesn't mean anything more than an
unfolding in obedience to an order causing a tangible manifestation over the loss of our individual space to feel is
dethroned, the dream to find a vacant ground for each of us is realized, making that new freedom an interior
process of refinement for the common and collective use of the work of art. This type of goals defend their
necessity to occur through experience in an open outlet of reflection about music, without having to turn to
closed, historical or encyclopaedic formulas. From this point of view, development can be one of the more
interesting work programs to explore in an emerging present, totally defective in ethical and aesthetic references.

If we can be receptive to the calls on the side of disorder in musical approach, we satisfy the needs for fun and
folly, and we find a singular and unique freedom. So we can maybe establish with ourselves, and then, with
pleasure, with others, a reflected balance in the resolution of the deepest side of our melodic, aesthetic, social,
affective and sensitive appetites. When we are alone, totally exposed to a set of feelings that keep staying
embedded in the music we hear, we can have the ability to enjoy them as personal assimilation ability,
accumulating experiences of intuitive deepening and bettering our analytical performance in relation to the
creative act. All will reverberate, in all its scope, in our capacity to marvel at the work and of arriving at moments
of perception where the ideas start happening in the way we had really thought they would.


I don't know if it was by chance, but on one of these days I thought about a work that left me a trace of memory
since its first hearing. I had in front of me a Lester Bowie record, released in 1981 by ECM, with the title The
Great Pretender - where everything happens as if the motion of the world was serene realization, in an
unconscious level, of what we made of it. This work lives around an old song permanently being born again from
the ashes in a “kinetic involuntary utopia”. Provided we're able to develop a work to feel and participate in that
amazing act of musical debasement, adjusting in our way in an attitude of cynical elegance, we start to assume
that all art, as reconstructive process, as of that moment and alongside with the work, holds our little history. We
understand Lester Bowie as a musician that was capable of discoursing about his internal world, and ensued to
talk about everything that is around us. When we hear this record we participate in a manifestation of festive
indolence, that is located in all truly cynical spirits, providing them a discharge of feelings - the wisdom necessary
to a minimum survival, in a society radically shaken by the fear of fear, or the equivalent of saying that everything
tends towards the mistake, the catastrophe comes as the only plausible formulation capable of representing it. It
is not due to some more or less stylistic machinations, that this trumpeter used to go onstage with a white lab
coat, reducing us to an atmosphere of hospital incarceration. We are part of a collective and planetary illness, in
a world eminently in collapse, giving us useful indications on the inevitability of a new plastic surgery on music
and reality. Everything is manifesting itself in rapid and agitated working and artistic motion. People have been
transformed in active elements of unashamed and perverse consumption, like obedient production instruments.
Music denounces that we are here, in an atmosphere where a cut-throat environment reigns, with elevated
degrees of the sarcastic and Romanesque, clarifying the comedic and ironic role as the only way to make
everything that happens to us marginally bearable. Shortly after the recording of this work, the coming of
another jazz and trumpet playing superstar was pompously announced, that would cause an aggravated number
of passions and feuds. Presented as a candidate to the vacant slot of the great musicians from other eras, he was
supported by the same machine that pushes our world for a model where profit is the ultimate human value to
take into consideration. Another sterile and demented controversy was inaugurated, through which small
vanities began to feed off of. The display of the various questions that take part in this unbearable quarrel, moved
by optimist and senseless aggressiveness, they are situated in the careless grounds of manipulation divided in two
shapeless masses of people: on one side are those who follow what can be called “traditional jazz” (I myself don't
really know what that is, but maybe…), as a genre inside improvised music, full of circumstantial stereotypes,
negritude , swing, tonality and style, adhering to a model that doesn't show the slightest doubt about these
essential identification elements. On the other side are the ones that maintain the attitude to question everything
in the surroundings, in an open exercise of comprehension. The confronts between these two types of behaviours
appear distributed in various difficult to identify situations, as many of these acts are mixed forms of both. What
agitated our little jazz world, and what still remains full in discursive activity was precisely this struggle, that
comes to us as the only truly interesting thing to analyze between the boredom and the yawn of an immense
apathetic everyday life, more accustomed than lived, and in which music has survived in the last 30 years.

To talk about the hyper-phenomenon Wynton Marsalis is akin to describing something that warns us about the
adulteration of languages, even though this doesn't indicate more than a replica about an immense phenomenon
of globalization and neo-liberal persuasion, applied nowadays in all continents, persisting as the last saving
solution for the crises of our time. I don't have great sympathy for this character that, as so many other
musicians, was transformed into a musically commercial object. When I was distracted reflecting upon these
pleasantly speculative ideas, I remember Miles Davis abominating this young and talented musician. In jazz
there have always existed people that give themselves up to incarnate the most conservative, reactionary and
retrograde side in American society, - pressure groups that represent the now organized interests to consider
Blacks and Arabs a particularly aimed at target for having no defence - always willing and avid to find yet
another redemptive messiah for their idol gallery. Someone that confirms in superior fashion his/her belief and
that transforms jazz into a doctrine to believe in and fanatically follow for a lifetime. The incessant search for a
hero is what has made the concretion of the tasks of comprehension about changes, and of everything that will
vanish in the next number of years impossible. This kind of messianic approach involves a considerable number
of individuals that have become licensed searchers of an esoteric and delirious music, compulsively revealing a
lack of references about culture and art, with all their problems of artistic realization. Ignorance toils them,
impeding the promotion of a generous model of analysis, humble and discerning about the world; its expression
acts in a practice favourable to good judgements, discouraging the appearing of any biased, unflavoured or
selfish critical evaluations.

As we leave the exploration of validly constructive reasons aside, the ideas begin to settle in the development of
empty desires for content, like in the very old and famous Sebastianist(1) aspiration about the one that shall
come. The movements provoked by this type of retro visions indicate us that we are no longer entrepreneurs of
anything, sending us back to the category of non-opinionated spirits. The absence of tools and motivations to
reflect upon that which is happening to us inhibits our ability to denounce the North-American society where,
according to Chomsky, “war targets are above all blacks”. 40% of children in New York live below the threshold
of poverty, without any hope of escaping misery and indigence, but perhaps we don't get anything from that.
People discourse about the world in an egocentric way, resuming life to the size of their bellybuttons. They like to
undertake their activities in a quiet and primary way, they love their little lives. They are as if self-excused to line
up ideas of their own and don't feel the need to take into account this kind of reality, making their own written
opinion about everything they listen to prevail. This way of living reflects a strange way to breathe everyday life, a
truly notable and paradigmatic situation in relation to what is going on in the present - civic resignation and
abstention, backstage action and too much politics.

Music has now become a movement of intervention where sounds should come across as denunciations and alerts
in the crisis of present reality. It isn't enough to know or want to make music to play an instrument. The specific
characteristics of the instruments help build sonorities, but it isn't enough that the results achieved have
happened in a calm and natural way, for us to be able to understand that we live in difficult times.

In this context a new contender arrives in our imaginary planet: Dave Douglas, who for many is just another
trumpeter. His work made it possible to envision a great will to fly above every genealogy of this supreme art,
leaving some reluctance hanging in the air. The structure of the commercialization of jazz was always placed in
the most brilliant zone of success and of great consensus; a space for commodity and wealth, exhibiting neon
blues commercials flickering constantly - who isn't for us is against us. It remains necessary to know of these and
all survival arts in a commerce that is said to be concurrent and free, albeit one that isn't more than a purified
scheme of economical organization and neo-liberal politics.

«The climate of despair, anxiety, revolt and fear that prevails in the world, outside the limits of the privileged
sectors that prosper and the “brotherhood of sell-outs” that keeps singing anthems to our greatness, a very much
scarring common feature of this “contemporary culture”, supposing that one is able to use this expression
without blushing in shame»(2). Some of current jazz, when confronted with the simplicity of Chomsky's words,
leaves a terrible sense of loss hovering over us.

Even though only in a brief manner, what keeps coming out makes one disbelieve of the possibility that a great
calamity can be avoided, and that the present world scene indicates that everything tends vertiginously for
mediocrity. There seems to be no interest in reflecting about music when we are surrounded by violations of all
kinds of rights. The consummation of justice that we associate to the work/victory of an artist should be an
homage to the creating act and not to the apology of the self made man model, developing an archetype of the
successful man, that journalism and soft content magazines insist in presenting and cultivating purposelessly. All
creative acts should translate confront with the inevitability of being in this world and to be capable of
happening without concessions. In each work there is always a new opportunity to build something unique - a
door to a new world.

He had been around here for a while. I never got to work out why this man was insistently unaccepted by the
majority who says it feels jazz. I had the feeling he had to fall in disgrace; we all do. One cannot be somebody in a
culturally poor and puny scene, in which the value of the musician is still measured by his manual performance.
They are likened and disliked even by the way they are either good or bad as public relations. A lack of
friendliness is enough to start being considered subjectively bad. The artist is viewed as a worker, a carrier of a
technique that was historically attributed to him/her and that was traditionally mandated by the wise society of
men who support him. Art needs to start being a sort of a venue of idea organizing, following a creation method
that is fixed to it since the Renaissance. The musician is an integrating part of a corporation that certifies him,
acquiring a kind of possession right to an artist status that is delivered to by all since immemorial times. Not even
the freedom of spirit of Cage, Xenakis, Reich, Monk, Ornette, Parker, Coltrane and Miles has been able to
dissuade many of these thoughts. In this way we should promote the existence of conditions for the musician to
be given all the possibilities to do its music. The non-acceptance of the canons that are defined throughout
history should not constitute an obstacle to its realization. When we incentive the coming of reactive contexts
over the normative and classical content of all rules, we can aspire to the realization of the creative act as an
integral part of the artistic route and validate every choice by the way of negation. To the painter should be given
the room to paint, utilizing all colours of all the natural range, or simply not to paint. To the writer should be
given all possibility to write according to grammatical rules, in a writing full of significance or negate that
heritage. When one can materialize this type of choices, it is for certain that we shall not limit these structures for
creative action to a unique place, where a solitary vision prevails, elementary and ordering of all that surrounds
it. We should fight for the arrival of all sorts of spaces, genres and styles that aren't established and orientated in
disagreement with the totalitarian concept of labelling of the encyclopaedic kind from the get go. We have to
decide whether if we want this organizing of ideas to be intimately connected to the possibility of existence of any
kind of freedom of expression or not. It is known that the great moments in all art and in the history of mankind
contain many events of inverted routes and of great creative tension. How do we situate music in a world where
everything quickly begins to contribute so that the holders of the 500 largest fortunes continue to get richer, with
the help of some to who, in the 19 th century, the labouring class press were already calling “the brotherhood of
sell-outs”? We also know that today there exist «organizations that dedicate themselves to derail crowds to
harmless goals by way of gigantic propaganda campaigns, organized and directed by the international business
community, half of which from North America, and that puts in an enormous amount of capital and energy into
that task of converting people in consuming atoms and obedient instruments (when they aren't lucky enough to
find work) isolated from each other and deprived even from what can be a decent human life. Normal human
feeling must be crushed, the ones incompatible with and ideology which is geared to satisfy the necessities of
privilege and of power that celebrates private profit as a supreme human value and that refuses people other
rights besides hanging on to dear life in the work market»(3). In the light of this reality, analyzed by Chomsky,
and in relation to so many others that are even worse, how does jazz make its own accusation and what can we
expect of it?

Herb Robertson is our man. A damned of the cornet and of other extracted artefacts from our everyday garbage,
nourishing the profanity of the sacred ritual of our stage, which, as all encircling environment, is totally
contaminated. His music stimulated the independence of thought, the anarchy of creation, the chaos of senses,
the discomposure of pose, the uncertainty of sound, the tolerant patience of incomprehension, the tireless
humour and our shame as immensely bourgeouisied and ridiculously accommodated people. Herb Robertson
has more freedom in every minute of blowing than heaps and heaps of whistling and screaming audiences
applauding for hours on end. Everyone seems worried of finding a collective therapy for the lack of ability to
leave one's self, insisting on showing their presence at concerts. Anybody that doesn't take care of their capability
for comprehension doesn't have to complain about the insecurity and the upset it can bring. I am convinced that
it is not necessary, after so many interesting and parallel subjects to refer, to say how much pleasure there is in
this kind of settling of differences with destiny. When will the day come when amidst so many forgotten
remembrances, all that has wrongly been written about jazz in Portugal emerge? Because time also possess the
supreme irony of erasing everything that has been printed inside itself. When one day you will speak of Herb
Robertson, other realities will inevitably influence the form to communicate his discourse and everything will go
on as if nothing had happened.


As all art, jazz offers the possibility to understand the serious problems that affect so many people, allowing an
analysis of the world's reality. If slightly committed musicians in this task to denounce this state of things didn't
exist, I'd be leaving here in the next second. It is not possible to keep up with jazz as a part of a humanist
experience without searching for answers that express the unpleasant voluntary amusement in which we live in,
and without denying the disgraces of leisure activities and free time that actively distract millions of alienated
people every day. I'd like to say how much I detest and cannot put up with the journalistic phrasing that reduces
me to just one more jazz lover, a stinking load of rubbish and of terrible bad taste that revolts me. Art doesn't
need seduced spirits to be lived; it requires another kind of much more important concepts, values and principles
that define an ethic, ever more in need in our country. When we are not able to feel our own pulse, we were
probably not capable of doing what we should, nor did we solidify a collective process of reflection that had
introduced mechanisms of critical elaboration about the questions in our surrounding reality. To be able to keep
up with art and jazz without fear, overcoming the inability to totally understand it in a given moment can be an
interesting objective to attain. It is necessary to establish an open relationship with creativity, putting out an alert
signal upon the humanist obligation of critical participation in the creative act.

I've always had the notion that the process of cultural marginalization is so lodged inside the group of people
who think of themselves as experienced and as holders of authority in the matters of evaluation of music, as it is
in the one totally on the outside of it. I continue to be stunned with the density of events parallel to art that aren't
object of an immediate critical appropriation on behalf of the intervening when it is known that one of the more
relevant powers of the creative act is its power of analytical anticipation upon the crises in the world. These
difficult moments that are now starting to be traced are still not object of consistent critical work, exploring all
its strengths in stimulae loaded with the necessity to denounce. On the other hand, energies are lost in banal
issues. As if the load of badmouthing outside the concerts wasn't enough, we now have other similar acts by those
who, from their little throne, try to lead interests and provincial opinionative postures. The points are still plenty
and the words too. The arguments are centred around aesthetic pretences emerging from fast-food semantics.
The aesthetic of jazz occupies an obscure and considerable part of its utilization. It likens to a word-trash that
finds a use for everything. The periphery starts to get full of appraisers and all are eager to take part in centralist
spotlightism . We live moments in which very similar creative processes are constantly appearing. When we try to
leave behind dissonant marks on the surface of the music we listen to, we forget they've been played many times
by others and assimilated by us for years. These acts equate to the realization of small revisions. Themes have
started to integrate new messages that came to us as changes in language. When we are caught by surprise,
various questions arise to us - the liberty of expression doesn't allow us to make ourselves heard in the midst of
the enormous encircling cacophony. What can its sense be?

Providentially, some outlets come closer to this incarceration of my free hearing space. Many times in art nothing
more can be expected than the old tragedy of recollecting the retired artefact of its own context so that -
détournement - it can find a new meaning. When an act of disillusionment is revealed upon immobility and
current conformism, we can find the bases for the idea of decadence, which is also an illusion. The exploration of
the audio-collage method was always capable of bringing us appeasing solutions for our anxieties and miseries.
The pleasure of discovering is limited to the pleasure of listening to someone who mixes art with parody from
who is on the outside of things, in a generous engagement. Art will have its end. The more importance we
attribute to the questions of representation in music, the more it assumes an inevitable centrality in our lives. We
can try and understand who represents who, or even if someone represents anything.

My generation inherited ideas from the two or three who came before it and the representation, in this sense, was
a process of mirror and reflex. We are starting to feel the danger of culture turning into a global whole where
illusions are being accumulated like omnipresent commodities. It's for certain that everybody admits, with
resentment, to treat culture as a matter of an accessory that can be used or disposed - music, given its abstract
nature, will end as a whisper amid branded products. The image of global music floats above the planet as if it
were a euphoric commercial hallucination: happy meal, with cheap manpower flavour, in an atmosphere of

We should be immensely grateful to all the artists that never lost the sense of spirituality. As we were busy
analyzing beauty from all the projected images, we weren't capable of understanding that the chair we were
sitting on had already been sold in the purest act of speculation, in a fiscal paradise somewhere in the world. This
is what we're made of.

(1) Reference to the King D.Sebastião of Portugal, dead while still in his teens, mythologized for disappearing in combat amidst
the fog, and in legend believed for centuries to return from the same fog and give back to Portugal its supposed greatness.
(2-3) Barsamian, David; Chomsky, Noam. Propaganda and the public mind , U.S.A: South End Press, 2001.