“The thing about New Orleans jazz,” Don broke in, “is the feeling it communicated that something was about to happen, and it was going to be good.”
“Yes,” Albert said, “and we’re trying to do for now what people like Louis Armstrong did at the beginning. Their music was a rejoicing. And it was beauty that was going to happen. As it was at the beginning, so will it be at the end.”
I asked the brothers how they would advise people to listen to their music.
“One way not to,” Don said, “is to focus on the notes and stuff like that. Instead, try to move your imagination toward the sound. It’s a matter of following the sound.”
“You have to relate sound to sound inside the music,” Albert said. “I mean you have to try to listen to everything together.”
“Follow the sound,” Don repeated, “the pitches, the colors. You have to watch them move.”
“This music is good for the mind,” Albert continued. “It frees the mind. If you just listen, you find out more about yourself.
“It’s really free, spiritual music, not just free music. And as for playing it, other musicians worry about what they’re playing. But we’re listening to each other. Many of the others are not playing together, and so they produce noise. It’s screaming, it’s neo-avant-garde music. But we are trying to rejuvenate that old New Orleans feeling that music can be played collectively and with free form. Each person finds his own form.
“Why,” I asked, “did bop seem too constricting to you?”
“For me,” Albert said, “it was like humming along with Mitch Miller. It was too simple. I’m an artist. I’ve lived more than I can express in bop terms. Why should I hold back the feeling of my life, of being raised in the ghetto of America? It’s a new truth now. And there have to be new ways of expressing that truth. And, as I said, I believe music can change people. When bop came, people acted differently than they had before. Our music should be able to remove frustration, to enable people to act more freely, to think more freely.
“You see, everyone is screaming ‘Freedom,’ but mentally, everyone is under a great strain. But now the truth is marching in, as it once marched back in New Orleans. And that truth is that there must be peace and joy on earth. Music really is the universal language, and that’s why it can be such a force. Words, after all, are only music.
“I’m encouraged about the music to come,” Albert said. “There are musicians all over the States who are ready to play free spiritual music. You’ve got to get ready for the truth, because it’s going to happen. And listen to Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders. They’re playing free now. We need all the help we can get. That Ascension is beautiful! Consider Coltrane. There’s one of the older guys who was playing bebop but who can feel the spirit of what’s happening now. He’s trying to reach another peace level. This is a beautiful person, a highly spiritual brother. Imagine being able in one lifetime to move from the kind of peace he found in bebop to a new peace.” DB