clive james, jonathan james and real slow dub period

I’ve been reading Clive James’ Book Cultural Amnesia. Trying to get myself educated on all the names you hear and nod at like you know them – but – of course you don’t! His bits on Louis Armstrong and Peter Altenberg are awesome. Today I re-read the chapter on Armstrong. As with all the “bios” they are not bios, but musings on the folks and the times and impact they made both of Clive James and world.

With Louis Armstrong he starts gets going with Armstrong’s statement about Bix Beiderbecke, the short lived amazing coronet player from the twenties who drank himself both into beautiful meloncholic melodies and death. Armstrong says of Beiderbecke,”Those pretty notes went right through me.” And, they do – like too much whiskey and heartbreak.



As James points out, that was a big deal for Armstrong to say because the word on the streets was that white folks could not play jazz worth a penny and because of the racism Armstrong faced daily in life and the music biz. He also goes on to talk about how Armstrong’s music is hearty and cracks laughter and life and jumps and flows with the love of an unbroken soul, while Bix wallowed in the pain of a tormented soul pouring it the notes he played – his music oozing with space and time and sadness.

“The Paradox was that the most persuasive witness [Armstrong] to the lyrical distillation of Bix’s broken life was never broken, even by the full force of America’s most tenacious social malignancy, white prejudice. If it is a political nightmare no longer […not sure that is the case], Armstrong’s shining trumpet certainly contributed to the wake-up call. But there is only so much art can do against injustice, and the blues, from which jazz took flight, were an embodiment of the sad truth that much beauty begins as a consolation for what cannot be mended.”

But, where he takes the story of the two jazz men is a beautiful commentary on the politics of race and the power art and the ‘mechanisms of influence’ – noting how we assimilate education from the world around us – gathering up feelings from moments and art that influence us.

“To the extent that I can examine my own case of such inadvertently assimilated education, I learned a lot about writing from watching a older friend sanding down the freshly dried paint on his rebuilt moterbike so that he could give it another coat:he was after the deep, rich, pure glow. But, for the way I thought prose should move I learned a lot from jazz, from the moment I learned to hear them in music, syncopation and rhythm were what I wanted to get into my writing…”

And, really that is just the way it works.

I came across these images snapped by my friend and amazing capturer of feeling on the streets of London and beyond – Jonathan James Wyatt. And, I had to share…they reak of beauty that grows from the mess of urban living and kind souls. Thanks JJ <3!!




Somehow, the slow talkin, slow dubbin tied it alltogether and the little red haired guy and his mama went out on an urban hike to explore the beauty of our land.

~ by asmallfryup on September 12, 2010.

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