Lenapewiattuck, reviewed by Marv Friedenn
Lenapewiattuck - River of the Lenape, Bud Tristano & Kazzrie Jaxen, New Artists Records NA1066CD
Just the other morning I was thinking reality is like undecipherable code. What we know about it is that the parts which compose it follow each other and so are sequential (which means the parts that go before have a say in what comes after, a condition which allows scientists to get a grip on it). But the parts are also simultaneous like the notes of a piece of music all laid out in the performer's memory which he or she knocks off one right after the other like ducks in a shooting gallery. Now, I'm thinking this when my friend Bud Tristano's CD arrives with the unpronounceable title - leave it to Bud to put integrity before sales - Lenapewiattuck. That's American Indian for, "This waterway belongs to the Lenape tribe. So you know who to see before you dip your toe in it. We are located right in the heart of what in 11,000 years will be called "Philadelphia."
Bud is the son of Lennie Tristano, the bebop jazz pianist and American composer extraordinaire who loved to distraction the sound of several musicians soloing altogether all at the same time, the signal trademark of New Orleans jazz. Now you should know that the New Orleans musicians were able to achieve that simultaneous sound because the solos they played were simple, formulaic, and conventional. Lennie took the idea a step further. In contrast to the Dixieland solos, those long, extended, individualized solos that Bird and Bud (Powell) and Prez play . . . what if bebop musicians played extended solos like that except simultaneously in such a way that they create unity on the spot even without the help of pre-arrangement or pre-anything, relying only on the inspiration of the moment! Clearly Lennie had transposed into music the political problem Americans haven't solved yet even after creating colossal individuals called corporations to bully their way toward a solution, namely, how to put individual interest to work on behalf of the common good.
Bud, who plays guitar, has inherited his dad's aesthetics (and politics) and has devoted his musical life to solving that problem. Bud did a CD awhile back with Connie Crothers, one of his dad's many disciples, called Primal Elegance. But Bud and Connie together were like an earthquake and a tornado dancing a minuet. When the music stopped and they looked around, everyone had cleared out and the ballroom was in shambles. So it was hard to tell after sifting through the rubble whether they had succeeded or not in uniting into a single composition their solos played simultaneously.
Presently Bud plays with pianist Kazzrie Jaxen. In Lenapewiattuck, Bud and Kazzrie present their research and findings musically on this question how do you interest individuals in a common good. But watch out because the question takes a quantum leap into epistemology.
Kazzrie writes in her notes to the CD that she began showing up everyday at the same place by the river "absorbing the visual vibrations of the water, the contrapuntal dance of rhythm and light. I learned to perceive these patterns as pure information and gradually opened to the field of natural intelligence all around me." Well, that phrase "pure information" jumped off the page. Pure information, if I understand it correctly, is when the information refers to itself without alluding to anything else. For example, an undecipherable code refers to itself because if it refers to anything else no one's the wiser. Now suppose reality is undecipherable code (I took up my earlier thought) with this added fillip that the cryptologist is included as part of the undecipherable code! My question is, what are the chances of the cryptologist deciphering the code even with him - or herself being part of it? I don't know how they did it, but it sounds to me like Bud and Kazzrie found the solution. Unfortunately the solution is coded in the music as "pure information" so all you hear is Bud and Kazzrie sounding wonderful together.
Frankly, after reading the notes I was afraid to listen to the CD. I feared that two such powerful spirits as Bud and Kazzrie in their endeavor to unite their musical talents might end up running each other off the road. But when I heard those wind chimes at the Fourth Crow, I knew they had arrived together. E duobus unum. A rarity.
I want to mention Lennie Tristano's "Maelstrom" as a musical source and leave it at that. Because even more important is that like Lennie Kazzrie makes atonal melody melodic. You have got to be half in and half out of a cage to do that successfully. You have got to call your halfway house home.
Sure we can burn nature as firewood but all we really know about it is that like reality nature is sequential and simultaneous. But then, so isn't music produced by two musicians playing at the same time. Now if sequence and simultaneity are the only prompts these musicians respond to, then whatever they add is pure unadulterated them. Like that quarter toning that Bud likes to do like maybe it's a fish leaping out of the water or a bird diving in. Compared to it the piano with its one tone to a key has in my opinion never sounded so rational. But that don't prevent Kazzrie from proving time and again that one plus one equals plus one plus.
Lenapewiattuck is Bud and Kazzrie's initiation ceremony into the tribe of the same name. That makes them American renegades in a long line of renegades going back to the 17th century when some émigrés felt more comfortable living in the forest with the Indians than dreaming of getting rich behind the stockade. Anyway, Bud quotes Chief Red Hawk on the Prophesy of the Fourth Crow: "We now know that the First Crow was the Lenape before the coming of the Europeans. The Second Crow symbolized the death and destruction of our culture. The Third Crow was our people going underground and hiding. The Fourth Crow was the Lenape becoming caretakers again and working with everybody to restore that land." Well, I would have called the CD "The Hour of the Fourth Crow," first, to announce to the four horsemen of the apocalypse that they had been anticipated by birds. And secondly, to expose the twinkle in the Chief's eye at the pun on "Fourth Crow": could be the last of four birds or the fourth cry of the same bird. So what? Well, hell, that's the difference between polytheism and monotheism! But like I say, Bud always has put integrity before sales.
© 2018 Marv Friedenn
(used with permission)