SPEAK TO ME OF LOVE, SPEAK TO ME OF TRUTH – THE BILLY HARPER SEXTET AND 60 VOICES IN CONCERT AT SAINT PETER’S CHURCH (THE JAZZ CHURCH) IN NEW YORK CITY, DEC 1ST 2012
Greetings. If you looked at the video, you just heard maybe 20 members of my vocal group. Just imagine what 60 Voices can sound like! They really “knock me out”!!! I wonder if it’ll be the same for you. Hey! Come and hear them, with the Billy Harper Sextet!! You are going to absolutely love this one!! Guaranteed!!!
(Ahh ….“new words”, “’new sounds”, “new meanings”, and “old truths”.)
Hi, I’m Billy Harper and I’m known around the world as an international jazz saxophonist. I have performed with many masters of jazz : Max Roach, Art Blakey, Gil Evans, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Elvin Jones, Randy Weston. But my interests go well beyond the end of my horn and extend into the unique and historic aspects of the human voice –mankind’s first tonal instrument. . Whether it is the cry of a Kalahari bushman, or the deep blues of the lonely highway man, it is the voice that carries the emotions of the heart, the history of a people.
The way most musicians have previously learned is in the street and on the bandstand, listening to other musicians, the transmission of a culture through the sounds they play, the phrases they sing. One of the main ways of learning was “at the jam sessions”. But even away from their instruments players would continue the dialogue, singing musical phrases to each other instead of playing them on their horns.
Singing these musical phrases without horns would be known as "scat- ting" ushered in through some of it's more famous exponents ranging from Louis Armstrong, who first recorded the sound of meaningless, rhythmic syllables, to people like Jon Hendricks, Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Clark Terry and also Bobby McFerrin. But all these stars of the jazz firmament were doing was making popular something that already existed as a non-verbal but fully evocative language within the jazz community.
I realized this at an early age when an older saxophonist sang back a phrase that I had played on the bandstand the night before and so this new “thing” (at least to me) was so “hip”, “so unique”. Not a word was necessary, no musical tones were needed. The sax player, George Irving, uttered something that sounded like a question. This was strictly the language of “the hood”- rhythmic syllables from the street and the music that was played on horns -- a veritable heritage of verbalizing in rhythm with no words! Vocal improvisation! He had been challenging me to answer him in the same improvisational language.
The Ming & Itali-eng:
In some foreign travels and foreign workshops, I encouraged some of the students (Chinese, Italian , Japanese, Korean) who may not know a word of English, to use (or scat) these musical syllables in their language. Foreign vocalists may use their own syllables, but what they sing still connects them to the music of jazz wherever it is played. Recognizing this as a universal language based on the core element of jazz – improvisation – I coined a phrase for this way of working with musicians and the music. I call it Improv-Lingo.
The Golden Ring:
The torch seemed to have been passed to me and I am continuing a tradition in the art of "scatting," The torch has also been passed to other musicians who perhaps may or may not understand the great value of this particular style of jazz expression.
The Shared Secret Moment of His-story:
So ….. we come to the secret of “my story”. Secret – because I think I have only told this to six or seven people.
“When I was a little, little guy (maybe 3 or 4 years of age), my mother by heart and soul, grandmother through biology, would dress me, stand back and admire her accomplishment, and perhaps something special in presentation – and she would say, “Oh, what a little angel …. You’re going to be a preacher when you grow up, yes ? “No, no, no, not me ……. uhn – uuh”. Nope………..
She certainly wanted me to preach, but ….. I was thinking about maybe something with “running” in it. I wanted to be a “horse”, or maybe play football or basketball. Well, as I’ve developed in my soul and through my music – when playing (many times) I have felt like “a preacher”. A preacher of “truth and of love, and true life”. And I want to “speak to you of love, speak to you of truth” through my music. So I am trying to present this concert that we call “Speak To Me Of Love, Speak To Me Of Truth.”. Of course we will need your help, your pledges to make this happen successfully. I sincerely want you to be a part of helping us share this moment of truth, this moment of love – through the music. Please join us in making this happen by giving your pledges through the “Kickstarter” project. There will be many special gifts /perks and opportunities that you will enjoy, but mostly I hope that you enjoy the heartfelt musical experience.
And wow!!! This Kickstarter Fund-Raising platform is so uniquely wonderful in that they give creative artists in all fields – “a chance”. And sometimes that all that one needs in life – just one little chance.
So the $25,000 is just a part of what we need for rehearsal fees, performance fees for all the musicians (there are actually two bands): one with the small group, one with the large, prices of perks and other costs. But…. this will be an actually true “Kickstarter”. So …. as the term is said and used, “KICKSTARTER ROCKS” !!!
And here is my Team:
Nobuko Cobi Narita - Executive Producer Maria Marin - Creative Word Design & Structural Assistant Luiz Simas - Instructional Guide & Project Shaper (A successful recipient of the Kickstarter platform) Burrill Crohn – Award Winning Documentary & DVD Producer ( Another successful recipient of the Kickstarter fund raising platform)
Baano Nasser - Secretary & “Note” Person – Music and Otherwise Paul Ash - Spiritual Guru
The invisible team:
Mr. Cecil Bridgewater (also conducting the voices), Morana Mesic, and all those who have gone "out of their way" to help make this a success.
With great love and respect , from Billy Harper - Producer, Leader, Director, Musician, Creator of the music (..though we all really know Who & Where the music comes from.)
Risks and challenges
I must say that I don’t really feel that there are any major (or even minor) risks and challenges. I am aware that 1.) The venue at which we plan to have the concert could cancel of reschedule because of some other important service or presentation. But this is not likely, because our’s is a “sacred” jazz concert and this church is not just “any” church. It is known as the “jazz church” of New York City and has held the jazz tradition sacred by honoring it with concerts, memorials and “special events” for more than 20 years. The staff there welcomes this kind of presentation and their mailing list as well will bring support to our cause and purpose.
2.) I can’t even imagine any act of God concerning the weather would/could be a problem. This is New York, and usually everyone feels that they cannot be stopped by any kind of weather, if they really want to see any event. And if I must say so, my reputation, however small, and the reputation of all the individual participants are certain to assure a “well attended”, and hopefully “well supported” event, financially. If there should be a snow storm, or hurricane, the concert will be re-scheduled for the very next open date.
3.) My main collaborators are “my team”. Some of them have already successfully applied and received aid and funds through Kickstarter. I feel quite confident that we can reach our goals.
- (46 days)