Vernon Reid, Bruce Mack & Greg Tate (photo by Petra Richterova)
On Tuesday, December 7th, 2021, musician, journalist, author, activist Greg Tate died.
Tate was one of the most unique and influential individuals in the New York Music scene. As a brilliant guitarist, leader of Burnt Sugar (a.k.a. Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, where he employed Butch Morris’ process of “conduction” – a method of conducted improvisation), he synthesized the entire spectrum of African American rock music. His music had a quality that held the suggestion of a man who did music out of love, and who was a man of peace who could be a formidable warrior when necessary.
Conduction # Infinity (Out of Reach but Never Out of Touch)
Butch: his mischievous smile > stern look > open laugh > dapper apparel >
a real dandy > like back in the days when > his midrange slightly twanged voice >
everything I’ll say is clichéd pompous emotional > rubbed in ashes at times > such elaborate performance we produce sometimes for no one > the wind > trees > the rushing water > walking on hot coals to emit a portrait of pain > among the last & first budding flowers & weeds > his baton / those lighter than air dancing shoes > gentlemanliness > his overall attire that gruff little me admired so much > his NEATNESS > those dancing shoes those dancing shoes > that held him firmly in place > he passed the way neighborhoods pass yet always sustain their quality > personality > somewhere in the brick > the way seasons pass & are replaced always by hosts of new hustlers > new lovers> & he one of the last of the real of the real > a unique lover of the unique & loved by all > the unique & mundane alike > come again next fall > winter > spring > summer > come again in storm & dust > those dancing shoes that I wanted so much > last of the real of the real > dancing on indifferent waters…
it’s warm grey > a partial of a bridge floats between 2 buildings > bare trees blanket the river > a lifetime’s profound effect inspires the music’s language > qualities > progress >
shared experiences on & off the bandstand > intelligence > compassion > passion > courage > contact > appreciation > special > gifted > interpersonal > shrewd > sharp always zeros in on feelings & strengths > brought out the best in all > presence > worked with nurturing > worked til the end > gave as he danced in those special shoes > baton wave(r)ing > all for the flight the stage the flow the all the legacy for the future to be taken > remarkably dignified > professional > though sometimes lost his cool > always taught with his presence > treated all as equals > a prime element of conduction > open direct validation > hey I’m with the band I’d feel sometimes > those dancing shoes that held him in place rooted to the NOW > truly always in the instance > makes you get it > get what he gets > the essence of the process > challenging > demanding > draining > gotta get it right > you knew when he knew he got it right > that smile the body relaxing > though he never felt secure > gave more than enough > but when he felt he failed or that he didn’t go far enough you saw it on his face & when he succeeded you saw it on his face > that smile > the baton relaxing > worked with every type of person > instrument in completely unique ways developed a new concept of world music taking it far beyond that simple term > far beyond the world creating a world of worlds > a clinician bridging 2 worlds 3 worlds endless worlds > how he made the musicians & instruments react/interact > musician & instrument becoming one > helped folks connect with their inner voice > understand & tap into their strengths > mixing their personal languages with his > travelling around the world like running up & down stairs > room heart mind journey commitment > the work always first > well maybe not always >
nothing can stop this force even up to the end > radiates > a special relationship with everyone > heartbreaker with the skill to be a real human being > & so CHARMING >
a charmer a lover > the more one let one self go the more one understood the concept he put forth both audience & orchestra > world traveler dandy handled his illness positively privately maturely > a mature guy this Butch > a child a dandy a flirt > the band became his family as did his friends & his audience > we all became his lovers of sorts > this perfectionist who rehearsed performed demanded > he left me his extra food coupons in Marseilles & a drawer full of vitamins too > & when I finally got the process his concept what conduction was wow I was up there with him expecting laughing scowling relaxing tensing up getting frustrated or getting HIGH > he was a one of a kind > his contributions will live on > he will & does have imitators but not duplicators > disciples even > filled with exploration > fiery dancey > shoes I want those shoes that dignified presence on the dance floor > as I said he was a hard task master but when he got the results he wanted everyone knew it everyone felt it everyone got it > transcendent > like dancing on different waters > bridging > expanding > building > a life partially hidden by the seasons > like dancing on different waters > last of the real of the real > spirit genius > genuine > scraping the sky with his wand > wandering into the void a partial of a bridge suspended between 2 buildings sunset a lifetime blanketed by a river of trees……………………. Continue reading →
The world lost an outstanding and original musician yesterday when conductor, composer, cornetist, educator, and writer Lawrence “Butch” Morris passed away a few weeks shy of his 66th birthday. Morris got his start as a cornetist in the ’70s, playing with saxophonist David Murray, and others, but is best known for his conductions, live conducted improvisations of often large ensembles, in which he created compositions in real time by directing musicians (and/or poets) with a set of several dozen hand signs and gestures. Morris developed this system (which he has described as an exploration of the overlapping space between improvisation and composition) as an outgrowth of an attempt to devise a more flexible musical notation.
Over a 25+ year span, Morris taught and conducted over 5,000 musicians in 200 or so conductions in New York, Europe, South America, and Asia; often the concerts followed intensive workshops. Morris also wrote about his conduction and musical philosophy in a complex, information-rich style that reminds me of none other than R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome. In addition, Morris had, from time to time, some ongoing projects which included the Chorus of Poets, the Lucky Cheng Orchestra, and the Nublu Orchestra.