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Believing in the Unifying Principle of Swing

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Josslyn Luckett is following her passion!  She and her mom, Barbara (as I write this) are driving cross-country from Los Angeles to Massachusetts.  Josslyn is Cambridge bound!  She's about to begin graduate studies at the Harvard Divinity School where she will be studying jazz and its connections to various beliefs, spiritualities and cultures. 


Josslyn has already had quite an amazing career in playwriting and screenwriting.  She's performed her one-woman show, Chronicles of a Comic Mulatta:  An Oreo-Choreopoem at various theaters throughout the nation such as The New York Public Theater, The National Black Theater Festival, and The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia.  And her screenplay Love Song was directed by Julie Dash for MTV Films (2000).  She is also a fellow Macondista, or member of Macondo, the writing group founded by novelist Sandra Cisneros. 

On Wednesday Josslyn and her mom left L.A..  Yesterday they left Denver, Colorado and arrived at our house here in Lincoln, Nebraska around 6p.m.  Dinner:  Homemade pesto (on green beans and tofu), mandan corn from our vegetable garden, salad, lovely red wine and a flurry of exuberant conversation!  As soon as we began to talk about the next journey in Josslyn's life--her studies in jazz and spirituality--she became a burst of wondrous, inspiring energy!

"I believe in the unifying principle of swing," she said, "a gathering of people across difference."

Josslyn sees these unifying principles of jazz among, for example, Native, Santeria, Muslim, Jewish, Mexican, African, Christian music.  Her ultimate goal is to create The Duke Ellington Center for the Study of Sacred Jazz. Josslyn's eyes light up when she says this.  She imagines a non-denominational building where all people (and she means ALL--spiritual eclectics, followers of liberation theology, aetheists, fundamentalists, baptists, agnostics, Buddhists, etc.) will feel welcome to gather for the music, for interfaith conversations.

 "What do you hear now as you say this, Josslyn?" 

"I hear John Coltrane singing 'Love Supreme.'"

Watching Josslyn talk about this is wonderful. She's on fire with her passion for jazz!

Jazz:  native to North America, created by slaves.  Jazz was a medium of survival and since then it has become the fabric of what we term American music expanding to international/world music.  It is transhemispheric.  During our conversation, I remembered my trip to Juchitan, Oaxaca a few years ago.  I was standing on the street corner, lured there by music!  A funeral procession was passing, led by about eight musicians playing trumpets, el guitarron, vihuelas, violins.  It was a slow and mournful melody I had not heard before.  Walking behind the musicians were family and friends. Behind them was a flatbed truck with an open coffin in the back.  More family and friends followed behind the truck.  Then I remembered a similar experience in Tangier, Africa.  I was awakened early in the morning to lively chants and drumming approaching my hotel.  I went to the window and saw a crowd coming down the cobblestone street: so many people in multicolored robes dancing in circles or following in lively step.  Six people were carrying a shrouded body on a bier (a wooden flat frame or board).  What I had seen opened up another conversation regarding funereal music and ritual. Josslyn excitedly pointed out the Mexican and Muslim rituals and especially the musical sounds that connect with New Orleans jazz funerals and the dirge.  Even the choice of musical instruments has connections.  The vihuela, a popular Mexican instrument, for example, is similar to North African instruments such as the timple. 

"Jazz is everywhere." 

This morning it was difficult to say goodbye.  We woke up to my favorite early morning thunderstorms.  But by 8a.m., we had finished breakfast, the storms had passed, and Josslyn and Barbara were packed and ready to go.  Their next stop:  friends in Chicago!  Josslyn--I wish you much success on your new journey! 

If you'd like to keep up with Josslyn's adventures in Cambridge, click on her blog at:  jazzhallelujah.blogspot.com

As for me, this is my very first blog entry and I welcome and thank you for reading.  I look forward to my connections with all of you.  I leave you with one of my favorite jazz collaborators (we played it last night!):  Joni Mitchell's 2007 album,  Shine.

Lyrics from "If" (Joni adapted this song from Rudyard Kipling's If):

If you can keep your head

While all about you

People are losing theirs . . .

If you can wait

And not get tired of waiting . . .

Don't deal in lies . . .

Don't give in to hating back . . .

If you can dream

And not make dreams your master . . .

If you can fill the journey

Of a minute

With sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight

Then

The Earth is yours

And Everything that's in it

But more than that

I know

You'll be alright

You'll be alright

'Cause you've got the fight

You've got the insight

You've got the fight

You've got the insight


2 Comments

Thanks for the tip that you are blogging. Looks great. Got to love Coltrane...

Oh this visit just burst off the webpage! I could hear the conversation and smell the food! What a wonderful visit!!!!!!

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