Social Buttons

Friday, November 4, 2011

BAMcafé Live All-Stars: Fred Ho & the Afro Asian Music Ensemble (FREE!)

Photo: Fred Ho, by Robert Adam Mayer
By Robert Wood

“There are two aspects of pop culture,” says baritone sax player Fred Ho, performing tonight at BAMcafé Live. “[There is] one that I call ‘Big P’ and one that I call ‘Small P.’ The Big P has been [commoditized] and commercialized, but it became that way by appropriating the Small P, as rock is an appropriation of blues. So why can’t the Small P, the guerrillas, go into the Big P and abscond with something from it? That’s how I see the guerrilla aesthetic, which to me is the quintessential aesthetic of ‘jazz.’ My music is not a rejection of tradition, not this didactic or dogmatic avant-gardism, but [rather] the trickster approach to tradition.”

So music by pillage, in other words. Brer Jazz meets Robin Hood. The strategic redistribution of musical wealth. It's an apt aesthetic for these 99% days, and it's one that baritone sax player Fred Ho—one of our BAMcafé Live All-Stars—has mastered thoroughly. His preferred medium is the big band, but the big band as Small P as opposed to the Big P of institutionalized jazz orchestras for whom swing is still the only thing. That's why at around 18 seconds in the clip below, it sounds like Wynton Marsalis repeatedly throwing his back out:

"The Monkey Strut!" from Monkey: Part Two, Fred Ho and the Monkey Orchestra

It's an exuberant sound, rough around the edges and unpredictable (is that a Japanese shamisen being plucked around :27?)—the multiform music of the People's coffers.

But amusing metaphors aside, there’s much at stake here. As should be clear, art for Ho isn't just entertainment or a mere preserve for pretty sounds; it's a site of action where the stubborn rigidity of categories and can be imagined otherwise. This means that jazz isn't as much a genre as a space of contention and contestation: "I do not use the term 'jazz,'" Ho writes, "as I do not use such terms as Negro, Oriental, or Hispanic. The struggle to redefine and reimage our existence involves the struggle to reject the stereotyping, distortion, and devaluation embodied in the classifications of conquerors and racists." Small P is not to be trifled with; the guerrillas are at the gate.

Ho has plenty of experience being on the conquering side as well; he’s a colon cancer survivor—not once, but three times over—and much of his musical fearlessness undoubtedly comes from that experience. See Ho, as full of life as ever, tonight at BAMcafé—for free.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.