There is a sometimes rather large pile of magazines in my bathroom. It is an odd mix of my music magazines and my wife’s wife magazines. For some reason, today I dug down in the pile and came out with the December 2006 DownBeat, the one with Sun Ra on the cover.
There is an article/interview featuring Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, and George Lewis in that issue. There is a great passage in which Lewis is addressing history.
We’re looking at the paradox that you want to have the history or experiences, but at a certain point, history becomes meaningless and should just not exist, otherwise you become its prisoner. That’s a common conceit. To be without history means you’re not responsible and can sort of do what you want. From my standpoint, as a descendant of slaves, I don’t want to be disconnected from that history, because people tried to erase it, and we spent all that time getting it back. But I want to be able to abandon it when necessary, to reach these other places that I want to go.
As a musician that sees myself as coming out of the jazz lineage, that relationship with history can be a tricky one. I like the idea of being able to “abandon it when necessary,” which also leaves the idea of embracing it when necessary as well.