FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Masterpiece for Palestine

by GILAD ATZMON

The other day I learned that Gerald Clark, pretty much an unfamiliar name to me, was about to launch a Jazz suite dedicated to the Nakba and the Palestinian people. I was intrigued, I contacted Gerald and offered my help. A day later, the album found its way to my letterbox.

I am usually bored by ‘political music.’  Occasionally it lacks the necessary wit let alone a musical edge. But Clark’s Nakba is a masterpiece – music in its purest and most genuine form. It’s probably best described as a ‘Blue Note for Palestine’.  This new album is a treat, and you should seriously consider adding it to your Jazz collection.

A sampler medley of the album can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/geraldcmin6/nakba-album-sampler-medley

I asked Clark about his musical background.

Are you a professional musician? What instrument do you compose on?

Gerald Clark: I am not a fulltime professional musician at this stage.  I write all kinds of music: film scores, pop songs, etc.  I’ve recorded an album as a singer-songwriter (The Great Divide), and six short film scores, but I have a feature film to score in the new year, which I’m already doing quite a lot of work for.  I’ve written a symphonic suite and a string quartet, mostly to see if I could do it, and several jazz works.  I’m a piano player predominately, and virtually all my composition starts sitting at the piano.

Gilad Atzmon: What made you compose a suite for Palestine?

Gerald Clark: It was 2002, the second ‘Intifada’ had started and Jenin was being attacked.  I’ve always been involved with political campaigns and I’d been on a couple of ‘Freedom for Palestine’ marches.  I’d been playing around with a rhythmical figure on the piano (which is now the riff at the start of Jenin), when I developed another one (now the riff at the start of Intifada).  Then I saw Jocelyn Hurndall give a very moving talk about the death of her son Tom.  It all fell into place around those ideas.  Ultimately I wanted to do something to help.  It took a while to finish it and put it together, but now I have a finished product and I know that every time someone buys the album I’ll be personally donating money to a Palestinian charity, so it feels worthwhile.

Gilad Atzmon: This is beautiful. I was very surprised to find out that you didn’t play on the album. I then realised that you were the composer. An unusual role in jazz. How would you describe the process of making an album with a jazz team?

Gerald Clark: Surprisingly easy.  But I agree it’s not that common (I’ve got a lovely album by Russ Garcia that he doesn’t play on, and of course there are arranger/composers like Gil Evans).  I’m not sure why … perhaps because most jazz composers are jazz musicians.  I would love to have played on it myself, but my jazz piano skills are still in their infancy while my jazz composition/arranging skills are far more developed.  I knew I couldn’t have done it justice.  But the team were all great musicians.  I guess they all felt like sidemen, which works okay as long as someone knows what nakbaclarkthey want.  That said, they were very supportive, they helped to interpret my charts so that they could understand them and know where to cue themselves in.  My role in the studio was that of producer really, which I’ve done before.  It’s not that different from having a jazz section in a film soundtrack.

Gilad Atzmon:  What kind of decisions led your choosing the musicians?

Gerald Clark: One of the reasons I didn’t start this for so long is probably because I knew I wasn’t good enough to play it myself.  But Duncan Haynes, the piano player, is a good friend of mine.  He listened to the early drafts and expressed enthusiasm for it.  Once I knew that he was happy to play on it, I asked Johnny Lippiett  (sax) who’s another one of my oldest friends (and who knew Duncan).  Byron Wallen was my first-choice trumpet player.  He’s such an incredible musician, and Duncan knew him too.  In terms of the bass and drums, I wanted some classic hard-bop guys, who could swing hard, but cope with sections of double-time, break into Latin for two bars in the middle of swing (and vice-versa)… Dave Hamblett and Sam Lasserson were perfect, they’re also really nice guys so the recording session was very smooth and fun.

Gilad Atzmon: Did you rehearse for a while as an ensemble? Or did you meet in the studio for the first time?

Gerald Clark: Everyone had the charts for a few weeks in advance, but we met for the first time in the studio and recorded it in a weekend.  Johnny lives in NY and flew in on the Saturday morning.  Duncan’s based in Peru, and the other three are very busy working musicians, so there wasn’t an easy opportunity to meet up (getting most of the band back in the same room for a launch gig has been challenging too) Most of the finished tracks are the second or third take.  That’s it.

Gilad Atzmon: This is pretty incredible. But it may explain the freshness of the sound. Since you picked a political cause, was it important for your musicians to empathize with the cause?

Gerald Clark: They all knew what it was we were recording, so I guess they empathized.  I’d had a long chat with Byron about it first – he’s actually been to Palestine and I think his experiences helped him to be involved.  I introduced every tune before we recorded it by explaining where the title came from and what it meant – that was quite emotional at times.

 Gilad Atzmon:    Do you believe in the role of art as a political weapon? Can beauty present a prospect of a better future?

Gerald Clark: Yes, I think I do.  Not a weapon perhaps, but it has a very important role to play.  If a Jazz Suite for Palestine can bring to jazz fans greater awareness of what’s going on, or a painting can bring to fans of art greater awareness, then it’s worth doing.  But for the artist/composer I think it’s much more powerful.  It gives the music a much deeper meaning and emotion, which I hope is reflected.  And at the end of the day, no matter how horrible a political reality, beautiful art can come from it.  Art makes the world a better place and that’s important when things are bad.  As a composer I think of Shostakovich’s symphonies which came out of the height of Stalinist oppression (and reflect that in various ways) or the wonderful music from South Africa that gained a much greater western audience in the early-mid 80s.

Gilad Atzmon:   Why did it take you 10 years to record this beautiful album?

Gerald Clark: Well I didn’t write it all in 2002-3.  I started then.  The final piece was actually written in January just before we went into the studio (although most of it was finished about four years ago).  As I’ve outlined above, it took me a while to appreciate the concept of recording a jazz quintet album as a composer, and then I had to get everyone into the same studio (let alone the same country) at the same time.  I think I just needed to develop my own confidence as a composer/producer before I felt it was something I was able to do.

Gilad Atzmon: Looking at Palestine now, having been composing this suite for more than 10 years, are you optimistic?

Gerald Clark: I can’t say that I am.  The situation doesn’t seem a lot different.  But I think the general public is slightly more on-side now.  It’s easier to talk about it.  There are issues that we can take up and get popular support with, like the issue of Palestinian Child Prisoners.  Once Palestine is seen as an important issue for everyone and not just political activists, then things could move quite quickly.  I just hope it’s not too late for the Palestinian people.

Gilad Atzmon:  What is ahead, when and where do you launch your album? Any plans for tours?

Gerald Clark: We are launching the album at The Vortex on Wednesday 6th November.  I would love to play it a few more times, but that would have to depend on funding for a tour.  With Duncan and Johnny living overseas we can’t easily throw it together again – it’s a big undertaking.  We might be able to arrange another gig in America, which is something I’d like to explore.  Otherwise I think my next jazz project will have to involve people closer to home.  But this album will be available to download and we’ll be shipping CDs worldwide (through my website www.theinterruptingsheep.com), so the internet gives us an opportunity to get the music out to the whole world.

I’d like to do some more jazz too, I’m not sure what form that’ll take.  I’m practicing hard – maybe I’ll be able to play on it.

Gilad Atzmon: Good luck with everything and thanks for the music and dedication to the right cause.

Gerald Clark: Thanks very much.

Gilad Atzmon’s latest book is: The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics

 

 

Gilad Atzmon’s latest book is: The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 28, 2017
Abel Cohen
The Trojan President: America Never Saw It Coming
February 27, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Media Ban! Making Sense of the War Between Trump and the Press
Dave Lindorff
Resume Inflation at the NSC: Lt. General McMaster’s Silver Star Was Essentially Earned for Target Practice
Conn Hallinan
Is Trump Moderating US Foreign Policy? Hardly
Norman Pollack
Political Castration of State: Militarization of Government
Kenneth Surin
Inside Dharavi, a Mumbai Slum
Lawrence Davidson
Truth vs. Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Extradition Saga of Kim Dotcom
Robert Fisk
Why a Victory Over ISIS in Mosul Might Spell Defeat in Deir Ezzor
David Swanson
Open Guantanamo!
Ted Rall
The Republicans May Impeach Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Why Should Trump―or Anyone―Be Able to Launch a Nuclear War?
Andrew Stewart
Down with Obamacare, Up with Single Payer!
Colin Todhunter
Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission
David Macaray
UFOs: The Myth That Won’t Die?
Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail