Saturday, May 9, 2009

The black saint, the sinner lady, and Brian Adkins

Every so often I remember, and then that is all I listen to, for a long while. I am in that phase again, now, and the other night I searched the Archive for one of my favorite composers and bandleaders, Charles Mingus.

A playlist came up, titled "Charles Mingus 'The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady'". As I will tell anyone who will listen, Mingus' record of that name is first on my desert island list. For reasons I could never explain, it speaks more plainly to me than any other music about the mysteries of identity and consciousness as I experience those mysteries.

I hit "play" on the archived program, posted by someone named Brian Adkins. From the introduction, it seemed to be a podcast, maybe even a genuine radio show. After an opening tune by Miles Davis, the announcer (I took him to be Brian Adkins) said each week he was "going to try to showcase" a classic record, which suggested this was a brand new show, the archive of an inaugural broadcast, since he was talking about intention, something he was "going to try," rather than a pattern, something he does.

Then, sure enough, he said "for the first week" he would play this Mingus record, the record that best explains me to me, or at least best reminds me why I can't fully understand myself or anyone else in their complete complexity.

This guy - let's decide he is Brian Adkins - speaks pretty well about this complicated composer and this intrictae and challenging piece of music. He says, though Mingus is a bassist, "he was known for his orchestrations," which certainly is true. Orchestration is the facet of Mingus' art that first grabbed me, and that still stays so close to me.

And, then, there is this that Brian Adkins said of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady: that it is "constantly interesting, always changing, always beautiful": and that is an apt and unpretentious summation of the power of this music.

Something else about Brian Adkins. He sounds like a kid. And, not only a kid, a rural Southern kid, an Appalachian kid. He has used the phrase, "Anyhoo ..."

The Mingus tune from The Black Saint, "Group Dancers", comes to a close. And Brian Adkins says, "Whoa!" I liked that! That is how that music always leaves me feeling, or reeling - Whoa!

And then, check out where Brian Adkins, this Appalachian kid, takes us in his mind:

Every time I get to hear that song it's a treat. Anyways, whenever I listen to it, though, you just sort of get into it, you know?, because it's so frenetic and such. But, every time I'm listening to it, it's always, like, when I'm at work, or when I'm in the library or something, and somebody will always come up and tap me on my shoulder - and I'll jump out of my chair! It's ridiculous!
Whoever he is, this kid actually lives Mingus the way I live Mingus.

And, then, my head begins to spin. He goes right from his giddy account of disappearing in the frenetic nature of Mingus' music while working or burying his head in the library (which, by then, I would have guessed was a college library, and this was a college kid, with a new show on a college station) into a public service announcement ...

... and he is reading some text about "Marshall students and the Huntington Area Food Back" - which wouldn't mean much to most people - but, you see, I once fell in love with a student at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, with a black girl, it so happens, I met on the road, one of very few black girls in that little Appalachian town, and loving her taught me so many things about the identities of black saints and sinner ladies, the same mysteries Charles Mingus is teaching in his songs ...

And I just about jumped out of my chair. It was ridiculous. It made me remember so many things ...

{To be continued}

1 comment:

badkins said...

In a moment of ego I googled myself today and found this. Thank you so much.

-Brian Adkins

p.s. I dig your blog.