the church of jamaaladeen

I’ve been trying to get to Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Outsider’s Improvised and Creative Music Festival for 3 years. This year, it was looking like I was going to miss it again, so I had to make a real effort to get myself there. Why is it so hard to commit to engagements and show up anymore? That’s probably worthy of another post.

Anyway, this particular installment of the festival featured Jamaaladeen with Marc Ribot on guitar and Will Calhoun on drums. It was clear that there was no real pre-meditated plan here; the three players were to have a conversation and interact musically. I love improvised music, but often feel like some kind of structure can be helpful as a unifying or start and end point (at least for the audience – it’s generally always fun for the musicians to stretch out). But when you have players who are amazing communicators and can fully express their intentions on an instrument, it’s worth going along for the ride.

I’m not a music critic and will not pretend to be one here. All I can say as a takeaway from this music is that it made me feel more alive. To be so in tune and present in the moment while interacting with the talents of others onstage (and for it to be good and entertaining) is not only remarkable, it’s infectious. All of us in the crowd were drawn in for the dialogue.

After about an hour and a half of non-stop music, it seemed that the show was coming to an end. Will Calhoun was playing this hypnotic groove on a synth drum pad, and Jamaaladeen had taken off his bass to watch, as we were, with a smile on his face. But, Will wasn’t done. He smoothly transitioned back to the acoustic kit and starting playing a groove that was reminiscent of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn. Jamaaladeen and Marc hopped right back in. Then, Jamaal went over to the mic and started chanting, “Get me some popcorn!” Unanswered, he finally, plainly, said, “there’s a bag of popcorn and the back, can someone bring it up here?” My friend turns to me and asks, “is he serious?” Immediately, as if Jamaal heard him, says, “I’m serious! Get me that popcorn!”

The popcorn makes its way up to the stage, and Jamaal feeds it to Will and Marc as they play, making a remark about how real they are to eat popcorn on stage. He then hands the bag of popcorn into the crowd and motions for it to be distributed. As the bag made it’s way over to me, I realized that on this particular Easter Sunday, I was taking communion in the church of Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

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