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AND THE TIME FOR
THE SINGING OF BIRDS IS COME…

     Spring is here.  And April is the first full month of spring, the first full month of song.  Once again, birds become the authorized and duly elected multi-voice of Mother Nature springsinging annual sunsongs of rebirth and resplendence.  It is ritual; it is dictated by and based upon universal law.  Birds do not rebel; they respond.  It is their calling; it is their time.

     More characteristically than coincidentally, there exists another calling and another April response: April 1 is the birthday of Alberta Hunter; April 7, the birthday of Billie Holiday; April 8, the birthday of Carmen McRae; April 15, the birthday of Bessie Smith; April 25, the birthday of Ella Fitzgerald; and April 26, the birthday of Ma Rainey.  It is spring.  And the time for the singing of birds is come.

     Ma Rainey is the Mother of the Blues.  She is Mother Nature projecting the Blues with power, love, and joy.  In her we witness that the substance of the singer is greater than the sadness of the song.  Her voice is a declaration of life and longevity.  She is the Blues matrix out of which Bessie sprang: Ma is the progenitor, Bessie both the progeny and the prodigy; Ma the essence, Bessie the extension; Ma the affirmation, Bessie the amplification; Ma the expression, Bessie the elaboration.  There is no break between them; there is only continuance.  Bessie never cut her umbilical cord but converted it into a musical chord and utilized it in the Blues.

     In listening to Bessie and Billie, one hears the paradoxical fusion of hot coals and ice cubes - with Bessie having a propensity for coals and Billie having a proclivity for cubes.  In Bessie we hear the bristle and backbone of the Blues.  There is no defeat in her voice; it is the Blues that becomes broken.  But Bessie’s spirit remains in tact.  She is commentator on her own calamities; the do not crush her.  Her testimonies document her transcendence.  In Billie, however, the Blues is a love cancer that becomes increasingly malignant with time.  One can actually hear pain as it becomes synonymous with performance and somehow emerges as perfection; one can hear beauty drift from debilitation to devastation and somehow remain beauty.  Her triumph is in the defiance of her condition.  What is terminal becomes therapeutic – her short life lengthened by the invincibility of her spirit, her slow death defeated by the immortality of her soul.

     Ella is a goddess.  Any singer who can hold first place position on c0untless polls for nearly half a century cannot be human.  Her secret is that she doesn’t sing but blows a larynxophone, a throat covered horn which can articulate words and which greatly excites the auditory canal of all who hear.  Listen to Ella by starlight as she climbs starstairs while measuring the depth of yellow baskets and the height of blue moons.  Ella is a goddess moonlighting as a master physicist.  Listen to her as she stretches the laws of sound by “singing” in tongues; listen as she extends the laws of motion in the name of swing; listen as she expands the law of gravity through spirit elevation; listen as she defies velocity with “A’ trains and airmail specials.  Partake of her force and experience her energy while she repeatedly re-interprets E=MC2 as Ella equals momentum multiplied by the circle of creativity.

     Carmen is the embodiment of her birthplace – New York.  Her tones are structured like tenements; her vibrato sculptured without tears.  She is hard and headstrong, insistent and arrogant.  She separates herself from the Blues she sings; someone else has them.  She sings the story.  Melancholy is the melody; lonliness is the lyric.  The Blues is distant, an emotion of the dumb; she is merely the ventriloquist – giving legacy to the lifeless.  She is removed, objective - a lab technician – observing life through a microscope.  One cannot hear her heart; one reads the EKG.  She is a scientist; her commentary is clinical.  She presents the form (which some describe as craft) but projects the frost (which some define as cool).

     Alberta is an alchemist blending the past and present into Blues.  Being part of the Blues conception as well as it continuum, she reflects both Southern roots and Northern reality.  Alberta is a contemporary Blues institution, housing the history of the Blues.  She is an octogenarian singing in tones of timelessness.  April begins with her birthday.  And the time for the singing of birds is come.

Author:  GEORGE EDWARD TAIT

Publication Name: NEW YORK AMSTERDAM NEWS

Publication Date: 04-03-82   

 
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