The Friday Morning Listen: Taylor Ho Bynum, Forbes Graham - The Middle Picture/Echoes (2007)


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By Mark Saleski In our society, it seems like there's a constant battle between idealism and cynicism. A person will take a stand on a particular issue, and no matter how quietly they do it, there is always an opposing force with the can of hot tar at the ready. It's a phenomenon that contributes to the growing blandification of the culture—one in which those with truly new points of view are looked at with a suspicious eye.

As you would suspect, I have never felt that way. Maybe that's why I've always felt like an outsider, at least as far as my tastes in the arts go. Even so, don't take that to mean that I reject things simply because they're “mainstream." Far from it. In reality, I don't care whether a piece of art is mainstream or outsider. If it moves me, it just does.

In speaking of idealism, I'm not talking about politics. No, here I'm definitely talking about the arts. Jazz cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum is in the middle of his Acoustic Bicycle Tour, a two-week schedule of performances throughout New England, his road cycle being the mode of transportation. In a recent interview with Hartford public radio affiliate WNPR, Bynum chatted about the many reasons for this tour. Toward the end of the discussion, the great Don Cherry was mentioned. Cherry's own musician-as-world-traveller experience served to use ..."improvised music as a means to connect people." That, the late Mr. Cherry did, and Bynum appears to be following in his footstep, on a slightly smaller scale.

Me and TheWife were lucky enough to see Taylor Ho Bynum a couple of nights ago. He played in Peterborough, New Hampshire. It was an amazing experience. Bynum extracted sound from that horn that I had never heard before. Employing a frightening range of extended technique, he used silence, subtle shifts in pitch, and hum-induced overtones to create music that was both otherworldly and organic. His partner in crime on this night was trumpeter Forbes Graham. Graham's solo pieces used sounds generated from a Mac laptop as background fodder. His technique was similarly impressive, and maybe even a little more scary. When the two men played one long improvised piece at the end of the show, the synchronicity of thought was stunning. I'd never heard anything quite like it before.

Of course, I don't need convincing about the importance of these kinds of activities, or of the value of the music involved. In fact, one of the main reasons I write is related to my desire to spread the word, to say “Hey, I bet you'd like this. Give it a listen." Sometimes, it's exhausting work. It seems like there are no interested ears. That won't stop me though. It's a big 'ole world out there....with enough music to fill all of it.

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This story appears courtesy of Something Else!.
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