August 19, 2013

Albert Murray, 1916 – 2013

Albert Murray, 1916 – 2013

Of the incomparably stylish, argumentative and, in the end, authoritative Sage of Harlem, it surely could be argued that his “Stomping the Blues” (1976) is still the most provocative (and without question best illustrated) book ever published on the vast range and richness of African-American music, from the downhome church to the dancehall to Duke Ellington’s sacred extensions and refinements of vernacular forms and feelings. Al Murray taught many of us by his sometimes gruff but patient and always original drawing of distinctions — between Folk Art and Fine Art, for example, and between “The Blues as Such” and “The Blues as Music.” It all began with the insight that blues music was the sound not of mourning or complaint, but of confrontation and transcendence. As he phrased it in “Stomping…” : “The blues as such are synonymous with low spirits. Blues music is not. With all its so-called blue notes and overtones of sadness, blues music of its very nature and function is nothing if not a form of diversion… Not only is its express purpose to make people feel good, which is to say in high spirits, but in the process of doing so it is actually expected to generate a disposition that is both elegantly playful and heroic in its nonchalance…” Praise God for Albert Murray!! And thank you, dear Al.

Related Content

  • Potter

    Let me be the first here to say “amen!”. Call and Response! I read his book years ago and it really enlightened me about the black spirit, about the music, the community and the gift to us all it made and makes forever. I still have his book and recommend it too.

    Recently, I have been pointed ( by an interview online with Maria Muldaur) to listen to the music of Memphis Minnie – “If You See My Rooster ( please run him home)”. Even in the title- the blues is a lot more than about being blue- it’s about picking up and going on, and joy. It’s medicine. But you gotta stomp it, let it in.

  • nother

    -the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
    -a composed or serious manner or style.
    -A sense of pride in oneself; self respect.
    -a high or honorable rank or position.
    ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French dignete, from Latin dignitas, from dignus ‘worthy.’

  • Potter

    where else on this dear net would you find a mention of s man’s tailor who indeed must have been wonderful. i remember the andover shop from years ago (still?)

    but yes having been brought up by a mother who had such an appreciation for fine tailoring (a rare art now?), she had a closet full of such clothes though by far not a wealthy woman… and she made sure that i left home with my own – not that she supported my leaving at all.

    chris i do remember your sow on bespoke clothes.

    pardon no caps – one hand typing for a bit.

  • chris

    Rest assured, dear Potter, that the ageless Charlie Davidson is alive and thriving at this moment — doubtless selecting some ineffably beautiful lining or the perfect bone buttons for a young Beau Brummell at the Andover Shop on Holyoke Street in Harvard Square.

  • I was lucky enough to meet him at the Andover Shop through Charlie Davidson. “Trading Twelves” was just out and he came at Harvard to receive something. We chat about Paris and fine clothes…. He was amazingly shape minded.
    On my way back home to Dakar, Senegal my son and myself stopped by NYC and had Honor and Privilege to visit him at Home, Lenox Terrace in Harlem, even though he was in bed, we talk about fine clothes, Charlie Davidson and the importance learning and teaching the children.
    Room full of Jazz & books, he gave me a copy of his novel “The seven league boots.” May The Almighty Allah Welcome him in His Paradise. My condolences to his wonderful wife and daughter and also to you Chris, and Charlie.
    Human Race lost a Giant.