You know, I was listening to some Yusef Lateef and thinking Swing is Timeless
. I’ve been saying that a lot these days, because exciting rhythm musics all wind up pointing back to Africa. But that is the fact of the matter: African music is truly timeless. Always contemporary; always primal in the sense of musical source, always refreshing. And this most clearly in cases of literal crossover: I’m thinking Bootsy-era James Brown getting the higher-grade funk from Fela; and even the likes of Paul Simon liberally absorbing African sounds to boost his own career. I mean, before Graceland
, imagine pitching an African crossover album to an 80s record chief. So, in listening to early rock and roll, to much of jazz, when the focus isn’t on interpreting or ripping the blues, then it’s the swing-focus on rhythm that drives the music, the swing that keeps the rhythm pure, alive, and moving, which truly makes the performance. And this is the same source or resource — played with intuitive finesse and rigorous ease — that makes the funk so strong, the dance so vital, the swing of Kind of Blue
so subtle and refined. It’s Africa.