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Truth Be told, "BETTER THAN HOLLYWOOD ". Series`19 N0.2 bugalu's 60th.
By Marvin Bugalu Smith
Steve Habib January 2 at 1:50pm
This performance is right down to THE TRUTH IN THE MOMENT. Nothing is held back as each of the three becomes "THE WHOLE" at any given moment.. This "TRUTH BE TOLD,BETTER THAN HOLLYWOOD SERIES 19 SONG #!" represents life which is ALWAYS "IN THE MOMENT" with nothing planned but PURE EMOTIONS being delivered with sound vibrations that create actual reds,blues,greens violets,oranges whites,blacks and precious moments of silence between the notes,where it's all happening and making this particular piece a "BU GA LU CLASSIC" and a MASTER PIECE OF SUPREME IMPROVISING". This is one of the most emotional pieces of music and it should be because it represents THE START OF 2010, a year year and a new begining for all. Each of these guys becomes part of the other and evolves into a oneness that can't be mistaken for anything but THE TRUTH and they're telling it here and it's being done in a REAL ENVIRONMENT with no HOLLYWOOD GLITTER and NONSENSE. THIS IS LOVE and PEACE communicated with the highest level of musicianship. Marvin is MASTER of DRUMS,Neil is MASTER of KEYS and MARK is MASTER of BASS. All three are MASTER COMPOSERS getting together and creating here exactly what Neil's reaction was :"WOW"!
It is WOW and I'll second that. I almost miniaturized myself and jumped into this computer while I was writing these liner notes because I know these guys so well and was moved so deeply at that moment I first started listening to this. Too bad I was so far away from the Newburgh , NY site where this was recorded but I'll tell you that the music was so powerful that it didn't matter where I was because I started playing it in my heart and joined in with these guys and entered another dimension. It's true. I'm in it and enjoyed it as if I were a fourth guy in this group. I also must admit that because it was Marvin's Birthday Evening, I actually did transfer myself into PURE SPIRIT and show up there. Can you hear it between the NOTES if you don't quite understand the dimension I'm talking from.Loud,soft, fire,rain,water,wind earth,mud,sand,waves,stillness,open sky,infinite space,mass of matter,lack of matter,breath,energy felt through warm love,energy felt through actual colors with sound moving rainbows.. A REAL STRONG EXAMPLE OF GIVING IT ALL AWAY FOR WORLD PEACE. THIS SERIES 19 SONG #! is The Bu GA LU Birthday PRESENT OF ALL TIME,especially THE PRESENT OF THE MOMENT!
Jazz Didn’t Die in The history books, its still here in our hearts, Lorenzo Daughtry-Chambers Jazz 100 Professor Butter fielde
Attached is the paper we spoke about. What I have done is tried to consider some of the themes we spoke about it in class regarding jazz and stylistic principles, through the thread of my uncle's life. I wrote the piece in a series of stages, in which I give a biographical overview coupled with anecdotes, actual teachings of my uncle, an overview of the jam session and what it and he ultimately accomplish. I also try to give the larger significance of the story within a larger context, and explain why it is important to non-musicians. I hope you enjoy it. I found through writing this piece that it was to be and should be much more than I did here, and consequently forced me in a different direction than I initially intended, I feel with more anecdotes, and emphasis in certain areas, my uncles story would be a good book or movie I may consider writing (entertaining if nothing else). I wrote this as a surprise for my uncle. Thank you for this opportunity. I really enjoyed the class, and I will be talking with family and thinking of proposals for my independent study over the break.
-Lorenzo D. Chambers
Franklin And Marshall College 2011
President Of I.M.P.A.C.T.
Franklin & Marshall College #425
PO Box 3220
Lancaster, PA 17604-3220
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." -- Winston Churchill
Jazz Didn’t Die in The history books, its still here in our hearts,
In life, it is the ultimate joy to develop a relationship with an individual so strikingly unique and utterly expressive, it leaves you in amazement. How does someone teach creativity? It starts with the self, It starts with the understanding of ones position within the spectrum of the universe, which is miniscule but infinite.
Born in Englewood New Jersey , Marvin “Bugalu” Smith began playing drums at age two under the tutelage of his older brother, Earl “Buster” Smith. In Marvin’s younger years, he witnessed his brother play with greats like Eric Dolphy, and studied his brother’s teachings. Marvin describes his early start in music as tough. His brother was a hard teacher, not allowing him to even sit on the drums until he had watched for countless hours. Marvin practiced daily before and after school to get better at the drums, and to meet the approval of his brother for further study. Born with dyslexia in a time before dyslexia was even diagnosed, Marvin found it hard to concentrate in school and was often ostracized because of his uncategorized difference. Marvin turned to the drums and sought to define himself as different, special, and more skilful than those that had mistreated him. What he found along his path toward greatness is what he shares with young musicians today.
In the jazz tradition, the jam session is know as the place where musicians come to play, get better, get gigs, and overall workshop themselves. The early Jam sessions at Minton’s and Monroe’s birthed Be-bop through the minds of great jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie parker, John Coltrane and countless others. At the age of seventeen, Marvin began traveling to the numerous jam sessions trying to showcase his skill and gain entrance and respect in the jazz scene. He still remembers the days of the old jam sessions, which he, and scholars support were usually “cutting contests” in which the competition was fierce and reactions to poor play were often brutish. There were no actual prizes to obtain, but in the world of music and musicianship, pride and ego are more than enough. Marvin remembers most vividly the nights he was sent home from the sessions feeling defeated and undercut.
“I was playing good, but in realty they were playing better then me. So I got an idea, and that was to study everything that the greats played at these sessions. So I started on this work, this was my great journey, to learn the great secret of the drums. It took me years, but I believe this is the greatest part of my story. Getting sent home was the best thing that happened to me, because I kept going back to the practice pad, learning my 26 six rudiments of the drums, learning how to swing on the ride cymbal, learning how to play four, eight, sixteen, and 32 bar solo's. What I learned was how to work hard, and that's what it takes, hard work, now, today!
The experiences of Marvin’s early disappointments and victories helped him find understanding of the necessities of greatness. He underscores the mastery of the basics through countless hours of study and practice, so that in the end, on the bandstand one can truly ascend to a higher level.
“The first thing you must do is get the technique under your hands, to the point were you don’t have to think about it on the bandstand. At this point, your mind is free, not heavy from thinking. Thinking will slow you down, and make you have a lot of hesitation in your playing; the key to effortless playing is to flow like water, so that even mistakes are themselves music. Then, music is in the realm of no rights, and no wrongs. This is the realm of “perfection,” and effortless playing.”
The above quote highlights the brilliance that is Marvin’s ability to see seemingly opposite entities as one, not divergent, but co-operative. Marvin learned early that it is through being in touch with the utmost true self that we control our surroundings. Not through force or will, but through openness and free flowing motion, like water. Marvin believes in always sharing lessons and knowledge. The amazing thing is he will repeat the same thing and re-tell stories, each time emphasizing a different yet profound lesson of life. The thing about these interactions is that they are completely unassuming. Marvin’s personality is embracing and enrolling which provide you no choice but to be happy, as your energy is lifted in his presence. This can be attributed to his commitment to a higher level of creation in everything he does.
Today, Marvin can be seen at gigs with a series of capes, hats, canes, or other accessories. Depending on his mood, he can wear a black cape with gold ornamentation draped to the floor, or a quarter length zebra print pea coat. A mister Miyagi style hat, or a Michael Jackson honoring fedora as well. Marvin’s wisdom is always delivered similarly to his appearance, very directly and unashamedly. His early experiences taught him that the master musician is always honest regarding their music. He is not hesitant to let his thoughts be known. Surrounded by a culture of rampant drug use, womanizing, and extravagance within the camps of major jazz artists, Marvin witnessed, and participated in many things that hardened his exterior. It is because of these experiences that his delivery is sometimes abrasive, but the love and energy behind his intent eludes to his true loving, generous, and warm interior.
Marvin learned the principles of dedication, hard work, and openness through spending considerable time with his many teachers. Marvin has been a lifetime learner and understood that to be great he had to study and understand the greats. Marvin teaches that a large part of musicianship is knowing where the music is coming from, within a historical context, so as to know where the possibilities for growth are. In his lifetime, Marvin has personally studied with master drummers Art Blakey, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Roy Hayes, Art Taylor, and his most important and influential teacher, his brother Earl “Buster” Smith. Marvin studied these master drummers, and figured out what made them great. Marvin believes the best way he can honor jazz music, its history, and himself, is to pass along the knowledge and lessons he learned along his journey.
Marvin has always found himself around music. At 16, he worked for the Tom Sound Recording Company. While there, he recorded with, and around great stars of the time including James Brown, Lola Falana, and Sam and Dave.. In 1969, Marvin Joined singer Rocky Roberts’ band and moved to Italy . Marvin enjoyed the people and the culture of Italy immensely and consequently spent 25 years living in Europe . During this time Marvin was fortunate enough to play with Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Mal Waldron, and Charles Mingus. Marvin’s career saw even further heights, eventually playing and touring with Archie Shepp and Sun Ra. Marvin speaks often about how influential the two men would be in his career and life. With Shepp, Marvin toured the world and recorded often, he notes that it was during his time with Shepp he coined his concept of “the timing of the drum,” a philosophy based on the idea that rhythm in music, follows the universal rhythms of life. This shows a clear influence from the free Avante Garde jazz Shepp and his group was often known for playing.
On his gig with Sun Ra Marvin remarks,
“One night in 1987, I had this gig in a club directly across the street from this club Sun Ra was playing at. I went on over to say what’s up to the cats and chill for a bit, I knew Sun Ra from way back so I was going to see my man. When I got in there Sun Ra and John Gilmore greeted me, and had me sit in for a set. Man, you know I went up there and burned the joint down.”
Marvin’s interpretation of the moment and energy of the songs resulted in Sun Ra offering Marvin the gig the next day.
Play what is needed, not just the technical part or what is written, or what is correct. Drummers program themselves for the bandstand, and lose the opportunity to play in the moment, and what is the song is saying. Learn to play what is needed, for this you need big ears. Technical playing is not the end of drumming, it's only the beginning, it's about the quality of the song, and the quality of what you put in it.
During his world travels, Marvin embarked on a spiritual journey on which he found Buddhism. He developed an appreciation for giving, and the recycling and reciprocation within the universe. Additionally he began to see all aspects of life holistically, which he applies to the drums. Marvin’s experiences helped him see the world in an open and transformative way. Now 58 years old, Marvin runs a school where he teaches a new generation of jazz drummers, and other musicians are given a home to play and learn as well. Marvin emphasizes to his students the importance of challenging the status quo and moving forward, values fundamental to the culture of the post-bop/ Avante Garde eras of jazz. It is his synthesis of the lessons from the big band, swing, bop, and post bop drummers, with his own style and personal influence that makes his playing so impact-full, and his lessons so effective.
Marvin’s school rests on the shoulders of three men, from differing backgrounds, who find commonplace in their commitment to the human spirit, the progression of jazz, and themselves as musicians.As college students at S.U.N.Y. New Paltz, Andrew Greeney, and Kasai Riddick studied music. While in school they met Marvin and began studying with him. Initially they were slow to accept and understanding Marvin's teachings because the teachings challenged the mind to approach the drums more universally and abstractly, and not as academically as they were taught to. As time passed, Marvin began to gain the trust of Kasai and Andrew and their relationship began to develop into something more than just a musical tutelage, it became one of genuine compassion and respect, and true love. Marvin’s musical and spiritual teachings have led Marvin, Andrew and Kasai today to a place of formidable strength within the community of those who charge themselves with preserving jazz.
Today, Marvin, Andrew, and Kasai run two jam sessions, one in Poughkeepsie New York , and one in Newburg New York. These sessions, created in the spirit of love for jazz music is a beacon of hope in areas most people don’t want to go. Historically, jazz has been associated with the “sin economy,” booming in times of hardship and taking place in less than reputable places. These sessions, through necessity embrace that aspect of their situation, as they take place in poor neighborhoods that many developers have long avoided. The sessions bring a positive, creative atmosphere that encourages fellowship through jazz music. This is a testament to the healing power of the music Marvin and his students play.
The jazz jam session used to be the stage for “cutting contests,” but under Marvin’s definition these jam sessions are “classrooms,” where students come to learn and experience true live jazz. The format for the session is the same each week, either a trio or quartet of Marvin’s peers are featured for a three to four song set, and then the session is opened up, where Marvin's students play, and any other musicians get up to play with the remaining people on the bandstand. This goes on until all newcomers have had an opportunity to play, and then the headlining band closes the evening. The personnel of the lineup changes each week, a strategic move Marvin believes keeps the bandstand fresh and exciting. Each week features stellar musicians just as accomplished as Marvin, whom he has formed both personal and musical relationships with. Marvin uses the jam sessions to put into practice the lessons he has taught his students during weekly rudimentary lessons.
Marvin’s style of teaching is to trace analogies between the spiritual, kinetic and the tangible. For example, one of Marvin’s teachings explains the purposes of the drums through comparison to the elements of the universe. Marvin calls “Earth Motion” the bass drum, mother drum, mother nature in which the sound of the bass drum or low toms under gird the other elements or drums, providing an explosion and feeling of grounded ness. Marvin teaches in jazz drumming the bass drum should be lightly feathered as opposed to static, in order to encourage flow. Marvin considers the cymbals played without the bass drum “wind.” Marvin says that the light sound of the cymbals reflects the energy of wind, and it is understood by knowing which cymbal to use, when, and for how long. “Water,” Marvin teaches is the shape of what is heard in the music. It is achieved by using the feelings deep inside oneself and results in intuition on the bandstand. Marvin contends Space is the most important element, and is comprised of the filling of space both with and without sound.
What is the larger relevance of Marvin’s school and story? Firstly, it reflects the original intent of jazz, keeping it alive by teaching the next generation of musicians just as Marvin was taught. But also, Marvin’s story and teachings are remarkable, and give example and inspiration not only for drummers but all musicians. Additionally, Marvin’s story of redemption, hope, and dedication are inspirational to anyone wanting to become the best they possibly can at whatever it is they chose. Marvin “Bugalu” Smith is quite honestly the most interesting human being anyone will have the opportunity to meet. A masterful teacher filled with infinite wisdom, trapped within the confines of a context and time period. His Speech sometimes latent with disdain reminiscent of Miles Davis yet is filled with joviality comparable to Dizzy Gillespie. His playing is amazingly free and arguably healing, and his urge to share makes Marvin truly remarkable.
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Marvin bugalu Smith drums
Neil Alexander piano
Mark Hagan bass