Dashiki Dialogues: Jazz gives the Easter weekend a real divinity

2014-04-21 10:00

‘The creator has a master plan, peace and happiness for every man. The creator has a working plan, peace and happiness for every man. The creator makes but one demand, happiness through all the land.”

These simple phrases are offered up as a mantra seven minutes into what could be the most ethereal half-hour ever recorded.

This secular spiritual jazz composition, called The Creator Has a Master Plan, features on Pharaoh Sanders’ 1969 album, Karma.

Yes, it’s Easter weekend and I too have the divine on my mind.

So dive with me into the black pool of genius.

This is a tale of how jazz opened the door to holy communion for me after religion lost its pragmatic hue.

The epiphany begins with a light musing over St John Coltrane’s sonic sermons and the joyous thrust of his music.

(This is St John the Saxophonist, not to be confused with St John the Baptist.)

Anyway, solitude has a tendency to make men wander into wonderment.

So out of the stillness of my meditative moment, I heard a hallowed, howling tenor horn. It is Sanders’ introductory crescendo.

He is heaving and crying out like a Pentecostal preacher man in the heat of pastoral prophesy.

Sanders’ saxophone morphs into a sceptre of sorts, a conduit to truths only the music can help us find.

He knows something and his life depends on him articulating it with as clear a voice as it’s possible for him to evoke.

And this opening phrase says he is doing fine.

Once his opening sound reaches the zenith of its sonorous message, the band plunges into a calm akin to a postcoital lull.

Then there’s a bass line marching to a four-note motif, structured to remind savvy listeners of the one Jimmy Garrison lays down as the foundation to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which is perhaps the grandest sonic masterpiece of secular black spirituality.

All the while, as the bass line marches on unhurriedly, you can hear chimes, whistles and shakes chirping like a forest of birds.

It’s something like paradise regained.

At this point, you want to testify that the poet John Milton got it horribly wrong.

How can paradise be lost when you can still hear and feel, believe and reach?

The ebullient saxophonist has birthed sonic hope.

There’s a newness to our dashikis and a fresh sense of conviction in our dialogues: The Creator Has a Master Plan.

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