“We Must Get Closer To The Essence Of Life / But Be Aware, It’s Takes Courage And Strife.” From the early seventies up until hurricane Katrina in 2005, I was a DJ on radio station WWOZ. Over the years I hosted a number of programs, three of which were “Morning Meditations”, “The Kitchen Sink”, and “The Essence Of Life” that featured a cover-the-waterfront approach to the music.
Once we had a musician called “Sweet Mickey” in the studio. He and I hit it off bantering back and forth. He was from Haiti and I had been to Haiti (from standing atop the Citadel located in Cap Hatien up in the north of the country, to marveling at the beautiful black sand seaside of Jacmel in the south). A few years after laughing with the affable guest, Michel Martelly became the president of Haiti in 2011.
I spent many a morning as a record spun, and in the later years of my tenure, standing behind the console as a CD rotated, looking out the big window that stretched the width of the second floor studio of the Kitchen building in Armstrong Park. I would silently watch the sun come up as I pulled the early shift beginning at six in the morning. I always ended with Labi Siffre’s wonderful song, “(Something Inside) So Strong” — which became my anthem. But then I also spent years pulling the night shift doing the Kitchen Sink, a program whose name accurately described the musical content.
Gary Bartz was a favorite whom I had met a couple of times when he was on tour and came through New Orleans. I was especially enamored of Bartz’s NTU Troop albums and a song called Celestial Blues, which was composed by Bartz’s pianist and vocalist of that period, Andy Bey (who was also a favorite).
Recently I read a fascinating Jazz Times article that featured Bartz musing about and documenting selections from his recording career. Although I’m a Coltrane freak and heavily lean into tenor saxophonists, I nevertheless give big ups to Gary Bartz.
In the Jazz Times article, Bartz claims he’s not much of a vocalist, but any quick listen to his alto saxophone stylings makes clear he sings through his horn. Indeed, the vocalizations, especially his searching and soaring aural articulations are the deeply felt sound of a truly great saxophone-vocalist to whom we should all get closer.