Taylor Ho Bynum

*Photo by Peter Gannushkin

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I just finished Don Quixote, and it was quite a revelatory read. Cervantes is such a primary influence in the work of so many of my favorite authors: Borges, Calvino, Nabokov, Reed, Murdoch, Saramago, Rushdie, Carter, Pynchon, Murakami, etc. Essentially, you can’t imagine modern fiction without him. It’s like hearing Louis Armstrong for the first time after being a jazz fan for years, you begin to understand where the basic vocabulary and creative aesthetic comes from. Only it’s almost more profound, since Cervantes was writing three to four hundred years before everyone else! It serves to support a long-standing argument of mine: that work that was originally cutting edge, be it Beethoven’s 3rd or early Ellington or mid-eighties Prince, will always seem fresh, no matter how old or popular or accepted it gets. The book is also ridiculously funny, it often seems more like a Monty Python skit than a piece of classic literature.

Don Quixote provides a great metaphor for pursuing a life in creative music (or really any creative endeavor in the present culture). In my dictionary, the word “quixotic” is defined as “foolishly impractical”, but I don’t think that captures the character. Quixote is often considered buffoonish, but there is a real beauty and nobility to being so fully committed to pursuing an idealized world, even if all of the present reality is against it. It reminds me of the famous Sun Ra quote, when he was accused of attempting the impossible with his music and his mythology. “Everything possible has been tried and nothing has changed. What we need is the Impossible.” People might not care, people might not get it, people might think it is crazy. But you have to go for it.

So with thoughts of the Knight of La Mancha in mind, it seems as good a time as any to start this blog. (Blog is such an odd and loaded word. I’d prefer just to call it “occasional writings”, but I waste enough time parsing the word “jazz”, so I’ll skip that battle and just call it a blog.) With the humble, self-appointed goal of trying to help raise the discursive standards of creative music, I’ll use this as a forum to discuss my work, and the creative work that moves me. This is one of several new endeavors, along with starting a new record label, working with a few progressive arts organizations, and the daily grind of trying to practice the cornet, write some music, and play some gigs while living in NYC. While none of the tasks are inherently quixotic (though producing the 10 CD set of Braxton music that will kick off the label seems almost as intense as jousting windmills), I do hope to emulate the commitment, hope, and good humor that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza had on their journeys.

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