A Thousand More, If Only They Knew

Adegoke Steve Colson

A Thousand More, If Only They Knew
Performed By Adegoke Steve Colson
Album UPC 888295346474
CD Baby Track ID TR0002017401
Label Silver Sphinx Recordings
Released 2015-11-20
BPM 130
Rated 0
ISRC US8FZ0900035
Year 2015
Spotify Plays 88
Writer Steve Colson
Pub Co Coal-Sun Publishing
Composer Steve Colson
ClearanceFacebook Sync License,Traditional Sync,YouTube Sync ServiceOne Stop
Rights Controlled Master and Publishing Grant
Rights One-Stop: Master + 100% Pub Grant
Original/Cover/Public Domain original
Country United States - New Jersey
Lyrics Language English


Pianist’s first release since acclaimed CD The Untarnished Dream ..artist approaches this solo piano project like a master storyteller as he pays tribute to three icons of the battle against slavery: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass


Liner Notes -
Vijay Iyer

Let’s start with a too-infrequently-asked question: Who is Adegoke Steve Colson? I have been fortunate to know the man and his music for some years, and he is a creative musician who never fails to surprise me. As one would hope about any fully realized individual, the more I learn about him, the more difficult it becomes to tell you who he is. But there’s something about solo piano that reveals so much - not just about the artist, but about our listening process, in the way we find ourselves ascribing intention and humanity to the person at the piano. Simply put, Colson’s actions speak.

What do his actions on this record tell us? They demonstrate that Mr. Colson sits at a crossroads of multiple streams in this music:
- the metamorphic tradition. He seeks to bring about a transformative experience for the listener by inducing one in himself, through the exacting rigors of musicmaking; this is what we witness in the greatest, most genuine improvisers and the most visionary performers: John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Sonny Rollins, Cecil Taylor, and dozens more.
- the meditative tradition. Much of this music arises from a process of cognitive release, a unification of thought and action; it is close to yoga (in its re-linking of the body and mind), or meditation (with the clarity that emerges from observing one’s thoughts and actions as if from a distance). We think immediately of Muhal Richard Abrams, Andrew Hill, Abdullah Ibrahim, Alice Coltrane, and many others.
- the activist tradition. To borrow the words of the great poet-activist Amiri Baraka, Colson is one of those “artists who want their works to spring from the whole of society’s life, not just the inside of their heads… [s]o that finally they are emblazoned in all of us.” This puts us in mind of Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Charles Mingus, Randy Weston, Harry Belafonte, and a great lineage of other artists of conscience.

It might seem implausible that one album could do all of these things at the same time. Or perhaps it is simply surprising to note that this construct so frequently called “tradition” could be understood to encompass multiple historical trajectories with different, if overlapping, priorities. But this record offers us precisely that kind of impossible beauty - it is a genuine synthesis of these multiple tendencies in the history of creative music.

“Tones for…” is simultaneously the result of a raw, intimate, introspective process of transformative, richly detailed creative inquiry at the piano, and a sonic monument to three great African American abolitionists: Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and especially Harriet Tubman, a radical saint, a liberator and savior of enslaved human captives of African descent from the American South. Of these three individuals, Colson writes, “In being ‘summoned’ or ‘called’ to their mission, they were always for change and transformation, not for hate or savage retribution. They were true revolutionaries in a time of hard, hard slavery.”

Joining these paths of intent - what we could call “beauty” and “truth” - this record seeks to bring you, moment by moment, to that point of contemplation of the unknown, and yet also to link that mystical aesthetic experience to a recognition of America’s abysmal historical realities and their lingering influence on the present.

How do we hear all of this in the music? I hear Colson’s hands at the keys, as with Monk, inseparable from the notes they play. I hear spontaneous counterpoint, shards of melody,
flashing colors; I hear gestures of the arms and of the heart; I hear narratives emerge through the accrual of form. I hear a striking continuity between tones and noise, as if the shards of melody are hard-won truths rescued from the abyss. This is music full of sharp angles — the clusters, the melodic cells, the rugged lines, the often-steely touch — and also resplendent with wide contours — the sweep of the forearm, the rising and falling waves of energy, the contemplative arcs through time.

This music could be described as fractal, in its multiple levels of order: detailed figures in counterpoint and in sequential antiphony, accruing as they do to greater levels of formal balance through opposition. “The Burden” is plaintive and tender, while “We saw the lightning” is full of tumult; composed ballad forms like “I Didn’t Know” or “Lingering” are juxtaposed with more spontaneous creations like “A Thousand More, if Only They Knew.” The large events, the two-hand unison rolls and the builds in intensity,
are offset by tonal meditations and delicate lines.

What will this music do, in your life? Colson refuses to merely offer up beauty in a vacuum. This beauty is that impossible variety - the kind that burns, the kind that feels endangered, as though it shouldn’t even be there, or might not stay very long. Monk called it Ugly Beauty. “Tones for… Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass” will bring a state of calm to the listener, but it won’t allow you to forget two burning truths about this music - that it is born of struggle and that it embodies resistance.

Vijay Iyer

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