I learned a lot about life and music from Ornette Coleman - interview with Jamaaladeen Tacuma

Piotr Wojdar

You are an artist, bass player, producer, teacher... which of this professions is the most important for you nowadays?

Jamaaladeen Tacuma: I have been in the business for a long time now and all of the positions I hold in the music business, I really function with it all the time. At first thought one isn’t more important now. Being an artist as a bass player, a producer, a composer, a fashion stylist is all important to me at the same time. However I think at my age I do have a lot to offer as a producer, helping another musical artist realize their musical ideas is something I enjoy and have a gift for. At this time in my career i have a vast amount of experience to draw on, including recording techniques, roster of musicians, engineers and recording studios, design studios for artwork, promotional and PR consulting that all work well together, as well as my intuitive nature and feel for a persons creativity and pushing them to bring forth their very best in a musical setting. In some ways its a one stop shop you might say. In a way it is more than producer and includes role as career consultant.

Is the Philadelphia a good place to grow as a musician? How it was when you've started your career and how it is now?

JT: Philadelphia is a very important place for music as there are many players that come from PHILADELPHIA and when I started out there was so much love given to me as a young musician. There is still much love here and and all of the older musicians and younger musicians work together the older musicians passing on what they know, and can to the next generation. PHILADELPHIA is a place of extreme music creativity. Growing up there was a huge club scene that a young player could work in and learn their chops and there were music programs in schools with high level musicians teaching us. Today things are changing but the community is filling the gaps with new ways,  We have great music schools here like the Celf Club of Jazz which is not only an education center but a great music venue, they are working hard to keep live music alive and educate the next generation of performers. CEC another arts venue supportive the the local musicians. Musical artist are finding ways to perform in alternative venues and the city of Philadelphia and other cultural organizations offer grants and support to presenters and independent musicians. There is a lot going on here, many people are moving from New York and other places because it is more affordable to live and still has the cool scene, we have very vibrant community.

You've played on historic recordings of Ornette Coleman. Which one is your favorite and why?

JT: I love them all but I think “Dancing In Your Head” is very dear to my heart because this is the beginning for me in meeting Ornette and learning the concepts of complete music compositional improvisation in regards to a full band and my bass guitar.

How was Ornette Coleman?

JT: Ornette Coleman was a master musician as well as a kind and warm human being. He was also a very hard working and serious composer, constantly writing and had a strict work ethic especially about rehearsing, people thought we just got up and blew, but in reality we would rehearse one song for 12 hours a day and he wanted us extremely prepared musically on stage at same time improvisation was at the heart of what we did ,the  long rehearsing made us all great improvisers. Ornette helped all of us who studied with him to unlearn the restrictions of western music and freed us to find out own unique musical voice. I learned a lot about life and about music from Ornette Coleman. Being so young when I started working with him he was like a father figure for me.

When and where did you met Artur Majewski?

JT: I met Artur when his trio band came to play in Philadelphia,  I do not really go out to see music that much, that night a friend asked me to join him at this concert, and I am glad I went. I appreciated they way Artur played his instrument and had an immediate musical understanding with him.

How did it happen that you decided to work with him?

JT: I decided that I wanted to work with Artur after seeing his passion for improvisation and his expertise on the trumpet and ambient soundscapes, After seeing his performance in Philadelphia I knew we could communicate in music very well together. I am very happy this opportunity came up in Warsaw.

What do you think about Vasco Trilla with whom you will be also playing on Jazz Jamboree?

JT: I will be excited to play with with Vasco Trillo the drummer as I have  heard that he is a serious and complete musician and percussionist.

You have your own festival. Could you tell me how did it happen that you decided to organise it?

JT: A few years ago the city of Philadelphia started a program to highlight Philadelphias's Jazz history and its contributions to the world of Jazz Music, many famous and influential jazz musicians were born here or spent a serious amount of time living here. many more than you would think. 5 years ago I received an invitation to City hall to the mayors reception party for Philadelphia's Jazz Appreciation Month and was informed my photo would be placed on a huge poster to be displayed all over the city . I was selected among many others as one of Philadelphias influential Jazz musicians. I also thought it was funny since I had not been asked to perform anywhere during the month, there were many concerts but no one asked me to play. I decided to go ahead and make my own concert, after receiving a generous donation from a philanthropist in Philadelphia, I had the funds to create the first Outsiders Improvised & Creative Music Festival , i curated the performances and my partner helped me with the artwork , administration and logistics it all came together in 3 weeks time and we had 25 performers and sold out the venue . my goal was to offer a place for improvisers and creative musicians to perform and highlight their contributions to the over all music seen in Philly and giving the audience the experience of a European music festival I had been performing at for years. many of these musicians might travel the world but are left off the more commercial festivals here in the USA . April 2019 was our 5th festival and we had 5 events in celebration of our anniversary.  Ornettes Prime Time featuring Odean Pope, Marshall Allen &  of Sun Ra Arkestra , King Britt, John Zorn, Henry Grimes, James Brandon Lewis, Abe Speller, Will Calhoun, Vernon Reid, Elliott Sharp, Oliver Lake, Kelvyn Bell, Craig Harris, David Murray, Harriet Tubman and more have appeared at the festival since we started.  We just had our first international pop up festival  in Vancouver BC and we are working on other locations for 2020.

What are your plans for the near future?

JT: My plans for the future are god willing to continue to practice my faith and strive to be the best human being I can be. Musically I am working on several new projects and collaborations, with some interesting album releases and productions coming out in 2020, as well as touring with The Last Poets and the Band of Resistance in promotion of our 2019 release Transcending Toxic Times, A new trio with Jamaaladeen Tacuma Trio , featuring Gary Bartz and Ronnie Burrage is also touring.

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