"Montgomery" is based on the events in Montgomery, Alabama that took place in 1955 and 1956 as the social upheaval that resulted in American integration began to roll its own particular tide toward righting the tottering ship of race relations in our country.
"Tales of the Montgomery Bus Boycott" starts with a young black, pregnant teenage girl named Claudette Colvin who, in March of 1955, decided not to move to the back of the bus. That composition is about her courage.
"Along Dexter Avenue" is about the bombing of Dr. Martin Luther King's house, which was, I believe, on the same street as the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. I recall taking an overseas flight through Atlanta International Airport a few years ago and they had a display of King memorabilia in a glass case in the concourse. Inside the case was an inspired letter written by King to his parishoners. I read that letter and cried. "Along Dexter Avenue" is not a blues form per se, but it's some kind of blues. African-Americans were
only trying to establish the decency and dignity that all human beings deserve, for themselves.
"Joy at the Jail" was composed for what took place in the Mongomery jail where Dr. King was incarcerated, and he soon got over the shock of his arrest because his followers surrounded the jail and he ended up having to go outside to address this huge throng of well-wishers. The piece is written in the bebop style of mainstream jazz from the fifties. John Colliani, Jim Cammack and myself experienced our own vicarious joy when we recorded this tune--especially Cammack's blues/funk phrase played at a rapid, repetitive pace in his solo.
The nature of Dr. King's task as an innovative leader brought to my mind the "Amazing Grace" song, so we did our own version. The first sixteen bars were arranged by the late Teo Macero, Miles Davis' producer at Columbia records, and I did the rest. I wanted to put that remarkable feeling of experiencing a spiritual epiphany into a different musical context, hence the off-the-wall arrangement.
"L'Homage" is simply my bowing down and touching the feet of the great man, Martin Luther King, Jr. I had seen him speak at the University of Washington when I was a sophomore there in the early sixties. Even at my tender age I knew I was in the presence of an extraordinary human being.
It has been said by my life-teacher, Daisaku Ikeda, that a profound human revolution in a single individual can change the course of history for the better. Dr. King was such a person. I want to encourage all of you who hear this record to spur yourselves to do the same; to do the best with your life.
We played two standards that I feel supported the transcendant theme that was the civil rights movement. The message of "Beautiful Love" speaks for itself. Musically, the composition touches me deeply because this was one of Joe Pass' favorite tunes.
"What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" is, as an instrumental, a message to make sure that all of us, as we head down the road of existence, take great care to live our lives with no regret, in spite of whatever obstacles may come our way. This was one beautiful arrangement by our brilliant pianist John Colliani, whose technique is surpassed only by his deep soul. I appreciate, from the bedrock of my existence, John and James for their incredible efforts to make this project a reality.
In closing I want to say to my stellar musicians/colleagues and to you, our listeners, the only words spoken to me by John Coltrane when I met him: "Thank You!"
Thank you, good people who love music.
Thank you, all those who have helped me create good karma in this lifetime.
Thank you, Tom Mindte, for making this project happen.