Kazemde George brings jazz and talk to campus – The Dickinsonian

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Kazemde George and his jazz trio paired a lively performance this weekend with a discussion of black American music and the African diaspora. George, who plays saxophone, with drummer Kayvon Gordon and bassist Dean Torrey, led a discussion on the African roots of jazz and other American musical traditions before treating a Dickinson audience with original music in the Rubendall Recital Hall.

George says, “We can use music as a way to understand this story that has not been written. He and his trio see a distinct cultural lineage that connects West African traditions with the Cuban güíro sound to American jazz and rap.

During Friday’s workshop, the three musicians addressed musical themes that cross disciplinary lines from history and anthropology to mathematics. They see music as a way to understand how people interact and move through history. George says, “you have to be open-minded on some level” in order to see these connections across space and time.

This unique cultural lineage, says Torrey, is distinct from European musical traditions. He says, “It’s very human. In European or Old World traditions, it doesn’t show. The group considers this humanity to be essential to the understanding of jazz and its complex melodic phrases. George compares harmonies and melodies of this genre to a conversation, calling and answering between musicians. He says, “There is an element of African music that is inherently community based.

Photo courtesy of Kirsten Noëlle.

When members of the West African communities that started these traditions were enslaved and forcibly brought to the Americas, they adapted the music to their new surroundings. In a process George calls “syncretism,” West African traditions have been channeled into music and equated with Christian figures. Gordon demonstrated the “drumbeat” of a deity called Elegua, who was later equated with Saint Michael or Saint Anthony, a complex rhythm full of syncopations which he said would be “immediately recognizable” to those familiar with the God.

It is from this mixture of cultures, West African, European, West Indian, that jazz was born in the United States. Although George admits that “it’s really hard to chart the beat,” he identified similar melodic phrases that have appeared in every tradition. The similarities can be hard to hear, says George, as what a West African musician might play on a drum, a jazz musician might play on a trumpet or saxophone, and a Cuban musician might play on a clave. However, parallels exist.

George’s unique background leads him to associate ideas that most people don’t see. He is a joint graduate of Harvard University and the New England Conservatory, with degrees in neurobiology and jazz composition. He says, “I always want to get to the heart of the matter… I like to analyze things and break them down to fundamental levels. He gives as an example his adventures in Brazilian music: “I have learned the same 10 songs in the last 10 years”, noting that his training in biology helps him to concentrate on everything he studies at one time. given.

Whether it be between biology and music or West Africa and the United States, George, Gordon and Torrey have made deep connections across space, time and discipline. But, as George said, “As much as I believe in all noble thoughts, so much I really believe in choosing one thing to be really good at.” When asked if he had any advice for aspiring musicians looking for inspiration in the African diaspora, he replied, “Learn about the history of people of color.”

Kazemde George released his debut album “I Insist” this year. CDs can be found here. It can be streamed on most music services.

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