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01 The Sportsman
02 Eartha's Dance
03 The Avenue
04 Homage
05 Baker's Closet
06 Ode to George Floyd
07 Keep It Movin'
08 Blues for the Cage
09 Hittin' at the Haven
10 Go Down Moses

MOVIN’—Everything in life is Movin’, nothing stays still.


To live is to move. Every fiber of our being is movin.’ From the smallest atom to the largest celestial phenomenon, movin’ is an inextricable part of the process of being alive. We are always movin.’ As artists move along life's journey, many experiences make indelible imprints on their conscious, compelling them to try to recreate the aura of those experiences through their art. I have attempted to do that with this collection of compositions on my current CD, “Movin.’”


“The Sportsman,” “Baker’s Closet,” “Blues for the Cage,” and “Hittin’ at the Haven,” are all musings of musical establishments where live music was featured, sometimes three or four times per week, and in many cases, into the wee hours of the morning. Although the establishments have moved on, the feeling of oneness with the music between the patrons and the musicians, which was the essence those musical night spots, is what I have attempted to capture. The music kept the patrons movin.’ They patted their feet, snapped their fingers, bobbed their heads, clapped their hands, danced, and sometimes hollered out loud “yeah,” as they moved with an unconscious spontaneity to the music.


On the other hand, “The Avenue” is an aural depiction of the action on the street where the night clubs, musical bars, and theaters were located. Each city had its own street: in Chicago it was 63rd St., in Philadelphia it was South St. in New York it was 52nd St., in Atlantic City it was Kentucky Ave., in New Orleans it was Bourbon St., in Washington DC it was U St., and in Baltimore it was Pennsylvania Ave., affectionately shortened to simply “The Avenue.” The constant ebb and flow of people movin’ to and fro; musicians on break or getting off; patrons getting out of one show and trying to catch the show up the street; everybody conversing with each other and with the musicians in the mix; all looking for another place to go to mingle, to play, to connect, to eat, to drink, to hear some more music, and to dance and move!


“Eartha’s Dance,” a tribute to my wife, was inspired by how she moved when she danced. It was the way she danced, particularly while line-dancing, that captured my heart and moved me to write this song for her. While movin’ in concert with the other dancers, whenever she missed a step, I would see this comedic self-deprecating look on her face, but when she got the steps right, her face lit up in a self-assured grin, as if to say, “I got this!” What I tried to capture with the music was the joyful spirit that seemed to come alive in her face as the rhythm of the music kept her movin.’


As we move through life’s journey, from its introduction to its coda, we are never alone.  Rather, on the way, there are many who encourage us, who inspire us, who stimulate us, and who help us find our purpose. Initially, I wrote “Homage” to honor all those who provided me with the timely, yet essential motivation, that kept me movin’ toward my goals. These are the people upon whose shoulders I stand. They are of course my parents, my family, my close friends, my teachers, my students, but especially all the musicians who were and who are still in my life, as well as all my musical heroes on record who nurtured my thirst to become a musician. But then Covid-19 hit, and I shifted its intent to offer praise to all the doctors, nurses, and first responders who put their lives on the line for us so that we may live.  Many more of us would not have made it had it not been for the selfless, and courageous health care workers who cared for us during one of the most atrocious pandemics in the history of mankind. It is with honor that I include them in the dedication of my song “Homage” for helping us move through such a horrendous human tragedy.


“Ode to George Floyd” was written the day after the world witnessed George Floyd’s brutal assassination at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. The incident shook my spirit to its core! As an artist, a trumpet player, a musician, with a regularly performing band, one thing that I knew I could do to express my utter displeasure with such a horrible experience, was to write some music. Every morning as I walk, a space seems to open in my consciousness releasing my creative juices.  It was still dark that morning when I went out, and I immediately started humming a melody.  It seemed like my body and my mind became the conduit for this melody that continued to come effortlessly out of my heart and soul until I had a complete song! By the time I got home, I had the melody, the form, and the harmonic structure. The title, “Ode to George Floyd” came last. We rehearsed and performed it several times during the pandemic. Each time we played it, we could feel the weight of the knee on George Floyd's neck! We don't play this song often because of the gravity of its meaning, and how it tends to evoke feelings of sheer remorse in our audience.  When we do play it and arrive at the last note, we must pause to disengage from the weight of its significance before we can move on. . . . As you listen, remember that George Floyd was an African American human being who was loved by many, but who became yet another martyr whose death, we hope, keeps us moving closer to a vindication of the victimization that African Americans (as well as other oppressed communities) have endured for decades.


During a trying period in my life, a close friend of mine who, whenever she sensed that I needed encouragement, would look and me with concern in her eyes and say, “John, just keep it movin’!” As the mantra she lived by, she repeated it many times and in many situations. That was her philosophy! Upon hearing her often repeat it as she helped me get through my day, I told her that I was going to write a song for her and call it “Keep It Movin’.”

In the song I tried to musically capture her personality, which was buoyant and positive, and always on the move.


From the repertoire of our Sacred Jazz Quintet, I chose to include my jazz arrangement of the spiritual “Go Down Moses." This was one of the songs that my wife used to sing with the band. The lyric, taken from the book of Exodus, is a command from God to Moses, ordering him to go to Egypt and tell the Pharaoh to let the enslaved Israelites go. Dating back to the 1850s, this song, like many spirituals, was used as a code song by Harriet Tubman to communicate with enslaved African Americans as they fled from the South to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Having grown up in the South in the 1950s and '60s, my wife’s experience of racism empowered her to channel the anguish she must have felt growing up and infuse it into the delivery of the lyrics. Sometimes it would be as if she were preaching, not only about her experiences, but also about the surreptitious bondage that still exists today and the need to end the oppression of men, woman, children, and entire communities who live in fear.  Given the level of violence experienced daily, this song evokes the need to voice the question: when are we going to let our people go to school, to church, to a bowling alley, to the movies, to a block party, or to a grocery store safely – free of the constant bondage of senseless mayhem, and thus be able to move through our lives in peace and harmony?

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