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music in my soul
Noah Howard
ISBN: 978-3-00-034401-5
Edita: Buddy's Knife Jazzedition
Primera edición: Agosto 2011

Musical Reflections

For most New Orleanians, music is not a luxury but a necessity. Throughout the nineteenth century, diverse ethnic and racial groups arrived in New Orleans: French, Spanish, African, Italian, German, and Irish. They all very uniquely found a common cause in their love of music. The 1870s represented the fusion caused by a century of music making in the City of Light. During this time, the European classical legacy, the influence of European folk and African/Caribbean elements merged with American mainstream and combined Old World practices into new forms. In the new century, jazz began to emerge as part of a broad musical revolution, encompassing ragtime, blues, spirituals, and marches. It projected the profound contributions of people of African heritage into this new and distinctly American music.

In my opinion, the essence of this music is the continuous creation, through a mix of form and improvisation. My ances-tors and I are part of this creative melting pot that elevates jazz to one of the 20th century's greatest ‘living' art forms. People who do not understand the art form ‘Jazz' sometimes complain that jazz sounds as a series of random notes, made up on the spot. I can assure you, however, that my solos always exist within certain parameters and structures of sound, time, chord, key and harmony. I discovered I have the ability to take a traditional sound and notes and reconfigure this with my inner ear to develop a new sonic painting. It is not always obvious to the listener and it took years of practice and daily work, to play on that level. For 45 years I have been extensively involved in American improvisational music. It is an essential part of my soul, my future and my spiritual belief.

Noah Howard. Madrid, julio de 2010
© Maurits Mulder, 2010

The way the music evolved and I with it and within it, created a large expansion of how we hear and perceive the new music of today. While the origins of our music are clearly based in a mix created by fellow African Americans in the U.S., it has of course evolved as a real living art reincorporating music from the so called Third World and the contemporary sounds of musicians from all backgrounds. Critics have not often understood this and compartmentalized me and my music. That didn't make life easier. The art form is evolving all the time, comprehension only comes with an open mind and listening with your soul and spiritual being to become part of the creative process. The only way to remain creative and bring to the world what was given to me, is to engage in this creative process. We jazz musicians have truly been factories that have fed the world and in turn the world has fed and inspired us. So we are, through music, moving towards a oneness among human beings on this planet. We made a breakthrough so future generations can say, “Those cats left us a beautiful map”, and I am proud to be part of this continually evolving creative process.

Composition always begins for me with an emotion from deep within my soul. This emotion is transmitted to my mind through historical data I have processed, sights and events I have witnessed that affect my mind, sound associations I have picked up through traveling and listening to other master musicians and through constant study. The basic music, the New Orleans sound, the sacred music from church and funerals at first shaped my inner hearing. I believe I found the ability to innovate around abstract and radical music and bring some melody, harmony, rhythm and innovation through my strong sonic base foundation. This, of course, has been fed by many other elements over time. The historical, cultural, spiritual and ceremonial functions of music are transmitted to us, blessed musicians, to be shared with the rest of humanity. They don't belong to me or anyone else, they belong to the entire human race.

Noah Howard. Madrid, julio de 2010
© Maurits Mulder, 2010

Each piece I compose has a meaning or key and the indication lies often within the title. Take my first album for example. The first composition on this album is “Apotheosis”. I am talking about a sermon, about the end and the end signifies a new beginning. The vibrations I catch in the space between the end and the beginning are reflected in the music composed and on which we improvise collectively. The next piece is about love, the deepest innermost feeling of my soul-tender, fragile, bright, full, and open. I was in love and love is one of the greatest gifts we can receive and give in this life. I was able to create this sound, painting my feelings and the sonic environment around it.

People ask me what makes me tick, what caused me to play and compose music the way I do. My answer is quite simple: the happiness to explore and be open to all new ideas that come to me like a great plate of food that's on the table, called music. My sound on the sax has evolved from bits and pieces of all the great masters of the past but above all listening to myself and developing my own unique sound and tone on the sax as well as in my hundreds of compositions. I found the Music in my Soul.

My encounter and close friendship with Albert Ayler was very much based on a kinship in creativity. Albert was redefining the music on the basis of his reinterpretation of the sound that came out of New Orleans. He was from Cleveland where a revolutionary way of redefining music was born, with Frank Wright, Bobby Few and others all coming from there. I was able to give them the deep understanding of the sound that came from New Orleans and the exchange resulted in a new evolution in jazz. When I arrived in New York, I carried with me the knowledge of the sound I want-ed to create as a sketch, and was constantly looking for musicians that could be part of the sound painting I wanted to bring out. My first two records gave me the opportunity to select such musicians and record and paint with them. Some of those musicians were, at that stage, not necessarily the most known but they were right for what I tried to bring: the music I heard inside out. I was determined to bring the vibrations from my hometown, from my soul into my two first recordings. I was going to do it my way and had a concept that would further develop with musicians that could work sonically on what I wanted to create.

© Noah Howard, 2010
© Edición 2011 buddy's knife jazzedition