August 10, 2022

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Expansions In Jazz: Georgia Anne Muldrow

Georgia Anne Muldrow | photo by Priscilla Jimenez

On this week’s episode of Expansions in Jazz, Julian Booker is joined by multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow. The singular Los Angeles musician talks with Julian about her early life growing up the child of professional musicians, her career that has crossed through and helped to re-define jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop, and her 2020 album Mama You Can Bet! released under the name Jyoti, which was given to hear by the great Alice Coltrane. Read on for some highlights (the text has been edited for length and clarity) or listen to their entire conversation below. (Content Warning: this interview contains strong language, listener discretion is advised.)

On her childhood, growing up in Los Angeles:

“I grew up in a time before L.A. was kind of
gentrified, where you could see all types of different things happening. But,
first and foremost, my earliest memory of jazz was growing up in a house where
you weren’t allowed to really touch the radio, so that was the way life
sounded. KLON, the sound of the radio station, the way the static came in, it
gave me a lot to daydream with. I’d be real internal and looking out the
window…I remember going to the library, having a love of reading…going down
the street and singing everything I saw, making a song out of it…the
sunshine, the bus lines, how the music changed with the location that you’re
in…especially when it comes to jazz music, that’s directly linked to Leimert
Park for me–the World Stage, where I learned how to write poetry from folks
who are bop poet legends…to see them perform helped me to understand how
poetry is an extension of that artform.”

On Art Blakey’s “press roll” and what jazz music
means to her:

“Jazz music was the water I was birthed into, and I’m thankful for that. But I think a definitive moment I had, which I speak about widely and repeatedly, is when I first heard Art Blakey’s press roll. That changed my life…I didn’t aim to do it, I just saw what it was. It was like a ramp to the freeway…these 37 years have proven to me that this music is a validating part of the culture. It’s a point of rest and a point of self-actualization. You put so much into trying to figure out what it is you’re trying to say, and after you realize that you are what you’re trying to say…you have to actually throw it all away and be new every time.”

On the difference (or lack-thereof) between
“Jyoti” and “Georgia Anne Muldrow,” and what Alice Coltrane
means to her:

“I think the lines are beginning to blur a lot, and I’m thankful for the courage that’s taken. The distinction between a Georgia Anne Muldrow record and a Jyoti record…they’re both names for the same mission. To be brief and describe my relationship with Swamani Turiyasangitananda, also known as Alice Coltrane, I’ll just say that it is and always will be a life-saving kind of love.”

On Charles Mingus and re-interpreting his music with Jason
Moran for a 2017 performance at the Kennedy Center:

“I love Mingus, I absolutely love him. I love that the
status quo and what the mainstream thought was just not good enough for him…I
just love that he wanted more…I love how he didn’t settle for less and he
spoke his mind and spoke his truth. I love that Mingus was from Watts,
California and it comes out in his work. I guess because of him being a part of
a legacy of willful radical activity when it comes down to bigotry and white
supremacy…I love how expressive his music was, I love how his inter-child was
at play in everything, and I think Jason Moran saw what I like in him. And I
thank Jason Moran for the rest of my days because he gave me the space to write
and gave me the space to engage in the moment.”

On the origins of Mama, You Can Bet! standouts
“This Walk” and “Orgone”:

“It’s the fatigue of abuse, that’s where it comes from. It’s where all the Blues comes from. And depending on your personality style, the way you’re going to self-soothe in those moments as a musician. ‘This Walk’ is definitely coming from the fatigue of abuse. From dedicating, or ‘livi-cating’ my whole career to Black people, and whoever dig it outside of that group, I’m super thankful, but making that decision so long ago that I’m servicing my culture, and what happens with the exhaustion that comes with that. And with ‘Orgone,’ I was just in a really fragile state and I sat down at the piano and pushed record and just started to go, and something in my spirit said ‘now translate what you played, use your words.’ And that turned out to be a very good personal growth exercise.”

Tags: Expansions In jazz, Georgia Anne Muldrow

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