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January 25, 1983 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1983-01-25

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The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, January 25, 1983

Page 5

Poet of a land, culture

By Jim Boyd
S EAMUS HEANEY is a man who
Robert Lowell once described as
being "the most important poet writing
in Ireland since W.B. Yeats." On Wed-
nesday, January 26, the University has
the pleasure of hosting a visit by
Heaney where he will read selected
Heaney has written five collections of
poetry, among them Death of a
Naturalist, his most recent collection
Field Work, and a compilation of four of
his earlier collections entitled Poems
He will read some of his poetry at 7:30
Wednesday evening in Rackham
Auditorium with a reception following.
In addition to this, between 3 and 5 p.m.
Friday afternoon he will host a poetry
workshop in the Henderson Room of the
Michigan League.

Born in County Derry, Ireland in 1933,
Heaney has taught at the University of
Belfast, the University of California at
Berkeley, and is presently teaching at
Harvard University.
Heaney's is a poetry of his land and
its culture. An appropriate metaphor
for his artistic process would be that of
a man digging - digging for his past
and that of his people. He writes:
"Between my finger and my thumb
/ A squat pen rests / I'll dig with
it." His poetry is rooted in rural
processes; in the bogs, the turf, and all
that is found within. For Heaney,
"feeling" the land is akin to recognizing
one's own emotions.
Through his poems he tries to create
elements that are as authentic as the
archeological finds to which he likens
them. He views the land as a preser-
vation of culture; a preservation that
affords him an opening onto history and
his cultural background. Again digging,

Heaney relates: "Our pioneers keep
striking / Inwards and downwards /
Every layer they strip / Seems cam-
ped on before. " Heaney expertly
mines the vastly fertile cultural
background of Northern Ireland.
The politics of Northern Ireland,
being as dependent on its history aild
culture as they are, have found their
way into much of Heaney's poetry. He
feels that a political poet must pay
respect to language, for language is~a
poet's faith. A poet serves his people by
serving his language.
His art encompasses the land, its.
people, and their way of life - both past
and present. His insights prove in-
valuable to anyone with an interest in
Ireland, the English language, dr
poetry in general. He is very possibly,
the most brilliant poet of the English
language today, and that is not, a
resource to be wasted.


Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society played to an enthusiastic crowd Saturday night at the U-Club.
Jackson decodes jazz

By Jerry BrabenaC

THE STEADILY expanding Ann
Arbor cadre of Ronald Shannon
Jackson fans was on hand at the U Club
Saturday night for the latest in a series
of incredible jazz/funk concerts.
Tapes were secured that may figure
in a live album by the Decoding Society,
on the assumption that the band would
play hotter in Ann Arbor than it does in
New York. It seems that the loyal,
hermitic little Ann Arbor jazz com-
munity gives a performer the kind of
support they can't find even in the Big
The same six-piece band appeared
last year, generating impossibly com-
plicated, multi-faceted textures from
just two basses, guitar, two horns, and
drums. If anything, this year's show
seemed more intense than last year's,
with fewer "relaxed" sections, less
variety, and more driving adrenaline
The renovation of the U Club has ac-
tually helped the acoustics slightly,
with the same plaster and wood for
good resonance, a higher ceiling, and
an enthusiastic mass of humanity to
absorb some of the excess noise. The
show got started slightly late, but there
was good news from MC Peter Pret-
sfelder, including upcoming Ann Arbor
appearances by trumpeters Marcus
Belgrave (the Detroit jazz mainstay),
and the amazing Wynton Marsalis,
perhaps the most acclaimed young jazz
virtuoso to emerge in 15 years.
The band's entry was very satisfac-
tory, with most everyone affecting
leather pants and vaguely "Flash Gor-
don"-like sashed tunics. The ,title tune
from the band's most recent album,
Mandance (on Antilles Records),
opened the show, only to screech to an
abrupt halt within seconds. Jackson's
onstage monitor speakers were not fun-
ctioning, ,and with 20 or 30 drums
surrounding him, he wasn't going to be
able -to hear his band. The snag was
overcome with good-humored im-
patience, and soon the band jumped in-
to a raucous freeform fanfare where
they left off. "Mandance" is a fast,
aggressive rocker in 12/8 time with a
very high unison horn line. An alto sax
solo started over the two basses
doubling the same line when the trum-
peter began to throw in his own inter-
jections, and soon it was back to the
"Barbecue Dog" followed, with a
march-like beath that backed up a solo
by trumpeter Henry Scott. Scott is one
of those trumpet players you hear
playing lead in big bands who can play
incredibly high notes all night long with
no apparent strain and not even much
effort. In conversation later that
evening, Scott said he picked up a lot of
his high chops playing in salsa bands
out in New York. He finds that, in the
Decoding Society, with the basses and
guitar generating dense midrange tex-
tures, the trumpet has to stay in the
high rana for the altn sax tn he heard

makes one trumpet sound like four or
five playing in harmony.
"Yugo Boy" featured the bass guitar
of Melvin Gibbs counter-playing again-
st a very fast disco beat driven by
Jackson's highhat. Gibbs has as much
technique as any bass player you're
ever going to hear, and cranked off a
long solo full of runs, sequences, fuzzy
power chords, bent strings, and even
the kitchen sink, finishing up on his bot-
tom two strings after he broke the third
A similar tempo with steady bass
drum introduced "Trials of an Honest
John," which featured Zane Massey on
alto sax with a lot of Echoplex. Elec-
tronic effects were made for this band,
because in the general mood of lunatic
freedom that prevails on the ban-
dstand, bewildering electronics are just
one part of an everchanging onslaught.
"Nickels and Dimes" was the guitar
features, and Vernon Reid took it all the
way out. Reid has an interesting role in
the band to start with, because of the
two bass players trade riffs between
themselves, taking over a lot of the
background parts that would usually be
rhythm guitar. This leaves Reid free to
double horn lines or simply ramble
around, which he does the bulk of the
time, playing disconnected lines that,
together with Jackson's polyrhythmic
drums, give the impression that two or
three different rhythms are going at
Reid approaches his solos with the at-
titude that "More is more." Every
second he's wringing new feats of
technique from the guitar, bending over
until the neck points at the floor,
grimacing comically at the audience,
and generally coming on pretty strong.
The kind of excitement this generates
is central to the Decoding Society's ap-
peal: The listener is assaulted with an
overwhelming wash of jazz/funk that
nobody could sit and listen to
passively. First it's foot tapping, but
before you know it you're laughing out
loud. Reid particularly seemed like a
parody of all the Carlos Santanas and
other self-important guitar gods.
Reid picked up a banjo next, for a
tune from Mandance entitled "Iola."
This featured more Melvin Gibbs bass

guitar and a delay due to a broken
string that turned into a drum solo. Ac-
tually, the textures of Jackson's tunes
are set up to give him solo space all the
time, and the listener gradually
realizes that all the delirious sounds the
guitars and horns generate are driven
and made possible by Jackson's com-
plex but always danceable beats.
"Harlem Opera" was the only
breathing space of the evening, as
Jackson came up front to play a flute
introduction over an assortment of
small songs and cymbals. Soon the
basses were playing a repeating phrase
that underlays the rest of the tune,
eventually becoming choral as the band
sang to accompany Scott's trumpet.
Scott had an anecdote about Harlem
that was sort of ironic: It seems they
played in Harlem last summer and the
street crowd made rude remarks and
came close to throwing bricks because
the Society didn't sound like the Gap
Band or something. This music may.
be rather challenging and unconven-
tional, but unlike some modern jazz, in-
tellectual justification is not necessary,
because the Society communicates on
about the most fundamental level there
is - the dance.
The concert closed with introductions
of the band members to the tune of
"The Art of Levitation" from Mandan-
ce. Reverend Bruce Johnson played a
slap and pop style funk solo on his
fretless bass, and the concert closed out
with an encore performance of
"Backstroke," which featured Reid on
a Roland guitar synthesizer like King
Crimson uses to such advantage.
Overall, a triumphant evening for the
Society and for Ann Arbor jazz audien-
ces, who can pat themselves on the
back in the knowledge that some of the
best avant garde musicians in New
York come here to record live. A couple
of slight technical problems delayed
things during the evening, but the
band's humorous way of coping with
such occurences kept the vibrations
going strong. With that much electronic
mayhem going down on one little stage,
we're just lucky the Union didn't ex-

Wall of Voodoo-
'Call of the West' (IRS)
A warning to all of you necromantics-
-pins do not puncture vinyl. However
you may not even make an attempt, as
Call of the West has emerged as one of
the hottest sleepers of the year. An in-
teresting footnote is that this kinetic
quartet has gained recognition by the
Chicago Tribune for the best live per-
formance of the year in the city. Thus,
after two previous efforts, Wall of
Vodoo has finally located the epicenter
of their doll of success.
The animated group comprised of Joe
Nanini, Standard Ridgway, Chas Gray,
and Marc Moreland exploit an unusual
new sound consisting of a bedrock of
synthesized :rhythm; machine tracks
resembling something heard on a
Hammond organ, woven into a
Western-style instrumental motif. Ex-
cessive use of rhythm machine
programs would normally drain the
potency of a song, yet Wall of Vodoo
Adam Ant - 'Friend or Foe'
Don't be fooled into believing that this
album is radically different, has a
"new" sound, or contains anything so
startling so as to tear Adam down from
his zenith of UK stardom.
Friend or Foe follows logically in the
progression from Kings of the Wild
Frontier and Prince Charming. It strips
away the fashion and folly of the Prince
Charming Revue, but doesn't regress to
the level of Kings.
Continuing in the Adam Ant tradition,
we have a light, whimsical album: fun
lyrics, tribal rhythms, and great guitar
lines. Marco Pirroni, who appears on
Kings and Charming plays an impor-
tant role on Friend or Foe. He keeps
coming with those Venture-esque
Liberty off State ........669-9329
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manages to escape the quicksand by
diverting the attention of the listener to
intriguing but nasal sounding vocals,
and the utilization of a variety of other
special effects which for the most part,
tend to augment the sound of each
selection. The main reason how the
band eludes monotony and congruity is
their effective efforts in producing a
distinctive variation in the structure
and timing of each song despite sharing
an often mutual rhyth:m program.
The band is not particularly overbur-
dened with talent, however they seem
to maximize their individual abilities to
produce an appealing package of tunes.
In so doing they initiate a metamorphisis
from mere simplicity to intircacy.
One of the singles from the release,
"Mexican Itadio," has enjoyed airplay
on several radio stations and has also
been recorded as a video appearing on
cable music channels; both mediums
giving them exposure which certainly
has widened the breadth of their
audience. "Mexican Radio" is a song
which features multi-layered syn-
thesized rhythm and special effects
guitar riffs and maintains the Ant-
music style that we know and love.
Friend or Foe develops nicely -
chock full of cheery pop. Adam and
Marco add sax and trumpet to nearly
every song, and to tell the truth, the
horn parts may be the only deviation
from their original sound. Favorite
Tracks: "Desperate But Not Serious"
and "Friend or Foe."
- Melissia Bryan

which illuminate the vocal capacities of
lead singer, Standard Ridgway. The
line, "I wish I was in Tijuana eating
barbequed iguana," leaves the listener
wondering if the band actually eats
four-legged lizards.
Call of the West is not directed towar-
ds any particular theme but offers a
diversity of insights into various con-
cerns. In "The Factory," Wall of Vodop
capsulizes the experience of the factory
worker who labors knowing that his job
will one day take his life, "And at nine
o'clock I sit there in my chair and I
don't know why I lose my hair."
Death will eventually come, but at the
present the worker is satisfied because
he knows he will, "take the same road
home that I (he) come(s) to work on."
Call of the West is an album worth
listening to--borrow it from a friend. Its
rhythmic underpinning grafted onto a
western-like sound is unusually distin-
et, creating an auditory teasing which
seemingly defies categorization. The
striking freshness of the album could
stale quickly if Wall of Vodoo does not
contain the use of the rhythm
machines, a feature which works well
for now but one that could dampen
potential in the future.
- Tom McDonald



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