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September 30, 1994 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-09-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



s

.

MC 900 Ft. Jesus is one step ahead

By BRIAN A. GNATT
At first glance, Mark Griffin may
seem like your everyday classically
trained musician. However, his alter
ego, MC 900 Ft Jesus, is a crazed and
outrageously intellectual performer and
creative genius of progressive music.
His amalgam of hip-hop, jazz, com-
puter-generated music and spoken word
make him an innovative pioneer of
new music.
"My first big influence was Herb
Alpert. That's what made me startplay-
ing trumpet when I was in sixth grade,"
Griffin recalled.
After graduating as aconservatory-
trained trumpet player with a degree in
music, Griffin began working towards
his masters at North Texas State. He
soon realized becoming a music teacher
wasn't for him, and left the University.
With an enormous amount of talent
backing him up, Griffin has the oppor-
tunity to develop his music into any-
thing he wants. His latest release, "One
Step Ahead of the Spider," includes an
impressive cover of Curtis Mayfield's
"Stare and Stare" with Living Colour's
Vernon Reid.
"Right nowI'mreal centered around

trying to make what I consider to be a
validjazz record on my own terms. But
I don't know if anyone else in the
whole world would call me ajazz artist.
I don't even know if I consider myself
a jazz artist," admitted Griffin. "It's
just something I'm trying to do for this
one record. Here I am on the road with
a bunch of really good players, and I
wouldn't have even attempted it if I
couldn't get people who could really
play. I hate guys trying to fake play
jazz. I really hate that shit, so I would
have never gone out on the road if I
would've had to do it that way."
"One Step Ahead of the Spider"
take Griffin and his group to a new
level. "I'm real happy with the album,
although it took me way too long to do
it. It was the first time I had ever done
sessions with that many people. It was
kind of like bassakwards song writing
where I had to write the lyrics around
the dramatic flow of these jam ses-
sions, basically.
"This was the first time I've ever
been a leader of an eight piece group,
and had to tell everybody what Ineeded
them to do, conduct the rehearsals and
play at the same time. It was quite an

experience. Also, for the sequenced
stuff, I bought myself a Mac. It was the
first time I've ever even owned a com-
puter, so I learned my way around
that."
Griffin's poetic spoken word over
jazz grooves is acool and mellow com-
bination not explored by many other
artists. "I get most of my influences
from reading books and authors with a
sense of humor," Griffin said. "'New
Moon' is a mutated idea I got from the
play 'Death of a Salesman,' where
basically this guy dies out on the road,
and you don't even know what the
circumstances were. You suspect it's a
suicide, but you can't prove it. That
idea mutated into 'New Moon' where
you're there in the car seeing this thing
through this person's eyes, but you
really don't know what's going through
their head."
Griffin may be an innovator of
modern music, buthe doesn'tseriously
consider himself the messiah of our
modern world. "One time Oral Roberts
came on T.V. and said he had a vision
of a 900 foot tall Jesus that told him not
to worry about the cash flow problem
he was having at the time, because his

followers would certainly comb
through with the money. I was sitting
around one day, trying to think of a.
stage name, and that just popped inta>
my head as a totally appropriate take
on all the hype around rap music and
whatever. For the first album, I was
writing all these tunes that were based
around a character who was half way
between a televangelist and a pan hart-
dler, so it struck me as a particularly
apt name for a guy who would be
doing that," Griffin said.
Where MC 900 Ft Jesus will lead
us next, no one knows. "I just try to
come up with something I'm going to,
listen to five or 10 years from now, and;-
still like it, and hopefully someone-
else will too," Griffin said. "Ijust want
to make some music that's going to
last. If you can write a song that still
makes sense 10, 50, 100 or whatever
years from now, then you're doing:
good, and that's what I would like to
do."

MC 900 Ft Jesus grooves with
Consolidated and A rtis, The
Spoonman at Industry October 2.
Call (810) 334-1999 for more
information.

Dark, brooding and mysterious, MC 900 ft Jesus is one swell guy.

,

Chick Corea is still on the cutting edge of jazz

!

By BRIAN WISE
One of the strongest criticisms of
jazz today pertains to the rather conser-
vative, orthodox outlook that it has
acquired over the past decade or so.
The bulk of the players are young dis-
ciples of the omnipotent Wynton
Marsalis school and its neo-bop aes-
thetic. Ironically, it is often with the
older generation that experimentation
and new approaches in jazz take place.
Pianist and composer Chick Corea is
such an example, regarded as a modern
jazz pioneer by consistently pursuing

new styles and genres, and by showing
a few things to today's younger play-
ers.
What he presents Saturday night at
the Power Center is likely to showcase
much of that innovation in the more
traditional acoustic quartet format. With
one of today's premier bassists, John
Patitucci, as well as saxophone stylist
Bob Berg, and drummer Gary Novak,
don't expect the word "traditional" to
mean lacking in intensity, subtlety, vir-
tuosity or group interaction, however.
Chick Corea's wide reach has been

ever-developing throughout his three-
decade career. After a three-year stint
with trumpeter Blue Mitchell in the
mid-sixties, and a year playing with
vocalist Sarah Vaughan, Corea joined
Miles Davis' ground-breaking fusion
band on the albums "In a Silent Way"
and "Bitches Brew." Concurrently, he
formed the group Circle, which ex-
plored the foundations laid by Ornette
Coleman and Cecil Taylor in avant-
garde "free"jazz. This lasted until 1971,
the year in which Corea turned to more
accessible (but no less challenging)
music and formed the first edition of
Return to Forever.
Return to Forever experimented
with Latin American and Spanish mu-
sical idioms before evolving into a
jazz-rock hybrid with electric instru-
ments, particularly the Moog synthe-
sizer. After RTF disbanded in 1975,
Chick Corea's career advanced in sev-
eral different directions. This included
acoustic duos with pianist Herbie
Hancock and vibist Gary Burton, as
well as solo piano recordings, up to his

recent album of solo standards, entitled
"Expressions."
Corea's output doesn't stop there.
He has written extensive and complex
works for jazz combos and big bands,
as well as a three-movement piano
concerto, and even a string quartet.
During the 1980's, Corea formed what
would be his most commercially suc-
cessful groups, the ChickCoreaElektric
Band, and the Akoustic Quartet. The
formerproducedGrammy Award-win-
ning works, while the latter reached the
top of the Billboard charts with its self-
titled 1989 release.
A constant inspirational relation-
ship with his audience is a major force
behind Corea's music. However, the
desire to communicate with listeners
never results in a stale, formulaic ap-
proach tojazz. Rather, a highly distinc-
tive and individual keyboard sound
finds its way through an assortment of
styles and collaborative musicians.
The Chick Corea Quartet will
perform tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. at the
Power Center. Tickets are $24, $20,

a I I

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call us-we listen, we care.
Problem Pregnancy Help
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Chick Corea is one of the seminal jazz

---I

A SOLO
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