It's Friday night, and you know what that means. Chillin' with da shruggers. Tonight's selection is divine. An evening with America's greatest jazz composer, Duke Ellington. This 1952 recording includes 2 performances of Duke and his Orchestra, one on Jan. 7, 1952 and one on Aug. 12, 1952. 12 of his signature pieces are featured, including Sophisticated Lady, Caravan, The Mooch, VP's Boogie, Solitude, Mood Indigo, The Hawk Talks, I Got It Bad And It Ain't Good, Bli-Blip, Flamingo, Cottontail and C Jam Blues (Hot Chocolate).
UPDATE: Robert Spencer is writing a fabulous new column for PJ Lifestyle about a subject, an art, very close to the soul, America's truest and purest art form: jazz music -- and, of course, there's an Islamic connection as well.
Why Did Lenin and Muhammad Hate Music? Jazz and Islam, Part I Robert Spencer February 15, 2013
Ultimately, the war between the forces of jihad and the free world is a conflict between individualism and collectivism. Nothing shows that more vividly than each side’s attitude toward music.Read it all. Go.
“I cannot listen much to music,” Lenin once said. “It excites my nerves. I feel like talking nonsense and caressing people who, living in such a filthy hell, can create such beauty. Because today one must not caress anyone; they will bite off your hand. One must break heads, pitilessly break heads, even if, ideally, we are opposed to all violence.”
Another totalitarian man of peace, Muhammad, is quoted as saying: “Allah Mighty and Majestic sent me as a guidance and mercy to believers and commanded me to do away with musical instruments, flutes, strings, crucifixes, and the affair of the pre-Islamic period of ignorance.”
Musical instruments, flutes, strings, and crucifixes! This command came with a warning: Muhammad is also supposed to have said that “on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will pour molten lead into the ears of whoever sits listening to a songstress,” for “song makes hypocrisy grow in the heart as water does herbage.” He warned that the Muslim community would one day experience times of tribulation, featuring “the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones.”
When his followers asked him when this would be, he answered: “When songstresses and musical instruments appear and wine is held to be lawful.” There would come a dark day, he said, when even some Muslims would “hold fornication, silk, wine, and musical instruments to be lawful.” (‘Umdat al-Salik r40.0)
It isn’t hard to see why the creators of martial polities and new, aggressively expansionistic political and societal systems such as Lenin and Muhammad would disdain music. For music is an expression of the human spirit – the very thing that these totalitarians were trying to master. And no music so fully expresses the anti-totalitarian impulse, and the dignity and value of every human person, than does jazz.
For jazz is not jazz if it doesn’t contain a considerable element of improvisation, and improvisation is an expression of the individual soul par excellence. A musician who is improvising has nothing to fall back on except his own inner reservoir, and that is why jazz at its best is so immediate, so personal, and so affecting. Miles Davis and John Coltrane improvising on the same piece couldn’t sound more different from one another, not just because one plays trumpet and the other tenor sax, but because they are so very different from one another as human beings, and in their improvisations, one can hear into their very hearts and souls. One may learn their solos note-for-note (as I did back in the pre-9/11 days when I played a bit of saxophone myself), but this is just a musical exercise; the music itself can be copied but never replicated, for their individual expression is inherent and essential to it.
Totalitarian collectivists hate that individual expression. They are only interested in the individual not for the expression of his own soul, but as a cog to fit into his great machine that is marching toward the worker’s paradise, or the Sharia state, or whatever the outcome of their reign of terror is called today. As such, jazz music, a unique product of the nation that has enabled a flowering of the individual spirit unparalleled in human history, is a rebuke to collectivism, and a defiant and joyful reassertion of the one thing that totalitarians fear most: the individual.