Photo: Kholood Eid
The fifth album in alto saxophonist and composer Darius Jones‘ continuing Man’ish Boy saga, Le bébé de Brigitte (Lost in Translation), will be released tomorrow. (Buy it from the label for $13, or $23 for a signed copy.) It marks his return to instrumental music, following last year’s The Oversoul Manual, written for and performed by four female singers in a language created by Jones.
Le bébé de Brigitte (Lost in Translation) features three musicians who’ve collaborated with him in the past: keyboardist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith, both of whom played on 2012’s Book of Mæ’bul (Another Kind of Sunrise), and bassist Sean Conly, a member of the quartet Grass Roots, whose self-titled album came out that same year. But the ensemble also includes French vocalist Emilie Lesbros. (Bassist Pascal Niggenkemper guests on one track.)
Jones has written about the meaning of the album exclusively for Burning Ambulance. Stream “Two Worlds, One Soul,” then read his words below.
I remember the first time I went to the opera, as a kid, and was hit with the challenge of having to decipher meaning from a language I didn’t understand. In that moment, something amazing happened. I experienced meaning beyond language. I could assume or interpret any meaning I wanted from the characters on stage. I could make my own connections between the relationships that were being played out. This made me realize that language itself is not the only thing that is communicating information. Even when we don’t have the words, we still have modes of expression that help us connect to each other on an intellectual basis, on an emotional basis, and to see connections between races and cultures. Language almost becomes obsolete when we explore the underlying aspects of communication.
True communication is the point of my music at this stage in my life. I’m exploring communication not only as an outward expression of ideas, but an inward investigation of my own motivations and inspiration. My music is a reflection of a great desire to understand myself. Why do I make this music? Why am I understood by some and misunderstood by others? I feel connected to this world of jazz and improvised music but also extremely disconnected and discounted at times. Is that of my own design, or is it the price of individuality? Even before arriving on the New York music scene, I admired those musicians who could fearlessly be themselves but somehow stay connected to humanity.
This album is about connections. How cultures connect. How people from one world connect to people from another world. But as we become more global and the lines that previously existed are being erased by technology, we find ourselves falling into more simplistic modes of communication. This can be deceptive. We think we’re communicating when, in fact, we’re making assumptions about how we perceive each other. We’re making frivolous connections forged by effortless interactions filtered through impersonal mechanical devices. We’re seeking confirmation that we’re all following the same path, that we’re correct in our desires, choices, and perceptions.
As human beings, I believe we are of one soul, vibrating at different frequencies to manifest our individual realities. Much of the hatred and ugliness in the world comes from everyone trying to create a unison when they should be striving to create a harmony. We are always trying to be similar to each other, even when we don’t realize it. That’s how we get cliques and political parties and religions. Basically we’re segmenting ourselves into separate groups where we feel comfortable and understood, where others agree with us. But when we get outside our comfort zone, we’re afraid of the unknown because we don’t know where we belong, or where to step. In that lack of knowing, we actually begin to surprise ourselves. We begin to open up, and our perspective widens. We see and understand things we didn’t before. I believe that this makes us more patient and compassionate, which can break down barriers of hatred and fear. These were the ideas I tried to play around with musically within the compositional and improvisational aspects of this album.
For many years I listened to French vocalist Brigitte Fontaine. I never understood what she was saying but I understood a greater meaning behind her music. She was a radical. She was pushing cultural boundaries within the French musical tradition. Even though she has always been a part of that tradition, she found ways of bending and contorting it to create her own language, a world unto herself. Others then had to deal with her on her own terms. I believe all great artists are people who have this way of challenging the language of their group. A truly great artist is always pushing up against something. They’re creating harmony and dissonance within their community, and challenging their culture as a whole. I think she did that, and still does that. She was a strong inspiration for this record, and she’s also someone who has worked with many of my heroes. She worked with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Archie Shepp, and Grace Jones. I’m just following in that tradition. I’m trying to make the same kinds of connections.
This album wasn’t just about the music, but also about the social implications of doing this project with these musicians. I thought about how the French and African Americans have been connecting through time, and how that has influenced the music of both cultures. I thought about how Black culture has influenced American culture. It wasn’t just about a French singer with an American band. In the process of creating this music, we often fell into moments of miscommunication because of differences in culture and language. I think this created a sense of mystery, and forced all of us to listen more deeply to each other’s nuances and subtleties, because we didn’t always have words to fall back on.