DownBeat March 2021

Gary Bartz has watched the slow roll of history drag on, first from the vantage point of his childhood home in Baltimore, then in New York and the rest of the world while on tour. T he experiences have given the saxophonist perspective and a unique voice, one that’s res- onated with generations of musicians and

Totally segregated, everything: the nightclubs, the movie theaters. In the so-called ‘public park,’ there was the so-called ‘Black tennis court,’ the so-called ‘white tennis court.’ Everything was segregated: My mom couldn’t try on clothes in department stores. To think that in this ‘modern age,’ something like that in this ‘democracy’—it’s still happening. I mean, this is the most segregated country I’ve ever seen.” Bartz has maintained both a dedication to espous- ing the reality he sees and furthering musical explo- rations, something he was able to do with a UK ensemble for the Night Dreamer release Gary Bartz & Maisha—Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions , as well as on the latest entry in the Jazz Is Dead cat- alog. On that latter album, JID006 , the composer works alongside accomplished multi-instrumental- ists Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, a co-founder of hip-hop troupe A Tribe Called Quest. “I don’t want this to be out of place, but I feel that [Bartz and his peers] were fighting for something really important and valuable at the time—and that’s why I’m kind of cautious in the way I say it,” Muhammad recently told DownBeat during a Zoom interview from his Los Angeles enclave.

listeners. “They’re our kids—the hip-hop generation. Jay-Z, his mom and dad used to come to The East to see me and to see Pharoah [Sanders]. All these kids had those records in their homes. ... It’s an extension of what we’re doing—I saw that immediately,” Bartz, 80, said during a late-December Zoom call from his current, well-lighted home in Oakland, California. Hearing that slant from the saxophonist explains how in 2020 he was able to record a pair of albums with performers decades younger than him, while remaining engaged with the students he teaches at Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio. But Bartz—whose work frequently has been sampled by hip-hop producers—still sees a need for change, musically and otherwise. “We came up in a time when you couldn’t just say certain things. I mean, it was bad enough if you didn’t say things. So, if you said things, it was real- ly bad—because we don’t own anything,” Bartz said. “I grew up in a segregated city: Baltimore, Maryland.


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