Interview in English on JAZZESPRESSO Network:
1. Leon the KID Chocolate Brown in a few words !
Well, I’m named Leon so I’m a Lion. I’m descended from ancestors in Louisiana and the Americas before at least the late 1500’s, I’m also the descendant of Colonial Spaniards in Yucatan and French colonists in what’s now Canada. I was born and raised in New Orleans. I was disabled from playing the trumpet 13 years ago and I learned how to heal myself. I’ve been appointed as a high priest of this realm through the medium of music. Publicly, I prefer to only speak denotatively so I mostly don’t speak much. I only believe in the truth.
2. what made you desire to be a jazz musician ?
I actually don’t remember ever having the desire to be a jazz musician. I do remember always even as a child being intrigued by the way a person could play an instrument with so much confidence and skill that it makes people react to it in a special, positive way like nothing else. I desired and still desire to learn how to do that. There’s different levels of it.
3. what is jazz today in your opinion?
That is a kind of trivial question for me at this point because jazz is really just a word. First a little history. It is music that was created out of the oppression and exploitation of the enslaved Native American”negroes”. Its from repurposed christian gospel songs that turned into coded field hollers and then the blues in some places.Its from those gospel songs being turned into military style marching band music in some places. Its from somebody changing 1 beat in the march that made people want to dance. Its from people wanting to dance to that beat indoors instead of just at parades. Its from the oppressors learning about what the “negroes” were doing then exploiting the native’s innovation to sell his alcohol. Its about oppressors in other american regions realizing they can exploit their musical negroes as well. As more innovations happened the music transformed to different styles of what the oppressors defined as Jazz. The creators of the music never called it jazz, the oppressors did and it wasn’t meant as a term of endearment. It was meant as a backdoor insult and dismissal of it as a serious music and art form. This is the truth that all real scholars know whether they say it or not. It is very important that people understand this narrative and look at everything for exactly what it is because a silent witness of wrongdoing is as guilty as the wrongdoer. Now today, it seems to me that we just categorize all improvisational music as jazz music and with all due respect, I’m guessing this was the basis of your question.
Now from this perspective, there are so many new and old “jazz” artists out here making music today. I try to check out as many of them as I can and its a gigantic spectrum of talent and concepts. There’s still lots of music out here that sounds real and you don’t have to look for the path its coming from. You can just hear the history and the lineage brought to the present in a new and/or interesting way, and that is inspiring and makes me happy. There is also lots of music out here that is very intricate and complicated with virtuosic executions and its great and all but its a chore to listen to it. I can only listen to 1 or 2 songs because I don’t hear the lineage and history in it. One thing music is about is relativity. My philosophy is, if you’re not playing music people can relate to then you’re just playing for yourself. I don’t look at these descensions as right or wrong but a spectrum or percentage as I said before. But this part of the spectrum leaves me with a lot of questions most of the time. It doesn’t make me happy but it makes me think… Thinking is good but I come from a place where music is for dancing so it seems the music today has been repurposed. I didn’t have an opinion but if I have to have one at this moment, Jazz today has been repurposed.
4. How do you choose the repertoire and the musicians to play with?
For me, its based on a vibration. I’ve always been right about it. But this music has a diplomatic element to it so sometimes its good for the groups morale to go along with someone else’s idea, even if its against your better judgement. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Even when it was wrong and didn’t work out, I was right about it being wrong. lol But that’s why we have to not ignore the ideas and sensations and hunches that we get because they’re not an accident. We just have to learn when to do what because its all relative. There’s a moment and a season for everything.
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