ED BLAND TRANSCENDED THE MOMENT WITH MUSIC AND FILM
BY MATT ROGERS - PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE BLAND FAMILY
“THE SPIRIT OF JAZZ WI LL REMAKE SERIOUS MUSIC
BUT THE SOUNDS OF JAZZ WILL NOT BE USED.”
To say a person is “ahead of their time,” or that their body of work—be it pyramid-building, string theory, or bling-encrusted grills—is ahead of its time, is, agreed, inherently problematic and, like the use of the word “legendary,” damn cliché. For mere mortals lacking the benefit of an H. G. Wellsian time machine, how can anyone’s “time” be other than one’s, well, time? But if you track the fruitful career of one Edward O. Bland, you may be forgiven for mumbling such fluff. Try this exercise at home. Plot Art Tatum, Igor Stravinsky, Sun Ra, Jimmy McGriff, Batman and Robin, Diz, Country Joe, the Pazant Brothers, and Krzysztof Penderecki on a piece of paper. Now, if you can draw a straight line through said folk then maybe, just maybe, you’re ahead of your time too.
“These records that were done many a year ago, I considered, in terms of my writing, holding back,” says Bland on a recent visit to NYC. “ ’Cause it was commercial stuff, ultimately. Obviously, it wasn’t commercial the way many people thought of at the time.” It’s hard to know exactly what people thought of each stage of the now eighty-year-old composer/arranger/musician’s dynamic career—a career that on the surface appears to be a string of non sequiturs, an unforgettable equation of jazz, classical, gospel, rock, and funk. And then there’s Ed Bland, filmmaker, who, via his Cry of Jazz nearly five decades ago, squeezed into thirty-three minutes the essence of what Spike Lee and Ken Burns have taken many an hour to wring out. Oh, and he predicted the coming of this thing called hip-hop.
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