JFS #171 The Larry Willis Interview


"We live in a very very weird society here as far as art is concerned. Certainly when it comes to the art form of jazz.When I came to Baltimore with Jackie back in 1965 there was a very vibrant jazz community here. They had the North End Lounge and they had The Left Bank Jazz Society that was committed to carrying on the tradition of the music and have all kinds of musicians come in and play.

I played there with Nat Adderley and James Moody and these circumstances are no longer in existence.

As I think there is really only one jazz club here in Baltimore that has a consistent policy. Unfortunately it's located in a neighborhood that is very crime and drug ridden. It's just weird, in order to get into this club you have to be buzzed in which sends another kind of message about the safety of that area."

When I look at our society, the economic landscape and I relate it to jazz or music in general - our culture.

One of the things I have noticed is that our culture is continually being stifled. Culture is the underpinning and backbone of any society. When you see programs which are being pushed forward to nullify education, to take away someone's ability to even eat and clothe and house themselves when there is a push to deny the right to be healthy. This is at the underpinning and I am becoming more and more fearful of the move in that direction.

Hopefully I can count on the intelligence and sensitivity of American Society in General. But it's here and were going to have to deal with it. Otherwise we will have to endure negative consequences beyond belief.

Culture, Art and Music stimulate the human spirit and the human intellect. If these attitudes are allowed to move forward and exist they are going to deny and destroy that energy that society must have coming from its culture.

For example when I came along, if you were important in the Jazz Club you worked there at least 4 weeks period if not longer. It has been relegated to weekends now. The mere fact of having that time space limited to what it has become, in my view denies people access on a daily basis to things that fortify their spiritual life.

My big problem with all of this, I am fearful we will become spiritually dead here and when that happens anything can happen.

History has shown this happening before with Germany in the 1920s and 1930s and we all know all too well what that produced. We don't need another Holocaust, we don't need another Hitler."



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