NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 1 - Winter 2018 - Page 138


Ed Pavlić interview on James Baldwin

By Justin Desmangles
Justin Desmangles ( jd ):
As many regular listeners to the program know , we have the pleasure , indeed the honor of Ed Pavlić joining us this afternoon for a discussion of his most recent book .
It ’ s new from Fordham University Press , ‘ Who Can Afford to Improvise ?’: James Baldwin and Black Music , the Lyric and the Listeners . Ed , are you there ?
Ed Pavlić ( ep ): I ’ m here , I ’ m here .
jd : Oh , wonderful to have you here with us ; thank you for being so generous with your time . Now over the course of the last couple hours , I ’ ve been drawing quite a bit of music from the archive that relates directly to this extraordinary work that you ’ ve done with James Baldwin . As I mentioned in a conversation yesterday between the two of us , my introduction to James Baldwin actually came first through his voice . Through the sound and intonation , the rhythm and the color , the passion and intellectual harmony , you might say , of this extraordinary being . Indeed , there is a deep music to his sound , but there is also a profound interpretation of the word and the power of the word . Perhaps , we can begin there . I was playing some Thelonious Monk , because I feel his interpretive stance
from within the tradition is not unlike that of James Baldwin , in as much as he is facing the tradition , but he is also deciphering and interpreting the inner qualifications of that tradition and sometimes coming up with some surprises that we may not have known were even there .
ep : Yes , absolutely . I ’ ve said a lot of times that James Baldwin used the American vocabulary in the way Billie Holiday used the Broadway show tune , but it works just as well with Thelonious Monk or any two dozen jazz greats . And it doesn ’ t stop there . That ’ s the kind of thing that Baldwin thought about , when he used a word or employed the practice of improvisation itself .
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