Salvation at 33 1/3 RPM

Amina Claudine Myers
The Circle of Time
Black Saint : 1984

ACM, piano, organ, vocals; Don Pate, bass; Thurman Barker, drums.

Dear C,

For a while now, you’ve been scolding us, exhorting us to spend some serious time in the soundworld of Amina Claudine Myers. But even in this day and age, her solo work is damn hard to track down. Like you said, she’s a triple threat — jazz musician, African American, and a woman. Plus it’s clear that her multifaceted music doesn’t comfortably fit into any one genre. Like her AACM compatriots, she draws her own damn musical map.

The past few weeks we’ve been spinning her Black Saint album The Circle of Time and thinking about you. The whole thing is impressive, but we keep coming back to “Christine.” Maybe it’s because the bright tones and major chords initially seemed slightly cloying to us, a bit lightweight. But the deeper we got into Myers’ incantatory rhythms and sly pianistic attack, we realized how much emotion was packed into her repeating motifs and how much balm it provided. We’d underestimated both the tune and the artist. We’re sure we’re not the first.

Then there’s “Do You Wanna Be Saved?” with Myers on organ and vocals, putting her own stomp [sic] on a combination of gospelized soul and funky jazz. It’s fantastic and full of yearning. Amina keeps asking if we want to be saved. But from what exactly? If she means from this this apartment full of half-digested records, books, and films, from a high rent that’s devouring every loose dollar, and from the nagging sense that we’re operating a site that’s slowly become a ghost of itself, then… yeah, maybe, maybe so.

It makes us think about Cynthia Carr’s essay about artist David Wojnarowicz: “No one person can create the gesture that changes everything for everybody. And unfortunately, the only life art can save is your own.” Maybe so, but Myers’ music suggests you can light the passage for those who might care to follow. However badly they stumble after you.

The boys from D:O

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