Thursday, June 08, 2006

Previte and the Chic of Terror

Jazz may stand accused as being elitist music, but it is sometimes better not to be too closely tethered to every popular trend. A case in point has been the Commie Chic we have seen emblazoned on t-shirts and caps recently, often in the form of hammer & sickles, or portraits of Cuban terrorist Che Guevara. Now Bobby Previte’s new CD cover art, with its raised fists and white star against a crimson background, shows at least the influence of the Commie Chic aesthetic.

Coalition of the Willing, namesake of Previte’s current band, and the Operation Iraqi Freedom coalition partners, certainly looks like a politically charged statement, with tunes like “The Ministry of Truth,” “Airstrip One,” “The Ministry of Love,” and “Oceania” (Winston Smith’s homeland in 1984). Previte’s website and most online reviews however, eschew mention of the Iraq war, and politics in general. Some funky audio samples are available on his myspace page here. For some perspective, press materials say he is currently working on “an evening length piece dealing with the Separation of Church and State, for early music choir and band.”

Being realistic, Bush and the Iraq war are not going to be much more popular in the jazz community than they are in the wider creative community, but jazz artists should be shrewder about Che and his reign of terror. With 180 executions definitively attributed to Che Guevara from 1957-1959, and with the blood over 4,000 on his hands as the director of the new regime’s firing squad kangaroo courts, Che is an icon of terror and death. Previte’s fellow jazz artist, the great Paquito D’Rivera wrote an open letter to Carlos Santana taking the guitarist to task for wearing Che garb and a cross on the Oscar telecast. D’Rivera wrote (quoted by Vargas Llosa):

“One of those Cubans [at La CabaƱa] was my cousin Bebo, who was imprisoned there precisely for being a Christian. He recounts to me with infinite bitterness how he could hear from his cell in the early hours of dawn the executions, without trial or process of law, of the many who died shouting, ‘Long live Christ the King!”

There is nothing romantic about the killing and terrorism of Che and other Communist monsters. I imagine D’Rivera and his countryman Arturo Sandoval would be happy to explain it to Previte.