"Forty years ago a group of hipsters fled Manhattan for . . . has it even been that long? I cannot fathom for I’m still alive and so many of my comrades have fallen to age, to the Amerikka machine. We started our Harlem project with great promise, young energy, and foolish intent. We thought that the government should fund our liberations, and as I look back Ishmael Reed was correct in saying that we should have reached out to our black middle class business owners, lawyers and doctors for the money to free our people from the decay of racism, class difference, and nigger-ism.
The music was always there. For me it was the pulse of the whole enterprise, a stunning tribute to our genius. New music magicians like Sun-Ra, Ornette Coleman, Sonny and Linda Sharrock, those Ayler brothers and the like gave us the language to try anything. There were more of these visionaries than poets, and their work lives longer than any poem of mine’s will. This is no sad statement, for the soul of the African has always been linked to the beat. My own son’s generation discovered this through hip-hop, but the embracing of an instrumental music skipped the generations after its birth, the new music did not seem to make it to my son’s peers.
In Cleveland, there are a few young brothers doing the “new music” without the wayward politics of their forbears, only the soul, heart and muscle of the music lives now. Vernacular, a group of three young musicians – two black men, and a white man – unaware of how crucial their enterprise will be to the coming years. I’ve come to know their journey through a young poet I know, whose head is harder than mine, but savvy is spirit, and his glows. He asked me to write to you, the listener, to give you a map of their place in history; I was not willing at first for I was feeling old, and attacked. Why should I help explain what they could only know as a lonely enterprise?
As albums go, this “little bird” is passion music, I enjoyed many of the selections, I did not like their slower works, nor did I enjoy how short it was. It should have been longer, but they left me wanting, so I guess they’ve understood some things are left to the sure voice. I tease my young poet all the time, he does the same – who will be the next mover in out collected history of moving, he asks? I say don’t fret that, it will only make you a target. FBI crackers will tap your phone, and open your mail. The war against the free has come to a head. Choose wisely."
Imamu Amiri Baraka
February 21, 2004
released May 7, 2021
r.a. washington: trumpet, percussion
Chris Kulcsar: drums, guitar
Lawrence Daniel Caswell: bass, voice
Liner notes by Amiri Baraka.
Vernacular 2003. All songs by vernacular, except *by Sam Waymon, arrangement by Vernacular.
Recorded July 5th & 6th, 2003 at The Black Eye by Jeff Ottenbacher. Mixed at Funsize Studio by Jeff Ottenbacher.
Bonus track credit: Live improv by Vernacular & Black Ox Orkestar. Performed at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in the Fall of 2004. Live mix engineered by Gary Heinrich. Black Ox Orkestar is Thierry Amar, Jessica Moss, Gabriel Levine, and Scott Levine Gilmore.
Thanks to Ed Sotelo, Jason Schafer, Cynthia Piper, Clinton Holley, and Jeff Ottenbacher.
Extra special thanks to Amiri Baraka (rest in power), the members of Black Ox Orkestar, and Lamont Thomas (OBNOX).