Saturday, December 15, 2012

Southern Fried

Robert Boyd

Jamal Cyrus, Texas Fried Tenor, November 29, 2012, performance

I saw Jamal Cyrus perform Texas Fried Tenor a couple of weeks ago at CAMH. I don't want to pretend that I "understood" it. For example, what did the pointing (above) have to do with the rest of it? But one part is clear--he deep-fried a saxophone and had the fryer miked so that we could hear the noise. It was, in a sense, a new way to play the sax. And the bizarreness of deep-frying a saxophone strikes me as a classically surreal juxtaposition. (You can go to the CAMH now and see the deep-fried saxophone on display.)

Jamal Cyrus, Texas Fried Tenor, November 29, 2012, performance

So that's all I was thinking when I left the performance. I didn't write about it until now because I wasn't sure what to write.

Last night, Jamal Cyrus was at the Art League talking about his mini-residency as part of Stacks, the multi-artist residency program curated by Robert Pruitt. Cyrus had created a variety of pieces, including this one:

Jamal Cyrus, piece made for Stacks, 2012, grits and plastic sheeting

The piece was made by splattering hot grits onto dark plastic sheet. Cyrus described the work as being inspired by the famous story of how in 1974 soul singer Al Green was attacked in his bathtub by a crazed ex-girlfriend. She threw a pot of boiling grits onto his back, went into a bedroom and shot herself dead. Green subsequently gave up the pop life and became a baptist minister.

What struck me about this new piece and Texas Fried Tenor is that that they both involve the combination of music and boiling hot food stuffs. It seems a little too specific to be coincidental, but then again, I don't see any other obvious connection between these two pieces., so maybe it is coincidental. But whether intentional or not, it's curious and makes me think on a Saturday morning, as I listen to Al Green croon a request to "dip me in the water" ("Take Me to the River," Al Green Explores Your Mind, 1974).


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