DANIEL FOOSE: of Water and Ghosts
AVAILABLE NOW on
Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records
Two lands separated by a few miles, along the fertile crescent of the Yazoo river, have borne witness to the rise and fall of tribes from millennia ago: warfare, enslavement, terrorism, resilience, survival, faith, creation … the light in us struggling to overcome our own shadow. On the surface this land seems so quiet and flat, but dig just beneath the surface and the quietness gives way to a cacophony of voices and the flatness becomes textured as a tapestry of bones and memories.
I spent a month listening to these voices and exploring this land, composing the themes for each piece in the very places that inspired them. As I improvised with my upright bass in the muddy fields and cemeteries of the area, these melodies very much felt like they came from outside of myself, gifted to me from the land.
-Excerpt from the liner notes for of Water and Ghosts
THE SONORA SUITE:
In 2003 I was fortunate enough to travel to Ghana on a studies abroad trip to learn about the music and religious cultures of the Ewe peoples in the southeast of the country. As a part of this trip I got to meet with a soothsayer who cast small objects in order to divine my fortune. He looked at the objects, took one look at me, and said I needed to pour out whiskey and play drums at my maternal grandfather's grave to atone for his role in the slave trade. After returning from the trip I talked to my folks about what the diviner had told me. They both looked pale and recounted to me about my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side, Judge Dubuisson, who started a plantation in Mississippi in the mid 1800s called Sonora. The soothsayer's evaluation proved more correct than even I knew. It took several years but I finally in 2012 I found myself in a town near Judge Dubuisson's grave in Natchez, Mississippi. I found the gravesite and did as was told, pouring out whiskey and playing a drum in some honorific way. I thought that would be the end of the ceremony, but I realized that it was only the first step. Can there be any atonement for a wound so deep and lasting? What a privilege is it to have this physical grave to project my emotions and complete generational obligations? What a sin is it to have deprived so many of that and countless other privileges? It made me realize that these actions in the past resonate into the present in ways that are tangible, devastating, and lasting. In 2015 I traveled to Mississippi to the site of Sonora Plantation to compose a suite about my experience of this realization and the story that got me there. In that quiet expansive land I was able to open myself up to the whispers of the trees, mud, and animals as I wrote the themes on my upright bass in the very cemeteries and muddy fields the piece is about.
Not far from Sonora is the land where my father's family has farmed for nearly a century. Unlike the Sonora Suite I was hoping to capture some images from this land in a non-narrative way, as if you're driving down a dirt levee with one of the great story-tellers down there, witnessing the land unfold before you. I tried to express some images from the land by composing with my bass in different places around Pluto hoping to express the spirit of the place. This is a land rife with ghosts of the past and full of natural beauty. I trekked my bass through muddy fields and into down-trodden cemeteries to tell their stories. There’s a strange dance of beauty, awe, and terror in the deafening silence of a Delta night. That land was the portal through which the blues was born, and was the terminus of so many of those people from southeast Ghana. It is a place where they are still discovering remnants of indigenous cultures from over 5,000 years ago. Tribes so old we don’t have names for them. In addition to the spirit of the place I also came into contact with my own memories of the place as well. This was the place I had my wedding to Sueyoung notably. One day I was standing on the back porch looking out over the pond, through the pecan branches, out over the newly tilled land and I was transported back to that wedding day. I could see the small tent, the decorations, and all the guests in thier finery. I was there. In the wake of that strange transportive moment I wrote Wedding Place (for Sueyoung). Little did I know that she would suddenly and tragically pass away from a brain aneurysm only a few weeks later. This album is dedicated to her life and spirit, which was bright enough to fill a hundred lifetimes. Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the music.
This music very much felt gifted to me from the land so I wanted to make an album that could give back in some sort of small way. To that end half of all proceeds I receive from the sales and licensing of of Water and Ghosts will go directly to a scholarship fund for a young woman in the Mississippi Delta my mother has been mentoring for the past decade.