The illest music rag today is not Spin, Vibe or even Rolling Stone. It’s Waxpoetics, a magazine that’s all about “hip hop, jazz, funk and we stressin’ the blues,” in the words of lyricist Shuman. Along with WeFunkRadio, my musical education is more complete, as it profiles incredibly unique aspects on any kind of funky joints.
Betty (Mabry) Davis (the inspiration for the track Mademoiselle Mabry), former number one for trumpet demigod Miles Davis, can be found gracing the cover of the current issue. Her story is incredible and can stand alone, but for those of us who already care about all things Miles Davis, Waxpoetics has managed to give us a perspective that I, for one, was sorely missing. For instance, I’ve noticed something about the music of Miles that this article recently made crystal clear. Though several recordings of Miles up through the sixties are among my favorite of all time for any artist – such as Birth of the Cool, Plugged Nickel 1965, and all of the Seven Steps sessions – something happened right at the turn of 1970 that completely turned me off. I’ve always understood this apparent bifurcation to be a product of the jazz fusion movement that Miles is often credited as helping to create. Yet the story Waxpoetics and the former Mrs Davis would tell is that she directly contributed to the change, which, given her penchant for cats like Jimi Hendrix, makes complete sense and enriches the story behind an observation that had baffled me for years.
My knowledge of music pre-1990 is largely second hand, since I sadly missed the 60s and 70s and was effectively unconscious musically through most of the 80s (for better or for worse). But Waxpoetics is filling in the dirty details that enhance the quality of the musical experience. Their articles range from uncredited Motown artists to superstars to obscure records in a commercially crippled yet strangely thriving underground musical movement of today. It does an incredible job of telling the story of those who were around and creating the music that shaped our culture.
Though initially I was skeptical about the emphasis that could possibly be placed on jazz within the rest of the rich African American musical tradition between the covers of Waxpoetics, articles like Betty’s completely exploit the relationship between funk and jazz in a simply groovy way. It even goes so far as to incorporate the musical genius of João Donato, the less-understood father of Brasilian bossa nova, who apparently is equally deserving of the American obsession of yesteryear with João Gilberto.
Never before have I had the patience or interest to read a music magazine from cover to cover, but Waxpoetics combines eloquence and substance in a bimonthly publication that I find myself opening time and time again. I had a dream that they dropped a new issue that I didn’t even hesitate to pick up, which next month will likely be the case. You can check ‘em out on the world wide, but you should grab the ink and paper version at your favorite funkiest newsstand soon!