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Friday, October 3, 2014

Remembering Fred Ho—a note from Darrell McNeill

by Darrell McNeill

Fred Ho performing at The Sweet Science Suite (2013 Next Wave Festival)

Fred Ho is my friend and he is no longer on this plane and I don’t know if I will ever reconcile that. There is something intrinsically counter-intuitive about someone with that much creativity and industry simply ceasing to be—like a hurricane instantly dissipating into a placid sea.

It makes no sense—a maelstrom just doesn’t evaporate into thin air…

And yet, here we are. Fred Wei-han Houn, jazz baritone saxophonist, composer, bandleader, playwright, writer, choreographer, professor, and Marxist social activist with a body of work so expansive it probably deserves its own arts center, is no longer here to challenge us, overwhelm us, frustrate us, perplex us and, ultimately, astound us. It’s inconceivable one could take genius that ambitious for granted, but, like I said, here we are…

Now we try to decipher the man and his work after the fact. This is no less daunting a task than when Fred was here. Besides the sheer volume and scope, Fred was fundamentally opposed to retrospective. He never looked in the rear view. His eyes were innately trained forward, on the here and now and the future. I conjecture this was the hardest reality for Fred to come to terms with: mortality stripping away the future and the only thing in sight is the finish line.

I take solace in knowing that Fred’s work was always intended to inspire and inform everyone who came in contact with him and push the movement forward. As he stated in his 2000 book, Legacy to Liberation, "Revolutionary art must...inspire a spirit of defiance, or class and national pride to resist domination and backward ideology. Revolutionary art must energize and humanize; not pacify, confuse and desensitize...”

In this spirit, BAMcafé Live celebrates Fred’s life and work on Saturday, October 4, with the Scientific Soul Green Monster Big Band under the nuanced direction of his hand-picked successor, Marie Incontrera. We will navigate though artifacts, but like the hieroglyphs or the runes or other dead languages, they will portend a future we probably will not recognize until it's right in our midst. If we are open to suggestion, they will transform the way we think we perceive the world.

Fred was so ahead of his moment—like Coltrane or Thompson or Lee or Cunningham or Marx—that the work continues to bear fruit long after the seeds are first sown. Which makes it that much more hard to reconcile the man not being here…

Darrell McNeill is the Associate Producer of Music Programming at BAM.

1 comment:

  1. Fred Ho was much more than an amazing musician and performer. His music was moving and interesting and honest. Rest in peace.