J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

WATIV in STN

Interesting piece Signal to Noise Magazine (no content on-line), “A Soldier’s Story,” about William A. Thompson IV (WATIV), a New Orleans jazz pianist turned electronic music composer during his recent tour of duty in Iraq. Composed and assembled with “iPod mike, sampler, Apple G4 and 88-weighted-keyboard,” Baghdad Music Journal clearly conveys the turmoil of his wartime experiences. The samples on his myspace page are certainly dark in tone. Of course, most of the electronic music I’ve heard has been dark or moody. Article writer Howard Mandel is only too eager to read political statements into WATIV’s music. Too be fair Thompson did express frustration when his tour was extended, but he seems to take pains to avoid outright political statements, preferring to let the music speak for itself. (Mandel has also written on behalf of Tarik Shah, the jazz bassist accused of conspiring to aid al-Qaeda, calling the government's case "shameful" according to Shah supporter Margaret Davis.)

It sounds like Thompson’s feelings about his service in Iraq are actually somewhat ambiguous. Thompson reported from Iraq for allaboutjazz.com that he “had several students since I’ve been in country. Most recently I have taken on an eager jazz bass student.” While underplaying the impact of his work, it certainly sounds like Thompson was part of the good news from Iraq. In terms of the impact of Iraq on himself, Thompson told Mandel: “this experience was one that very few other artists are going to have. I feel lucky for having it. I felt opposed at having to go, but nobody else can say they’ve done what I’ve done.” Whatever his politics, one has to have gratitude for Thompson’s service, and wish him well as he finishes his studies at the University of New Orleans and helps rebuild the music scene in America’s Crescent City.