Monday, March 30, 2015

"Anything can happen"

One of Astral Weeks' most zealous and erudite supporters is writer Greil Marcus. Previous posts here have covered his observations on the album as well as his book, When That Rough God Goes Riding, which features a 20-page essay that examines Marcus' stint at Berkeley, Bob Beamon's record-shattering long jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics, and the legacy of Astral Weeks.

The below quote is from an interview Marcus did with Intelligent Life, the culture and lifestyle magazine for The Economist. He discusses Van Morrison's remarkable skills as a bandleader and how this ability to work exceptionally well with others—to partially surrender control to fellow artists, to get those fellow artists to wildly overachieve, to accept that if the music delivers immortality it will most definitely be shared—brought him to dazzling artistic heights.
I don't think there have been that many extraordinary people he's worked with. There's Pee Wee Ellis on The Healing Game, there's Toni Marcus on Into the Music [the violin player], there's Richard Davis and others on Astral Weeks. But I think what is really extraordinary about Morrison as a bandleader—and he's a great bandleader—is his ability to open up areas of emotional and musical freedom for other people who may not be remarkable musicians, who may be pretty ordinary, where they are doing work that they will never find working with a more conventional performer. And it's not just a matter of sparking them to live up to his example, it's a matter of opening up space in an arrangement or a song and saying "Anything can happen. What happens in this song is as much up to you as to me." And that challenge has brought out wonderful things from people who are themselves maybe not remarkable.

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