Gilad Atzmon is racist. So say those who dislike his opinions. I would challenge that viewpoint. You see, I find it hard to square that circle for when a man, a Jew, born in Israel of secular Jewish parents, having studied the ways Zionists operate, subsequently finds their methods to be deplorable then speaks out against them he is not being racist, he is not even being anti-Semite he is being anti-Zionist.
This claim by those eager to see Atzmon's name besmirched of racism meets with instant defeat when confronted with the fact that as an ex-Blockhead, saxophonist and band leader he not only has played with Jews, blacks and a variety of other peoples but has hired them. Now, unless he has a perverse sense of subjugation, that by hiring musicians of other creeds and races he is somehow keeping them in their place, then he is nothing less than equanimous in his views on race. As for anti-Semite? C'mon, his parents are Jews, people in his band are Jews. No. Not racist, not anti-Semite merely, as said before, anti-Zionist.
His book, 'The Wandering Who,' is an attempt at investigating what is Jewish identity politics, what is contemporary Jewish ideology. He does this by looking at both modern day popular culture but also examining scholarly texts. There is a great deal of contentious issues he brings to the forefront such as the tribal outlook that remains cemented to the Jewish faith but also the anti-Gentile views of Zionists.
To be accurate, what Gilad is, apart from a sparklingly good musician, is an outspoken man who detests the methods by which Zionism has flourished. How its influence has shaped much of the Western world and how like Nazism in reality it is. On this, and this subject alone he is fierce, passionate and committed. Being committed and passionate seem part of his make-up as it is with those two he commits to such great effect when making music.
Robert Wyatt, Old Rottenhat himself, has described Gilad Atzmon as being "one of the few musical geniuses I've ever met." Yes, Charlie Parker sits on his shoulder lending a muse like eye over proceedings but it is influence rather than copying that fires Atzmon's engine.
His ability to switch from a low, guttural growl to a light, melodic refrain is spellbinding enough yet it is his range of tones that amaze most. As said, Parker is one of his muses but so is John Coltrane. More and more though, perhaps having played with Ian Dury and co; his eclecticism shines.
Of late his music has calmed somewhat revealing an intensity of emotion that inspires. Whereas previously, certainly before the delicious 'Songs of the Metropolis,' there was an edge of mayhem, of manic thrust driving his work, now, and as heard on his latest release, 'The Whistle Blower,' there is no less energy there is now a slim line potency that still strikes deep but perhaps is longer lasting.
I find with his more recent works there is a seeking of spirituality. Not in the accepted sense but somewhat meditative. It is as if he, born into a society riddled with ritual has broken away from that dogmatic adherence and moved ever eastward in a search for greater depth of self understanding. For the rest of us it is a pleasant trip to observe.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.