In their debate at the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, Greg Tate and Greg Thomas have attempted to correct history by staging an exchange of perspectives as it could and perhaps should have occurred. In their re-imagination of the Ellison/Baraka opposition, direct challenges alternate with playful taunts. These exchanges have the energy of a competition but the warmth and generosity of a collaboration. Such a paradoxical tension is perhaps similar to what happens in a jazz group, where the players must constantly push each other to take risks, if not to the breaking point, and where they must somehow be both competitive and telepathically attuned. Jazz trumpeter and critic Steve Provizer told me once, “People always underestimate the athletic side to jazz. The traditional attitude is 'Prove what you can do or get the hell off the stage.’” In these debates, Greg Thomas and Greg Tate do indeed prove that they are virtuosos of the affectionate provocation, the anti-gravitational riff, and the context-shifting aside.
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Image: Ramare Bearden, Autumn Lamp