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Jacques Coursil: The Weight of History

The peripatetic trumpeter’s melancholy horn explains human tragedy on Trails of Tears

“History is a trail,” says Jacques Coursil. “The present time is not a spot. It’s a space and in that space there is a heavy past and some dreamed future. The past and the future only exist in the present time. So talking about something ancient, it’s necessarily actual.”

Coursil has been especially focused on the circular path of history of late, as his new album, Trails of Tears (Sunnyside), is a suite of music inspired by the forced expulsions of several cultures over the course of human civilization. The title directly refers to the 19th-century relocation of Native Americans, but Coursil also makes explicit reference to the Middle Passage of slaves transported from Africa to America. “The genocide of the [American] Indians is the history of the world,” he says, “not just the history of the Indian or the black. The Middle Passage is not the story of black people; it’s the story of the world because they were not by themselves on the boats. Every time someone is suffering, there is someone there who is making them suffer. It’s a common story, as much your story [or] my story.”

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Originally Published

Shaun Brady

Shaun Brady is a Philadelphia-based journalist who covers jazz along with an eclectic array of arts, culture, and travel. Brady contributes regularly to the Philadelphia Inquirer and JazzTimes and Jazziz magazines, with subjects ranging from legendary artists to underground experimentalists. His byline has appeared in DownBeat, Metro, NPR Music, and The A.V. Club, among other outlets. He studied filmmaking at Columbia College Chicago and continues to spend too much time in the dark.