The sort-of-official bio of downtown New York poet Steve Dalachinsky describes him as being born "sometime after the last Big War and before lots of useless little wars." And maybe, as such, his poetry lacks the revolutionary agitation of Amiri Baraka (for example, on the William Parker Ensemble's yet to be officially released Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield
) or the spiritual cosmology of David Budbill (A Prayer for a Suffering World
, Boxholder, 2003)or the theatricality of Rinde Eckert (Jerry Granelli's Sandhills Reunion
, Songlines, 2004)to compare it with recent collaborations between poets and jazz improvisers. Dalachinsky, as he testified in the liner notes to his first recorded collection of poetry with music (Incomplete Directions
, Knitting Factory, 1999), prefers to focus on "limitlessly limited spectrum of everyday comings & goings."
This collection of "everyday" observations revolves much around music. Dalachinsky is one of the mainstays of New York's downtown scene, having written liner notes for such prominent figures as Charles Gayle, Anthony Braxton, James "Blood" Ulmer, Matthew Shipp, Roy Campbell and Assif Tsahar. His poetry was accompanied by William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, Susie Ibarra, Thurston Moore and Vernon Reid on his first release, and by drummer Feredrico Ughi on his second release (I Thought It Was the End of the World..., 577 Records, 2002).
On most of the 22 poems featured on Phenomena of Interference, all recorded at Tonic last July, he is accompanied by pianist Matthew Shipp. Dalchinsky's voice is warm and tender, and his direct reading stresses the nuances and subtlety of his insights. Shipp's playing is much more introspective and varied than his vamp-laden playing on his recent Thirsty Ear releases. His assured accompaniment is usually modest and spare, fitting naturally with Dalachinsky's phrasing.
Dalachinsky is the first to undermine any transcendental messages in his poetry, as he declares in the opening poem: "...watch my lips/ i am about to sell you another myth," or later "if i could learn to write/ to speak to other than/ the/ moon." His poetry is imbued with jazz imagery on "Naima," which deals with the "thin tall tenor" and Dalachinsky's never-ending fascination with John Coltrane's composition; here and on "Julie," "All That Matters" and the beautiful tribute to Sonny Rollins, "Galileo," his vocal gymnastics pay respect to the great saxophonist's improvisational command. "All The Things You Are (Encapsulated)" is a lusty and vivid poem for his partner, poet and artist Yuko Otomo, briefly quoting the Hammerstein and Kern standard. Phenomena of Interference deserves many repeated listenings.
Visit Matthew Shipp on the web.
Personnel: Steve Dalachinsky: words; Matthew Shipp: piano.