A quick trip to Borders finds rows and rows of books about jazz history, biography and discography in the music section. Most of them will certainly help you fall asleep late at night. Give me the oral history of our music: the stories, the myths and the lies.
Jazz is about the beat, and really nothing but the beat. Jack Kerouac knew this, so did Kenneth Patchen and Tom Waits. You know a jazzman when you meet him. It's in his walk and the cadence of his breaths.
All of the essence of hip is captured quite nicely on this duo recording by poet Dan Jaffe and pianist Mike Melvoin. Melvoin is a veteran pianist with a performance history that includes Frank Sinatra, Joe Williams, Peggy Lee and Bobby Watson. Jaffe has authored a dozen books and a jazz opera.
Jaffe and Melvoin chose the jazz that swung Kansas City and morphed into bebopthe cufflinks of Bird and the bandstands of local favorites, where lives passed one saloon to the next. Fans of poetry find both great prose and, better yet, a storyteller's delivery. Jaffe's voice invites you into his inner circle, his club. By the end you're pals, and you devour every story. There's Bird and Mingus, but more importantly, the unknown keepers of the jazz flame.
The music is flawlessly intertwined with the words. Mike Melvoin weaves blues and jazz into the stories. Together, the pair recreate a place in mind that seems now to have been suspended in time. Quite a beautiful session.
Personnel: Dan Jaffe: spoken word; Mike Melvoin: piano.