Amazon.com Widgets

Silent Solos: Improvisers Speak

By Published: | 5,588 views
Silent Solos: Improvisers Speak
Soft cover; 174 pages
ISBN: 978-3-00-030557-3
Buddy's Knife
2010



Improvisation, at its best, is about instinct. At its worst, it's an intellectual exercise, cold and theoretical, without an emotional perspective. Fortunately, the beautifully produced Silent Solos: Improvisers Speak avoids the pitfalls of theoretical nonsense and opts instead for the opportunity to translate the difficult notion of improvisation into poetic meaning.

The book is a veritable who's who of musicians working in free improvisation and the avant-garde. It gathers contributions from 50 musicians, including percussionist Cooper-Moore

Cooper-Moore
Cooper-Moore

percussion
, bassist William Parker
William Parker
William Parker
b.1952
bass, acoustic
, pianist Matthew Shipp
Matthew Shipp
Matthew Shipp
b.1960
piano
, trombonist Steve Swell
Steve Swell
Steve Swell
b.1954
trombone
and saxophonists Charles Gayle
Charles Gayle
Charles Gayle
b.1939
saxophone
, Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
, Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
1920 - 2013
reeds
, Joe Maneri
Joe Maneri
Joe Maneri
1927 - 2009
saxophone
John Tchicai
John Tchicai
John Tchicai
1936 - 2012
saxophone
and David S. Ware
David S. Ware
David S. Ware
1949 - 2012
sax, tenor
.

While the idea behind the project is thrilling—asking some of the most influential free musicians to write about the nature of their craft—the book could easily have misfired. There's no guarantee that the musicians would be as eloquent with words as they are with notes, but as it turns out, they create patterns of words as emotionally intense and thought provoking as their music.

Part of the attraction of the book is the wide variety of moods and forms. There's everything from poetic prose and swinging beat-poetry to lofty philosophical manifests. There's haiku-like simplicity too, as when Yusef Lateef writes a poem about "The Bird:"

"The bird flew down onto the ground. He chirped. He sang his song throughout the day. I marveled. He sang of love and beauty. I listened. He flew away up into the sky. I remember."

Like deep music, "The Bird" can be understood on several levels. Literally, it is a brief glimpse of a nature scene, but allegorically it could be read as an homage to alto saxophonist Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, aka Bird, who for an all too brief moment graced earth and sang beautiful songs on his horn. The poem is also about the process of listening, the lyrical "I" being entranced in a moment where the boundary between nature and humanity is happily dissolved in music.

Whereas Lateef uses allegory to capture the magic of music, Joe Maneri takes a more concrete approach to words, in poems that are every bit as idiosyncratic as his music. "One" explores the legacy of Dadaism by approaching a language where the sounds of the words becomes an end in itself, liberating the words from the straightjacket of referential meaning:

"Flaull clon sleare; Rouve clanslika; Flautell lunege; Blausodoh fleeka Lasflowe; bloomplek. Peelah donrowflin; Lazdellohdoe; Plan celati dohnblohnn; Leelahlah sourn; elf daupin."

While it may be tempting to write Maneri's musings off as nonsense, the fascination of his poetry lies in the way he works with the outer boundaries of meaning. Though the words are not understandable in a conventional way, they retain the structure and pattern of real words, hinting at languages like French, Icelandic, Irish and English; words such as "Lasflowe" and "bloompek," for instance, conjure up flowers and blooming. In many ways, Maneri's poetry, like his music, grows organically out of nowhere and everywhere, emphasizing improvisation as the dual act of breaking and reconnecting with tradition.

The poems and texts in the book invite contemplation, but they can also be enjoyed as a kind of music, to be read out loud or savored in silence. Sumptuously illustrated by painter Jorgo Schäfer and including mini-biographies of the 50 participating musicians, Silent Solos: Improvisers Speak is a treasure trove of diverse poetic thinking about music, a true gift to anyone who cares about poetry and improvisation.

comments powered by Disqus
Search
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Mark Elf

Mark Elf

About | Enter

Stefano Bollani

Stefano Bollani

About | Enter

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Bandzoogle: GET STARTED TODAY - FREE TRIAL

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

Article Search