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Jazz and poetry, poetry and jazz. The combination instantly recalls the Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac reading On The Road to Steve Allen’s piano or the best minds of our generations somewhere in San Francisco combining prose with bebop: both art forms that require dancing from the heart instead of the legs. Before there were Beats, there was poet Kenneth Patchen fronting jazz ensembles, bringing his orange bears and yellow gloves to audiences through music. Together with John Cage, he presented one of the first uses of sampling an experimental music as he read his play City Wears A Slouch Hat. More recently there has been a resurgence of poetry and music, from William Burroughs readings, the Nuyorican poetry projects, and musicologist John Sinclair’s portraits of Thelonious Monk.
Poet Greg Foster has been combining verse with music since the 1960s working with the likes of Miles Davis, Art Blakey, and Thelonious Monk. This collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Joel Futterman yields a fresh take on composed and free text accompanied by free jazz. Futterman is another Chicago master musician who worked with Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in the 1960s and more recently William Parker and Kidd Jordan.
Alabama is centered on the nearly twenty-minute “Alabama Exequy” a painful lament on the distraction wrought by racism. Memories of John Coltrane’s “Alabama” are raised, but where Coltrane’s sorrow delivered beauty, Foster/Futterman give you pain packaged with more directness. As Foster recites “And you who kill the children, we know you – damn you,” you understand the gloves are off. Futterman plays mostly an accompaniment role, except here where he takes a lengthy solo on piano and saxophone, pushing energy as anger. Elsewhere Foster recalls a wasted youth telling us “I remember the grinning kid who shot me as I lay on the hot stones by the empty highway.” This is not the poetry of possibilities but the revelation of realities. Foster and Futterman give the straight dope, warts and all. Available through Drimala Records drimala.com .