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There have been times when jazz and the spoken word appeared inseparable. Brief times, but times when the combination was a powerful artistic and (counter) cultural force. Children Of The Blue Supermarket brings those times back, a reminder of how effective a partnership the jazz musician and the poet can create. Maybe it's the new thing.
The musicians: experienced saxophonist Rich Halley and his percussionist son, Carson; and poet Dan Raphael, who's been writing and performing poetry since the late '60s. The interplay between Raphael's voice and the Halleys' improvised music is fascinating, emotional, funny, thought-provoking and entertaining. The performances, from the 2008 and 2009 Penofin Jazz Festivals, have a genuine spontaneity, with all three men seemingly enjoying their time on stage as they respond to each others' artistry.
Rich Halley weaves his tenor saxophone in and out of the spaces left by Raphael's voice. Carson is more likely to keep his percussion work flowing, building fluid washes of sound that ensure the momentum of each piece is maintained. The wonderful "Kleenex and Ziplocs" shows them both at their most inventive. When Raphael takes a break the father and son team duet to excellent effecttheir playing on the opening bars of "First Car I See Tonight" is hard-hitting and positive, on the closing section of "Children of the Blue Supermarket" it's got a funky edge to it.
Raphael has an emphatic vocal delivery: the words count and he makes sure they are heard. His style suggests a love for the sound of words as much as for their meaning. It's a point of similarity with Captain Beefheart; as is the way Raphael says "This highway has no neck to screw my face onto" on "First Car I See Tonight." At times he sounds breathlessmost obviously on "Breath Test"at times he's moved to anger, but mostly he seems by turns a little puzzled and disappointed by the world. These are fairly common responses to the confusion of contemporary life but Raphael's wordplay gives them an uncommon voice.
Poetry and jazz, the new thing? Children Of The Blue Supermarket is an adventure in words and musicthe new thing, indeed.
Track Listing: First Car I See Tonight; Breath Test; Sudden Memory; & Now A Word From Your Atmosphere; Children of the Blue Supermarket; The Cherry Tree At The Top Of The Stairs; Bent; Kleenex and Ziplocs; NATO Report.