268

George Gruntz/Allen Ginsberg: Cosmopolitan Greetings

By

Sign in to view read count
George Gruntz/Allen Ginsberg: Cosmopolitan Greetings This album is a recording of a live performance of George Gruntz's so-called jazz opera Cosmopolitan Greetings, with texts taken from selected poems written by Allen Ginsberg. There is a bit of confusion here because Ginsberg's last volume of published poetry was also called Cosmopolitan Greetings ; however, the poems used for the opera come not from the book of the same name, but Ginsberg's earlier work.

The opera is supposed to be an impressionistic overview of the life and career of blues great Bessie Smith, with the singer commenting on her life in a retrospective fashion. The singer-as-operatic-character has a long tradition in music history, extending back to Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo of 1607. That said, the problem with Gruntz's work is not its intentions, but its execution. The slapdash manner in which the music is allied with the text works against the type of thematic unity that one would expect in an opera, even one as disjointed and impressionistic in nature as this work. I also find that many of the poems are much more illustrative of Ginsberg's life than Bessie Smith's. For instance, Ginsberg's anti-war poem "Happening now?"? is used to show Bessie Smith's reflection on the Civil War battle won by General Sherman in her home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. But would a black person really be opposed to a war that secured freedom from slavery for her people? Somehow, Ginsberg's anti-Vietnam stance seems inappropriate and anachronistic in this setting.

There is much fine music in the opera, but one suspects that the entire work would be better as a strictly instrumental composition. Howard Johnson's baritone sax solos are magnificent, and Mark Murphy never fails to impress. But anyone interested in "jazz opera"? qua opera will have to go back to Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (or even his little-known Blue Monday ) or Ernst Krenek's remarkable Jonny spielt auf ( Johnny Strikes Up the Band ).


Track Listing: Jumping the Gun on the Sun; Happening now!; Those Two & Maturity; Bop Lyrics; 7th Avenue Express; FUN(NY DEATH); An Eastern Ballad; Prophecy; Death March

Personnel: vocals: Ren

Title: Cosmopolitan Greetings | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: MGB


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read BACHanalia CD/LP/Track Review BACHanalia
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Hallways CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read The Crave CD/LP/Track Review The Crave
by John Sharpe
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub) CD/LP/Track Review Chase The Light (Excursions in Soul, Reggae, Funk, and Dub)
by Joe Gatto
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965 CD/LP/Track Review Kickin' Child - The Lost Album 1965
by Doug Collette
Published: June 24, 2017
Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read "Beauty And the Beast" CD/LP/Track Review Beauty And the Beast
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 15, 2017
Read "Manovuotometro" CD/LP/Track Review Manovuotometro
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "Metamorphosis" CD/LP/Track Review Metamorphosis
by Dave Wayne
Published: July 12, 2016
Read "Trillium Falls" CD/LP/Track Review Trillium Falls
by Jack Bowers
Published: April 5, 2017
Read "Cub(an)ism" CD/LP/Track Review Cub(an)ism
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "A Dark and Stormy Day" CD/LP/Track Review A Dark and Stormy Day
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.