The beat poets and writers of the '50s idolized the bop players of their day. Jazz served as a template for their compositional methods, performing styles and as soundtrack to their writings. This adulation may not have gone both ways, though, as a quote attributed to Miles Davis indicates: "The Beat Generation ain't nothin' but just more synthetic white shit!" It's been a half century since beat and bop were the hip countercultures, and pianist Frank Carlberg has used that to his advantage to freshly interpret them on In the Land of Art.
In a clever turnabout, Carlberg has chosen to base several of his musical compositions on literary pieces by beat stalwarts Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, and Kenneth Rexroth. In addition, poet Gertrude Stein, 18th century epigramist Sebastien Chamfort and latter day beat-influenced writers Joel Oppenheimer and Anselm Hollo also contribute. What makes this work so well is that Carlberg and his bandmates have a keen sense for that which Allan Ginsberg termed "spontaneous bop prosody" - the variations in pitch and rhythm that served as the basis for the beat's art.
Christine Correa's exquisitely expressive voice alternates between poet and instrument on these cuts, while saxmen Chris Cheek and Andrew Rathbun showcase wide-ranging instrumental and interpretive abilities. In addition, bassist John Hebert and drummer Michael Sarin are able to set their own paces while keeping up with Carlberg's changing ones. From the opening bop stream of consciousness presentation of Kerouac's classic angry lament "Misery Poesy," to the group recitation of his "Pull My Daisy (Fie My Fum)," the players explore a smorgasbord of moods and styles.
Hollo's "Hills" receives a Kurt Weill treatment and the wittiness of his "Land of Art" is not lost, as Correa clearly enunciates each verse to a marching boppish beat. On other tunes, Correa is capable of contorting and slurring individual syllables into new shapes. This can result in scat, as on Oppenheimer's "The Act," or in the exotic chanting performances of Creeley's "Nowhere One Goes" and Stein's "Asparagus." With its on-the-mark musical, vocal and piano interpretations, adventurous rhythm section explorations and expressive dual sax playing, Carlberg has shown that sh*t can flow uphill In the Land of Art.
Track Listing: 1. Misery Poesy 2. Hills 3. Nowhere One Goes 4. In the Land of Art 5. The Act 6. Better on Your Arse 7. Asparagus 8. This is the Gallows 9. Fat Rate (Be at That) 10. Wit in Fools 11. Pull my Daisy
Personnel: Christine Correa, voice;
Chris Cheek, tenor saxophone;
Frank Carlberg, piano;
John Hebert, bass;
Michael Sarin, drums;
Andrew Rathbun, saxophones.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.