Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

3

Jazz and Poetry: Impacted Gems

Gordon Marshall By

Sign in to view read count
The poetry of the Beats, the New York school and the Black Mountain school, as well as the jazz poets, all share a particularly heavy rhythmic feel and an earthy, gritty imagery that creates a kind of syncopation within itself. The scenes dance and bump up against each other, cutting and rubbing up against the beat. Three of these poets, Kenneth Patchen (1911-1992), Paul Haines (1933-2003), and Robert Creeley (1926-2005), receive jazz treatments on a recent release, a re-release, and an a a now-historical back-catalogue gem, respectively, on Cuneiform Records. Each effort brings about qualities in the poetry that in turn brings out qualities in the music.

The Claudia Quintet

What Is the Beautiful?

Cuneiform Records

2012

The Claudia Quintet has released What Is the Beautiful?, with Kenneth Patchen's poetry. The quintet is a disciplined, pitch-perfect ensemble. It can master with grace styles ranging from classic and classical to hip, retro-West coast reenactments, sometimes veering towards a chilly academicism. The blissfully naïve and optimistic poetry of Kenneth Patchen has an Americanized surrealist quality, so the limits and openings of music and poem (spoken and sung by Kurt Elling and Theo Bleckmann, respectively) work together in a mutually corrective and complementing way. It's like the poetry is a gooey, swirling substance and the quintet fits it into nice, geometric boxes.

Curlew

Beautiful Western Saddle

Cuneiform Records

2010

Curlew's Beautiful Western Saddle features Paul Haines's poetry. Haines never made a great mark with the poetry establishment but he befriended and was beloved by many jazz musicians, writing poems of praise for them and inventive liner notes. He is best known for providing the lyrics for Carla Bley's 1971 masterpiece Escalator Over the Hill (JCOA). This album has a more songlike quality than the Claudia. Haine's poetry is more sophisticated than Patchen's, with a more subtle vocabulary, but it shares the gritty urban and emotional quality. The music (poems sung by Amy Denio)is like a funky, swirly cone of earthy flavors—jazz, rock, funk, avant- garde—and the two fit together like a glove.

Robert Creeley

Have We Taught You All You Thought to Know?

Cuneiform Records

2001

The great Robert Creeley is typically known for a concise poetry of casual precision, with cheeky humor and sparkling images that crop up randomly. Have We Taught You All You Thought to Know? is a concert recording of a Creeley recitation from 1998 featuring Chris Massey (drums), Steve Swallow (bass), David Cast (saxophone), and David Torn (guitar). The poetry here has a sad, resigned quality with imagery stripped down, reflecting on aging. Sometimes the music provides a thick, hazy mood behind the poems. Other times it is as funky and electric as trumpeter Miles Davis, emphasizing the fear but at the same time encouraging the nerve that defeats that fear.

It is a courageous and sensitive decision for an ensemble to take on a poetry project. In the classical world such an endeavor has a cool cachet and the poets are often established and retread names. In jazz, poetry is much more than a vehicle. Jazz plays with the words. Words and notes work against each other, creating tension and humor. The artists on these CDs have fully invested themselves in their efforts. Each line, each phrase is carefully considered and folded into or contrasted with the chords and improvisation. What it gives us is a human experience that goes even beyond the two mediums themselves.

Tracks and Personnel

What Is the Beautiful?

Tracks: Showtime/23rd Street Runs into Heaven; The Snow is Deep on the Ground; Mates for Life; Job; Do Me THat Love; Flock; What Is the Beautiful?; Beautiful You Are; Peace of Green; The Bloodhounds; Limpidity Of Silences; Opening the Window.

Personnel: John Hollenbeck: drums, percussion, keyboards; Ted Reichman: accordion; Chris Speed: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Drew Gress: acoustic bass; Matt Mitchell: piano; Kurt Elling: voice (1, 4, 7, 10, 12); Theo Bleckman: voice (2, 5 ,8, 11).

Beautiful Western Saddle

Tracks: Let's Sit Right Down/The Passing; Such Credentials as Have Become; Poem for Gretchen Ruth; All's Well That Ends (excerpt); Peking Window; The Prince; What is Free to a Good Home?; Still Trying; Breakfast; Today; Song Sung Long; Human Weather Words.

Personnel: George Cartwright: alto sax, tenor sax; Tom Cora: cello; Ann Rupel: bass; Davey Williams: guitar; Pippin Barnett: drums; Amy Denio: vocals.

Have We Taught You All You Thought to Know?

Tracks: Introduction; What's Heart to Say; Blunted Efforts As the Distance; I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud; It Seemed Your Friend; Upon Reflection; I Was At the Door; I Like the Way; We're Here; Words Scattered; Mon Frere.

Personnel: Robert Creeley: spoken word; Chris Massey: drums; Steve Swallow: bass; David Cast: guitar, live loops, oud, microcassettes.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Ivo Perelman Makes It Rain Multiple Reviews Ivo Perelman Makes It Rain
by Mark Corroto
Published: November 12, 2017
Read Jazz from the US Virgin Islands' new breed Multiple Reviews Jazz from the US Virgin Islands' new breed
by Nigel Campbell
Published: November 4, 2017
Read Joe Rosenberg's Ensembles Multiple Reviews Joe Rosenberg's Ensembles
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 2, 2017
Read Abbey Rader in the Spotlight: Ritual and Phenobarbital Sessions Multiple Reviews Abbey Rader in the Spotlight: Ritual and Phenobarbital...
by Kevin Press
Published: October 27, 2017
Read Two Sides of John Wetton Multiple Reviews Two Sides of John Wetton
by Geno Thackara
Published: October 20, 2017
Read "2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon" Multiple Reviews 2016: An Ivo Perelman Marathon
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 3, 2017
Read "Another Timbre’s Canadian Composers Series" Multiple Reviews Another Timbre’s Canadian Composers Series
by John Eyles
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "New, Notable and Nearly Missed" Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Psalms and Poetry: Den Danske Salmeduo and Nicolai Munch-Hansen" Multiple Reviews Psalms and Poetry: Den Danske Salmeduo and Nicolai...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "Green Mountain Jazz" Multiple Reviews Green Mountain Jazz
by Doug Collette
Published: July 24, 2017
Read "David Murray Octets on Black Saint" Multiple Reviews David Murray Octets on Black Saint
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 11, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor