Jim Ridl: Project 142 at the DiMenna Center

Victor L. Schermer By

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The third and final section of the concert brought about a stirring release into joy. Ridl read from a poem called "Blossoms," by Li-Young Lee, evoking the sheer joy of sensory experiences like devouring a peach, moving from "impossible blossom to sweet impossible blossom," making what we love our own. He then played an improvisation around Bach's cantata "Zion Hort Die Wachter Singen" in the same way that Nina Simone in "Little Girl Blue" took one song ("Good King Wenceslas") and superimposed another above it. Ridl then quoted from Langston Hughes' Book of Rhythms: "There is no rhythm in the world without movement first," a remarkable case for rhythm as a metaphysical truth, or if you wish the vibrations of the universe. He then read an excerpt from Maya Angelou's poem "Human Family," a case for the common humanity of all the peoples of the world. The concert concluded with three 1930s jazz standards: "Stompin' at the Savoy," "A Kiss to Build a Dream On," and "Caravan," with the latter building to a frenzied rush into unknown regions.

Overall, Ridl mastered the challenge of maintaining the discipline of a classical music performance while achieving improvisational freedom. His poetry readings gave thematic meaning, contemporary relevance, and personal significance to the music. At times, it was as if George Gershwin were at the piano composing the music for "Rhapsody in Blue," and "Concerto in F." (Gershwin along with Ellington and Leonard Bernstein set the strongest precedents for jazz as "America's Classical Music.") Another figure whose inspiration was felt was Cecil Taylor, who has many times read poetry at his performances. If Ridl minimized forays into the avant-garde, his rhythmic pulse was at times reaching for the African tribal roots that was fully developed in Taylor's playing.

Concert Program

Poem:The Peace in Wild Things -Wendell Berry Wachet auf (Nicolai J.S. Bach) A Love Supreme (Coltrane)

Les Cherubin (Couperin) H.M. Etude (Ridl) Jazz Apprehension Month (Ridl)

Poem: On the Prayery -Jeff Ridl Sun on My Hands (Ridl) Thirty Foot Ceiling (Ridl) Poem: The Horse of Your Heart -William Henry Ogilvie Equine Etude (Ridl) Commentary on the novel, The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy Carry Me Home (Ridl)

Poem: Excerpt from Blossoms -Li-Young Lee Zion Hort Die Wachter Singen (Nicolai J.S. Bach) Poem: Excerpt from Book of Rhythms -Langston Hughes Poem: Excerpt from Human Family -Maya Angelou Stompin' at the Savoy (Samson) A Kiss to Build a Dream On (Hammerstein) Caravan (Tizol/Ellington)

Photo Credit: Project 142 and the DiMenna Center


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