Poetry and jazz make a natural combination, as the history of experimental music has borne out over and over again. In this case, the Po/Jazz Connection features music by the Arpeggio Jazz and Music Ensemble, led by bassist/MC Warren Oree. Plus nearly a dozen different speakers, each of whom offers a different angleall personal. The connection, at Philadelphia's Brave New World in mid-'99, makes for interesting listening. Most of the fascination lies in the sheer unpredictability of the poetry, which shares a common focus on time but little else. As for the band, it's a standard jam-oriented group. The music on this particular Connection operates in a narrow harmonic range with few changes: it's the kind of thing that works exceptionally well as a shifting backdrop for the speakers up front. The Arpeggio group comes across as quite natural and organic, but essentially the music functions on autopilot.
Zenzele, a sparky feminist, wastes very little time on the first poetry session getting right to the point: "I be Queen Mother of this civilization!" As she elaborates, her words convey a coherent sense of urgency and perspective. Other poets follow. Khaliq tells us: "I need you next to me / ecstasy baby / Invest in me!" (and so on and so forth). Uva ascribes the pain and death of the ghetto to men, specifically those who pursue the "thug life." April Thorpe goes melodic with her vocals, draping an unabashed positivity over her performance: "Think of running naked through a field of daisies..." (Think of flower children.) Lameen Mahdee laments the shallowness of the times with reggae-tinged vocals that describe a modern day Babylon: "family values have been lost and forgotten." Lady Danco proclaims she's "dizzy delicious in your ear," translating the connection between music and words into one between sound and sensuality. Finally, L.I.F.E. goes neo-tribal in the moving closer: "The drum is a channel of energy, knowledge, and power."
Perhaps the most fascinating question that comes out of this recording is how poetry mixed with jazz somehow distinguishes itselves from rap harnessed to beat boxes. Comparing articulate jazz versus static 4/4 repetition, it's pretty easy to see a difference: high art versus pop culture. But somewhere in the middle, where the pieces blur, there's a connection and the two become one. And that's a beautiful place.
Track Listing: Welcome/Kukuru Jona; Walk On By; Daughter Of Destiny; 201 S. Matlack; Wanting To Be In Your Video; Got-Zilla Off My Back; Chocolatye; The Collective; Turn Away; Sisters; Who's That; Wet Walnuts and Whipped Cream; A Drink On Me; Adulterated Drum.
Personnel: The Arpeggio Jazz and Music Ensemble: Warren Oree, bass/vocals; Umar Raheem, tenor/soprano saxophones; Greg "Ju-Ju" Jones, drums; Doug "Pablow" Edwards, congas/percussion; Jeff Knoettner: keyboards; Mike Davis, guitar. Poets: Zenzele, Khaliq, Uva, Nicole McGregor, April Thorpe, Lamont Dixon aka Napalm, Lameen Mahdee, Lori Tsang, Zaki featuring Mecca, Lady Danco, L.I.F.E.
Year Released: 2002
| Record Label: Silk Skin Records
| Style: Fringes of Jazz
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.