’s large-scale project fusing jazz with contemporary poetry reaches its deepest, richest point yet on Caught in the Rhythm
, to be released September 15 on Origin Records. The fourth album in the saxophonist-composer’s series matches his remarkable assemblage of revered poets—including Edward Hirsch, Tyehimba Jess, and Patrick Sylvain—with an equally remarkable group of jazz improvisers that include Ambrose Akinmusire, Greg Osby, Kenny Werner, and Ben Monder.
Boone’s fascination and ingenuity with poetry and jazz are well established. The two-volume Poetry in Jazz
(released in 2018–19) teamed him with the late U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient Philip Levine; the first volume was voted #3 Best Album of 2018 in the DownBeat
Readers’ Poll. Boone upped the ante with 2020’s The Poets Are Gathering
, which featured creative partnerships with eleven major poets. If Caught in the Rhythm
pares that panoply down to six, it offsets that change by gathering twenty (including Boone) of the finest musicians in the jazz idiom.
“They all have something valuable to say, things that enhance our understanding, enabling us to live fuller, more aware lives,” the saxophonist says of his many collaborators on the album. “With each of these now four jazz and poetry albums, I’ve learned more and more about the melding of poetry with music, and this album in many ways is the best so far.”
It is certainly a great artistic bounty—a beautiful example of the magic that can happen when the right wordsmith finds the right musicians. T.R. Hummer’s authoritative words and voice find ideal companions in Boone’s alto and the twin guitars of Monder and Eyal Maoz on “Mississippi 1955 Confessional”; pianist Kenny Werner and saxophonist Greg Osby underline MacArthur Fellow Hirsch as he conflates the expressions of jazz and poetry on “Art Pepper”; and Werner, violinist Stefan Poetzsch, bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer Ari Hoenig construct a stark, haunting backdrop for Jess’s “Mercy.”Caught in the Rhythm
also gives voice, both literal and figurative, to the young Afro-Latinx poet Faylita Hicks—who is also a singer and performer, and it shows. Her delivery veers between the fitting and the ironic; she recites “Hoodwitches [Redux]” with the cadences of a sermonizing preacher, while on “ASMR Sleepcast: The Night After Being Released from the Rural County Jail” she assumes the mantle of the sleek, sultry nightclub singer. Boone groups her with a stellar cast of similarly young musicians, among them the rhythm section of keyboardist Kevin Person Jr., bassist Philip Sarkisian, and drummer McKenna Reeve. “They’re all just in their twenties,” Boone notes, “so they bring fresh ideas informed by hip-hop and other genres.”
But if these collaborations yield wide-ranging work with endless interpretations, they also serve a singular and personal purpose for Boone. The saxophonist is afflicted with a hearing difficulty that compelled him to do extensive research during his doctoral studies on the melodies embedded in spoken English. “Now when I hear people speak, I hear it as music,” he explains, “and that profoundly informed how I approached this project.” Caught in the Rhythm
comes closer to capturing that concept than ever before.
Born in the small textile town of Statesville, North Carolina, Benjamin Boone earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in jazz (B.M.), theory (B.M.), and music composition (M.M. and D.M.A.). In New York he performed widely and served as a music business manager. Since 2000, Boone has taught music theory and composition at California State University in Fresno and served as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Accra, Ghana (2017–18), in the Eastern European nation of Moldova (2005), and in Limerick, Ireland (2022–23).
His compositions have garnered multiple national and international awards and honors, have been performed in 38 countries and on 30 albums, and have been the subject of three feature stories on National Public Radio. Caught in the Rhythm
is the fourth in a series of Boone’s explorations of improvised music and spoken language, long an area of both scholarly and artistic interest for the saxophonist.