Poetry and Jazz: A Chronology

Poetry and Jazz: A Chronology
Duncan Heining By

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My intention here is to offer a detailed but inevitably incomplete chronology of poetry and jazz. The focus is solely on the combination of the two art forms in performance, not on poetry about jazz or jazz musicians or poetry inspired by jazz but not performed to music. My definition of 'poetry' is fairly broad and extends to spoken word/text combined with jazz. Hopefully, readers will be able to add to the chronology by contributing further examples of which I have been unaware.

1957. The Clown (Atlantic LP1260) Charles Mingus, narration/spoken voice by actor/story-teller Jean Shepherd on "The Clown" only. Part-poem, part-story written by Mingus.

1957. A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry (Bethlehem BCP 6026) Charles Mingus. "Scenes in the City" only. Words by Langston Hughes, spoken by actor Melvin Stewart.

1957. Poetry Readings in the Cellar (Fantasy 7002) Kenneth Rexroth/Lawrence Ferlinghetti/Cellar Jazz Quintet.

1957. Kenneth Patchen Reads with Allyn Ferguson and The Jazz Chamber Jazz Sextet (Discovery Records DS-858)

1957. Word Jazz (Dot Records DLP 3075) Ken Nordine words and narration with the Fred Katz Group, including Paul Horn (woodwinds). (NB. Not so much poetry and jazz, as story-telling and jazz. Nordine wrote a series of vignettes for this and other recordings, sometimes surreal and humorous, sometimes mildly socially critical. Fred Katz and his group play a kind of chamber jazz. Katz would later play in Chico Hamilton's Quintet.)

1958. The Weary Blues with Langston Hughes (MGM E6397) with two groups, one arranged by Leonard Feather, the other by Charles Mingus. Poetry and spoken word by Langston Hughes.

1958. Jazz Canto Volume 1 (World Pacific WP 1244) Poems by Walt Whitman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dylan Thomas, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams and others. Various groups perform with various readers, including actor John Carradine, Hoagy CarmichaelChico Hamilton Quintet, Gerry Mulligan, Ralph Pena Quintet, Bob Dorough Trio, Jazz Canto Ensemble (with Buddy Collette). (NB. There does not seem to have been a Volume 2. The Bob Dorough version of three poems by Hughes should carry a health warning.)

1958. Son of Word Jazz (Dot Records DLP 25096) Ken Nordine/Fred Katz Group. (NB. Contains the piece "I Used to Think My Right Hand Was Uglier Than My Left.")

1959. Kenneth Patchen Reads with Jazz in Canada (Folkways FL9718) Kenneth Patchen recorded in Vancouver with the Allan Neil Quartet. (NB. 1942 Patchen worked with composer John Cage on the radio play The City Wears a Slouch Hat. Patchen also performed his poetry with Charles Mingus in the 1950s but no recordings are known to exist.

1959. New York, N.Y. (Decca DL 9216) George Russell. Features words and narration by Jon Hendricks and a stellar orchestra including John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Art Farmer.

1959. Poetry for the Beat Generation (Hanover #5000) Jack Kerouac & Steve Allen/Steve Allen on piano. Recorded March 1958. Released June 1959.

1959. Blues and Haikus (Hanover #5000 Jack Kerouac with Al Cohn, Zoot Sims tenor saxophones. Recorded Spring 1958. Released October 1959.

1959. Red Bird Christopher Logue/Tony Kinsey Quintet—recorded 29th May 1959 1959 New Departures magazine launched by Michael Horovitz.

1959. Next! (Dot Records DLP 25196) Ken Nordine with the Dick Marx Orchestra.

1960. Poetry and Jazz at the Blackhawk (Fantasy 7008) Kenneth Rexroth -group probably Brew Moore (tenor), Dickie Mills (trumpet), Clair Willey (piano), John Mosher (bass), Hank Uribe (drums).

1960. Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (Candid CJM 8005/CSM 9005) Charles Mingus Quartet. Spoken word "Original Fables of Faubus" only. Recorded 20th October

1960. London Institute for Contemporary Arts, 20th November. Horovitz and Pete Brown read "Blues for the Hitchhiking Dead" with the Joe Harriott Quintet. Cornelius Cardew also performs.

1960. Radio Cologne, December. Michael Horovitz reads with a quintet including Derek Humble (alto) and Dusko Gojkovic (trumpet)

1960. Word Jazz II (Dot Records DLP 25301) Ken Nordine with the Northern Jazz Quartet.

1961. Poetry and Jazz in Concert Hampstead Town Hall, 4th February 1961. Organised by Jeremy Robson.

1961. Anglia Television, March. Pete Brown reads "I'm Sorry I'm Late" accompanied by Buddy Bounds (trumpet).


Jazz Poetry Duncan Heining Charles Mingus Langston Hughes Kenneth Rexroth Lawrence Ferlinghetti Ken Nordine Fred Katz Paul Horn Leonard Feather Hoagy Carmichael Chico Hamilton Gerry Mulligan Ralph Pena Bob Dorough Buddy Collette Allan Neil John Cage George Russell Jon Hendricks John Coltrane Bill Evans Art Farmer Jack Kerouac Steve Allen Al Cohn Zoot Sims Tony Kinsey Brew Moore Dickie Mills Pete Brown Joe Harriott Derek Humble Dusko Gojkovic Michael Garrick Quartet Johnny Scott Stan Tracey Bobby Wellins John Mumford Jeff Clyne Laurie Morgan Shake Keane Daevid Allen Hugh Hopper Robert Wyatt Mike Ratledge Sunny Murray Leroi Jones Amiri Baraka New York Art Quartet Sun Ra Steve Lacy archie shepp Graham Collier Gil Scott Heron Jan Garbarek Bobo Stenson Jon Christensen Arild Andersen Wanda Robinson Mike Westbrook Mtume Umoja Gary Bartz Carlos Garnett Leroy Jenkins Stanley Cowell Buster Williams Billy Hart Andy Bey Joe Lee Wilson Lonnie Smith Reggie Workman Idries Muhammed Jayne Cortez Richard Davis Ornette Coleman Denardo Coleman Tom Waits Tony Coe Bernard Purdie Steve Potts Irene Aebi Kent Carter Oliver Johnson Bern Nix Bobby Few Jean-Jacques Avene Charles Moffett Jr. Jamaaladeen Tacuma Bill Cole David Murray Steve McCall Kate Westbrook Phil Minton George Lewis Barry Wedgle Jef Gardner Frank Lowe Ed Blackwell Steve Swallow David Torn Chris Massey David Cast Sam Furnance T.K. Blue Alex Harding Bobby Bradford Charnett Moffett Ron Carter James 'Blood' Ulmer Steve Kuhn Ras Moshe Burnett Rocco John Iacovone Laurie Towers John Pietaro glasgow improvisers orchestra Philip Levine Benjamin Boone
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