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Reaching Into The Unknown 1964-2009 Jacques Bisceglia/Steve Dalachinsky softcover; 440 pages ISBN: n/a Rogue Art 2009
Jazz and modern poetry seem ideally suited, in temperament if not exactly aesthetic. Though it is designed to mimic the cadences of a freeform improvisation, jazz poetry is still a constructed art form with the benefit of the editorial process. But that does not diminish how much poetry has been directly inspired by jazz and jazz musicians and how that relationship has worked in both directions.
Reaching Into The Unknown is actually the convergence of poetry and jazz, but with the latter one step removed. The over 400-page tome, the second book published by the French record label Rogue Art, features numerous photos by French impresario Jacques Bisceglia (of BYG-Actuel fame/notoriety) alongside the poetry of New Yorker and self-described curmudgeon Steve Dalachinsky. That these men speak of each other as kindred spirits in their introductions may allude to the mixed emotions they engender on two continents.
Bisceglia's photos cover a wide range of jazz musicians shot by him primarily throughout France over the last five decades. There are wonderful shots of Charles Mingus, Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, Charles Gayle, Barre Phillips, Marion Brown and Mal Waldron, Joelle Leandre, Peter Brotzmann, even Ayler and Coltrane, to name just enough to give a sense of the range.
Accompanying them (or is it the other way round, one of the interesting things to consider) are Dalachinsky's poems, usually written around concerts he has seen in New York: Cecil Taylor at the Village Vanguard, Ran Blake at the Knitting Factory, Anthony Braxton at Iridium. His style springs from the innovations of Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti and often relies on its layout for maximum effect. His poetry is not for the uninitiated though one has to admire his sincerity and way of turning a phrase.
The book is a success in that it seeks only to present two men's relationship with jazz and each other, a heartfelt tribute to a powerful music.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.