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Kenneth Patchen: Reads With Jazz In Canada

Mark Corroto By

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Funny how poet Kenneth Patchen's message is even more poignant today, two generations down the road. His antiwar pacifism was eclipsed by the overindulgent "beat generation" poets, who claimed him as a father, then quickly chose to become his prodigal sons. His message of love, blurred by their self-obsession, has come around again. Patchen's words for a troubled cold war world are suitable in these post-9/11 unsettled times.

Patchen's poetry and prose has always had a strong following in the jazz community. Saxophonist Peter Brötzmann continually cites him as an influence, as does bassist William Parker.

This recording, issued originally on Folkways Records, documents a 1959 session Patchen made with Alan Neil's jazz quartet. Patchen, one of the first to read his poetry with jazz, opened the door for Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Tom Waits, and perhaps even hip-hop. (Well, maybe not hip-hop. I'll leave that connection to the cultural anthropologists.) Patchen went on to record his plays as sound installations by John Cage.

Patchen, a literary descendent of Blake and Whitman, was also a man of this time. In 1959, his voice was best expressed in jazz and the language was bebop. The Canadians heard here are well versed in Charlie Parker's mood. As Patchen speaks, I'm reminded of Bird's vision: both artists calling for an anarchic love. Funny how many thinkers from Malcolm X to John Lennon settled on love and brotherhood as a resolution to our problems.

Patchen touches on a bit of surrealism with "As I Open The Window." He seems to loosen his tie and tell us a dreamy tale of mermaids, zebras and Mel Torme. His "Glory, Glory" is a stream of consciousness ramble fitting nicely with the music, all loose and free form.

Patchen's roots were in the American vision of Whitman and Walden. His children are today's jazz thinkers. Free thinkers whose messages are heard by the few, the proud, but probably not the Marines.


Track Listing: Four Blues Poems: 1. There's A Place; They Won't Let You In There; A Sigh Is Little Altered; The Lonesome Boy Blues; Four Song Poems: The Everlasting Contenders; Do i Not Deal With Angels; The Sea Is Awash With Roses; Not Many Kingdoms Left; As I Opened The Window; Glory, Glory.

Personnel: Kenneth Patchen - Poetry; Bill Boyle - Drums; Lionel Chambers - Bass; Alan Neil - Piano; Dale Hillary - Alto Saxophone.

Title: Reads With Jazz In Canada | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Locust Music

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