Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present

By Sascha Feinstein | Go to book overview
26
Ginsberg himself has recorded with musical accompaniment on records such as First Blues. These sessions, however, have never equaled his poetry at its best.
27
Similarly, in a different interview, he said, "Well, generally it [poetry and jazz] was a bad experiment. Usually the musicians wanted to blow -- like 'Go ahead and read your poems man but we've got to blow' -- and the poet ended up like he's trying to make himself heard on the street corner" ( Riverside, 6).
28
Nordine recorded Word Jazz (Dot Jazz Horizons) in 1957. On the same label and in the three subsequent years, Nordine also recorded Son of Word Jazz, Next! ( Word Jazz), and Word Jazz Vol. II, which were not so much poetry-readto-jazz as they were short vignettes (some of which were accompanied by capable but relatively uninspired jazz musicians). Selections from these long-out-of-print records have been reissued by Rhino Records as Word Jazz Vol. 1 ( 1990).
29
A closer look at Smith's primary sources, however, shows that some of his supportive evidence is not nearly so strong as it may seem. For example, he accurately quotes John Ciardi as writing, "Patchen's poetry is in many ways a natural for jazz accompaniment" ( Ciardi, 57), but does not mention that most of Ciardi's article admits to an inability to understand the merits of jazz poetry and criticizes the union because the poetry tends to get lost in the louder sounds of the band.
30
As early as February 1958, The Jazz Review printed an essay by Bob Rolontz titled "Whatever Became of Jazz and Poetry?" (an essay reprinted in The Jazz Word, 1960). By 1960 the survival of the Beat movement seemed utterly questionable, as expressed in James Truitt's The Washington Post column, "The Beats (Who Really Never Were) Are Gone."
31
Interestingly enough, both Koch and Rivers found themselves trying to work with, rather than against, the new techniques afforded by the union of poetry and jazz. "Last year [in 1959]," Koch explained, "Larry Rivers and I tried to kill poetry-and-jazz by parodying it; our first session at the Five Spot, however, turned out to be so enjoyable (for us, at least) that we repeated the experience several times. I don't think we killed it" (440).
32
Filmed in black and white, a recent television commercial for GAP jeans capitalized on the black-suited, hipster-poet reading in a smoky club to the sounds of jazz in the background: "Sky fits heaven so ride it. Child fits mother so hold your baby tight. Lips fit mouth so kiss them. And the face they adorn reminds you of someone you once knew some hot night, long ago, familiar as these blue jeans."
33
The anthology comprises twenty-four poets, including Pete Brown, Anselm Hollo, Christopher Logue, Spike Milligan, and Adrian Mitchell, as well as Ted Hughes, Jon Silkin, and Stevie Smith.
34
Coltrane A Love Supreme ( 1964) includes the chant, "A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme," but it would be a misnomer to call the refrain a poem. However, for the liner notes on the record, Coltrane did include a printed poem that he wrote, titled "A Love Supreme." Unfortunately, the poem is terrible: a vague, obtuse homage to God that has none of the profound spirituality evoked by the music itself.

REFERENCES

Anonymous. The Cool, Cool Bards. TIME. 70 ( December 2, 1957): 71.

Baldwin James. A Lover's Question. Les Disques du Crepuscule, TWI 928-2, 1986.

-85-

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Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Jazz Poetry: an Introduction 1
  • Notes 12
  • References 13
  • 2 - The Sin in Syncopation 15
  • Notes 36
  • References 38
  • 3 - Weary Blues, Harlem Galleries, and Southern Roads 41
  • Notes 57
  • References 59
  • 4 - From Obscurity to Fad: Jazz and Poetry in Performance 61
  • Notes 81
  • References 85
  • 5 - Chasin' the Bird: Charlie Parker and the Enraptured Poets of the Fifties 89
  • Notes 110
  • References 113
  • 6 - The John Coltrane Poem 115
  • Notes 136
  • References 140
  • 7 - Goodbye Porkpie Hat: Farewells and Remembrances 143
  • Notes 158
  • References 159
  • 8 - An Enormous Yes: Contemporary Jazz Poetry 163
  • Notes 180
  • References 181
  • Index 183
  • About the Author *
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