Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present

By Sascha Feinstein | Go to book overview

his phrasing actualizes what Hughes tried to express in words: how some of the most alluring and memorable jazz combines grief and joy. At the song's bridge, Parker leans into the slow melody with legato, gives a wink by quoting from "Mean to Me," returns to the smooth lyric, and then, with passionate virtuosity, releases a flurry of sixty-forth notes, fluid, precisely on the beat.


NOTES
1
Russell's book, as Gary Giddins has pointed out, "is often more roman à clef than biography" ([6]). The actual Benedetti recordings were presumed lost for many years, and their mysterious disappearance added to the mystique of Russell's book. Recently discovered and remastered, they are currently available through Mosaic records on a ten-CD collection tilted The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings of Charlie Parker, which, apart from presenting the music itself, resolves some of the speculation about the recordings (for example, Benedetti did not, as most people believed, use a wire recorder.)
2
Trussell obscure collection deserves mention mainly because of the bibliographic reference in Kennington The Literature of Jazz (it is listed as one of only five jazz poetry sources), as well as his representation in The Jazz Word ( 1960), which includes very few jazz poems. For the latter, the editors wisely chose "3 A.M. Jazz Clarinet," written in 1941 and the first titled poem in After Hours Poetry. Despite its clichés, the poem achieves a gentle lilt, and one can indeed imagine the lonely clarinet sound emerging from the desolate morning hours. It may not be a spectacular poem, but it is spectacularly stronger than the others in the collection.
3
Trussell's undeniable enthusiasm for jazz merely sounds trite when he transposes his gushing praise into metered verse, as in his homages to Jelly Roll Morton ( "Way back when jazz music / Was really startin' / No band equaled that led / By Jelly Roll Morton" [28]), Lester Young( "When Lester plays ballads / Then time stands still / The ultimate kick --/ Supreme jazz thrill" [31]), or Duke Ellington (" Of all the orchestras / In the history of jazz / I love the one most / That Duke Ellington has [35]). This ineffective use of rhyme and meter did not, unfortunately, terminate in the forties and fifties. In 1988 R. W. Otto published Musical Poems, primarily poems consisting of two quatrains, and of all the books of poetry that concentrate on jazz-related poems this is the worst. Parker dominates as the subject (" Charlie Parker ," Now Is the Time, "Charlie Parker Died", "Be-bop"), but the poems do not capture the energy of the music, the mystique of the musicians, or the spirit of the era itself.
4
These were by no means the only musicians mentioned in his many interviews and essays. In a discussion with Allen Ginsberg from 1963, for example, Creeley discussed how he wrote the different sections of The Island to the music of Bud Powell, John Coltrane, Nancy Wilson, and Billie Holiday ( Contexts, 31- 32).

Pancho Savery, in his reflection " ' The Character of the Speech': 56 Things for Robert Creeley," finds it curious that Creeley "doesn't mention Monk" ( Terrell,

-110-

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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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