A video montage from a jazz/poetry session conducted in Tallahassee, FL in October 2010.
A video montage from a jazz/poetry session conducted in Tallahassee, FL in October 2010.
It was about 10:30pm on January 21, 2011 and Chick Corea had just completed two sets with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in Rose Auditorium. I stood backstage as he congratulated Wynton Marsalis outside of the dressing room amidst the culminating fans waiting to snag a photo with either of the jazz legends. I took my camera out to try to sang a photo of the two shaking hands but it was to be my own hands that faced certain tremors, most likely from excitement. The performance had shaken me, rejuvenating my senses. As I sat first row center in the first set of balcony seats listening to brand new arrangements of “Amrando’s Rumba”, “Crystal Silence” and “Matrix”, some of my favorite Chick tunes, the talent on one single stage was nearly too much for me to handle. Chick can convey so much information [at times an overabundance] in any given solo, especially on his trio records, but with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra’s arrangements of his tunes, the constraints worked to his advantage. That being said, the band did stretch out. At one moment Walter Blanton Jr. began clapping a syncopated pattern during a Vincent Gardner solo. The front woodwinds listened and one by one joined in with the tricky pattern. Drummer Ali Jackson was feeding them material the entire night, especially Chick. Backstage on my way to Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, I spoke with Ali, who reminded me that Chick is a drummer at heart and plays piano like a drummer. No wonder they shared a wide grin during nearly ever trio moment.
I was heading to Dizzy’s to hear my former professor’s Rodney Jordan (bass) and Marcus Roberts (piano) perform with Jason Marsalis (drums) in what is now known as the Marcus Roberts Trio. Jason later told me how excited he was that he was to be performing around the corner from Chick and that there had been “talk” a few months back about Chick sitting in with Marcus. Low and behold, Chick grabbed a seat in the audience just before Marcus took the stage.
At the bar stood a number of Lincoln Center cats including Wynton, Walter Blanding Jr., Victor Goines, Marcus Printup, Wycleff Gordon. Marcus kicked off the set, the trio’s third one of the night, with a blues entitled “Bird and Monk”. The head has some of the weaving characteristics of a “Bird” head with the harmonic traits of a Monk blues. It was after this tune that he called Wycliffe, Printup and Blanding to the bandstand to perform another original tunes of Marcus’ entitled “Country by Choice”.
After the tune ended Marcus attested his affection and respect for Chick Corea and invited him to the piano. “I checked out this cat’s records when I was in high school. Tried to figure out his voicings. Still trying to figure them out”, Roberts remarked. What followed was a spontaneous collaboration of piano minds that was nothing short of magical. A four-handed country blues. The great thinkers of the piano sitting side-by-side sharing the instrument. I don’t suppose there are many things as intimate as two people sharing one piano. Here is a bootleg of “Country Blues”:
Now under the media tab, you can find three videos from the first annual SYMPOSIUM : A Live Integration of Jazz & Poetry. The event was held at The Warehouse on Gains Street in Tallahassee, FL in April 2009. The event featured a number of student poets and musicians. Due to the loss of footage, only select performances were able to be recovered and uploaded online. We are pleased to have captured those of three tremendous poets: Eric Lee, Dr. David Kirby and Cecilia Llompart.
Poets and jazz musicians carry an uncanny resemblance in personality aside from a ongoing hunger for creativity and personal expression. It’s such a hunger that fuels the relationship between the two art’s and the ongoing cross-fertilization and performances continue to resonate today. Poetry can also been looked to as lyrics for preconceived music. Look no further than the art songs of Franz Schubert. In a modern era of composition, often deemed the “kitchen sink” era for the lack of restrictions, poets and composers find ways to influence each other on the written page as opposed to the typical uncertainty of jazz/poetry fusion. In the following clips, “The Want Bone” by prized poet and educator Robert Pinsky is realized in two different ways: the improvised and the preconceived.
The sound above is from The Writers Harvest in 2009, an event fundraiser for world hunger which brought Pinsky himself to FSU. He requested to read with a jazz ensemble and saxophonist Adam Cambria stepped up to the plate. After forming a quartet to back Pinsky, the forces of spoken word and improvised jazz fused, culminating in a collage of vocal and sonic poetry.
Poet: Robert Pinsky
Band: Jamison Ross (drums), Nadav Spiegelman (bass), Evan Powell (piano) and Adam Cambria (alto sax).
In November 2010, Hardbop‘s own Alexander G. Ariff composed and interpreted “The Want Bone” in a completely new light. He looked deeper into to the undertones of the poem: yearning, longing, and coping with unnecessary desires. Utilizing musical text painting (the waves at the beginning of the piece, repetition of melodic and harmonic content) and the human voice, Ariff’s rendition of “The Want Bone” isn’t necessarily jazz or poetry. As previously addressed, the idea of creating a new song from a previously written poem isn’t new but after examining the cohesion of spoken word, jazz and the spontaneity of Pinsky’s 2009 reading of “The Want Bone”, Ariff decided to take a new route.
Composer: Alexander Ariff/Robert Pinsky
Band: Zenyth Manchione (voice), Nadav Spiegelman (bass), Brendan Polk (piano), Gerald Law (drums), Alexander Ariff (alto sax), Jim Alexander (tenor sax), Joe Goldberg (soprano sax), Stephen Mulligan (violin), John Thayer (violin).
“THE WANT BONE” by Robert Pinsky
The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth’s bell.
Blue rippled and soaked in the fire of blue.
The dried mouthbones of a shark in the hot swale
Gaped on nothing but sand on either side.
The bone tasted of nothing and smelled of nothing,
A scalded toothless harp, uncrushed, unstrung.
The joined arcs made the shape of birth and craving
And the welded‑open shape kept mouthing O.
Ossified cords held the corners together
In groined spirals pleated like a summer dress.
But where was the limber grin, the gash of pleasure?
Infinitesimal mouths bore it away,
The beach scrubbed and etched and pickled it clean.
But O I love you it sings, my little my country
My food my parent my child I want you my own
My flower my fin my life my lightness my O.
The new headquarters of Hardbop Jazz Journal, I am pleased to announce, is New York City. I am eager to reach out to a new community, frankly, THE community of jazz-heads to contribute to this journal. This includes, photographers, writers, videographers and concert/album reviews. With your input and vocation, Hardbop can grow as a multifaceted online journal and rise to occasion in this digital age. Although the journal is moving from Florida to NYC, the contributing force can be worldwide. This music is not only active in one location and deserves to be recognized on the global scale. I hope that if you are interested you will contact me via the email link below and we can begin to watch Hardbop grow into much more than a jazz journal but a leader in the multi medium fertilization of the way humans absorb jazz.
With Much Gratitude,
Alexander G. Ariff
Founder/Creator of Hardbop Jazz Jouranal
It’s been a treacherous road and a balancing act preparing and culminating my research. The podcast was anticipated to be released during October and November has arrived. No podcast. I hate to let people down but mark my words the interviews are still moving along but the editing and production processes have pushed the release date. Anticipated release date is now early 2011.
Leon Anderson and the FAMU Jazz Faculty Present the Music of Ornette Coleman Live At B Sharps Jazz Café.
Steven Lewis, Contributing Writer
On Friday, April 22 2010, in a step away from its more typical straight-ahead fare, B Sharp’s Jazz Café presented an evening dedicated to the compositions of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. The featured band was a quartet made up of mainly Florida A&M Jazz Studies professors (Longineau Parsons on cornet and pocket trumpet, Diron Holloway on alto sax, and Bryan Hall on bass) with Florida State University jazz department’s Leon Anderson on drums. They put on a frequently exhilarating (if under-rehearsed) show.
The band, though excellent as a whole, didn’t sound totally comfortable. Part of the problem may have been that they were reading off of lead sheets. Coleman’s compositions, more so than those of other modern jazz composers, are rooted in the oral tradition of black folk music; everything would have sounded more natural had it been learned directly from the recordings. The quartet came closest to sounding like an authentic Ornette Coleman group on “Peace” and especially “Lonely Woman”, where Holloway was finally able to approximate some of the human cry in Coleman’s alto sax tone.
Holloway was the unofficial leader of the group; he transcribed the opening ensemble sections of some of the tunes off of recordings and wrote his own loose arrangements of others. Holloway has a prodigious technique and a sweet tone. His wild playing sounds more boppish than Ornette’s ever did; at times, as in his solo on “Bird Food” he sounded as if he was playing the Charlie Parker Omnibook backwards. In his solos on Eric Dolphy’s “GW” and “245”, he proved himself to be a more accurate imitator of Dolphy than Coleman; he has the technique required to pull off Dolphy’s rapid licks and managed to echo his plaintive tone, especially on the melody statements.
The rhythm section was attentive and swinging, though it sounded little like the Billy Higgins-Charlie Haden team from the classic Coleman Atlantic sessions. Anderson’s muscular drumming meshed well with Hall’s skittering bass lines. Anderson is a powerful, sometimes terrifying accompanist; his playing behind Parsons’ solo on “Bird Food” sounded first like a typewriter and then like a machine gun.
Parsons’ mischievous cornet playing stole the show. Once warmed up, he sounded as if he was reliving his days with David Murray on the New York loft scene. His small tone stretched into long, convoluted lines that curled in on themselves. He was most comfortable playing the blues; on Coleman’s “Blues Connotation”, he played a long solo that alternated sprinting runs with slow, strutting sections in which he swung his hips. He played from his gut on Eric Dolphy’s blues “245”, shouting like a county preacher.
The sole standard of the night was “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise”. Parsons wandered around in the changes for a while before Holloway ripped everything up, taking the tune back into avant-garde territory.
The last tune of the night was a rollicking reading of “When Will The Blues Leave?” Holloway constructed a solo entirely of Dolphy shrieks and bop clichés twisted into odd shapes; Parsons played a demented solo on pocket trumpet, cackling like a goblin over Anderson’s ferocious drum set accompaniment.