Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sam Charters - Jack Kerouac's Jazz - 3 (Monk, Dizzy and Bird)

Dizzy Gillespie01.JPG

part 3 - Monk, Dizzy and Bird 

Sam Charters: I thought I would talk about the three black performers that Jack talks about so specifically – Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

Thelonious Monk, was one of the most challenging of the three and played with them. Thelonious, unlike the other two, had severe technical limitations . I remember watching him at the Five Spot and I was always afraid when he played one of those descending runs he was going to beak his wrist, because he just never seemed to be able to quite get it together! – and for Monk there was a problem in that he wasn’t going to be able to follow Parker and Gillespie into the technical level that they did. He found a style that emphasized his jaggedness, his personality, his own kind of clear crazy way of playing. I’m going to play you a funny trio record that ..was one that Jack liked. It came from this early period. He called it “Little Rootie-Tootie” and it’s a tune that Monk thought up (Thelonious Monk) as a train song, and these clanging chords that you hear in his right hand are his version of the train-whistles, and the rest is just this marvelous wacky blues showing the humor that was in bop, showing the musicality in bop and the personality.

[At approximately fifty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in, faltering at first, Sam Charters cues up and plays "Little Rootie-Tootie"

People who didn’t understand what was happening just regarded it as a lot of noise. That's particularly poignant to me because in the middle of that he does a little riff maybe you caught – da-da-da- da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da – he’s playing on the piano what had been a King Oliver trumpet solo from a 1925 recording. So Monk is saying I look back to and I have my roots, even tho’ you think what I’m doing is completely beyond youm  Also in this period, about these musicians and the music, they were making it is without sentimentality. This is one thing that’s so marvelous about them. They knew what had happened. They knew what they faced. They knew the whole injustice so they couldn’t be sentimental about it. They couldn’t wallow in the kind of easy sentiment of ballads and things.They created a kind of sentiment without sentimentality. I’d like to play, to give you a fuller picture of Monk - one of his most beautiful compositions, with Monk on the piano and with one of Jack’s favorite tenor players Coleman Hawkins on tenor. This is a recording of Thelonious Monk’s very beautiful composition, "Ruby My Dear”

[At approximately fifty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in, Sam Charters cues up and plays Monk playing  "Ruby, My Dear" - If you could have in your mind some of  the stanzas from Jack’s Mexico City Blues – that’s what he was talking about, that lonely tenor playing that blues on a long afternoon

[At approximately sixty-three-and-a-half minutes in, Samuel Charters continues] - Now to go to the other two of the three that Jack thought about so much  Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Dizzy was born in 1917 so he’s a little older, Jack was born in 1922, so Dizzy’s five years older. He was a prodigious seventeen year old making his first recordings (solos), he was also a very temperamental cat and, when he was with the Cab Calloway Band he stabbed Cab at one point! – (got fired for his pains there) – but, Dizzy is not at all…was not at all.. the really calm gentle man that he has become. 
Parker.. I’ll talk more about Parker. I’d like you to hear them together, at their absolute peak, when they’re dueling to see if each one can make the other give away. Here they are, sort of late into the career of classic bop – 

[At approximately fifty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in, Sam Charters cues up and plays Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker playing together, but aborts the recording at approximately sixty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in]

– I’m going to stop it and I’m going to go ahead because it’s an interesting session, it's the last great session where they are, Charlie on alto, and Dizzy are playing together, Dizzy on trumpet. At this point their paths have diverged. Dizzy is a man of great entertaining ability, a kind of great charisma. He, at this point had become the spokesman for bop, the leading figure. Parker, strung out on drugs, already sick unto death, playing brilliantly but unable to keep more than a shadow of himself together for his wife and children, was beginning to deeply resent Dizzy. For this first number on this session that they did. he asked Dizzy to play the way he usually played in his own groups, in other words “Dizzy, stick in the mute, play quietly, and sort of follow me" . For the next number, Dizzy said, “no”. And they matched each other, (Dizzy took out the mute), and they played against each other, head on, face against face, doing what jazz musicians called “trading fours”. They’ve taken it essentially at an incredibly fast tempo so there’s no way that the piano player can take a solo, at all, it’s Monk, who’s just, just comping, and there’s a first chorus which Parker plays at an unbelievably blistering tempo. Gillespie follows and fumbles, and I think at this point, Parker probably thought he had him, but then they come back on the fours and Dizzy stands right up there face to face against him 

[Sam Charters cues up the record"I think I’m right at the start" - the audio briefly drops out but returns returns at approximately sixty-nine minutes in - continuing to approximately seventy-one-and-a half minutes in]

-  I’m going to finish by trying to give you a glimpse into the music of Charlie Parker He has  [(yes - [to audience query],  yeah, I’ll come back there, you just don’t have a lot of time.. what? What’s the line-up? - It’s Buddy Rich on drums, Curly Russell on bass, Monk comping on the piano)..]  

Of all the musicians, it was Charlie Parker that Jack loved most and identified with the most. They were both of the same age. Parker, absolute transcendent genius, at the same time, a man haunted by personal problems he could never solve. Charlie was a heroin addict from the age of fifteen and he compounded this by enormous drinking. His period as a great musician lasted only a brief time - from about 1945 to 1950. When he died, in 1955, a doctor who had not been taking care of him, estimated his age as fifty-five (Charlie was thirty-five when he died!). He was the example of what Jack meant when he wrote of those that burn and that those who give themselves completely to life, who hold nothng back. Parker’s life was his genius. His life was his music, his life was the poems that he blew out with his horn. Jack totally understood this and when he came to do his session of voice and piano with Steve Allen, he did, I think, a very moving tribute to Parker. I’d love to play for you an excerpt and then play you a little bit of Charlie Parker.

[At approximately seventy-three minutes in, Sam Charters plays audio of Steve Allen and Jack Kerouc - “Charlie Parker looked like Buddha..” ]–

I tried to think of one moment of Charlie Parker, one absolutely pure moment that would fulfill what Jack’s talking about there, and there was no question, for me, what it was. In a pick-up session, in the (19)40’s, 1945, he played a perfect blues chorus, an absolutely perfect chorus, summoning up everything the blues is, everything the blues could be, his melodic voice is totally free (at one moment he even sighs on the horn!) I’m sure a lot of you have heard it. I just want to play the solo. It’ of.. as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the perfect utterances of the human spirit Charlie Parker's solo (on)  “Slam Slam Blues

cuts -off  (at approximately seventy-six-and-a-half minutes in).  I think for one of the perfect  utterances of the human spirit, we can hear it twice  (plays it again!)

Before I play the last selection,..there is going to be (as you know) a workshop, a meeting, in here, a conference, on Kerouac’s biography, which will be taking place as soon as we can re-organize the room. We began a little late because of the sound system arranging the open mike.. I’m going to finish with a.. with an example of Parker. Jack described him as “a genteel conductor of string orchestras, in front of which he stood, proud and calm like a leader of music in the great historic world night and wailed his little saxophone”. Charlie did this. He made some records with himself in front of a string orchestra. I thought this was something that was close to Jack, that was close to Charlie Parker. So we’ll finish this  session of Jack and Jazz with -  Charlie Parker’s “Summertime”

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately fifty-two minutes in  and continuing (eighty-three-and-three-quarter minutes in, to the end of the tape]

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sam Charters - Jack Kerouac's Jazz 2 - Jack and Jazz

[Jack Kerouac, 1959 - Photograph by John Cohen]

Following on from yesterday's introductory note. Here's transcription of Sam Charters' lively talk at the 1982 Naropa Kerouac Conference -  on Kerouac and jazz ("Jack and Jazz") - Mr Charters, it should be noted, is not responsible for the illustrations and the various, sometime random, hyper-links,  but we hope he won't be too disappointed in them)

(And, as a complimentary experience, we  would also recommend David Brent Johnson "Jazz and Jack Kerouac" on his estimable Night Lights series) 

Sam Charters: I was talking last night to Edie Parker, wonderful, beautiful Edie Parker, who was Jack’s first wife. They started going up to hear jazz Harlem in 1940. She says they went up to Minton's club so much they wanted her to open a charge account. And, actually - as one tie-in with jazz - it was Lester Young, the great Kansas City tenor player, who gave Jack Kerouac his first marijuana! -  (that's right!)

Jack discovered jazz, it seems,  when he went to Horace Mann School in New York in that year of an athletic scholarship  to prepare for his football career at Columbia. He met another student named Seymour Wisewho was a great great jazz fan and Seymour really turned him on to jazz in a good way, and an exciting way, so that he saw the reality and the truth of jazz. And what I’d like to do is read a little something that Jack wrote about jazz and then try to show you the music he was talking about.

If you remember, there’s a wonderful section in On The Road when he and Neal go to a club in San Francisco to hear a jazz tenor player. There are two versions of this. The first version, significantly was published as “Jazz of The Beat Generation”  (then) it was shortened for On the Road.  This is the version that we get of "Jazz of the Beat Generation", as Jack copyrighted it and published it under the name “Jean-Louis”, in 1955. I’ll see if I can give you some of Kerouac's flavor in this there [Sam Charters begins reading from Kerouac, at approximately seven-and-a-quarter minutes in,through to approximately eleven-and-a-half minutes in]  - "Out we jumped in warm mad night hearing a wild tenorman's bawling horn across the way, going "EE-YAH!, EE-YAH!, EE-YAH!" and hands clapping to the beat and folks yelling, "Go, go, go!" Far from escorting the girls into the place, Dean was already racing across the street with his huge bandaged thumb in the air, yelling, "Blow, man, blow.." …"everything else crashed along and the cries increased and I thought the cops would come swarming in from the nearest precinct"]

Jack heard and Jack knew, and sometimes, sometimes the music was that great, sometimes. On records you don’t hear it. You walk into a studio, cold, with your horn, it’s the wrong time of (the) morning, you gotta try and do something. Sometimes it happens, most of the time it doesn’t. But if you look around in recordings made in the little clubs, little bars, from the time, then you’ll hear it, what Jack heard. What I’m going to play you is from a tv program that I’m sure John Clelland Holmes heard, other people heard, it was from New York City in the (19)40's it was WNEW Saturday night swing session – and they put on tape some crazy sounds in 1947 with some very beautiful people –Roy Eldridge, Flip Phillips, Charlie Ventura and you’ll hear them really blow - [Sam Charters plays select cuts from the WNEW broadcast, beginning at approximately twelve-and-a-half minutes in, and continuing to approximately twenty-two-and-a-half minutes in]

Now this brings us directly to a period of Jack’s life when he was a musician. He was for a brief time, very brief, a member of a little-known New York jazz vocal trio.. (you may not.. John’s holding on…) The name of this trio was "The Three Tools". We have with us one of the members of The Three Tools - John, will you please stand up - John Cleland Holmes. John loved jazz just as much as Jack did and, as he’s related it, his brother-in-law left a recording-machine in the apartment, one of these hundred-pound monsters with a huge heavy tone-arm that you could cut discs on, and he decided that they would do some rather intellectual kind of readings (Jack would read from his books, they’d read Shakespeare). What they did, of course, was get drunk, put on the machine and do this kind of vocalese, do this kind of bopping, and this kind of goofing, to records, and, believe it or not, some of the discs still exist, and we’re hoping that, some day, John will make them available to the public -The Three Tools riffing to their favorite record(s)… John also wrote a marvelous book (one of them, of course, you know is Go, one of the first descriptions of the Beat Generation, and he also wrote a..  and, I don’t know whether anyone has said that.. in many of his definitions of the times, he defined the Beat Generation. Jack said “The Beat Generation’s the one that’s with the beat in jazz, they’re the ones who hear the beat, who feel beat, and that’s why they’re Beat Generation. So it is just this whole thing of jazz/beat  which is so close. And John also wrote another book, a marvelous jazz novel (for me, the finest American jazz novel) called The Horn, and, I don’t know whether he was trying to cut Jack (in the old-fashioned “cutting” session style) but he included a description of a tenor solo in his book. And, I’m gonna have to stand up and get my wind, but, I’m going to try and give you John’s tenor solo, in answer to Jack’s tenor solo (and a little tenor "cutting contest" there) (I asked John if he’d read instead, but he said, “Hell no, I haven’t got the breath,” so I’m going to have to try it there. This is from John Clellon Holmes’ novel, The Horn – it’s about a session in Harlem. John says it’s no particular tenor player, it’s just those tenor players, the ubiquitous tenor who was in every club, and didn’t want to make the big time, but could blow, could really blow.

 [Sam Charters begins reading from John Clellon Holmes' "The Horn", at approximately twenty-five-and-a-half minutes in, concluding at approximately thirty-one-and-a-half minutes in -  "And there, in front of them, the bandy-legged figure stood, with wild wig that no pomade could finally subdue, a long drape jacket reaching nearly to his knees as he leaned forward to begin, his loose shirt collar already wilted with anticipatory sweat, baggy pants pegged close around the tops of plaid-laced shoes as huge as coal scuttles, foot-long watch chain swinging on his thigh - there stood Metro Myland…"…."Right there NOW, the horn was raised horizontal over them, huge, triumphant, indissiduable, a gleaming miracle in the shocked light, repeating (of itself, it seemed) "zonky! zonky! zonky! zonky! zone! in thin high-pitched squirts of sound that said a clear and untranslatable "Yes!" to everything that was not of the mind, and then were drowned abruptly by the conclusive slamming of the drums, which brough the house lights up."]  

Jack talked a lot about jazz himself and on one of the recordings he made, he recorded what he felt was his history of bop. (Now) any jazz-historian can listen to them and say, “Wow, man, Lionel Hampton doesn’t play the sax, he plays the xylophone", well, we all know that, but that isn’t what it’s about. This is Jack’s own bop poetry, about what he felt about bop. And after I play you what he thought about it, I’m going to (let you hear) some of the things he’s talking about and try and give you a glimpse into the jazz that he means.
[Sam Charters first plays the recording of Jack Kerouac reading his "History of Bop" - “Bop began with jazz but one afternoon somewhere on a sidewalk, maybe 1939, 1940, Dizzy Gillespie, or Charlie Parker, or Thelonious Monk was walking past a men's clothing store on Forty-Second Street or South Man in L.A. and from a loudspeaker they suddenly heard a wild impossible mistake in jazz that could only have been heard inside their own imaginary head, and that is a new art. Bop"... “ “ He is home at last. His music is here to stay. His history has washed over us. His imperialistic kingdoms are coming.”]

The club that Jack was is talking about is Minton’s Playhouse. It’s in Harlem. It was  118th Street off Lennox Avenue. It was an after-hours club. Jack says they started at ten p.m., no-one got there at  ten p.m., it got started  about four in the morning when he got there.  The biggest attraction was the wonderful new young guitar player, Charlie Christian (who was with the Benny Goodman band who was coming out to jam with the house band), Charlie was twenty-two, the piano player Thelonious Monk was twenty, they had Joe Guy who was married to Billie Holiday, playing  incredibly bad trumpet - and the crowd really came to hear Charlie Christian. This got so popular that  up the street a little way, there was another club that Jack used to go to all the time called Monroe'sClark Monroe’s up-town House The band there was Dizzy Gillespie, Ken Kersey on piano and Don Byas on tenor. What Jack has done is put the two together.

[Charlie Christian (1916-1942)]

Another friend if theirs from the Horace Mann days, (and a friend, certainly, of John Clellon Holmes) is Jerry Newman, who was a young kid as crazy about jazz as they were, and he was hauling up to those clubs one of his old heavy recording-machines and they were allowing him to record their jam sessions . There’s one problem with Jerry’s tapes, he.. - they weren’t tapes, they were discs - he didn’t like Charlie Parker! - so he turned the machine off every time Charlie took a solo! – So, for purposes of jazz history, they’re among the most infuriating recordings (ever made), but, later on in the 'Fifties, he started his own record company and decided to put some of the things out  - and one of the songs, if you’ll notice on the record, is a song called “Kerouac”.  This was the second time that Jack’s name appeared in print. The first had been his novel. But then came this crazy song by Dizzy Gillespie, recorded in May of 1940, up at Monroes. Certainly, Dizzy didn’t call it “Kerouac”, what he was playing was “Exactly Like You" (da-da da-da da-da/da-da da-da-da/da-da-da-da-da-da…exactly like you). Now the problem, there were two problems with recording “Exactly Like You”, one was that they would have to pay royalties to the person who wrote it. Another problem was which people do forget…in those days, the people who controlled copyrights could stop any recording if they did not care for the arrangement. So a number of the fine bop musicians made recordings and found, particularly in the case of Jerome Kern, that Mrs Kern would simply not allow the records to be released. So, for once in their lives, Congress moved quickly and amended the law, so what we have in the record business now is called “Compulsory Licensing”, so that we are permitted to release any arrangement of a song, as long as we pay the royalties, but, in this case, Jerry Newman was stuck with an example of “Exactly Like You”, which he didn’t want to release and pay the royalties, and he was afraid it would get stopped.   So he was talking to Allen and he said “What shall we call it ? . And Allen said “Ginsberg”, and he said, “No, that sounds too Jewish", so then he said,  “Lets call it Kerouac” so, indeed, the song you will now hear, Dizzy Gillespie playing quite improbably a song which is called  “Kerouac” 

[At approximately forty-one-and-three-quarter minutes in, Sam Charters plays Dizzy Gillespie's "Kerouac' -   "A young Dizzy Gillespie, very young and not quite sure of himself but already showing signs of the kind of power and authority he was to have later"].

Why bop? Why was Jack so drawn to be-bop? We look back on bebop now as a kind of historical curiosity, something that came and went. There are only a handful of people now [1982] who can play bop. There are really only a handful now who can really understand what it was. Jack knew. Jack really understood what bebop was.The things he said in that “History..” about what had happened to swing. Jazz, as you know, was a great revolutionary breakthrough.

I heard a marvelous story. Among my first books were books I wrote about jazz in New Orleans and I was talking to some fellows who’d heard the very very first jazz band in 1897 – the Buddy Bolden Band – and we tend to look back on that as being kind of corny ol’ time blues. Buddy was actually the sharpest dude in town. He had the sharpest clothes, he knew the best tunes, he was the cat who could make it with all the chicks the cat who was right "with it" – so, when these musicians went in and heard this band play, they didn’t hear some out-of-tune blues, they didn’t hear something deep down and funky, they heard the latest, the hippest, and the hottest, thing they could hear. And they said that they listened, and (that) the band stood up, and they all played a tune - and they couldn’t understand what they were doin’ – they’d never heard anything like it  - and the band stopped, and they didn’t know why they'd stopped – and they sat down - and these other cats were in the audience, and (just got up) shaking their heads, they couldn’t believe it.
And then I was talking to some musicians who went and heard Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie (Parker) play bop on 52nd Street in 1945. They had done the same thing. Here were the sharpest, the hottest, the coolest, dudes in town, and they had invented a new way to play music  - and these fellows said – they were musicians – and these fellows went in, and sat down, and the band stood up, and they played something that they couldn’t understand at all, and then, somehow, they all stopped together, and (then they) walked off the bandstand - and these cats said, in exactly the same way, “We didn’t understand anything they were doing".
So here was the same thing. Bop was that kind of revolution, bop was a new beginning. As Jack said, swing music had come along (which was the ultimate commercialization of the first jazz, the first jazz was small bands, it was Louis Armstrong, it was King Oliver, it was creating in a kind of ensemble together, but it made money, so, immediately, it grew. The bands got bigger, (which means everybody had to read music, if you’re reading music, then you had to have fellas filling in the parts (they needn’t all be exciting?), so it turned in, as Jack said, to an incredible big commercial schmear - It was sold to the troops in World War II  - (Harry James went on tour, Tommy Dorsey played...) it was ridiculous what happened). So all these young musicians (and at this point, they’re all kids, they’re the same age as Jack, they’re in their twenties, their nineteen, they’re twenty, they’re twenty-two), they suddenly decided that they were going to make something that was their own. And it grew out of what they all could do. It grew out of swing. It grew out of these big bands, the big ensembles, but they went back to small bands, to expressing themselves.

The chords… they changed the chords all around. What… It had gotten so popular, jazz at that point,with  these jam sessions you’d get thirty-five young neighborhood tenor players wanting to sit in and play. The bandstands were too little. So they say that what happened with Monk was - (that) he started playing funny chords when they started to walking towards the bandstand with their horns – so (then) they’d stop and listen to him a little, and then they’d back off and sit down!

Kenny Clarke
[Kenny Clarke (1914-1985)]

The drummer that the were working with, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Clarke was playing at the Savoy Ballroom  - and they were playing these jitterbug numbers (like this – [Samuel Charters gives a fast hand clap]for everybody, and the style in those days was for the bass-drummer (because you work with your bass-drum) to play twice as fast, so he’s [Samuel Charters now claps to show a faster tempo] and he had to do that for almost every number – So, finally, Kenny Clarke, he said “Fuck this!".  So he started going [Samuel Charters  claps now with variant rhythm] he started working with the beat, instead of just breaking his leg, pumping it out. And then what Kenny Clarke discovered and it’s a beautiful thing  (and I don’t know where it came from) that if you put the rhythm back on the cymbal (you know,choo-choo-choo-choo-cho-choo), you get the bop rhythm back on the cymbal, then you can play with the drums. What had happened was this marvelous thing. Jazz, when it began, was so heavily influenced by the whole white music trip, and what it did, through bop, was become black. And what Kenny Clarke had done was to rediscover the way a basic African drum orchestra plays (because in a basic drum orchestra, the rhythm’s not in the drums, it’s in a little metal clanger that goes ch-ch-ch-ch -ch-ch-ch  all the time, and your big bass drums are going bah bah –bah-ba-ba bah bah,  and then you got your middle drums going (clap-clap-clap) and then you got your…ch-ch-chSo what Kenny Clarke did was to bring Africa back into drumming, It was suddenly black, in a way that it had never been before.

And these were the things that Jack was understanding. You have it in the piano with the chords, Monk protesting against the standardization. You have it in Kenny Clarke suddenly discovering that there was a way within his own roots and his own psyche that expressed a whole new thing. And then you have Charlie Parker who just discovered that if you carried all these simple little melodies that they were playing a step further, you found the melody that was within the melody,

Part of what they did in this marvelous burst of black expression was also try to have something that was their own.  I’ve spent a lot of my life in  (tape cuts out momentarily here but then takes up again)   ...Thomas Rice who saw a black doing a dance, and he brought the black man’s clothes, and he learned his dance, and he blacked up his face, and did it on the stage, and it was called “Jump Jim Crow”, and it became the basis of the whole of American popular entertainment in the 19th Century.  The first minstrel show was four young men, (one of them Dan Emmett. who wrote Dixie’), who “blacked-up”, put on the clothes that they’d taken from the slaves on the plantations and they did the songs in the way that they heard the slaves do them. This has been, all the time, the story of what has happened to black creativity.With bop, there was a feeling, among Parker and Gillespie, that they would do something so pure, so hard, so challenging, that, for once, whites couldn’t follow it. (And, when you look back at what happened with bop, there were, certainly, white performers, but none of them matched the creativity of the great black artists). And they have left behind a legacy in bop of just total purity. And it could only have lasted a short time because there was not an audience for it, but, because of the history, (coming when it did, 1945 through 1948), it was possible, through a number of small companies, to record it and to document it. And this is what Jack is responding to (not that it’s new, not that it’s now), Jack knew what it was, he knew that it was the spirit of revolt, he knew that it was a spirit of black-ness, he knew it was a spirit of creation, and it’s this that Jack was hearing in bop.

to be continued..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately five-and-a-half minutes in  and continuing to approximately fifty two minutes in]

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sam Charters - Jack Kerouac's Jazz - 1 - (Intro)

[Sam Charters]

This weekend - jazz weekend, we'll present legendary jazz scholar, Sam Charters  (in a talk given on July 26, 1982 at The Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado, on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary On The Road Conference)  "Jack's Jazz' 

Today, just a few brief moments from his opening remarks. Tomorrow, a full transcription of his lucid talk. 

[note - none of the illustrations or the hyperlinks are the responsibility of Sam Charters  -  this recording begins in media res - Charters has been just playing a series of  representative early swing band recordings

SC: ...what you’ve been hearing is a series of recordings by the finest experimental black swing orchestras of the middle of the 1940s, (it) started off, if you’re interested, with Harland Leonard and the Rockets, and (then we) had Gerald Wilson, the last we heard was Billy Eckstine  singing "Jelly, Jelly Jelly"and in the trumpet section of the band was Dizzy Gillespie.

My name is Sam Charters. I do a lot of writing about the blues and about jazz. I was listening to jazz about the same time Jack Kerouac was, even if, maybe, I listened from a different side of the bandstand than he did. I just want to say that the last time I went to Lowell to see Jack was at the funeral, and I remember we were standing there in front of this.. shape, and trying to understand if that could, indeed, be Jack, with the make-up and the crucifix wrapped around the hands. And Allen Ginsberg was standing beside Annie [his wife, Ann Charters] and I, and said, “I have the feeling now that Jack has imagined us all”  - And I have the feeling, these last few days, [on the occasion, in 1982, at Naropa, the Kerouac Conference) of  that somehow all of this is something that Jack might have imagined, that we’re all, for these few days,  products of Jack Kerouac’s imagination. My own personal feeling is that this is the greatest class-reunion I have ever been to, because, in a way, we’re all graduates of the class of 1957, the year that On The Road was published.

The person I was waiting for, John Clellon Holmes, has arrived. [to John Clellon Holmes, as he takes his seat] Perfectly alright, John, I wouldn’t have started without you.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to give you a portrait of the jazz that Jack loved and that he listened to. I’m going to try and narrow it down to talk about three of the jazz musicians that meant the most to him – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. I realize that, for a lot of you, rock ‘n roll has kind of obliterated that view of jazz and, in a way, rock ‘n roll has an excitement that jazz was looking for, but jazz, and the jazz of this period, is one of the most exciting creating.. creative movements American music has had, and I hope, to some way, show you a little of that, and I want to show you what jazz felt.. how it felt to Jack.

We said a lot about Jack in the last few days but one thing that we can’t say enough is that Jack loved  - Jack loved the things of life, he loved the people of his life, he loved his mother’s apple-pie, he loved Lowell, he loved the rivers, and he also loved jazz. Jack Kerouac loved jazz with an intensity that most of us can’t even imagine. He tried to create what he called a jazz writing-style, a bop writing style, and his fine book of poems, Mexico City Blues, he called that the session of a tenor saxophone blowing long lazy choruses of blues on the afternoon. On the one side, he was looking for the blues, on the other side he was looking for bop. These have had such an important influence on Jack, they’ve helped shape his art (so) that it’s important to know what it was he was looking for. 

He gives us a mirror in his books of the jazz that he loved, and his books are a mirror of his life, so, surprisingly.. not surprisingly, in the early books, the jazz doesn’t appear. When we look at Visions of Gerard or Maggie Cassidy or Doctor Sax, the jazz isn’t there. But then you get to On The Road, he mentions Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, George Shearing, Slim Galliard – there’s the wonderful “History of Jazz” that he talks about Lester Young, Stan Getz, Wynonie Harris, Lionel Hampton, Lucky Millinder, Subterraneans, Chu Berry, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Gerry Mulligan, Billy Eckstine, Art Blakey, and a wonderful comment about Thelonious Monk, “sweating, leading the generation with his elbow chords, eyeing the band madly to lead them on, the monk and saint of bop” which is a  marvelous description of what he was. And then there’s a just incredible feast of jazz in Visions of Cody, which, as you know, is the parallel book to On The Road. He and Neal listened to jazz, loved jazz, get off with jazz, experience jazz, feel jazz, throughout the book. There are almost too many musicians in it even to mention Alan Eager, Gerry Mulligan, Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Charlie Christian, Billy May, Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, Stan Kenton, "Artistry in Boogie", Lionel Hampton, even Jelly Roll Morton, Glenn Miller, Lennie Tristano, Sonny Stitt (Sonny Stitt who died last Friday so one of the great generation is gone) James Moody, Joe Holiday, Brew Moore, King Pleasure. The names go on and on and on, something that to Kerouac was a living presence.

to be continued..

[Audio for the above may be heard here, (the first approximately five-and-a-half minutes) 
- and also here
- see

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jazz and the Beat Generation

Jazz and the Beat Generation

from On The Road -  "They ate voraciously as Dean [Neal Cassady], sandwich in hand, stood bowed and jumping before the big phonograph, listening to a wild bop record I had just bought called “The Hunt,” with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray blowing their tops before a screaming audience that gave the record fantastic frenzied volume."

Allen Ginsberg - on "Howl" - "Lester Young, actually, is what I was thinking about. "Howl" is all "Lester Leaps In". And I got that from Kerouac. Or paid attention to it on account of Kerouac, surely - he made me listen to it."

"No periods...but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases)…"- Jack Kerouac (from "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose") 

Yeah, Kerouac learned his line - directly from Charlie Parker, and (Dizzy) Gillespie, and (Thelonious) Monk. He was listening in (19)43 to Symphony Sid and listening to "Night in Tunisia" and all the Bird-flight-noted things which he then adapted to prose line" (Allen Ginsberg)

Lester Young's birthday yesterday, Charlie "Bird" Parker's tomorrow. Jazz is our focus on the Allen Ginsberg Project for the next few days -  Jazz and the Beat Generation

We'll direct you, first off, to Mike Janssen over at Literary Kicks for a useful intro'. 
(and for our Spanish readers - Adrian Barahona)

more tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lester Young's Birthday

Lost Treasures from Jazz's Golden Age Head to Harlem Museum
[Lester Young - "Prez" - (1909-1959)]

August 27 - It's Lester Young's birthday today 

Henry Ferrini's upcoming  film biography is our focus. More on that essential documentary here.

Drummer Tootie Heath recalls Lester's lingo, Wayne Shorter recalls apprenticeship with Prez, George Wein recalls sitting-in, Monica Getz recalls travelling on the bus, David Amram, in 2009, speaking of the exuberance of Lester Young

As Ralph J Gleason memorably put it, "If you don't know who Pres was, you've missed a great part of America".

Here's the original "Lester Leaps In" with Count Basie from 1939 


Allen, in 1968, to interviewer Michael Aldrich:  "Lester Young was what I was thinking about.."Howl" is all "Lester Leaps In"

Douglas Henry Daniels: Lester Leaps In, The life and times of Lester 'Pres' Young, Boston 2002

Here's more (an NPR report) from the 2009 centennial 

Francois Postif's legendary 1959 interview may be seen here
but, more importantly, must be heard here.

Frank Büchmann-Møller: You just fight for your life, The story of Lester Young, New York 1990

August 27-29, WKCR's annual Lester Young and Charlie Parker birthday broadcasts

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 104 (Weird Juxtapositions)

[John Ashbery - The Little Tower of Babel, (2010) - collage 15.2 cms x 20.3 cms - courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery

(Weird juxtapositions) - Gregory Corso is a master of this. He actually took this method beyond the Surrealists and beyond any others that I know, in his book Happy Birthday of Death, and had a series of brilliant single-word poems - "Bomb" (which we have in here (in our anthology)), "Marriage" - taking a concept or an idea (an idea-word, not just the word but the idea-word) - and then writing down, wittily, all the archetypal associations and turns and gifts, jumps of association, ordinary literal clunky reality takes, as well as fantastic mythological takes (like, if you had "shoes", he'd wind up talking about Hermes' sandals, as well as well as the shoe-shop, and the old shoe-man, and the shoe peddler, and the man without shoes, and the barefoot Hottentot, and the..) - or "Hair" - (has anybody read that?) - he's got a poem, "Hair", in which he talks about Yul Brynner, Ish Kabibble, Harpo Marx..

Student: "Stained-glass hair"

AG: "Stained-glass hair", hair sticky with chewing gum, short hair, military hair, hippie hair, any variation. So it's variations on the theme, and, actually, it's like a musical fugue, or just like any jazz musician blowing ideas on a theme. Whatever extravagance comes into mind, (and the bigger the jump the better). Because, what it does (is) it illustrates the mind actually at work. It illustrates the nature of the human mind. So there could be no greater subject, or no greater method of writing poetry, in a certain way - (It's) more naked. It's the most naked method of writing, because you see (the) pure mind, (and) see the mind in it's own quixotic element, (William) Shakespeare does it in some of his Sonnets - "Tired for all these for restful death I cry..", and then it's a list of all the fatiguing, disappointing, bitter, aspects of life.

Student: Do you think it's letting your subconscious flow?

AG: Well, it's mixed, it's very mixed. Sometimes, the lines are totally subconscious and sometimes, they are calculated. It depends. If you're sitting with a paper, writing, my experience is, if you're doing this form (I'm talking about this particular form we've been talking about, which is a catalogue, or list, poem, or litany, where you have a repeated fixed word concept and then you make variations on it and let your mind go anywhere it wants), during the time of composition, probably, you'll encounter every possible function of the mind - completely calculated conscious, completely unconscious accidental - you start to write one word and you'll type out the beginning of another by mistake. So you do tap whatever you could call "unconscious", if there is such a thing.

(William) Burroughs gave a good definition before (sic) when he said, "Art reminds us of what we already (know)", "makes us recognize what we already knew".  You can't tell anybody anything he didn't know already,

Student:  (but) what we didn't know we know.

AG:  Oh, what was the phrasing?

Student:  Isn't it, something that you know but that you don't know that you know.

AG: Yeah. So there's no unconscious, in the sense that we know it. But then there is an unconscious in the sense that we don't know we know it sometimes. That's why we make slips of the tongue, or that's how we write, actually. My writing is really an attempt to discover what I think. The process of creation is (as) a revelation of what you were thinking all along that you didn't notice, that you didn't know you know.

to be continued

[Audio for the above can be heard herebeginning at sixty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in and continuing to approximately sixty-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in] 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 103 - (Vítězslav Nezval)

[Vítězslav Nezval (1900-1958)]

AG:  It'd be funny to write a poem (like "The Voice of Robert Desnos")  that's totally extravagant in confidence, and then followed by a line that's a complete flop, announcing a complete failure of power, to go back and forth from line to line, that'd be a funny one - a funny exercise. "I own the Empire State and the Woolworth Building,/the landlord is coming to take me away from my hovel.".."I declare war on Mars,/I just got arrested for jaywalking around the block".."My armies will conquer Nicaragua [editorial note, this is 1981],/That fat teacher stepped on my toes",  Just alternate between this expansion and the complete contraction. Has anybody done that? I guess somebody must have tried out that.
See, with this.. these.. with this form, which is a very definite form, you can do anything - you can make many many variations, do anything you want.

There's a great Czech)oslavakian poet, (Vítězslav) Nezval, if you get to the Eastern
European section (of the classroom anthology), who does it with Prague - he's got a whole series of poems about Prague - Nezval, Eastern European section, 1900 - born the same year as (Robert) Desnos.  The first of the poems.. I'll just do that one, because it's very similar to the….is almost a steal from the (Andre) Breton poem. I don't know what year it was written, though probably much later - about Prague - "City of Spires". And that comes back to a point where the writing of the poem and the subject of the poem and the poet in  his life are identical, just like that moment when Desnos said "tornadoes spinning in my mouth at this moment". This is (in the) "Eastern Europe" (section), that comes after..

Student: Russia

AG: Russia. After the Russian section, we have an "Eastern European" section - (a poem) called "City of Spires" - Vítězslav) Nezval - Can you find it, those of you who've got… (it's) between "French" and "Russian" - got it? - [ Allen begin reading] - "Hundred-spired Prague/With the fingers of all saints/With the fingers of perjury/With the fingers of fire and hail" - [So, you can see in Prague,they heard the news of this Surrealism] - "With the fingers of a musician/With the intoxicating fingers of women lying on their backs/With fingers touching the stars/On the abacus of night/ With fingers from which evening gushes  with tightly-closed fingers/With fingers without nails/With fingers of the smallest children and pointed blades of grass/ With the fingers of a cemetery in May/With the fingers of beggarwomen and the whole working-class/With the fingers of thunder and lightning/With the fingers of autumn crocuses/[With the fingers of the Castle and old women with harps/With fingers of gold/With fingers through which the blackbird and the storm whistle…" - [ (and there was the line I quoted before, "The birds sing with their fingers", by (Jean) Cocteau -" les oiseaux chante avec les doigts")] - [Allen continues] - "With the fingers of naval ports and dancing lessons/With the fingers of a mummy/With the fingers of the last days of Herculaneum and/drowning Atlantis.." - [(This is all about "hundred-spired Prague" - he's still describing mental and social and citizenly events of Prague)] - "With fingers of asparagus/With fingers of one-hundred-and-four-degree fevers/And frozen forests/With fingers without gloves/With fingers on which a bee has settled/With fingers of larch trees/With fingers cajoling a flageolet/In the night's orchestra/With the fingers of card-sharpers and pin-cushions/With fingers deformed by rheumatism.." - [(Now he's gotten literal)] - "With fingers of strawberries/With the fingers of windmills blossoming lilac/With the fingers of windmills blossoming lilac/with fingers of mountain-springs, with bamboo fingers/With fingers of clover and ancient monasteries/With fingers of French chalk/with fingers of cuckoos and Christmas trees/With fingers of mediums/With admonishing fingers/With fingers brushed by a bird in flight/With the fingers of church bells and an old pigeon loft/With the fingers of the Inquisition/With fingers licked to test the wind/With the fingers of grave-diggers/With the fingers of thieves of the rings/On hands telling the future/On hands playing the ocarina/With the fingers of chimney-sweeps and of St.Loreto/With the fingers of rhododendrons andthe water jet on the peacock's head/With the fingers of sinful women./With the sunburnt fingers of ripening barley and the Petřín Lookout Tower/With fingers of coral mornings/With fingers pointing upwards/With the cut-off fingers of rain and the Tyn Church on the glove of nightfall/With the fingers of the desecrated Host/With the fingers of inspiration/With long jointless fingers/With the fingers with which I am writing this poem." - [(Then he cuts it there because he's brought it back to immediate focus. So that kind of poetry can go in and out of lteral focus. The advantage is you can go anywhere you want and do anything you want, actually, it's an easy form. And the amazing thing is, given that easyform, people sometimes get balked and blocked and begin saying something rational, thinking they're supposed to say something for real and try and make it... The way you do it is just accept anything that blurts into your mind, and that comes out good, always. Whereas if you try and think up something smart you'll always wind up sounding stiff).] 

Student: The occasional ones that do come from that are very realistic ones

AG: Keep it anchored.

Student:  … (which) come out.. and also come out sounding weird in juxtaposition..

AG: Right

Student:… …in juxtaposition to the weird ones.

[Audio for the above can be heard herebeginning at approximately fifty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in. and continuing to approximately sixty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in]