Poetry Live Geoff Page and the John Mackey Trio Artsound Jazz poetry is defined as poetry that demonstrates jazz-like rhythms and the feel of improvisation. Its origins can be traced to the 1920s when several poets, including Ezra Pound and TS Eliot, discarded the existing poetic conventions of rhythm and style.
By the late 1950s poets from the beat generation were concentrating on spontaneity and freedom where jazz poetry and jazz music were used as powerful statements against the status quo.
Author Jack Kerouac often had musical accompaniment for his poetry readings, as did Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Beat poet Bob Kaufman, in poems such as O-Jazz-O and Morning Joy, used syncopated rhythms, surreal imagery and social alienation derived from his life as a drifter and jail inmate.
The genre took an innovative leap in 1957 when US announcer Ken Nordine released several “word jazz” albums reading jazz poetry in a deeply resonant voice, with professional style plus backing by a jazz sextet led by Fred Katz on cello.
Canberra poet and jazz producer Geoff Page has just released a 16-track album reading his jazz poems, recorded at the Woodworks Cafe in Bungendore, NSW, backed by a swinging ACT group, the John Mackey Trio, with Mackey’s tenor sax plus guitarist Lachlan Coventry and James Luke on bass.
The music, of a high standard, features prominently; backing, connecting, occasionally interjecting. Page’s recitation appears among the music very much like an instrument soloing.
The music blends in with sophisticated musicality. Several tracks are purely instrumental. The poetic content, mostly but not always related to jazz, varies from an expressive listing of jazz performers in Blues on The Names, to the real life story of the death of US trumpeter Lee Morgan, shot in a bar by his partner Helen Morgan, in The Night She Walked Back into Slug’s.
A Manual of Style is a tribute to Sydney saxophonist Bernie McGann: gruff at times but not ill-mannered; a hint of old-time dancing, but the flattened fifth as well. Laconic yes, but savage too.
The atmosphere of a coffee lounge with its background jazz is poetically sketched in Coffee with Miles: the rough percussion of the grinder, the fluency of waitresses floating on the beat.
Booker Ervin is a tribute to the American saxophonist: “Gone at only 39 / somewhere yet you’re playing still”.
Severance describes in sick humour a sadistic staff dismissal: “There’s your package on the shelf / a complimentary Smith & Wesson / now step outside and shoot yourself!”
It’s pleasing to see this Australian resurgence of the poetry with jazz genre and this album delivers both music and poetic prose in an engaging and original style.