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Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - Raul d'Gama Rose
Poetry has always been the libretto of jazz music. Even before epic works of the late Gil Scott Heron like "H2O Gate Blues" or "Winter in America" (which inspired the nations of rap and hip-hop), there was Langston Hughes with bassist Charles Mingus on Weary Blues (Verve, 1958), the great Amiri Baraka, and A.B. Spellman. Then there was Kenneth Patchen, one of The Rebel Poets of America, an enigmatic legend who, if he chose, might have laid claim to creating special arias in the realm of jazz. Not only did they pulse the meter of their verse around the beat of jazz (especially bebop), but sometimes they even cut up or shred words like the melodic lines of the musical idiom of jazz - chopped like pianist Thelonious Monk's own pianism. Whole verses meandered like rampant improvisations, dallying before or after the shuffle and swing of the music - words strung like short or long necklaces bejeweled with augmented and diminished notes/words sung like wicked, twisted and brilliant arpeggios - necklaces snapped and beads running around like words rambling around the music. The jazz arias of Kenneth Patchen...
Mingus often talked of his unrecorded work with Kenneth Patchen. He did record with poet Jean Shepherd on The Clown (Atlantic, 1984), and with poet Melvin Stewart on New York Sketchbook (Bethlehem, 1986). But Patchen was on hiatus; his oeuvre was already legendary by then. It has taken decades for percussionist John Hollenbeck to create something as exquisite as What Is The Beautiful for his Claudia Quintet +1. Here, Patchen is sung or recited by vocalists Kurt Elling, in his inimitable baritone, and Theo Bleckmann, who brings to life the dreamy earthen landscapes the poet fashioned like complex tapestries, knitting and weaving his narration as, hitherto, only Patchen himself has. Here, however, the two vocalists conjure the spirit of the poet as they re-imagine the beautiful dreamscapes in their own singular manners. ... read more...
Down Beat (p.84) - 4.5 stars out of 5 -- "The singers play a crucial role on this album, because it's Kenneth Patchen's pioneering poetry that serves as its launching pad."
Personnel: John Hollenbeck (keyboards, drums, percussion); Ted Reichman (accordion); Chris Speed (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Matt Mitchell (piano); Matt Moran (vibraphone); Drew Gress (acoustic bass).
Audio Mixer: Andy Taub.
Liner Note Author: Richard Peek.
Recording information: Brooklyn Recording (2011-05-06&2011-05-21&2011-).