Barry Wallenstein

Taking Off: Poetry and Jazz

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Does it ever go away? It's true -- people have been reading poetry with music since perhaps the beginning of the stanzaed word. And since Kerouac and Ken Nordine, it has become de rigeur almost, if you are a poet who "performs," that you must read with jazz musicians. But so few do it well. Even Kerouac sounded better by himself than he did with Steve Allen. Ginsberg sounded great with the Clash, but with the rag-tag groups of jazz musicians he picked up? Ugh. Of the postmoderns, only Robert Creeley, Jayne Cortez, Steve Dalachinsky, and Amiri Baraka have pulled it off on jazz recordings. Barry Wallenstein does not get to join that select group; in fact, Wallenstein's poetry, written as it is, to be read with a jazz band or in a book, fails miserably because it doesn't hold up with music or on the page. These are aged, oh-so-hip beatnik tropes played to an absurd extreme with a band who can barely handle the burden of these words. Want an example? Just listen to the late, great Charles Tyler chomping at the bit on his tenor, hoping it does gel so he can cut it all loose and into the heavens. But it's anchored, mired hopelessly to the clich├ęs of tall things past and perhaps even treasured. This is too measured, too gridded out to be a poetics that challenges time, space, or the listener/reader. Wallenstein should have read these poems in the mirror to a Charlie Parker record; we'd all be better off.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:37
2 0:58
3 5:15
4 3:47
5 4:51
6 2:38
7 5:12
8 3:06
9 7:08
10 3:05
11 4:54
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