Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Yes, You Like Jazz, #5: "She Was Young"


Specifically, you like jazz poetry, a form that is hard to cozy up to, what with all the Kerouacian streams of consciousness and Beatnik mannerisms.* Fear not, Steve Swallow takes the opposite tack here, opting for concision and brevity. It works.

After a songful bass solo by leader Steve Swallow to open the piece, the words -- composed by the poet Robert Creeley -- enter at just over a minute in, and last just 15 seconds. Singer Sheila Jordan presents this resonant, strangely gorgeous riddle.
she was young
she was old
she was small
she was tall
with extraordinary grace
her face
was all distance
her eyes
the depth of all 
one had thought of
again
and again
and again
Then this compressed poetry expands out into improvisation that feels like mantra meditation, both still and moving at the same time. The transcendent piano is by Steve Kuhn, but the group interplay is what makes it. And underneath, or inside of it, are those 34 words, singing.

* Actually, and in all seriousness, the best spoken word with music I've ever heard is Kerouac reading the last page of On the Road, with the Steve Allen jazz trio. Will link it asap.

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