Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Connie Crothers & Paula Hackett, Sharing the Thrill

The conjunction of "jazz" and poetry has by now become a vital part of the arts, an expression where musical sound and creative word spinning make for something more than the sum of its parts when everything is right. And that of course is true of the very most modern conjoining of improvisational musics and poetry as much as it was of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and notable others. Baraka and the New York Art Quartet set the new thing pace with "Black Dada Nihilismus." The AACM had some beautifully classic conjunctions by the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Jarman, Braxton, and Richard Abrams. Steve Lacy flirted with it. And of course Archie Shepp mastered it.

So the "avant tradition" is with us. And now we can revel in something new and worthwhile in pianist Connie Crothers and poet Paula Hackett on their album Sharing the Thrill (New Artists 1055).

As I write these lines the NY "Blizzard of 2015" is in progress, or perhaps it has fizzled out? The pristine snowfall blanketed outside and my self relentlessly prevailing in my semi-heated living space gives me a suitable backdrop to rehear the album as I ponder its qualities.

Paula Hackett has a vision of the today we dwell in. She offers us tributes to Max Roach and Billie Holiday, her personal experiences in life with her brother, relationships willy nilly fated or ill-fated, being stereotyped as an artist with negative connotations, the Kafkaesque experience of institutionalization, of "chokeholds" and other injustices and repressions. All of it has relevance to us today and is expressed with a matter-of-fact poetic immediacy that lends itself to avant jazz collaboration.

(And if you happen to be around New York right now, there is a series of concerts happening in the new improvisation and dance modes centered around the "Black Lives Matter" movement. Connie Crothers and a host of New York's finest improvisors are taking part. Check the net by doing a Google on it to get the schedule.)

So Paula gives us her narrative poetics in conjunction with the vibrantly alive piano improvisations of Connie Crothers. I've said much on her in these pages. Suffice to say that the miniaturist contexts of the fairly short verbal poetics puts Connie in a briefer mode than usual. She rises to the occasion with gems of spontaneity that go exceptionally well with the poems. There is outness, bluesiness, roots and all kinds of inventiveness to be heard.

And so we have a full CD of stories, outbursts of protest, word-pictures of the angst of existence, and of hope, togetherness, being.

This is an adventure that works well because Paula has much to say, says it beautifully, and Connie responds in kind with her special later-period brilliance and essence.


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