poet laureate

Charles Lloyd @ JVC Jazz

Charles Lloyd and Reuben Rogers

On the final evening of the JVC-New York Festival, I sauntered down to the
Charles Lloyd Quartet performance at The Society for Ethical Culture. This
seems like the perfect place to see Lloyd perform, on principle alone. His
unabashed jazz ethos and spiritual bent create an immediate and humane
environment. The hall acoustics, however, are a total non-starter for the
sound of live jazz.  A massive wash of drums and indistinct piano notes.
The opening act was our nation's poet laureate, Charles Simic.
Charles Simic

"Club Midnight" is some pretty powerful verse:
Are you the sole owner of a seedy night club?
Are you its sole customer, sole bartender,
Sole waiter prowling around the empty tables?
Do you put on wee-hour girlie shows
With dead stars of black and white films?
Is your office upstairs over the neon lights,
Or down deep in the dank rat cellar?
Are bearded Russian thinkers your silent partners?
Do you have a doorman by the name of Dostoyevsky?
Is Fu Manchu coming tonight? Is Miss Emily Dickinson?
Do you happen to have an immortal soul?
Do you have a sneaky suspicion that you have none?...
Eric Harland

The quartet started behind Simic, and proceeded to play with the musicality
that jazz fans have come to expect from Lloyd's ensembles. Jason Moran is
the pianist, Reuben Rogers the bassist, and Eric Harland the drummer. Their
trip through Lloyd classics like "Requiem" and "Monk's Dance" were well
received, as was the newer material from the quartet's recent release, Rabo
de Nube
.  I had to really work hard to hear the music, but the payoff was
rewarding nonetheless.

Great Live Moments - Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln

Abbey Lincoln is proof that a rose by any other name smells as sweet. The reigning diva of jazz has had more than a few names over the years. She was born Anna Marie Wooldridge. Her earliest professional names include Gaby Wooldridge and Gaby Lee. For eight years, she was legally Mrs. Max Roach. The cultural minister of Zaire bestowed the name Aminata Moseka.
Abbey Lincoln has certainly earned the right of the great singers in our music, those who need only one name. Billie. Sarah. Ella. Carmen. Betty. Abbey.
For decades, Ms. Lincoln has also been the poet laureate of jazz. Her songs have expressed the essential components of a life unfolding, the sum of our strengths and vulnerabilities. That which makes us human. What's right and what's wrong with us. What we have done. What we can do better.
WBGO recorded Abbey Lincoln at Iridium in New York, October 1996. Marc Cary is the pianist, Michael Bowie the bassist, Aaron Walker the drummer.

Listen to Abbey Lincoln sing "Bird Alone," from the WBGO Archives.