“I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting
for someone to really discover America
—from I Am Waiting by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
April is not only National Poetry Month, it’s also Jazz Appreciation Month. Jazz and poetry both offer music and rhythm for the ear, and both art forms often demand thoughtful interpretation from the mind. Both come in many forms and genres. If you’re interested in exploring more, here are just a few of the many resources the Library has available. Or stop in and browse the sections on Jazz (call number 781.65) or Poetry (call number 811.54), and find something that sings to you!
This entirely new edition brings together all of Philip Larkin’s poems. In addition to those that appear in Collected Poems (1988) and Early Poems and Juvenilia (2005), some unpublished pieces from Larkin’s typescripts and workbooks are included, as well as verse–by turns scurrilous, satirical, affectionate, and sentimental–that had been tucked away in his letters. For the first time, Larkin’s poems are given a comprehensive commentary. This draws critically upon, and substantially extends, the accumulated scholarship on Larkin, and covers closely relevant historical contexts, persons and places, allusions and echoes, and linguistic usage. Prominence is given to the poet’s comments on his own poems, which often outline the circumstances that gave rise to a poem or state what he was trying to achieve. Larkin often played down his literariness, but his poetry enrichingly alludes to and echoes the writings of many others; Archie Burnett’s commentary establishes him as a more complex and more literary poet than many readers have suspected.
Profiles twenty-six of the jazz greats of all time, from Count Basie to Louis Armstrong, through a review of their work, their life stories, and their greatest hits by one of today’s top jazz performers. In an extraordinary feat, Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz composer Wynton Marsalis harmonizes his love and knowledge of jazz’s most celebrated artists with an astounding diversity of poetic forms-from simple blues (Count Basie) to a complex pantoum (Charlie Parker), from a tender sonnet (Sarah Vaughan) to a performance poem snapping the rhythms of Art Blakey to life.
Matching Wynton Marsalis’s musical cadences note for note is the bold, poster-style art of Paul Rogers, highlighted in two phenomenal foldout spreads. The art’s vibrant nostalgic feel is echoed in an exquisite design, with its size simulating an old 78 LP and its endpapers die-cut to mimic a vintage record sleeve. Complete with a discography and brief biographies of the featured musicians as well as notes on the various poetic forms.
It would seem a riddle worthy of the sphinx: how do you give children a sense of jazz music without playing a note? Chris Raschka answers loudly and clearly with the illustrated, syncopated Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. This sparse, rhythmic, repetitive text (inspired by a recording of Parker’s “A Night in Tunisia”) embraces and reflects the sound and feel of jazz when read aloud: “Charlie Parker played be bop. / Charlie Parker played saxophone. / The music sounded like be bop. / Never leave your cat alone.” Whether in complete phrases or in nonsense refrains that taste like music in your mouth (“Alphabet alphabet, alphabet, alph, / Chickadee, chickadee, chickadee, chick, / Overshoes, overshoes, overshoes, o, / Reeti-footi, reeti-footi, reeti-footi, ree.”), Raschka brings melody to the page, and rhythm to eager ears.
Raschka’s art is big, bold, and beautiful, and his text begs to be read aloud–all the rhythm and snap of the jazz style Charlie Parker helped to invent. It gives readers an immediate, intuitive, joyful sense of a music form often considered very complex. Even if you don’t have kids around to share it, this picture book is well worth a read.
This biography traces the output of jazz master Charles Mingus–his recordings, his compositions, and his writings–highlighting key moments in his life and musicians who influenced him and were influenced by him. As a young man, Mingus played with Louis Armstrong as well as with Kid Ory. Mingus also played in bands led by Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, Art Tatum, and many others. He began leading his own bands in New York City in 1955. Eric Dolphy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Jimmy Knepper, Jackie McLean, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cat Anderson, and Jaki Byard are among the many distinguished jazz artists who made music with Mingus during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
Jazz in Black and White collects Duncan Schiedt’s classic black-and-white photographs of some of the world’s most famous jazz musicians. Each photograph is introduced by a brief biographical summary of the artist, along with a memoir about the photograph’s creation that gives the reader a sense of “having been there.” Included are Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Mary Lou Williams, Lester Young, and Thelonious Monk.
Eighty black and white photographs of jazz musicians dating from the 1950s to the present are accompanied by a brief biography of the musician and personal anecdotal memories by the photographer.
Ever since its first flowering, jazz has had a powerful influence on American poetry; this scintillating anthology offers a treasury of poems that are as varied and as vital as the music that inspired them.
From the Harlem Renaissance to the beat movement, from the poets of the New York school to the contemporary poetry scene, the jazz aesthetic has been a compelling literary force—one that Jazz Poems makes palpable. We hear it in the poems of Langston Hughes, E. E. cummings, William Carlos Williams, Frank O’Hara, and Gwendolyn Brooks, and in those of Yusef Komunyakaa, Charles Simic, Rita Dove, Ntozake Shange, Mark Doty, William Matthews, and C. D. Wright. Here are poems that pay tribute to jazz’s great voices, and poems that throb with the vivid rhythm and energy of the jazz tradition, ranging in tone from mournful elegy to sheer celebration.
For another kind of jazzy experience, try the Harry Bosch Series by author Michael Connelly. Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch is a Los Angeles police detective with a troubled past and a love of jazz. Connelly’s writing is atmospheric; you’ll feel a strong sense of place in his books. It’s worth it to start the series with the first title, The Black Echo, and read them in order. Better yet, immerse yourself in Harry’s world by adding some music to read by. With 22 published titles (and #23 due this November), you can lose yourself in a bit of modern noir. Visit Connelly’s website to find lists of the music mentioned in all of his books, organized by musical artist or by book.
Listen to some of Harry’s favorite music along with him. Besides the Pasadena Public Library music collection, the Brand Library in Glendale offers thousands of music CDs, including the titles above, available for pickup at any Pasadena site with your Pasadena Public Library card.