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all that jazz plus poetry

I was going to write an article about the poetry at the Bucktown Art Fest last Saturday, but by the time I almost got there, the event was cancelled due to the rain (the flooding was terrible). Many regulars from the Waiting for the Bus collective were involved in the event.

Speaking of Waiting for the Bus, the person who won the Poetry Pentathlon this year, Sheila Donovan, put her winning poem, Crumbled Paper Rant, on her Facebook page. Check it out. Congrats Sheila you’re marvelous! For some reason this ended up sounding like an old time newspaper gossip column.

This is the week of the 36tth annual Chicago Jazz Festival. In the past I have seen some of the great jazz icons there including the saxophone colossus, Sonny Rollins; the free jazz visionary, Ornette Coleman (his Free Jazz cd inspired one of my poems); Archie Shepp (I still have a pic I took with him); Charles Lloyd (his Forest Flower is indescribably essential); Henry Threadgill; Ken Vandermark; Dave Douglas, as well as the challenging Roscoe Mitchell (I just listened to a cd from his great former band the Art Ensemble of Chicago today); the Miles Davis band alumnus, Wayne Shorter; Dexter Gordon; Abbey Lincoln; and the late, great proprietor of the Velvet Lounge, Fred Anderson.

I’m truly sorry I never got to see Dizzy, Miles, Mingus, Billie, Duke or Monk.

One of the headliners this year was Terrence Blanchard. Blanchard first gained fame playing with Art Blakely’s Jazz Messengers and he also scored some Spike Lee films. Along with the Marsalis Brothers, he was part of the new generation of jazz stars that achieved great fame (for jazz) and revitalized the art form in the ‘80s (I think my favorite jazz person from that generation was Joshua Redman)

Blanchard’s scintillating band on Friday’s set at the fest featured Ravi Coltrane (the son of John), and Lionel Loueke on guitar. Much of the music sounded both modern and traditional at the same time (especially the weirdly catchy title track off Magnetic.

On the closing night, the headliner on Sunday at Millenium Park will be the Sun Ra Arkestra. Unfortunately, Ra is deceased so the band that he started (a Noah’s ark of music) will be led by his former band mate Marshall Allen.
Many people don’t know that Ra also wrote poetry that was as cosmic oriented as his music. See for some samples. I once met a man at a Chicago poetry show that reads nothing but Sun Ra’s poetry at open mics (he was also obsessed with TLC.).
I have never actually purchased any of Sun Ra’s recordings (although I have the Space is the Place movie, and I have taken his stuff out of the library.) I think I find the sheer volume of his work and his rep as a difficult musician intimidating. Does anyone have any suggestions? I think I’ll get Atlantis first. It’s got a pretty good rep.

I’m very sorry that I missed Keefe Jackson’s Likely So set (an all reed group) on Thursday (I had to teach.) I first met Keefe at the late, lamented Pilsen Café, and I saw him perform several times at the Skylark bar on south Halsted, and he has never disappointed. To find out more about his music and upcoming concerts go to

I will put the pic of Blanchard with me that some stranger took with his camera if he ever e-mails it to me (I paid him a buck to do it.)

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