Kenneth Rexroth - Poetry And Jazz At The Blackhawk
BGP Records - BGP 1019
Originally Released As FANTASY Records 7008 In 1960
State And 32nd
The Deserted Courtesan
In The Wood
Go, Lovely Rose
Poetry set to jazz is considered a very 1950's and particularly Beat Generation phenomena, but Kenneth Rexroth had been doing it as far back as the 1920's. This album from 1960, finds him setting his own poems and his translations to some very cool west coast jazz at San Francisco's Blackhawk club. Despite his, at times, peculiar delivery I think this album works really well and I've enjoyed it for years.
Unfortunately the original LP did not list who the band were and this reissue by ACE Records does nothing to put that right. After a bit of research I found a chap on line who has an original copy of the LP with guide notes inside by drummer Hank Uribe. These notes (you can see them here) list the group as:
John Mosher - Bass
Clair Willey - Piano
Dickie Mills - Trumpet
Brew Moore - Sax
Hank Uribe - Drums
Whether this is the group that appears on the album or performed it soon after the album's release, using the LP as a guide, is still not 100% definite. However, Brew Moore was associated with the Beat scene, recorded for Fantasy and regularly worked at the Blackhawk so there's a very good chance he's playing sax on this album.
Kenneth Rexroth was not really a part of the Beat Generation. As an already published and recognised poet, he acted as a kind of elder statesman and mentor for many of the Beat poets, and certainly did a lot to help Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder gain recognition. He was master of ceremonies for the famous poetry reading at the Six Gallery, San Francisco in 1955 that first publicly introduced the Beats, was a witness for the defence at Alan Ginsberg's obscenity trial and appears in Jack Kerouac's 'Dharma Bums' as Reinhold Cacoethes. Sadly he would end up being critical of the Beat Generation and when called the 'Father of the Beats' by TIME magazine, he replied "an entomologist is not a bug" (so there!).
Whether he was a cool patron of the Beats or a grumpy old man, this album is very cool. Listen to a couple of tracks and see.....