Body and Soul: Bob Kaufman's Golden Sardine.
If jazz is music of revolt, it is a revolt towards more natural, wholesome, normal human relationships. (Kenneth Rexroth 64)
My head is a bony guitar, strung with tongues, plucked by fingers & nails (Bob Kaufman, Cranial Guitar 82)
One day in February 1926, musicians Lil Harlin, Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, and Johnny St. Cyr, along with a young trumpet player from New Orleans, prepared to make their second recording for Okeh Records. The young trumpeter had received quite a bit of notoriety as a protege of King Oliver and had acquired the reputation of being one of the exciting innovators of this new, hot music called "jazz." The group was performing a song called "Heebie Jeebies." But something went wrong during the recording process, and Louis Armstrong leaned into the microphone and began singing a series of nonsensical syllables, slightly mimicking the tone and timber of his horn. This new sound was to create a vocal sensation called "scat," placing emphasis on the human voice as an additionally important component in jazz music. Armstrong's recording of "Heebie Jeebies" was The Hot Five's first hit record and transformed the direction of jazz. During that same year, Langston Hughes's jazz-influenced collection of poems The Weary Blues w as published. And, somewhere in New Orleans, Louisiana, two-year-old Bob Kaufman was probably uttering his first full sentence.
Louis Armstrong's experimentation during that 1926 recording had a major impact not only on jazz singing but on poetry as well, for several African American poets began using a similar technique. In his excellent book The Power of Black Music, Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., quotes a 1955 study in which Willis Lawrence James provides insightful speculation on the folk origins of scat singing in the vocals of Armstrong and Cab Calloway, who somehow found the trick of using old folk cry
principles to supplement the normal means of singing.... Being gifted in voice projection, Calloway invented or adopted a series of nonsense syllables and fitted them into his songs of jazz rhythms. When this was done, people realized the thing as a part of themselves, but they did not know why. They did not realize that they were listening to the cries of their vegetable man, their train caller, their charcoal vendor, their primitive ancestors, heated in the hot crucible of jazz, by the folk genius of
Calloway and Armstrong until they ran into a new American alloy. It is possible that neither Calloway nor Armstrong realized what took place. If so, the more remarkable. The response of the orchestra in imitating the cries of Armstrong and Calloway carried the cry into the orchestra itself. (qtd. in Floyd 117)
James's observations can be extended to apply to "non-musical" African American art forms as well. Several poets from Langston Hughes to Amiri Baraka have made use of scat singing by placing runs of nonsensical syllables at crucial junctures within the text when language seems to collapse. In jazz poetry, scat phrasing acts as a kind of verbal release that alludes to the instrumental quality of the human voice. Moreover, scat transcends conventional notions of "meaning" and emphasizes the importance of music as a key ingredient of the text.
Armstrong's scat singing also influenced the singing technique of bebop innovator Dizzy Gillespie, who first began recording bebop in 1944 with saxophonist Charlie Parker. Both Armstrong and Gillespie used scat singing because it could expand the musical ideas they were expressing through their horns. Although their scat vocabularies were unintelligible, they had in them a rebellious quality that defied the musical status quo. Gillespie expressed the connection between bebop and language in his autobiography To BE, or Not.., to BOP, remarking that bebop endeavored to retain the cadence of the African American vernacular and that in bebop musical notes, like words, were bent "into new and different meanings that constantly changed" (181).
In The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry, Maria Damon offers an interesting insight into bebop and its relationship to the body. "Bebop got down, into the rhythm of the organs and the blood, making the body conscious of its internal movement and the eruptions, eliminations and ejaculations by which it expresses itself and shatters decorum: Oo-Pop-A-Da!--orgasm, defecation, flatulation, oral exclamation, and belch" (71). As insightful as Damon's comments are, there is yet another way in which bebop, particularly its vocal form, can be understood. Perhaps, as Gillespie implies, the bebop vocal is an attempt at fashioning a new language that not only responds to the musical tones of the instruments but is also an imaginative way of attempting to recall and reclaim the various African languages that were lost in the Diaspora.
Bebop was created for economic reasons as well. During the Swing or Big Band era, jazz music was usually performed by large ensembles. The financial expenses for managing such large enterprises were daunting, particularly for African American musicians, who were typically paid much lower salaries than their white counterparts. When the instability of the U.S. economy forced several bands to cut back on their personnel, smaller ensembles with multi-instrumentalists capable of creating the illusion of the Big Band sound emerged. Moreover, the evolution from Swing to bebop was in part due to African American musicians' seeking to create a music that would be difficult for whites to copy and to receive financial reward from. As Grover Sales tersely puts the matter: "Bebop was a natural byproduct of this smoldering resentment against white copycats getting rich off black music" (131). Prior to the advent of bebop, white musicians such as Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, and the Dorsey Brothers had achieved public notoriety and financial gains, often by using arrangements by African American musicians like Fletcher Henderson, Jimmie Lunceford, and Chick Webb and by exploiting African American composers and performers.  Thus, bebop, and later free jazz, was developed to keep African American musical innovation away from Euro-based interpretations and in the hands of African American musicians.
Although bebop often makes use of the changes or chord progressions found in several Tin-Pan-Alley-type standards, the discordant cadence of bebop stands antithetical to the formal neatness of Western musical structures. Bebop, therefore, became a way of asserting not only difference, but uniqueness.
It is important that we observe how jazz poets like Bob Kaufman, Jack Kerouac, Ted Joans, and other writers who were part of the Beat orbit managed to apply the rhythmic and tonal techniques of bebop in order to achieve their aesthetic purposes. Their use of bebop propelled the cadence and often the subject matter of their poems. Kaufman and other like-minded poets viewed jazz musicians like Charlie "Bird" Parker as the quintessential American artist, who pushed his artistic explorations to a fever pitch, often resorting to drugs and other assaults to the mind and body. However, despite the use of drugs or, some would argue, because of the use of drugs, these artists explored the boundaries of human consciousness and created several prodigious works. The triumph of musicians like Charlie Parker and his fellow bebopers was that they were able to create a musical style that articulated an alternative vision to 1950s American paranoia and conservatism.
Vocalese also played an important role in influencing the poetry of Kaufman and his contemporaries. Barry Keith Grant defines vocalese in his essay "Toward an Aesthetic of Vocalese" as follows:
Vocalese involves the setting/singing of lyrics (almost always composed rather than improvised) to jazz instruments, both melody and solo parts, arrangements and solos, note for note. Thus vocalese is distinctly different from scat singing both because it is arranged and composed rather than improvised, and because it relies on language rather than simply sound. (287)
Grant's definition indicates that scat singing, because it is not previously composed, is more directly connected to music than is vocalese. The distinction Grant makes between scat and vocalese is noteworthy, particularly because, in his jazz poetry, Kaufman often ignores the differences between these two vocal forms, writing texts that demonstrate his ability to blend and blur their demarcations. He also emphasizes the "music" of silence, the rhythms that occur outside our concepts of conventional music.
In a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle that is included in his poetry collection Golden Sardine, Kaufman writes about the "silent beat in between the drums":
The word beat occurs here eleven times in its various forms, thereby emphasizing the rhythmic qualities of the prose passage and establishing our recognition of the "silent beat" that coveys an opposite and concurring rhythm as well. This emphasis also highlights the space between words. In this manner, Kaufman conveys the importance of poetry as an aural as well as a written creation.
That silent beat makes the drumbeat, it makes the drum, it makes the beat. Without it there is no drum, no beat. It is not the beat played by who is beating the drum. His is a noisy loud one, the silent beat is beaten by who is not beating on the drum, his silent beat drowns out all the noise, it comes before and after every beat, you hear it in between, its sound is. (97)
In order to gain insight into Kaufman's appropriation of jazz materials, it is essential that one examine his biographical data and the particular manner in which he chose to present himself. The mixture of African, European, and Caribbean cultures that fed into the Louisiana tradition of aesthetic improvisation found its way not only into his poetry but into his description of his ancestors. On April 18, 1925, Kaufman was born into a middle-class New Orleans family in which reading was emphasized. His mother was a school teacher who had an extensive personal library and encouraged her thirteen children to read the works of Whitman, Proust, James, and Flaubert. Kaufman's eclectic reading would later inform certain experimental qualities in his poetry. His father was a Pullman porter who died of a heart attack when Kaufman was nine, although he would later inform biographers that his father drowned and was lost at sea. He was very close to his maternal great grandmother, who was brought from Africa on a slave ship; it was through her that he developed an appreciation for nature, which became an important element in his work.
Although both of Kaufman's parents were African American, he constantly invented biographical data that transcended strict racial classification. In contributor's notes to various anthologies in which his work appeared, he would write that his father was a "German Orthodox Jew" and his mother a voodoo Martinican Roman Catholic." Reference sources like Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series emphasize his Jewish and Catholic upbringing, often using it as a means to gloss his poetry. Maria Damon, who devotes a chapter to Kaufman in her book The Dark End of the Street, interviewed several members of Kaufman's family and provides convincing evidence to refute Kaufman's biographical claims. He once remarked, "One thing for certain I am not white. Thank God for that. It makes everything else bearable" (Cranial Guitar 96). By refusing to specify his race and by having a recognizably Jewish last name, Kaufman became the quintessential American outsider.
Maria Damon speculates about the reasons that Kaufman fashioned his ancestry: "The power of the half-Black and half-Jewish myth may have arisen, in the war years and afterward, from a sense of solidarity with suffering and the desire to appropriate a doubly marginal status, which might have appealed to a Beat sensibility, as would the idea of a powerful but unorthodox and variegated spiritual heritage" (34). By choosing to emphasize origins (Voudou, Judaism) "outside" Christianity, Kaufman created a mystique that would transcend any form of religious or racial categorization. Like the jazz musician who utilizes a variety of sources to create one cohesive piece of music, Kaufman created a complex persona that would dictate the manner in which he lived his life, as well as the manner in which his poetry was responded to by critics.
Sascha Feinstein remarks that Kaufman lived his life "much like the stereotypical jazz musician of the time: addicted to nightlife, to drugs, and to the avowedly non-academic, non-self-promoting world of the arts" (104). In the preface to his collection The Ancient Rain: Poems, 1956-1978, he wrote, "I want to be anonymous. I don't know how you get involved with uninvolvement, but I don't want to be involved. My ambition is to be completely forgotten" (ii). He therefore chose to turn his back on literary accolades and financial gain in order to create a body of work that was unconventional and transcended the staid standards of conventional verse. The majority of Kaufman's work was never written down in journals. Rather, his words were composed aloud or written down on assorted scraps of paper and later typed or recorded by his friends. Because the bulk of his work was performed orally, Kaufman sought to return poetry to its original roots as an oral art form first and foremost, anticipating the concerns of B eat writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Ted Joans. By bothering to write down his works only rarely, Kaufman actively pursued his desire for anonymity.
Although Kaufman cultivated an outsider persona, he wasn't oblivious to the failings of American democracy, and he took perilous personal risks as an advocate for racial and social justice. As a result, he experienced all the violence and antagonism that America had to offer. When he was thirteen, a lynch mob hung him in an icehouse all night by his thumbs. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Merchant Marines and became an active member of the National Maritime Union as well as a communist labor organizer in the South. This was quite dangerous in McCarthy era America. He was constantly being brutalized by the police and was arrested more than thirty times during a two-year period. In 1963, he was arrested for walking on the grass in New York City's Washington Square Park, taken to the Tombs and transferred to Riker's Island, and then sent to Bellevue Hospital, where he received more than fifty involuntary shock treatments.
In the early 1940s, Kaufman moved to New York to study literature at The New School for Social Research. There, he met poet Allen Ginsberg and novelist William S. Burroughs, and the three later traveled to San Francisco and became part of that city's literary scene. While in San Francisco, he met and later married Eileen Kaufman and had two children, Tony (their daughter) and Parker (their son), who was named after Charlie Parker.
San Francisco's North Beach area had several jazz clubs and coffee houses that became favored hangouts for emerging avant garde writers. It was in these clubs that Kaufman would experiment with the complex rhythms of bebop. He often recited his spontaneous compositions on the streets, earning the nickname "The Original BeBop Man." Kaufman received such prestigious honors as an invitation to read his poetry at Harvard University, a nomination for Great Britain's Guinness Poetry Award, 1960-1961, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant for creative writing. Nevertheless, he was to remain fairly anonymous, financially impoverished, and addicted to methedrine for most of his life.
Although Kaufman emphasized the connection between poetry and orality, he took a Buddhist vow of silence after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and didn't speak again in public until 1973, after the Vietnam War ended. He concluded his ten-year silence by reciting Becket's opening speech in T. S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, along with one of his own poems, "All Those Ships That Never Sailed":
All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls...
Today I bring them back
Huge and intransitory
And let them sail
Forever. (Cranial Guitar 125)
In this poem, Kaufman focuses on the ship, which is a potent image in African diasporic literature.  However, these ships are powerless and incapable of movement. It is only through the will of the poet--"Today I bring them back"--that they can be made functional as vessels of historical memory. Metaphorically, these ships sail back and forth between the Americas and Africa, thereby restoring the African ancestral connection. Reciting this poem after his long silence was significant because Kaufman here emphasizes that the poet must simultaneously carry the dual roles of witness and visionary in order to reclaim and harness the power of language. Maria Damon provides an interesting gloss on Kaufman's self-imposed silence when she observes that
Fortunately, when Bob Kaufman succumbed to emphysema in San Francisco on January 12, 1986, he left behind a significant body of work.
Kaufman's preoccupation with anonymity and silence come, in his life story, to indicate strength and choice even as they continue to evoke their traditional negative association with the silencing of the dispossessed. The vow of silence carries with it the force of t he powerful--the users of words--assuming the powerlessness of those whose voices are ignored. (42)
There are several instances in Kaufman's early poetry in which he shows the influence of a jazz aesthetic. In 1959, his broadside Abomunist Manifesto, published by City Lights, achieved widespread popularity among the Beat poets. The text includes a variety of sections written in prose, epistolary, and verse forms. There is even an "Abomunist Rational Anthem" written completely in scat phrases.  Overall this extended poem was extremely significant because it functioned as a social and political critique of Western society at a time when most Beats were apolitical. Here Kaufman playfully endows Jesus with a jazz hipster's vocabulary:
TUESDAY-B.C.--minus 3-8 o'sun, p.m. Jeru. Cool, Roman fuzz busy having a ball, never bother you unless someone complains. Had a ball this morning, eighty-sixed some square bankers from the Temple, read long poem on revolt. Noticed cats taking notes, maybe they are publishers' agents, hope so, it would be crazy to publish with one of those big Roman firms. (Ancient Rain 82)
By transforming the biblical Jesus, Kaufman creates a character who speaks in the vernacular,  and he implies that the jazz poet stems from a long spiritual and historical legacy.
Second April, another broadside published in 1959 by City Lights, consists of several prose sections, which Kaufman refers to as "sessions." Throughout the text, Kaufman interweaves his autobiography with historical and popular cultural events. For example, in this session, Kaufman alludes to his Louisiana origins:
Session golden horn before one ... is Bayou St. John, Big Sur pornography dipped in, emptied ... a thing, dipped, dipped in poems, the black child glistened in self-conceived madness ... dipped in contemporary multiplied generations, played musical electric chairs, dipped in in-jazz the Kansas City maniac found world three, Zulu laughter, good old Fourth of July American heroin, Sumeria, Picasso modern limericks, madness, final mausoleums ... ah ... leu ... cha ... the time is now ... is a thing, time is ... they watch ... (Solitudes 67)
The repetition of dipped accomplishes several things. Not only does it propel the movement of the passage, but it also implies birth, arguing that jazz was born in New Orleans, and it references Louis Armstrong, whose nickname was "Dipper mouth." Kaufman's use of language and imagery in this passage demonstrate a jazz aesthetic that he would continue to manipulate to various effects throughout his literary career.
Kaufman's first major collection, Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness (1965), contains several poems that use a jazz aesthetic. There are lyrical poems, like "African Dream," "Bagel Shop Jazz," "San Francisco Beat," and the startlingly beautiful "Walking Parker Home," which Kaufman wrote after the birth of his son. The poem's closing strophe shows how Kaufman had become a master in capturing the lyrical qualities of the music and bringing them to bear in his poetry:
In that Jazz corner of life
Wrapped in a mist of sound
His legacy, our Jazz-tinted dawn
Wailing his triumphs of oddly begotten dreams
Inviting the nerveless to feel once more
That fierce dying of humans consumed
In raging fires of love. (5)
There are several poems that celebrate jazz musicians like Charlie Parker, Ray Charles, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins. For example, "Mingus" attempts to capture the musical essence of bassist and composer Charles Mingus:
String-chewing bass players
Plucking rolled balls of sound
From the jazz-scented night.
Feeding hungry beat seekers
Driving ivory nails
Into their greedy eyes.
Smoke crystals, from the nostrils
Of released jazz demons,
Crash from foggy yesterday
To the light
Of imaginary night. (27)
There are also experimental poems like "Jazz Te Deum For Inhaling at Mexican Bonfires" and "Cincophrenicpoet" that abandon the conventional linear form. There are surreal poems like "Battle Report," with its opening strophe:
One Thousand saxophones infiltrate the city.
Each with a man inside,
Hidden in ordinary cases,
Labeled FRAGILE. (8)
Throughout the collection, Kaufman's numerous references to jazz music indicate its importance to his political and social vision of African American culture.
Kaufman's continual involvement with jazz had become slightly attenuated by the time New Directions published his last collection, The Ancient Rain, in 1981. The majority of the poems in this collection reveal a poet who is more engaged with apocalyptic imagery than the celebratory qualities of music. For example, this prose passage from the collection's title poem expresses the extent of Kaufman's vision:
I see the death some cannot see, because I am a poet spread-eagled on this bone of the world. A war is coming, in many forms. It shall take place. The South must hear Lincoln at Gettysburg, the South shall be forced to admit that we have endured. The black son of the American Revolution is not the son of the South. Crispus Attucks' death does not make him the Black son of the South. So be it.
Let the voice out of the whirlwind speak. (138)
Here, apparently, is the prophetic voice Kaufman would continue to use until his death.
In terms of Kaufman's use of a jazz aesthetic, Golden Sardine (1967) is perhaps his most mature work. The jazz meter which Kaufman uses here is quite similar to the meter of regular jazz music, in which the improvised solo breaks away from the composition's melodic and harmonic structure. In Kaufman's aesthetic, the improvisatory gesture is a crucial element, rendering his use of regular meter unpredictable. Golden Sardine is tour-de-force Kaufman, with the poet employing the various techniques he pioneered in his earlier books. Published as part of the City Lights Press's uniquely designed pocket book series, this volume, made to fit in the pocket of a coat or jacket, was smaller than the average trade paperback and produced to bring poetry out of homes and libraries and into the streets and cafes.
Kaufman's collection consists of poetry collected from scattered bits of manuscript found in a leather-bound valese by his friend Mary Beach after a fire in his apartment. The book's title is a portion of a phrase he had written on a brown piece of wrapping paper. Overall, the poems show Kaufman's ability successfully to manipulate a wide variety of forms, as he examines the political and social issues of his time.
The collection opens with the poem "Caryl Chessman Interviews the PTA (from his swank gas chamber)," a long piece which Maria Damon describes as a work that "joins social protest and physical fracturing through linguistic play" (41). The poem is a surrealistic prose narrative divided into several sections. Kaufman's subject is Caryl Chessman, a victim of the death penalty who, despite evidence of his innocence and pleas for clemency from Denmark, Brazil, Uruguay, Great Britain, the Vatican, and elsewhere, was executed by the State of California.  Throughout the poem, Kaufman creates analogies to Jesus's crucifixion and other human tragedies, as he describes the injustice of the American judicial system:
Here, Chessman, is the message to all garcias everywhere, longitude people, beyond the margin, I am glad now, sad now, home, in TIME FOR THE MURDER, guilty California is quiet (33)
Although the book achieved literary notoriety, particularly in France, where Kaufman was celebrated as the "Black Rimbaud," it appears that he had little interest in its success.
Golden Sardine is important in the study of jazz poetry because it marks the first time an African American poet of the generation following Langston Hughes would use bebop and scat improvisation to lend authenticity to his work. The collection is also important because it is the work of an artist who is unafraid to take risks. The inclusion of poetic "failures" as well as "successes" certainly marks a heroic moment in literature. The result is a miraculous unevenness of work that belies the Western critical desire constantly to create masterworks that often end up being closed and inflexible. Surely, Kaufman heard the surrealist Antonin Artaud's call from France advocating "no more masterpieces." And, in doing so, he frees up the page, allowing for the possibility of improvisation and demonstrating that good art can become simultaneously possible and impossible.
Golden Sardine shows Kaufman's wide-ranging interests. Several of the poems collected there make use of jazz-inspired rhythms but do not feature jazz as their subject matter. These include "Tidal Friction," "Why Write ABOUT," and "WAITING." On the following pages, I examine eight poems that relate more directly to jazz in order to explore how Kaufman used music to ascribe a particular vision of life.
One of the first poems in the book to deal directly with jazz is "Heather Bell Chorus." Kaufman indicates the musicality of the poem by defining it as a "Chorus." There is a duality of meaning that occurs in Kaufman's use of this descriptive word, which not only recalls the repeated set of musical phrases in a composition but it also evokes the idea of community. When we examine Western notions of choral music, we often envision several human voices singing in a style which makes it difficult to decipher individual voices, since the sound we hear is often collective. In African American culture, particularly in the tradition of the black church, the choral tradition exists as well. But, after listening to a choir perform, one observes that distinct voices can be heard among the collective, with various members singing in slightly differing cadences, timbres, or keys. Performing music in this fashion appears to imply that, although the communal voice is crucial in order to convey the general quality and spiri t of the music, it is also informed by the collection of individual voices in which every member has a "story to tell or a song to sing." This practice also occurs in jazz music. Additionally, it appears that Kaufman is signifying on the Greek chorus, i.e., the collective voice that would provide commentary to ancient texts like Medea or Antigone:
You know Heather Bell, she lives around the corner from everybody, Heather's problem is not staying around the corner ... she's an unusual girl, she has no desire to sleep with her father, partially because her father is dead. It may also be said of her that she has never willingly submitted to her stepfather ... until she had received everything she had been promised.
Heather is cool for a schoolgirl, she prefers the company of hipsters, beats, homosexuals--impotent novelists ... and a beat girl who looks very much like a view of her as seen from the inside ... Heather loves jazz as much as she hates her mother who no longer loves ... Heather is an American matador. Heather's mother is an American bull. Heather needs a cape to tire her bull and prepare it for the kill ... Heather fights rough, her cape is apt to be ripped, but how important is a cape when you know the important thing is to kill. Heather is cool & needs a cool cape. (48)
In the poem Kaufman chooses a very lyrical name that evokes two of the most important symbols in his work, nature ("Heather") and music ("Bell"). He establishes the text's musical cadence by repeating the name several times. But Heather Bell is not necessarily a distinct individual; she is a particular type that should be familiar to the reader: "You know...." Kaufman places her as an outsider by saying that Heather "lives around the corner from everybody." Several times within the work, Kaufman indicates her differences within the various spheres of social life--family, school, art, sexuality, and so forth. Heather prefers the company of "outsiders." Also, she doesn't conform to concepts of Freudian philosophy, even though she may have to "kill" her mother.
It would appear that Kaufman's mention of jazz in the second stanza is rather casual. However, it should be noted that he places Heather's love for jazz in direct opposition to what her mother "no longer loves." The absence of her mother's love is crucial to our understanding of how Kaufman views jazz, and because mothers are often viewed as nurturing figures in literature, the contrast is all the more startling. The mother is often the first person to encode how we feel and function in the world. By veering away from that crucial connection, mother or lineage becomes fractured. Thus, jazz supplants the function of mother and becomes the nurturing source for Heather that further defines her outsider status. The importance of this phrase is additionally emphasized by its placement between ellipses. The ellipses serve a rhythmical function as well, indicating the "silence" between phrases.
In the fifth line of the second strophe, Kaufman describes Heather as an "American matador," a very important image that indicates her courage and her lack of passivity. Heather's mother is depicted as combative and stubborn, an "American Bull"; "bullheaded" people are inflexible. We could also extend the bull image to include mainstream American society. Kaufman implies that Heather will have to fight against mainstream America ("mother") in order to assert her vision of life. What Heather needs in order to combat the bull is a "cool cape," an image that emphasizes the necessary merger between the interior and exterior that is crucial to practicing a holistic style of living.
"Cool" is a very important concept in African American culture that describes a particular way of living. In Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African American Slang, Clarence Major provides an interesting definition of cool, informing us that the word originally had Mandingo origins:
Cool adj., v. (l650s-1990s) ... in the 1930s American tramps and criminals were using it to refer to the act of killing someone; to be under great self-control ... generally it means anything favorably regarded ... a cool person is one who is detached, aloof. In the forties "cool" music was fashionable, just as it was fashionable for the listener--and everybody else!--to be cool. "Cool" was the opposite of hot. (111; emphasis added)
The "cool" music that Major refers to was first made popular by Miles Davis and his nonet's 1949 recording called The Birth of the Cool. The music was particularly popular on the West Coast and performed by several talented white musicians like Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams, and Chet Baker. Additionally, it should be noted that, although notions of "cool," as it was used among Kaufman's fellow Beats, later became vogue in American popular culture, the word had origins in the African American community. It was certainly the common view among several white artists who viewed themselves as being "outsiders" of American culture that the African American community functioned as outsiders as well. "Cool" became a means of distinguishing those individuals who adopted a means of distancing themselves from "square" America, either through music, walk, speech, or clothing that was imitative of African American musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Cab Calloway, or Babs Gonzalez. Therefore, when Kau fman indicates that Heather is "cool," he is defining her in a context that is informed by bebop music and African American culture.
"Cocoa Morning" is another poem that emphasizes the redemptive qualities of music:
Variations on a theme by morning, Two lady birds move in the distance. Gray jail looming, bathed in sunlight. Violin tongues whispering.
Drummer, hummer on the floor, dreaming of wild beats, softer still, Yet free of violent city noise, Please, sweet morning, Stay here forever. (54)
In a similar fashion to "Heather Bell," "Cocoa Morning" opens with a musical connection. The opening phrase, "Variations on a theme," indicates the possibility of improvisation or other ways in which the morning can be sung/heard. Literally, the variations can apply to the "two lady birds" the poet notices. It is important to note that Kaufman introduces the possibility of sound "variations" before presenting the image, thus giving the ear primary importance over the eye. After describing the gray jail as looming, he returns to a musical description, "Violin tongues whispering." Because of the image's close proximity to the "Gray jail," the tongues take on sinister implications. This is additionally true because of the connection with jails and violence. Perhaps "Violin tongues" is a pun on "violent tongues." The violin in this line can also be viewed negatively, because this dominant instrument in Western music has seldom been used in jazz. Note how Kaufman uses the word violent alongside the word city, an i ndustrial image. This phrase captures the possibility of dissonance and can be likened to the confrontation between the birds, who are like two instruments in a band that achieve harmony only through counterpoint. Kaufman uses other contrasting images like "gray" and "sunlight," and "free" and "jail," to heighten the importance of dissonance. These "variations" that Kaufman emphasizes are not unlike the "changes" that occur in the music. Thus, the jazz texture of the poem becomes obvious as the poet pursues these contrasts and counterpoints in various places in the text.
The continued use of "variations" creates an even more important distinction when one considers how Kaufman uses the drum in the next stanza. Prior to the invention of the drumkit and the global influence of rock-'n'-roll, the drum had historically been viewed as a non-Western instrument. The phrase Drummer hummer establishes a change in the text's rhythmic structure. With it, Kaufman demonstrates another sort of variation. Rhythmically the phrase mirrors the poem's title, with the stressed syllables of cocoa corresponding to those of drummer. This percussive change that Kaufman introduces in the poem signals a musical change as well: from the bird songs of the first stanza to the human-controlled beats of the second. The drummer could be a person playing the drums or a woodpecker or similar type of bird executing a percussive tap. In addition to its vernacular definition of referring to something exceptional, hummer indicates a different manner (variation) of making music. The phrase could be connected to t he tonal vibrations of the drum. The poem closes with the poet finding solace through the music of "sweet morning." Although jazz is not mentioned in any direct way, there is the inference that "natural" music is more significant than the artifice of urban structure. Because jazz solos are seldom notated prior to performance, the emphasis on improvisation and spontaneity is highly prized. Thus, the music becomes more integral to human emotion and less contrived. For Kaufman, music becomes a means of emotional security and entrance into the rhythms of the day.
"Round About Midnight" is one of Kaufman's most anthologized poems. Its title comes from the well-known 1940 ballad" 'Round Midnight," composed by bebop innovator Thelonious Monk and subsequently performed or recorded by almost every major jazz figure.6 In examining the collaborative process that often occurs between jazz musicians, Paul F. Berliner discusses Monk's well-known 1944 recording of the piece with trumpeter Cootie Williams to show that jazz composition is often a communal enterprise:
According to some accounts, Williams added embellishments to the melody during the recording session. Consequently, his embellishments were incorporated as formal features of the melody when sheet music renditions were produced based on the recorded version. Subsequently, when Dizzy Gillespie recorded the piece in 1946, he added to its form an eight-measure introduction and coda that he had originally used as the coda of his version of "I Can't Get Started." By 1955, after the "imported introduction" had itself become a standard feature among renditions by various artists--including Monk himself--Miles Davis personalized the composition further by adding a three-measure interlude to the end of the first chorus, which other artists subsequently adopted as a formal part of the composition. (88)
Monk's nickname was "The Mojo Man of Bop" and, like Kaufman, he experienced several years of public neglect while he pursued his artistic vision. Paul Bacon was one of the first jazz critics to recognize Monk's importance to jazz. In a 1948 review of Monk's recording of" 'Round Midnight," Bacon describes Monk's playing in this way:
His beat is familiar but he does something strange there, too-- he can make a rhythm seem almost separate, so that what he does is inside it, or outside it. He may play for a space in nothing but smooth phrases and then suddenly jump on a part and repeat it with an intensity beyond description. His left hand is not constant--it wanders shrewdly around sometimes playing a couple of notes, sometimes powerfully on the beat, usually increasing it in variety, and occasionally silent. (216-17)
I emphasize Bacon's description of Monk's technique in order to observe how Kaufman uses it in his poem, "Round About Midnight":
Jazz radio on a midnight kick, Round about Midnight,
Sitting on the bed, with a jazz type chick Round about Midnight.
Piano laughter, in my ears, Round about Midnight.
Stirring laughter, dying tears, Round about Midnight.
Soft blue voices, muted grins, Exciting voices, Father's sins, Round about Midnight.
Come on baby, take off your clothes, Round about Midnight (59)
When one considers how often Kaufman employs a jazz meter in his poetry, emphasizing off-beats and poly-rhythms, the regularity of the meter in "Round About Midnight" is puzzling. Here the metric form is managed by using single-syllable end rhymes in several of the stanzas--a technique that would appear quite contradictory to Monk's predilection for disjunctive phrasing. However, Kaufman uses end rhymes of startlingly different tonal value. For example, words like kick and chick are more heavily accented than words like grins and sins. Also, end rhymes like grins and sins, or ears and tears, contain the same lingering consonant sound. A similar effect occurs in the second and fourth strophes, where the poet uses sitting, stirring, and exciting as rhythmic elements at the beginnings of the line. This technique not only evokes the musical quality of the poem, but also the exciting pace of the evening. The repetition of the phrase Round about Midnight contributes to the pace of the poem in a similar manner.
Kaufman's use of Monk's piece can be analyzed in a variety of ways. The slight variation of the title, which occurs in several recordings as well, establishes the connection to the original as well as the possibility of difference. This deviation can also be read as a move toward describing the work in musical/literary fashion. For example, round is another word for a roundelay, which is a short simple song with a refrain. Kaufman's repetition of the phrase Round about Midnight points to the possibility that he is alluding to this early form. Additionally, Round about, in African American vernacular, indicates place--as in "I saw her round about here." In sum, these resonant phrases emphasize the "variations" that can occur in poetry as well as music.
Although the poem directly refers to jazz--"jazz radio" and "jazz type chick"--there is no direct description of a musical performance or anecdote about a musician's life. Rather, the poem captures the sensuality of jazz by juxtaposing the music with phrases that evoke eroticism. The final strophe, which begins, "Come on baby, take off your clothes," propels the poem toward the climactic event of the evening, concluding with the closing phrase "Round about Midnight," as if someone were turning off the lights in preparation for a sexual encounter. The power of this poem resides in Kaufman's demonstration of how music manages to transfigure our emotions and create a more sensual way of being.
In the poem "Jazz Chick," Kaufman uses descriptive elements of jazz to portray the female form:
Music from her breast vibrating
Soundseared into burnished velvet.
Silent hips deceiving fools.
Rivulets of trickling ecstasy
From the alabaster pools of Jazz
Where music cools hot souls.
Eyes more articulately silent
Than Medusa's thousand tongues.
A bridge of eyes, consenting smiles
Reveal her presence singing
Of cool remembrance, happy balls
Wrapped in swinging
In the poem, Kaufman pays particular attention to the music of the human body, which he encodes with sexual meaning. He achieves this by focusing on the sensual parts of the body (breasts, eyes, tongue, hips). He further emphasizes the eroticism of the body by using verbs like vibrating and trickling. Additionally, Kaufman's use of sensual imagery encourages the reader to recall the etymological origin of the word jazz--i.e., 'sexual intercourse.'
Although the poem evokes sound to describe the woman's body, the use of silence is also emphasized. The hips are silent, and the eyes are "articulately silent," an interesting phrase when one considers that the word articulate is usually applied to speaking. Kaufman changes our common perceptions of silence, making it powerful rather than powerless. The woman's eyes are compared to Medusa's thousand tongues. Medusa, the monster from Greek myth whose hair was full of serpents, turned men into stone, literally silencing them. Kaufman's use of tongues and Medusa's serpents are also phallic images, thus emphasizing the sexual aspect of the text even more. However, Kaufman's evocation of Medusa and the violence of her implied sexual encounter are juxtaposed to the performer's sensual engagement with the music. The audience members watching her are referred to as "fools" because they are caught up in the sexual reading of her body. Thus, jazz becomes the balm to soothe their "hot souls"; the music that is encoded on the body becomes just as potent as the snakes in Medusa's hair.
The final four lines of the poem further evoke the ability of jazz to transform both the listener and performer. Kaufman underlines its importance by placing Jazz on separate lines. The appearance of the dancer/singer, indicated by the line "Her music ... is placed between two uses of the word, thus indicating her merger with the music. The poet's use of jazz in this manner demonstrates the ability of music to transcend place and transform people. By using jazz as an ornamental frame, Kaufman introduces an African American form of cultural expression to describe the body, thus revising the manner in which white poets have described the female form.
Jazz is also used as a transformative agent in the poem "Tequila Jazz," which captures the atmosphere of a party and the self-introspection that can occur over drinks and music. The reader of the poem is addressed as if s/he were in attendance:
The party is on.
People are on,
Are you on too?
Who crouches there in my Heart?
Some wounded bird,
Hidden in the tall grass
That surrounds my heart.
Unseen wings of jazz,
Carry me off, carry me off.
Dirt of a world covers me,
My secret heart,
Beating with unheard jazz.
Thin melody ropes
Entwine my neck,
The title of the poem indicates the mood and atmosphere in which jazz is heard. Tequila is the potent drink distilled from the Agave tequilana plant in Central America. As an alcoholic beverage, Tequila is known for its hallucinatory properties and is a drink most associated with Mexican culture. By using Tequila to define jazz, Kaufman alludes to the connection between jazz and alcohol as vehicles of transformation. As he demonstrates through most of his jazz-influenced poems, when one hears music, one becomes more perceptive to the connections between the physical and the rhythmic. The same thing occurs when one drinks: The physical images of the world become blurred, and the manner in which one walks or talks changes cadence as well.
In this poem, Kaufman uses the African American vernacular to emphasize the complex duality of a language "charged with meaning." To say that something is "on" means that it is informed or sophisticated. Thus the party where the music is being heard is the place to be. Being "on" could also indicate that jazz is in the spotlight or the center of attention. Thus, the party becomes a locale of performance, not only in terms of music, but with regard to the interaction among people. The reader's sophistication or "hipness" is addressed when the poet asks, "Are you on too?" However, considering Kaufman's pervasive drug use, the question could have other implications, indicating that the speaker is trying to make a connection. The different meanings of on open the way for a poem that seeks to transcend the limitations of a single interpretation. In the second strophe, Kaufman jumps from the party's exterior to the body's interior by introducing the image of a wounded bird "hidden in the tall grass" of his heart. The bird is an image that is most often associated with music, and the heart is commonly associated with emotion. By presenting these two images in conjunction, the poet implies that there is a hidden music within the body. Although the party and the people attending it are supposed to be "on," the speaker also addresses the reader asking, "Are you on too?" perhaps seeking complicity. But what goes beyond the human-to-human communication that is insinuated in the text is the interior music of the body, the unheard "secret heart" that conceals emotion and legitimate human interaction.
In the third strophe, the bird, propelled by jazz wings, begins to move. It becomes a means of transport ("carry me off"), of moving outside the body, of reconfiguring the interior and the exterior. The heart--i.e., the life line--is pumping a jazz rhythm. The fact that the rhythm is unheard indicates the speaker's inability to express outwardly what is in his soul. Kaufman insinuates that "silence" is a device to which only the enlightened individual who is in touch with his soul is privy. Thus, the personal aspect of the music of the body is as important as the personal language of the jazz soloist.
The final strophe provides a startling image. "Thin melody ropes / Entwine my neck" appears to indicate that music can also be a means of entrapment. Kaufman's use of the word hanging, when viewed in close proximity to neck, evokes a lynching, particularly when one recalls the brutal photographs of celebratory lynchers standing over charred bodies, smoking cigarettes and drinking whisky. At Kaufman's party, the loss of self-control creates a treacherous place in which, engulfed by the combination of alcohol and music, one loses equilibrium. Thus, the "Tequila smiles" imply a sinister guise in which overt emotion must be concealed. However, like the word on, hanging has a different meaning as well. If someone is "hanging," it means that s/he is enduring or putting up with a slightly unpleasant situation. Therefore, the use of the word makes the poem circular, with the end contradicting the beginning. At first everything is "on," but the party later becomes a prison from which the speaker cannot escape.
In "His Horn," Kaufman paints the portrait of an unnamed saxophone player:
Swinging horn softly confirming
Anguished cries of eternal losers
Whose gifts outgrow their presence.
We hear this lonesome Saxworld dweller
Defiantly into a challenge key
Screamed over a heartbeat
Shouting at all beat seekers
To vanish into the soft sounds of jazz
And walk with him to smoky ends
While his jazz walks forever
Across our parched heartstrings (63)
By employing religious imagery in the poem, Kaufman asserts that the jazz. musician is not merely an entertainer. In the poem's first line, he brilliantly alludes to the African American spiritual "Swing Low Sweet Chariot."  This spiritual, which articulates the African American desire for peace and release from the secular world, was sung as a liberation code to signal to slaves the moment and direction of escape. Although Kaufman does not use any of the exact wording of the spiritual, his allusions are obvious when one notices the manner in which he uses sounds to recall the "feel" of the original piece.
The second and third lines of the text not only confirm Kaufman's use of religious allusion but also comment on the contributions of African American culture. The "anguished cries of the eternal losers" are articulated through the saxophone. Thus, music becomes a way to communicate a legacy of inequality for African Americans. But what is crucial to our understanding of the text is that the "eternal losers" provide "gifts," or culture, which have long-lasting effects. Here, one can't help but think about the contributions that African American music have made to American popular music. Although the saxophone player articulates the voice of the community, he, like most artists, is an outsider. He is totally devoted to his art, living in a "Saxworld."
In the fifth line, the poem changes from its ethereal pace. With "Swing higher--" the poet commands, and the music becomes a vehicle for defiance. By mentioning the "challenge key," Kaufman alludes to the cutting contests that were such an important part of jazz musicians' education. During a cutting contest, various instrumentalists would attempt to outperform or out-improvise whoever was on the bandstand. Many actual and fictional accounts of musical battles between musicians have been handed down. Particularly prominent are "Battles of the Saxes" between musicians like Lester Young and Herschel Evans, Coleman Hawkins and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, and John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. The intensity and the drive to create innovative music made these contests prized moments in jazz lore. Lines seven and eight, with their strong verbs Screamed and Shouting, demonstrate the change in tonal timber as well. The closing of the poem indicates that, while the musician has departed, or gone to "smoky ends," his music c ontinues; it becomes a way to nourish and sustain the black community. Thus, Kaufman establishes the importance of the jazz musician as a bearer of African American culture and a symbol of spirituality and liberation.
In "Crootey Songo," Kaufman uses the techniques of scat singing to create a poem that relies heavily on sound and less on meaning:
DERRAT SLEGELATIONS, FLO GOOF BABER,
SCRASH SHO DUBIES, WAGO WAILO WAILO.
GEED BOP NAVA GLIED, NAVA GLIED NAVA,
SPLEERIEDER, HUYEDIST, HEDACAZ, AX--, O,O.
DEEREDITION, BOOMEDITION, SQUOM, SQUOM, SQUOM.
DEE BEETSTRAWIST, WAPAGO, LOCOEST, LOCORO, LO.
VOOMETEYEREEPETIOP, BOP, BOP, BOP, WHIPOLAT.
DFEGET, SKLOKO, KURRITIF, PLOG, MANGI, PLOG MANGI,
CLOPO JAGO BREE, BREE, ASLOOP ERED, AKINGO LABY.
ENGPOP, ENGPOP, BOP, PLOLO, PLOLO, BOP, BOP. (74)
Upon first encounter, "Crootey Songo" may have the appearance of being completely nonsensical. However, closer examination of the text reveals that Kaufman occasionally uses an approximation of phonetic spelling to indicate actual words or to imply words by introducing certain sounds often found in bebop vocal language. Below, I have repeated the poem by attempting to supply some of the words or near-words Kaufman may have intended. My creative rendering of the text should not be taken as an authoritative gloss--and certainly not as the authoritative gloss--but rather as another way in which the poem may be "understood":
THE RIGHT LEGISLATIONS, FLOW GOOF?
CRASH SHOO DOOBIE, WE GO WAIL WAIL.
GET IT BOP NEVER LIED, NEVER LIED NEVER,
? READER, WHO IS IT (HERE IT IS), HEAD A GAS, ASK(AXE), OH, OH.
DIRECTION, BOOM EDITION, SQUIRM, SQUIRM, SQUIRM.
THE BEATS STRESSED, UP I GO, LOCOEST, LOCO, LOW.
VOMIT (VOOM IT) TIL YOU REPEAT IT UP, BOP, BOP, BOP, WHIP A LOT.
FRICK (FUCK) IT,?, CORRECTIVE, PLUG, MANGE, PLUG MANGE,
?? BREATHE, BREATHE, AS ?, I CAN GO BABY.
ENGPOP, ENGPOP (ENGLISH-POPULAR?), SOP, BLOW LOW, BLOW LOW,
If my reading of the text does in fact approximate Kaufman's meaning, its emphasis is only secondary to the sound of scat that he hoped to create in this poem. He was never to write another one like it, and I suspect that, as an oral piece, the effect it has on a listener would be quite different from the effect the printed words have on a reader. Regardless of what the poem may "mean," it marks an attempt by an African American poet to render the tonal quality of jazz by employing a different medium. Maria Damon has remarked that
Kaufman's unmeaning jargon differs sharply from meaningless. His unmeaning--as in unnaming--aims to destroy actively the comfort of meaning, to burst its chains in service to the furious, spasmodic play of jazz energy. His jargon is both the special code of initiated hipsters (the underground cultural counterpart to an elite of educated expertise) and the original "jargon": etymologically, the babble of (yard)birds, gurgling--the bubbling up and over of untamable sound. (41)
In the poem "O-JAZZ-O," Kaufman shows how jazz transcends human origins and becomes the primary element in the universe, the origin of all things:
Where the string
Was some umbilical jazz,
A long lost bloody cross,
Buried in some steel calvary.
In what time
For whom do we bleed,
Lost notes, from some jazzman's
Musical tears from lost
Broken drumsticks, why?
Pitter patter, boom dropping
Bombs in the middle
Of my emotions
My father's sound
My mother's sound,
Is life. (93)
The placement of jazz between the two zeros, or the letter O, creates an interesting title because it acts as a kind of Taoist equation, implying how integral jazz is to the functioning of the universe. The first three lines of the poem introduce the image of a string, a symbol of connection. It represents the umbilical cord which sustains new life. Additionally, in musical terms, a "string" is used to define a melodic line or theme on which a composition is based. It is a musical undercurrent that is retained throughout the piece with the various harmonies and rhythmic changes orbiting around its periphery, serving as a connector of sorts. The phrase At / Some point also has a dual meaning: It can be read as referring to an unspecified moment in time or to an unspecified position in the cosmos, a point of origin. Additionally, the phrase alludes to evolutionary development in that scientists cannot exactly pinpoint the origin of the species.
Beginning with line five, the poet offers another possible explanation for the origin of jazz by alluding to symbols of Christianity. Once again, Kaufman repeats his penchant for placing jazz in a sacred and religious context. However, the blood spilt on the calvary cross in order to save humanity from sin is transformed and placed in a more collective and communal context. "For whom do we bleed," a phrase that evokes the poem "His Horn," is obviously a reference to the suffering of the African American community. The music ("lost notes") scatters and becomes lost, perhaps alluding to the African Diaspora, in which language and other cultural materials are dispersed. The image of a jazz musician's "broken needle" works simultaneously as a reference to drug use and as a broken phonograph needle. This distinction is crucial to our understanding of the poem, because symbolically it refers to the function of jazz in supplying the life-blood of African and African American cultural identity. Because the needle is broken, the record is unplayable and the notes can't be heard. Thus, the "life-blood" is scattered and diffused into the Diaspora, the result of which is a fracture of racial and cultural history.
The image of an object that no longer serves its function is produced in the phrase broken drums ticks. As mentioned earlier, the drum has particular significance in African and African American culture in terms of its ability to communicate between individuals and the community. Drumsticks that are broken disrupt the rhythmic continuum.
In the line Pitter patter, boom dropping, the image of the drum is reinstated. But this rhythm can allude not only to the musician's tears but also to the sounds of nature. The use of rain as a symbol of nourishment and cleansing is certainly a well-established trope in several cultures. The "bombs" mentioned in the poem refer to a musical term used to describe the strong offbeat accents used by drummers that were particularly influential during the bebop period of jazz. The importance of the image to the text is that it evokes explosive changes. The final lines of the poem indicate the importance of jazz in connection to ancestry. The poet finds solace and self-definition through the music. It is something that is born of a father's and mother's love.
The connection between jazz and the human body is a recurring motif in the poetry of Bob Kaufman. His innovative use of scat phrasing, which he acquired by being particularly attuned to the music of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie, brought an attention to the musical possibilities of poetry when language goes beyond "meaning." But equally important is the fact that Kaufman infuses his work with a heightened sense of spirituality that goes beyond the secular implications of music and poetry. In this way, he seeks to reestablish the bridge between African and African American culture by employing a more rhythmic vocabulary. For Kaufman, a poem that uses a jazz aesthetic should dictate the relationship between our physical and spiritual existence.
T. J. Anderson, III, who received his Ph.D. from SUNY-Binghamton, currently teaches creative writing and African American literature at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. He is the author of the poetry chapbook At Last Round Up (lift books), and his poetry and translations have appeared in Grand Street, Callaloo, lift, Sulfur, and elsewhere. Professor Anderson is currently working on a book that explores how jazz music is used in the work of Bob Kaufman, Stephen Jonas, Jayne Cortez, and Nathaniel Mackey.
(1.) A similar appropriation has occurred in poetry as well. Writers like Kenneth Rexroth and Jack Kerouac have received more notoriety for their jazz-inspired verse than have innovators like Bob Kaufman, Amiri Baraka, and Ted Jeans. Why have there been several documentaries done on Jack Kerouac that highlight the importance of jazz to his writing, but few done on Amiri Baraka? Even a recent compilation by Rhino Records called The Beat Generation fails to include any work by these three African American innovators.
(2.) Kaufman's poem also echoes the importance of water as a continuing trope in African American literature. Similar imagery appears in the work of Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Paule Marshall, and others. For further discussion, see Baker, Gilroy.
(3.) This poem, with its opening line DERRAT SLEGELATIONS, FLO GOOF BABER, was revised and published as "Crootey Songo" in the collection Golden Sardine. The poem is discussed in further detail later on in this essay.
(4.) Kaufman uses a language and literary technique that are similar to those in recordings made by bop vocalist Babs Gonzales and comedian Richard "Lord" Buckley, who was famous for retelling Shakespeare and the New Testament in jive talk.
(5.) Maria Damon (41) discusses in further detail how Kaufman evokes various historical references by manipulating the spelling of Caryl Chessman's name. See also Chessman, Machlin and Woodfield.
(6.) Although there are several instrumental versions of this jazz standard, singer Carmen McRae has recorded an interesting version in which she uses Bernie Hanighen's original words and weaves in the lyrics by Jon Hendricks in the second chorus. She closes out the song with a vocal reference to a Dizzy Gillespie tag. Refer to the recording Carmen Sings Monk (RCA 3086-4-N, 1990).
(7.) Perhaps Kaufman was also familiar with Dizzy Gillespie's humorous bebop rendition of the spiritual "Swing Low Sweet Cadillac," in which Gillespie employs images of earthly wealth as a means of salvation. Works Cited
Bacon, Paul. "Two Notes on Modern Jazzmen." The Art of Jazz: Ragtime to Bebop. Ed. Martin Williams. New York: Da Capo P, 1980. 215-17.
Baker, Houston A., Jr. Blues, Ideology and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1884.
Chessman, Caryl. Cell 2455 Death Row. New York: Prentice, 1954.
Damon, Maria. The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993.
Feinstein, Sascha. Jazz Poetry: From the 1920s to the Present. Westport: Greenwood P, 1997.
Floyd, Samuel A. Jr. The Power of Black Music: Interpreting Its History From Africa to the United States. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.
Gillespie, Dizzy, with Al Fraser. To BE, or Not ... to BOP. Garden City: Doubleday, 1979.
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1993.
Grant, Barry Keith. "Purple Passages or Fiestas in Blue?: Notes Toward an Aesthetic of Vocalese." Representing Jazz. Ed. Krin Gabbard. Durham: Duke UP, 1995.285-303.
Kaufman, Bob. The Ancient Rain. New York: New Directions, 1981.
---. Cranial Guitar Selected Poems. Minneapolis: Coffee House P, 1996.
---. Golden Sardine. San Francisco: City Lights, 1967.
---. Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness. New York: New Directions, 1965.
Major, Clarence, ed. Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang. New York: Penguin, 1994.
Machlin, Milton, and William Reid Woodfield. Ninth Life. New York: Putnam, 1961.
Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes, Vol. 1. New York: Oxford UP, 1986.
Rexroth, Kenneth. Bird in the Bush: Obvious Essays. New York: New Directions, 1947.
Sales. Grover. Jazz: America's Classical Music. New York: Prentice. 1984.
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|Author:||Anderson, III, T. J.|
|Publication:||African American Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2000|
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