VERNON WARING : White Bulb Swaying
KENNETH REXROTH : Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman
DAVID BARNES : Aroma of Grass
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White Bulb Swaying Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman Aroma of Grass  
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White Bulb Swaying
Waking from a crash of glass Sweat pouring...hands attending In this bright room where whispers pass I slowly feel myself descending You thought that only words could break me But glass, metal, time and rain Mingled in one reckless moment Left me scarred, seared with pain Somewhere in my shattered mind Where drugs can only take me now Scenery's changed just like our lives No one will note my final bow You thought that only words could break me Racing from your angry glance Bizarre, the slow lid's eerie closing White bulb swaying on a final dance
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White Bulb Swaying Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman Aroma of Grass  
POETRY requires a mature audience ENTER only if you are 18+ under 18? GoTo Games
Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman

What did you see in Babylon, father, father? Not an awful lot. Most of my time was spent doing programs and rounding up future program material for WBAI, our own KPFA’s new sister. The big news in New York right now is WBAI’s impact on the city. It is blowing the dust out of a lot of musty corners and whistling through a number of rat holes and the New Yorkers don’t know what to make of it. At least the Establishment doesn’t. Most of the holders of imaginary power in highbrow New York circles haven’t had a new idea since they were expelled from the John Reed Club in the late ’30s, and they persist in trying to fit us in their broken strait jackets of worn-out ideas.

The audience response, on the other hand, has been terrific. But this is all old stuff to people in northern California who have been listening to KPFA for ten years. Louis Schweitzer, the man who gave us the station, was certainly news to me. He is one of the most vital men I have ever met, and the only man of great wealth I ever heard of who is totally committed to direct action social responsibility. Just eating lunch with him is thrilling — but that’s a long story and should be a column by itself.

There is a big show of Monet at the Museum of Modern Art which will be showing up in San Francisco one of these days. It is fine to see, good to come back to Monet after many years (I grew up in Chicago, which is full of Monets) and enter once more into these paintings entirely given over to the movement of light and air. Monet is worth looking at for what he had to say on his own terms, not as an “influence” on Philip Guston.

Theater? I can’t recall, offhand, anything in the world that interests me less than the commercial Broadway theater. Once in a long while I get enticed into one of these things and I have never been able to get the joke. Off Broadway right now is pretty tame. Most of it is routine Little Theater Chekhov and O’Neill and all that. There are a couple of corny reworkings of the Classics — Don Juan and Orestes, to wit. Me, I may be over-refined, but I think they’re vulgar. Then there is Genet’s The Balcony, which is a horse of another color. Genet, as you may have read, is a reformed thief and stud-roller who learned to write in prison and who has a lovely talent for blarney that would put Jack Kerouac to shame. Most of it, besides, is about subjects of low life, nasty, brutish and short, which would scare that innocent young man out of his sandals.

This play is about a brothel whose inmates pay money to act out charades of authority. Gas men who dress as bishops, plumbers as judges, clerks as generals. (Don’t believe the news weeklies, it’s about as sexy as a VD clinic.) The exigencies of a passing revolution force them to assume their make-believe roles for real, and the old struggle of the two levels of the Social Lie rolls over and begins again. The actors are a bit highfalutin, but they create a powerful illusion. Once you have escaped from it, you immediately begin to wonder, “Is this true?” It isn’t. Society is stuffed as full of evils as a Christmas goose of prunes and nuts, but these evils are not liable to so simple an indictment. Completely rash overstatements like this are sentimental, and so the play is melodrama or farce and not great comedy. But what a gift of gab! And what theatricality! There in the small nightclub floor-show “stage” of the Circle in the Square, Genet creates an all-mastering illusion by sheer force of words. It is a little like Marlowe or Thomas Kyd, the old intoxicating Elizabethan rant. I’d like to tape it and broadcast it on KPFA. And I hope they do it here very soon.

The best thing on this trip was the music of Ornette Coleman. This is the young man who, almost single-handed, has launched one of those periodic revolutions without which jazz would become a sport of musicologists. He is playing the Five Spot to jam-packed audiences every night, rain or shine, a large percentage of them other musicians. It is significant that the top-notchers, Coltrane, Mingus, the Adderly brothers, and the rest, all think he is terrific.

The second string, especially the perennial side men of the bop revolution, think he is a fake. The reason, of course, is that they have a vested interest in their own stale novelties and are terrified of being crowded at the trough. I was a little dubious myself, and recently asked John Lewis during a radio interview, “Is Coleman really good?” He answered simply and flatly, “Yes, he is just as good as they ever come.” If you know music — can read score or whatever — all you have to do is listen. This is jazz that uses every musical resource, dissonance, polyrhythm, twelve-tone scales, polytonality, special tone color effects — everything you can find and pull out of four musical instruments.

Coleman himself, as you may know, plays a plastic saxophone with a special fleshy tone color, and he makes it do tricks like Yma Sumac. He pushes it back and forth to the absolute limits of its range, it gulps and scoops and vibrates — Paul Whiteman would have given a lot of money to have had some of these effects in the concert version of “Oh, By Jingo,” but with Coleman it is never corny, because the end in view is an enriched musical experience, not a trick.

Modern jazz is mostly harmony-oriented, most numbers are really toccatas or chaconnes — “Theme and Variations.” Seldom do you get even the rather thin melodic and contrapuntal interest of the best Dixieland.

Ornette Coleman has restored melody to jazz. Even his new drummer, Blackwell, weaves a constantly varying percussion melody around the other instruments. Hayden’s bass is even more melodic, very seldom is it just pedaling, usually something is happening, vital elements are being built into the melodic structure. Besides, like all the others, he pulls all the color out of the instrument he can get. Midway in the first number I suddenly pricked up my ears and looked at his hands. He wasn’t using the conventional positions at all, but crawling up and down the long neck of the bass like a crab. The results were wonderful. I just hope he doesn’t get a permanent bursitis. People always ask, “What is that thing Don Cherry plays?” He tells them it is a Pakistani yeti whistle or some such tale. It is a triple-curled B-flat horn which must require a superhuman head of wind to blow, especially since he plays it with a flat, dry embouchure that makes it sound like imaginary music.

All this is just to let you know, not that I am “in the know,” but that contrary to what you might have heard, nobody in jazz knows better what he is about than these four men. Most important, it isn’t a lot of scrambled Boulez and Monteverdi. It is jazz, funkier far than jazz has been in a long time. You could not only dance to it, you could roll and bump to it. It is even unconsciously “folkloristic.” The whole group is from the Southwest, and behind them you can hear the old bygone banjos and tack pianos, and the first hard moans of country blues — you can even hear modern Texas dance bands, Johnny Ace and Lloyd Price. I have not spent such nights of pure musical joy and excitement since we used to get together at Farwell Taylor’s or Jack Bryant’s cellar joint and work out the first patterns of the new jazz that came at the end of the war. For years Ornette Coleman wandered up and down the Coast and nobody would hire him. If the Hawk or the Workshop doesn’t get him here soon, I’ll rent a hall myself.

[May 8, 1960]

Poetry endangers the established order  of the soul - Plato

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White Bulb Swaying Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman Aroma of Grass  
POETRY requires a mature audience ENTER only if you are 18+ under 18? GoTo Games

Aroma of Grass
Until I reclined in summer's warmth, aroused by the fragrance of fresh cut grass, blades piercing into my flesh; I didn't believe I was back home from the hospice-- back stricken from the conflict of the surgeon's scalpel: I started to rise but the weight of the sun flaunted my weakness, Drunkenly, I climbed the hilltop like a child, wrapped in the sweet fragrance of grass.
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You Take Advantage of My Good MoodTOP White Bulb Swaying©  VERNON WARING .
Jean Genet and Ornette ColemanMID  Jean Genet and Ornette Coleman©  KENNETH REXROTH . from the Bureau of Public Sects
Aroma of Grass]BTM Aroma of Grass ©  DAVID BARNES . from 01.08:090
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