Jazz Poetry Month: "Tallahatchie LullaBye, Baby" ft. Poet Doug Kearney
By City of Asylum
(run-time 90 min)
A riveting, vital poem—a lullaby to Emmett Till with four national jazz greats creating new pieces in response. Read by author Douglas Kearney, compositions and performances by Pheeroan akLaff, Dee Alexander, Orrin Evans, and Nicole Mitchell. Co-curated by MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes.
This concert features multiple interpretations and multiple hearings of one piece, created in response to longstanding issues of systemic social injustice and racial inequality.
DOUGLAS KEARNEY has published six collections, including Buck Studies (Fence Books, 2016), winner of the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award, the CLMP Firecracker Award for Poetry, and California Book Award silver medalist (Poetry). M. NourbeSe Philip calls Kearney’s collection of libretti, Someone Took They Tongues (Subito, 2016), “a seismic, polyphonic mash-up.” Kearney’s Mess and Mess and (Noemi Press, 2015), was a Small Press Distribution Handpicked Selection that Publisher’s Weekly called “an extraordinary book.” His newest collection, Sho (Wave, 2021) is forthcoming. His operas include Sucktion, Mordake, Crescent City, Sweet Land, and next year's Comet / Poppea. He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Cy Twombly Award for Poetry, residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. Kearney teaches Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and lives in St. Paul with his family.
Nicole Mitchell is an award-winning flutist, composer, conceptualist, bandleader, and educator. Her research centers on the powerful legacy of contemporary African American culture, its ongoing expression of resistance and resilience, its intriguing dialogue within the African diaspora and its transformational impact on culture throughout the globe. Mitchell composes for contemporary ensembles of varied instrumentation and size (from solo to orchestra and big band) while incorporating improvisation and a wide aesthetic expression. As a flutist she has developed a signature language of improvisation through her use of extended techniques informed by jazz, classical and world music traditions of flute playing. She has been a repeated recipient of the "Top Jazz Flutist" awards from Jazz Journalists Association and Downbeat Magazine from 2010-2019. Professor Nicole Mitchell is the William S. Dietrich II Chair for Jazz Studies, where she works to continue the visionary legacies of her predecessors Geri Allen and Nathan Davis.
Pheeroan akLaff reflects music centered in ritual and imagination. He is most noted for his performances and recordings with a milieu of music pioneers including Wadada Leo Smith, Andrew Hill, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Reggie Workman, Oliver Lake, Anthony Davis, Henry Threadgill, Sonny Sharrock, Yamashita Yosuke, Baikida Carroll, Liu Sola, and several international creative musicians. He maintains collaborations with a wide range of composers and multidisciplinary artists. Originally from Detroit, Pheeroan moved to New York in 1978. In 1981 he lived and worked in Abidjian Cote D’Ivoire and Lagos Nigeria. His travels in Africa, India and Japan are influential in his music. His compositions are heard on his LP, House of Spirit: Mirth, EP Fits Like A Glove, and CD's; Sonogram, Global Mantras, The Willisau Concert and Live at Yahagi. In 2000 he was awarded a NYFA composer grant, and in 2018 a New Music USA project grant. He has conducted workshops and lectures in Saalfelden Austria; My-Uni Conference on Art and Spirituality, in Bogota, Colombia; University de Javierna, in Toronto, Canada; The Music Gallery, and in Jyderup,Denmark; Jyderup Accordion. He co-founded Seed Artists Inc. (www.seedartists.org) to enrich multi-generational communities with festivals, concerts, youth art workshops, and jazz listening series in Montclair, New Jersey and New York. akLaff is also an Advisory Board Member at City Of Asylum, Pittsburgh, and a teacher of drums at Wesleyan University. akLaff is also involved in Music and neuroscience projects with Dr. Psyche Loui, Dr. Julian F. Thayer, Scott Robinson and Milford Graves, and the release of akLaff’s new album Hana Dharma with Aska Maret is marked for release in Winter 2021.
Dee Alexander is one of Chicago’s most gifted and respected female vocalist/songwriters. Her talents span every music genre, from Gospel to R&B, from Blues to Neo-Soul. Yet her true heart and soul are experienced in their purest form through her performance of Jazz music. From a soft, sultry traditional ballad, to a contemporary Jazz-Funk groove; from a high flying swing, to a scat-filled romp, Dee Alexander delivers each style with a passion and love of music that comes across in each and every note, and with a style and grace that is truly her own. Dee has also formed the Evolution Ensemble which is an acoustic group that consists of string instruments and percussion with a strong emphasis on original compositions.
Terrance Hayes’s most recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin 2018) and To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018). To Float In The Space Between was winner of the Poetry Foundation’s 2019 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism and a finalist for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin won the Hurston/Wright 2019 Award for Poetry and was a finalist the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, the 2018 National Book Award in Poetry, the 2018 TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, and the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Hayes is a Professor of English at New York University.
Orrin Evans is an American jazz pianist. Evans was born in Trenton, New Jersey and raised in Philadelphia. He attended Rutgers University, and then studied with Kenny Barron. He worked as a sideman for Bobby Watson, Ralph Peterson, Duane Eubanks, and Lenora Zenzalai-Helm, and released his debut as a leader in 1994. He signed with Criss Cross Jazz in 1997, recording prolifically with the label. He was awarded a 2010 Pew Fellowships in the Arts. Evans was recently named the new pianist in The Bad Plus. Through 25 albums as a leader and co-leader, including his neo-soul/acid jazz ensemble Luv Park and the bracing collective trio Tarbaby, Evans has always followed a vigorously individual path.
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