An update from David Amram

In addition to his brilliance as a musician, composer, conductor and author, a major part of the 88-year old David Amram’s biography will forever be his role as Jack Kerouac’s musical collaborator, when, in the late 1950’s, their work together – an “intoxicating stew” combining theater, poetry, and jazz – was the first “performance art” of its kind. 

In my 2002 interview with him, he said that during these performances he “never knew whether Jack was reading something that he made up on the spot or if it was something of his own. There may be something by Walt Whitman in there, or maybe a fragment of a poem by Hart Crane, or something from Shakespeare, Beowulf or Chaucer. He knew all of these French poets like Celine, and he would say ‘check this out’ or ‘dig this’ and start reciting a

...

October 15th, 2018

Jack Kerouac and the “Beatnik crap” that cheapened the memories of jazz icons

In this short excerpt from David Amram’s 2002 biography Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac,  Kerouac talks with Amram about how the “Beatnik crap” that Kerouac and his friends reluctantly represented was “distorting everything,” and “cheapening the memories of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk.”  It is an interesting and entertaining view of that era, filled with the vigor, passion, wit and wisdom Kerouac is remembered for.

 

 

_____

 

     In January of 1959, we collaborated with a once-in-a-lifetime group of artists on the film Pull My Daisy.  In addition to appearing in the film as Mezz McGillicudy, the deranged French horn player in the moth-eaten sweater, I composed the entire score for the film and wrote the music for the title song, “Pull My Daisy,” with lyrics by Jack [Kerouac], Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg.

     The idea of making a film based on Jack’s work was easier to

...

January 22nd, 2018

Great Encounters #48: When Lester Young turned Jack Kerouac on to marijuana

“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition tells the story of Lester Young getting high with Jack Kerouac, and his overall influence on his generation

...

March 4th, 2017

Interview with saxophonist Kevin Flanagan on the convergence of poetry and jazz

The convergence of poetry and jazz has long been a part of the counterculture, and it has always interested me. An early interview I did for Jerry Jazz Musician was with David Amram, once known as Jack Kerouac’s musical collaborator. In the interview he talked about Kerouac’s love of music, telling me that “he had an enormous memory for music and for jazz and the classics. He could sing the melodies from different Haydn and Beethoven string quartets. He was like an encyclopedia of music and classic literature from Europe. He also had an enormous knowledge of Buddhism. He had a tremendous knowledge of Judaism, as well as the writings from the Old and New Testaments as well as from the Mass. He had this knowledge of so many different things. When he was reading, I would submerge myself into whatever it was he was reading, and I tried to anticipate what would happen next.”

     So, the collaboration of words and music is fascinating, and has deep and intellectual roots. It was the basis for my interest in an email I received a while ago from reed player Kevin Flanagan who, like Kerouac, is a Lowell, Massachusetts native. Flanagan’s Riprap Quartet recordings, he informed me, “feature compositions by the band setting the works of Pulitzer Prize winning-poet Gary Snyder” and is

...

July 3rd, 2014

Connecting Fiction with Music

While in the midst of reviewing the stories from the over 100 entrants in our current Short Fiction Contest, I have been impressed by the spirit of creativity that shines through in virtually every submission. No matter the story theme, the creative energy and spontaneity is as frequently evident in the writer’s turn of a phrase as it is in a jazz musician’s harmonic progression.

The other day I got into a conversation about how jazz musicians of the 1950’s and the Beat era writers shared an artistic language and had similar creative values that showed up in a variety of examples. The one that came to mind first was in Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” where Kerouac is inspired by a jazz performance in Chicago…This is what he writes:

...

October 15th, 2013

John Leland, author of Hip: The History

John Leland’s Hip: The History is the story of an American obsession. Derived from the Wolof word hepi or hipi (“to see,” or “to open one’s eyes”), which came to America with West African Slaves, hip is the dance between black and white — or insider and outsider — that gives America its unique flavor and rhythm. It has created fortunes, destroyed lives and shaped the way millions of us talk, dress, dance, make love or see ourselves in the mirror. Everyone knows what hip is.

...

January 3rd, 2005

Martin Torgoff, author of Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age

Illicit drugs have transfigured the American cultural landscape in the past half-century, leaving their mark on everything from art, music, literature, sexuality, spirituality, pop culture, the economy, and politics, to crime, public health, and national law enforcement policy. In Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945 – 2000, documentary filmmaker and writer Martin Torgoff traces the tangled trajectory of illegal drug use in America, as it spread post-World War II from the Beats and bebop musicians, all the way to the Ecstasy-fueled rave culture.

...

August 27th, 2004

David Amram, author of Offbeat: Collaborating with Kerouac

The composer David Amram has been hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the most versatile and skilled musicians America has ever produced.” Since Leonard Bernstein appointed Amram as first composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic in 1966-67, he has become one of the most acclaimed composers of his generation, listed by BMI as one of the Twenty Most Performed Composers of Concert Music in the United States since 1974.

Amram is also known as the musical collaborator of the great mid-century American author Jack Kerouac, whose book On the Road is considered to be the artistic soul of the 1950’s.

...

July 17th, 2002

In This Issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 19 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Branford Marsalis, Joe Martin, Scott Robinson, Allison Au and Warren Vache

Poetry

In a special collection of poetry, eight poets contribute seventeen poems focused on stories about family, and honoring mothers and fathers

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob Hecht presents three very different stories; on Harlem Stride piano, Billy Strayhorn's end-of-life composition "Blood Count," and "Lester-ese," Lester Young’s creative verbal wit and wordplay.

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Homer Plessy” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

Michael Cuscuna, the legendary record producer and founder of Mosaic Records, is interviewed about his life in jazz...Award-winning photographer Carol Friedman, on her career in the world of New York jazz photography

In the previous issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive