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Testimony, A Tribute to Charlie Parker

With New and Selected Jazz Poems

Yusef Komunyakaa

Publication Year: 2013

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa is well known for his jazz poetry, and this book is the first to bring together the verve and vitality of his oeuvre. The centerpiece of this volume is the libretto “Testimony.” Paying homage to Charlie Parker, “Testimony” was commissioned for a radio drama with original music by eminent Australian composer and saxophonist Sandy Evans. Remarkably rich and evocative, encompassing a wide range of musical energy and performers, this moving affirmation of Parker’s genius became a milestone in contemporary radio theater. Twenty-eight additional poems spanning the breadth of Komunyakaa’s career are included, including two never previously published. Accompanying the poems are interviews and essays featuring Komunyakaa, Evans, radio producer Christopher Williams, jazz critic Miriam Zolin, jazz writer and editor Sascha Feinstein, and musical director, Paul Grabowsky. Sascha Feinstein writes the foreword. Check for the online reader’s companion at testimony.site.wesleyan.edu. (This edition does not include any audio.)

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword

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pp. vii-xii

In 1997, the same year Yusef Komunyakaa completed “Testimony,” his libretto for Charlie Parker, he flew to Chicago to perform live with a jazz sextet led by multi-reed instrumentalist John Tchicai and bassist Fred Hopkins. Released the following year on the CD Love Notes from the Madhouse, the session would go so well that Tchicai later gushed, “There might...

Part One: Jazz Poems

Rhythm Method

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pp. 3-4

Togetherness

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pp. 5-

Twilight Seduction

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pp. 6-8

Woman, I Got the Blues

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pp. 9-

Jasmine

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pp. 10-11

Gingkoes

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pp. 12-

Tenebrae

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pp. 13-15

Cante Jondo

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pp. 16-18

Changes; or, Reveries at a Window Overlooking a Country Road, with Two Women Talking Blues in the Kitchen

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pp. 19-21

The Same Beat

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pp. 22-23

To Beauty

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pp. 24-25

Ignis Fatuus

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pp. 26-

Pepper

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pp. 27-28

Satchmo, USA

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pp. 29-31

Nightbird

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pp. 32-

Copacetic Mingus

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pp. 33-

Gerry’s Jazz

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pp. 34-35

Speed Ball

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pp. 36-

February in Sydney

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pp. 37-

The Plea

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pp. 38-39

Elegy for Thelonious

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pp. 40-41

Dolphy’s Aviary

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pp. 42-

Gutbucket

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pp. 43-

Blue Light Lounge Sutra for the Performance Poets at Harold Park Hotel

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pp. 44-45

The Story of a Coat

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pp. 46-47

No-Good Blues

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pp. 48-53

Ode to the Saxophone

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pp. 54-

Coda

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pp. 55-56

Part Two: Testimony

The Libretto

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pp. 59-60

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Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Testimony” and the Humanity of Charlie Parker

Sascha Feinstein

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pp. 61-68

If Charlie Parker could read the thousands of poems written in his honor, would he be delighted enough by the sheer volume to overlook the weakness of the verse itself ? Perhaps. He was known, after all, for his generous praise, and certainly one cannot fault the inspiration for these poems, Parker being one of the most important artists of the twentieth (or any)...

Survival Masks: An Interview with Yusef Komunyakaa

Sascha Feinstein

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pp. 69-78

Testimony

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pp. 79-92

The Music

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pp. 93-94

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Testimony, The Ties that Bind

Miriam Zolin

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pp. 95-104

One story you hear around these parts is that in the 1950s a teenage John Pochée used to ask his mother for bus money so he could visit the late Joe ‘Bebop’ Lane and listen to Lane’s copy of a Charlie Parker record—one of a rare few that had made their way across the world to this faraway island...

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French Flowers Blooming: The Music for Testimony

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pp. 105-110

Having previously collaborated with Yusef Komunyakaa, Christopher Williams, a producer and director in Sydney, commissioned the poet to write a large-scale work for ABC Radio Drama in Australia. The following is an edited transcript from a production meeting between Christopher...

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Composer/Musical Director’s Notes

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pp. 111-114

I can still remember the exhilaration I felt on first hearing a recording of Charlie Parker. The energy, virtuosity, passion, innovation, spontaneity, intelligence and sheer beauty of his playing remain to this day an artistic pinnacle that I will never come close to reaching, but for which I am...

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Testimony, Songs and Musicians

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pp. 115-120

I orchestrated each of Yusef ’s poems in response to the affective emotion and aesthetics of the narrative. A unique band was formed for every composition, each one featuring vocalists and musicians who embodied particular expressive qualities intrinsic in the text...

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Australian Art Orchestra Performances

Paul Grabowsky

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pp. 121-124

Charlie Parker’s contribution to the art and culture of the twentieth century must be compared to that of Stravinsky, Picasso or Joyce. A protean modernist, his improvisations encrypt the entire known Western musical syntax of his time into a language in which the commonplace is elevated to the same status as the arcane, the whimsical plays freely with...

Contributors

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pp. 125-130

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 131-132

Selected Discography

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pp. 133-136

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 137-138

Thanks, Sandy and Christopher. I’m still surprised by how the spirit of Charlie Parker worked on us and created a bridge strong enough to support our dreaming. Thanks for the creative courage, vision, and genius. Also thanks to the musicians, singers, and the voice shaping the spoken...

Testimony, The Recording

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pp. 139-140


E-ISBN-13: 9780819574930
E-ISBN-10: 0819574937

Page Count: 156
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Does not include any audio supplement
Series Title: Wesleyan Poetry Series