Playing the Word
City Light Entertainment
The fusion of jazz and poetry has been a noble but uneven experience, from Langston Hughes and Lawrence Ferlinghetti through Kenneth Rexroth and Jack Kerouac. There can be no dispute that jazz and poetry belong together. Who could separate a Bob Dorough lyric from its melody? On this album, even though Melvoin’s music is not wedded to Jaffe’s words, the two could not be separated—and therein lies its strength, at least in one sense.
Melvoin has captured the very essence of Jaffe’s poetry. They belong together, even though Jaffe’s creations already have a life of their own in his book Playing the Word. Melvoin has done an outstanding job of evoking the moods conjured up by Bird, Mingus, Duke, Monk, etc., playing some gut-wrenching blues, infectious montunos or just meandering introspectively to match Jaffe’s imagery. But, and herein lies the only weakness, the poet is not always the best interpreter of his own words. Jaffe has the timing and the rhythm and he is obviously jazz-oriented, but he lacks the timbre and the resonance to create the maximum dramatic impact. To put it simply, that’s the role of a professional actor.