Poetry collections about jazz, or in the jazz idiom are abundant and almost always special. (Full disclosure: your author published one in 2001, so I adore these efforts). Poet and English professor Phillip S. Bryant’s Stompin’ at the Grand Terrace is slightly different because it is “jazz memoir in verse” meaning it is about jazz but it also about the author’s relationship to that jazz. Complete with an accompanying CD, Bryant delivers the music but mostly, he delivers some good poetry that has depth and range.
Using a friendship between his father and his buddy, Preston, as the entry point into the verse, Bryant’s words and stories are the chatter of life, the specific memories of a man and bard. “How She Smelled” answers the call well and is a good example fo Bryant’s groove: “I used to love the end of church services – the big women crowded towards the basement rooms…” Other pieces are pure commentary on jazz, and history, such as “The Death of Bill Evans,” a tribute the famous white piano player who carries the day on Miles Davis’ classic, “Kind of Blue.”
With a few photographs interspersed, Stompin’ at the Grand Terrace, is scrapbook-like, a double memory for the reader, of a time and place not long ago, and a poet’s eternal love for his father’s music, but mostly, the world that his father gave him.