The Poets Are Gathering

by Benjamin Boone

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Includes a **16-page booklet** with photos and liner notes by noted cultural critic GENE SEYMOUR... *PLUS* I'd be delighted to autograph the CD however you'd like me to sign it (within reason of course!) - a GREAT GIFT - Help spread the message! Thank you for your support!

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    I hope the voices and messages of these amazing poets, and the creativity of these brilliant musicians resonate with you on a deep level. This is music for our time. Please post about the album and and help spread the message!! With deep appreciation - Ben
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1.
FROM THE LINER NOTES: Patricia Smith’s “That’s My Son There,” which sets off this Gathering, submits a more plaintive yet just as scalding torrent of protest against the post-Millennial plague of police-related shootings of Black men and women. Boone’s keening, wailing alto melds and augments Smith’s fierce, fiery diction, her verbal riff of “That’s my son/daughter there” gaining momentum and fury with each telling verb, “dangling, caged, splayed, hanging, deposited, crushed, bleeding out...” and the roar of unbearably graphic imagery: “shot to look more animal / shot as kill / shot as prey / shot as solution / shot as conquest / shot as lesson / shot as warning / shot as comeback / shot as payback / shot for sport / shot for history…”
2.
From the liner notes: Patrick Sylvain calls upon his Haitian roots to address the perils of immigration (“Marooning”) and the rueful memories of what is left behind in transit (“Ports of Sorrow”). On the former, he summons an image of “Toussaint’s descendants / once proud founders of freedom / now maroon themselves / in the night sky / trying to escape / hawkish eyes…” as Boone and Werner converse softly in the background.
3.
From the Liner Notes: The album’s j’accuse against police injustice against Black Americans and the ongoing indignity visited upon its victims continues forthrightly and, at times, hauntingly in “Against Silence,” written and performed by Pulitzer Prize winner Tyehimba Jess, whose work is as wildly acclaimed in live jams as it is on the printed page. “I am a poet murdering silence,” Jess announces as he deftly, yet emphatically assumes the names, the identities of the victims, decries the wasteful compounding of their deaths and allows you to feel the absent spaces of their lost lives with intimate, empathetic details: “My name once held all possibilities, but now flies out from the mouth hauling anger and sorrow… I have an arm against my throat and a bullet in my head. I have a wedding to go to, a graduation to walk, a little brother to chill with, and now I’m a face on a placard in a sea of anger, a newspaper article, I’m a question passed from one generation to the next, a lesson in fear, and all I really want is to go home.”
4.
From the Liner Notes: Juan Felipe Herrera’s ruminative word duet with Craig VonBerg’s piano, which is a sonic monument to the nine African Americans killed in June, 2015 by a white supremacist gunman while they were attending a Bible study class at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina (where Herrera, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, first read the poem). Herrera shares with Jess the impulse to individualize Black victims, to take or at least mitigate the “mass” in “mass shooting”: “they are not nine / they are each one / alive…” For Herrera, as indeed with all these poets, their art is not a withdrawal from action, but action itself: “you have a poem to offer it is made of action — you must / search for it – run / outside / and give your life to it / when you find it – walk it / back – blow upon it / carry it taller than the city where you live ...”
5.
From the liner notes: They [Boone, Olvera, VonBerg, and Juarez] also accompany Dustin Prestridge on “Deconstruction of Idols,” his mordant look-back-in-anger (“every object has two aspects / and I’m thinking about the kids / who look like grownups / falling victim to their own pride…”)
6.
From the Liner Notes: Korean-born poet Lee Herrick, whose “Truths” uses a line from Philip Levine’s “The Simple Truth” as a spur towards a soaring Levine-like reverie on the elemental pleasures of light, taste and life in his city (as with others gathered here, Fresno): “One city in the shape of an immigrant’s beautiful accent… In which of our ninety languages should I say that I love you?” INSIDE SCOOP: Herrera introduced Boone to Patricia Smith.
7.
From the Liner Notes: Herrera contributes The Poets Are Gathering’s title track, an 11-plus minute tour-de-force of Whitmanesque exaltation, incantatory vocalese and a polyrhythmic, poly-cultural shoutout to the world-at-large, continent by continent, city by city: “… In Johannesburg / the poets / have not forgotten that / Biko Biko Biko (echoing) still lives / In São Paulo / the poets are drumming / are drumming / are drumming on the streets / drumming / on the roofs / drumming on the beds / drumming in the tiny rooms / In Singapore the poets are writing diligently / In Alaska / the poets are staring through the darkness / through the darkness in the mid of midnight / In Finland, the poets are writing about impossible friendships in all its ingredients… In Berlin / the poets are hammering / your walls / on paper and all the walls around the world...” Here’s one of those cases where putting the words on a page doesn’t begin to convey the poet’s virtuosity with sound and space and its interaction with Boone (on soprano), pianist VonBerg, bassist Patrick Olvera, bassist Nathan Guzman and percussionist Richard Juarez. INSIDE SCOOP: Benjamin Boone and Juan Felipe are colleagues at California State University, Fresno. They worked closely together on Herrera's final US Library of Congress Celebration in Washington, DC in 2017. Boone set 3 of Herrera's poems to music and they were performed there. They then began collaborating in concert. Herrera's vision of inclusion and empowerment -- what this poem is about -- is what inspired this album.
8.
From the Liner Notes: Left to Edward Hirsch is the duty of speaking, as he does on the bighearted, elegiac “Song” for “the speechless, the dumb, the mute and the motley, the unmourned… for every pig that was too thin to be slaughtered last night / but was slaughtered anyway / every worm that was hooked on a hook that it didn’t expect / every sheet that was lost in the laundry / every car that was stripped and abandoned / …this song is for you even if you can’t listen or join in / even if you don’t have lungs / even if you don’t know what a song is / or want to know /…”
9.
From the Liner Notes: That band [Boone, VonBerg, Olvera, Guzman, Juarez] lays on “Spiral,” by Fresno Poet Laureate Marisol Baca where music and words are even more intertwined in sound and space. (“Three spirals bound / to one another / three sisters / at the edge of a stone / what is the cosmos but a radial movement outward? / to touch the fabric of one / to see the astral projection of the other/ to forget for one moment / that it is only a projection...”)
10.
From the Liner Notes: Mississippi-born poet T.R. Hummer uses his mic time to celebrate the music and method of the incomparable space traveler Herman “Sonny” Blount with “The Sun One (Homage to Sun Ra)” whose exuberant renderings of the Ra Arkestra sound (“We were invulnerable as air / The brass tunes up in a cattle truck / The bass works its slaughterhouse line / It’s a gift to wake with the light in your face / Such brilliance everywhere”) brings out the rowdy harmolodic adventurers in Boone (on soprano), altoist Hashem Assadullahi, guitarists Ben Monder and Eyal Maoz, bassist Peter Brendler and drummer John Bishop. Inside Scoop: Hummer wrote an essay on the Boone/Levine collaboration THE POETRY OF JAZZ for the literary journal BLACKBIRD - that is how Boone met him.
11.
From the Liner Notes: Smith later exudes a far sultrier mood on “Your Man,” whose blues-like evocations of rough love are backed by pianist David Aus.
12.
From the Liner Notes: Mississippi-born poet T.R. Hummer presents his own unique perspective on the shifting tide of race relations in his native state on “Impervious Blue.” (An old-time guess-your-weight machine is involved.) Inside Scoop: Hummer plays the saxophone.
13.
From the Liner Notes: This album is so up-to-the-minute-ripped-from-the-front-page in its content to seem as if it were pulled together only a day or two before you open the package. Yet Boone began recording these tracks as far back as 2017, not even a half-year into the Donald Trump administration when many of the roiling, insurgent energies against racism, both “casual” and institutional, were beginning their rise to contemporary peak. The most recent session, “Black Man”was recorded little more than a month after George Floyd’s death, the vocals blend synthesizers, Boone’s soprano saxophone and Stefan Poetzsch’s violin to send a boiling tempest of free-style, hard-core grievance, by turns scalding and funny, against systemic racism and how hard it is to maintain one’s sense of self: “I’m a son / I’m a Father / But really / Why do I even bother / Proven my humanity / I’m losin’ my sanity… They ain’t tryin’ to listen / Nah / They listenin’ to Hannity…”
14.
From the Liner Notes: Patrick Sylvain calls upon his Haitian roots to address the perils of immigration (“Marooning”) and the rueful memories of what is left behind in transit (“Ports of Sorrow”). On the former, he summons an image of “Toussaint’s descendants / once proud founders of freedom / now maroon themselves / in the night sky / trying to escape / hawkish eyes…” as Boone and Werner converse softly in the background.
15.
From the Liner Notes: Hirsch also has a childhood reminiscence – “Branch Library” – in which he reconnects with a “skinny long beaked boy,” at the eponymous library, “sitting beneath the long green stacks nesting in broken spines, scratching notes on his own corner patch of sky.”
16.
From the Liner Notes: The last word is yielded to New York-based poet Kimiko Hahn, whose “These Current Events” speaks to how the world’s despair comes at each of us and what we do – or don’t – to confront it. She is specifically dealing with the presence of homelessness in her community and at times stalking her beyond its immediate boundaries: “I cannot look in the face of the man cursing me out / because I don't want my car window washed. / I cannot look at the man, empty cup, empty pant legs, / who flashes a razor at me on his tongue. / I cannot speak to the girl pregnant with addiction / thanking me ‘for nothing.’ I can / pick the paper up any day of the week / and find so much sorrow it is difficult to believe / there are solutions. ... if I turn to sheets of paper / in order to turn away from these current events / it is only to revive the heartbeat of commitment. / I know poetry cannot save / but it fuels the gut that is able.” In this most disorienting and distressing of calendar years, we don’t yet know – and are at best skittish about imagining – how things are going to turn out when the ball drops down to announce 2021. (Will there even be a “ball”?) But in Hahn’s last line, as with so much of the poems contained here, there are clues to be found to absorb the blows, summon the spirits, engage the moment and as Jess suggests, murder the silence that threatens to immobilize us, to keep us away from the reasons to commit, to deal, to hope – and, above all, to imagine.

about

“There are incantations and supplications to be found here. Also: elegies and headlines, howls and mantras, reveries and outbursts. They instruct and affirm. They urge you to dance while offering road maps to reflection. They rouse you from deep slumber and offer solace for your worst nightmares."

~ GENE SEYMOUR (Noted Cultural Critic, from the liner notes)

“The Poets Are Gathering” is the third in a series of acclaimed recordings from saxophonist/composer Benjamin Boone that integrate the music and poems from some of America's leading jazz musicians and Poet Laureates, Guggenheim fellows and Pulitzer Prize winners. Where "The Poetry of Jazz" volumes offered the voice of the late U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine, here, notable contributors include Tyehimba Jess, Juan Felipe Herrera, Patricia Smith, T.R. Hummer, and Edward Hirsch, along with pianist Kenny Werner, guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Ari Hoenig, among many others. This recording possesses a visceral, in-the-moment force as the poetry responds to the roiling, insurgent energies against racism and other societal ills. The themes of immigration, racism, homelessness, poverty, abuse, protests, and war can overwhelm and distress, but through the voices of some of the world's great literary minds there are clues to be found to absorb the blows, summon the spirits, engage the moment and as Tyehimba Jess suggests, “murder the silence” that threatens to immobile us, to keep us away from the reasons to commit, to deal, to hope – and, above all, to imagine.

"Boone knows where the thing called poetry lives, an ocelot among the waters, a sky-shaped Rain God that flares down upon us. He does this with a myriad of instruments, with human breath chiseling and burning through brass and string, reeds and skin and hands and resin."

~ U.S. POET LAUREATE JUAN FELIPE HERRERA

credits

released October 16, 2020

TRACK LISTING:

1 THAT’S MY SON THERE 3:32 (feat. Patricia Smith)
2 MAROONING 3:45 (feat. Patrick Sylvain)
3 AGAINST SILENCE 4:34 (feat. Tyehimba Jess)
4 POEM BY POEM 3:40 (feat. Juan Felipe Herrera)
5 DECONSTRUCTION OF IDOLS 8:21 (feat. Dustin Prestridge)
6 TRUTHS 5:25 (feat. Lee Herrick)
7 THE POETS ARE GATHERING 11:45 (feat. Juan Felipe Herrera)
8 SONG 2:37 (feat. Edward Hirsch)
9 SPIRAL 3:40 (feat. Marisol Baca)
10 THE SUN ONE (HOMAGE TO SUN RA) 2:45 (feat. T.R. Hummer)
11 YOUR MAN 2:38 (feat. Patricia Smith)
12 IMPERVIOUS BLUE 2:44 (feat. T.R. Hummer)
13 BLACK MAN 3:51 (feat. Donald Brown, II)
14 PORTS OF SORROW 4:29 (feat. Patrick Sylvain)
15 BRANCH LIBRARY 1:55 (feat. Edward Hirsch)
16 THESE CURRENT EVENTS 6:07 (feat. Kimiko Hahn)

POETRY & NARRATION:

TYEHIMBA JESS
PATRICIA SMITH
EDWARD HIRSCH
JUAN FELIPE HERRERA
T.R. HUMMER
KIMIKO HAHN
PATRICK SYLVAIN
LEE HERRICK
DUSTIN PRESTRIDGE
MARISOL BACA
DONALD BROWN II

MUSICIANS:

BENJAMIN BOONE - SOPRANO/ALTO SAXOPHONES

KENNY WERNER - PIANO (2,3,8,14,15)
CORCORAN HOLT - BASS (3,8,14,15)
ARI HOENIG - DRUMS (3,8,14,15)

BEN MONDER - GUITAR (10,16)
HASHEM ASSADULLAHI - S/A SAXES (10,12)
EYAL MAOZ - GUITAR (10,16)
PETER BRENDLER - BASS (10,12,16)
JOHN BISHOP - DRUMS (10,16)

DONALD BROWN - KEYBOARDS (13)
DONALD BROWN II - PROGRAMMING (13)
ALBERTO DÍAZ CASTILLO - KEYS (13)
STEFAN POETZSCH - VIOLIN (13), VIOLA (16)
ATTICUS BOONE - TENOR SAX (5)
ASHER BOONE - TRUMPET (5)

CRAIG VONBERG - PIANO (4,5,6,7,9)
DAVID AUS - PIANO (1,11)
PATRICK OLVERA - BASS (1,5,6,7,9)
RAY MOORE - DRUMS (1)
NATHAN GUZMAN - DRUMS (5,6,7,9)
RICHARD JUAREZ - AUX PERC. (5,6,7,9)

PRODUCED BY DONALD BROWN & BENJAMIN BOONE
EDITED by BENJAMIN BOONE
ARRANGED by BENJAMIN BOONE

RECORDED BY MIKE MARCIANO of SYSTEMS TWO, SAMURAI HOTEL RECORDING STUDIO, ASTORIA, NY; ERIC SHERBON, MAXIMUS MEDIA, FRESNO, CA.

Mixed & mastered by MIKE MARCIANO at SYSTEMS TWO, LONG ISLAND, NY

Liner Notes by GENE SEYMOUR

RECORDED July 6, 2020; March 4, 2019; January 5-6, 2019; and July 17, 2017.

Special thanks to:
The poets - especially Monk-Trane high-E-wailing cilantro wordsmith Juan Felipe Herrera whose perspective inspired this album; the collaborative musicians - especially the California home-team; the production team of John, Mike, Nancy, Eric, Terri, & Donald Brown (whose belief and support made this gathering possible); James Miley, David Aus, Max Hembd, & Doanld Munro; writer/poet friends Elizabeth Kostova, Diana Marcum, Brynn Saito, Mas Masumoto, Dixie Salazar, Mark Arax, Connie Hales, and Brian Turner; Melissa Bentley and Stefan Poetzsch (for being you); all California State University Fresno faculty and staff, especially Joseph Castro, Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Nora Chapman, Sergio La Porta, Sindi McGuire, Audrey Rodriguez, Matthew Darling, Richard Giddens, Ken Froelich, and all music colleagues; KFSR; Joseph, Harry, John, Clarma, and Vester Boone – for instilling a love of art and literature; and especially Atticus Boone, Asher Boone and Alice Daniel, for great advice and for compelling me to evolve as a musician and person daily.

This collaboration was made possible in part through the generous support of the College of Arts and Humanities Dean’s Council at California State University, Fresno.

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Benjamin Boone Fresno, California

Benjamin Boone is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, professor, and U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Ghana (2017-18) and the Republic of Moldova (2006). His Origin Records album THE POETRY OF JAZZ was #3 "Best Album of 2018" in the 83rd Annual Downbeat Readers Poll and featured on NPR's All Things Considered, The Paris Review and many others. Websites: BenjaminBoone.net & OriginArts.com ... more

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