September Last Call CD Reviews: Honey and Salt/Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson

Sep 2, 2017

A rare convergence of jazz recordings that celebrate two of America's finest poets & writers is in the Last Call spotlight for this month.

Drummer Matt Wilson pays tribute to the "Poet of the People" and winner of three Pulitzer prizes, Carl Sandburg, in his new recording, Honey and Salt. Honey and Salt is a realization of Matt Wilson's  lifelong respect for Sandburg's work. Wilson has been setting Sandburg's words to music for over 15 years, and with his usual impeccable, spirited artistry on the drums he leads an ensemble which includes bassist Martin Wind, reedman Jeff Lederer, cornetist Ron Miles, and guitarist/vocalist Dawn Thomson, in addition  to jazz greats Christian McBride, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, and Carla Bley featured on vocal readings of Sandburg's poems.

Carl Sandburg, who passed away in 1967, was one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century. He is widely known for writing the definitive biography of Abraham Lincoln, in addition to traveling the country collecting traditional  folk songs and being a civil rights advocate. Honey and Salt is a recording not to miss.

The same could be said of Jane Ira Bloom's new recording, Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson. This two CD set of music is inspired by the poems of acclaimed 19th Century poet Emily Dickinson, a prolific writer who spent most of her life in isolation in her family's home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Sadly, less than a dozen of her poems were published before her passing at the age of 55.  Only afterwards did her poems & writings become widely recognized and admired by generations of readers. 

Dickinson's poetry is reimagined by Bloom, a noted soprano saxophonist and composer on two CDs, with her jazz quartet and then adding spoken word readings by stage and film actor Deborah Rush. Bloom's lyrical genius at the soprano saxophone is the perfect compliment for Rush's readings of Dickinson's poetry. Together with Dawn Clement at the piano, Mark Helias on the bass and Bobby Previte on the drums, this is a sublime experience, with fourteen originals by the saxophonist  inspired by fragments of Dickinson's poetry and prose.

Both recordings from Matt Wilson and Jane Ira Bloom are superb efforts from these accomplished jazz artists. Highly recommended listening!

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